6 ways Married at First Sight has changed since the first season

Married at First Sight Season 12's promo picture
MAFS Season 12 couples Pic credit: Lifetime

What started as a “social experiment” has blossomed into a full-blown twelve-season series, right before our eyes.

Married At First Sight started as a small show that featured three couples who agreed to participate in a scenario that was the modern equivalent of an arranged marriage.

However, the most recent season featured five couples, three experts, an entire production team…and a partridge in a pear tree.

Basically, it’s come a long way and with Season 13’s debut right around the corner, we wanted to take a minute to acknowledge just how far the show has come. Check out the six major ways the show has changed from the debut season on the FYI network all the way to now.

Jamie and Doug Otis smile on their wedding day
Jamie Otis and Doug Hehner were one of the first MAFS couples ever! Pic credit: Lifetime

1.The couple count

Married at First Sight began with only three matched couples, who agreed to say “I do” sight unseen. Of those six brave individuals, only four remained in a marriage past Decision Day, with one of those couples, Jason and Cortney, divorcing after their season ended.

While only one couple from the original experiment remains, Jamie Otis and Doug Hehner are still together and going strong. They have been married for seven years and counting with two beautiful children and plans to add at least one more baby to their family

Season 8 is when MAFS added the fourth couple to the mix. That season saw a 50/50 success rate within their couples, with the surprise divorce of Will Guess and Jasmine McGriff and the divorce that everyone saw coming, between Kate Sisk and Luke Cuccurullo.

It was in Season 10 that Married at First Sight added a fifth couple, and each season after that has continued to have five couples.

Pastor Cal smiles at the camera in a promo picture
“Pastor Cal” brings an element of spirituality to the expert panel Pic credit: Lifetime

2. The MAFS experts

The premise of Married At First Sight is that individuals place their lives and loves in the hands of a panel of experts. So who are these modern-day matchmakers? Well, it’s changed a little…

Season 1 began with four experts with ranging areas of expertise, everything from Spiritual Advisor to Clinical Psychologist, but by Season 4 there were some new faces in the mix.

Season 4 debuted marriage counselor Pastor Calvin Robertson or Pastor Cal as he is affectionately called. The show also brought on a “communication and relationship expert” in Rachel DeAlto to join Dr. Pepper Schwartz, the only member of the original panel of experts that remained for the fourth season.

The show went through another relationship expert switch-up for Season 6, where the show replaced Rachel DeAlto with the psychologist, Dr. Jessica Griffin. Dr. Griffin stayed with the show all the way up until Season 9, where the show once again experienced a panelist switch

After Dr. Griffin’s left, Married at First Sight welcomed Dr. Viviana Coles to the Married At First Sight Season 9 relationship expert panel, where she has remained ever since.

*Phew* It’s a lot to keep up with.

But the one familiar face is Dr. Pepper Schwartz aka Dr. Pepper, who has remained a constant throughout the life of the show. Dr. Pepper’s expertise not just in relationships, but in Married at First Sight style romances, is going to be invaluable for the upcoming season.

MAFS Chris Williams  and Paige Banks exchange vows during wedding ceremony
MAFS Season 12’s Chris and Paige meet for the first time at their wedding

3. The home sweet home

Season 9 was the first season that had the couples living in a neutral shared apartment provided by the show. The previous seasons saw the couples either moving in with each other right away or finding a new apartment together.

The MAFS experts felt that allowing the couples a neutral space in which to get to know each other would help set the couples up for success. It certainly did seem to make things a little easier on everyone.

Unlike in the previous seasons where the couples often fought over who was moving in with who or struggled to find a new place altogether in the short amount of time provided. It was especially tough on the couples who struggled with a connection from the get-go. Finding a brand new place to live with someone they weren’t sure they would end up staying married to definitely seemed to add a lot of stress.

The show has kept up the tradition ever since and now sets each couple up in their own home within the same apartment complex; allowing them to not only be close to their new spouse but to the other couples as well. And speaking of being close to the other couples…

Aj and Stephanie exchange a silly look while on set
Season 8’s AJ’s Vollmoeller’s “minimoon” breakdown was quite the scene Pic credit: Lifetime

4. The combined honeymoon

Season 1 of Married at First Sight saw all three couples going on separate honeymoons and to different locations but by Season 6, the show had switched it up, sending those three new couples on a combined Jamaican honeymoon.

Season 8 even provided the Philadelphia couples with a combined honeymoon in Costa Rica and a combined “minimoon” in the Poconos, which turned out to not only be mini in the duration of time but also in the dwelling size. The four couples got up close and personal in a mini house, so mini in fact, that all the couples had to share one bathroom which sent cast member AJ Vollmoeller, right over the edge.

If you haven’t seen AJ’s “mini” meltdown, we highly recommend you watch it. It’s pretty entertaining.

The show has kept up the combined honeymoon tradition ever since, with Season 12’s couples having a combined Vegas vacation, where sparks flew and not just within the marriages.

Married At First Sight’s Season 12 had more drama than all the other seasons combined from pregnant ex-fiancee’s to couples fighting like dogs, over dogs, and the honeymoon was no exception. The group’s combined Vegas honeymoon even featured a cast-wide throw down over a group dinner.

It seems like all the excitement the combined honeymoons provide will ensure they will be continuing into Season 13.

Kate and Luke smile at each other on their wedding day
Kate and Luke of Season 8 exchange their vows Pic credit: Lifetime

5. The countdown to Decision Day

Season 1 couples really seemed to have a tough time with the short amount of time between their wedding day, where they got married to a complete stranger, to Decision Day, which took place only five weeks later.

Seasons 8 through12 not only provided the couples a place to live but it also gave them a few extra weeks of breathing room to get to know each other. The couples moving forward now have Decision Day after eight weeks of being married and while two months is still not very much time, it sure beats the five weeks that the couples used to get!

It’s worth noting that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the New Orleans cast from Season 11 had the longest amount of time out of any of the other casts, getting more than four months together before Decision Day.

The extra time does seem to provide the couples a little more room to have the more serious issues arise where they can be worked out with the assistance of the experts. The couples also have more time to settle into their lives together and work out the details and logistics of combining their homes and lives.

While the extra time does seem to be beneficial overall to the couples, there were a few pairs that we all wished had called it quits sooner.

In response to that, it was around Season 8 that Pastor Cal began implementing a “get in or get out” policy, where he would meet with couples and give them the option to go all-in, or “get the heck out.” This gave struggling couples the opportunity to pull the trigger on the divorce option if need be, or for individuals that might have questionable motives, the opportunity to come clean and bow out gracefully.

Unfortunately, that never quite seemed to happen, as some of the worst spouses on the show’s history participated in that conversation with Pastor Cal, and still continued to drag their spouses and fans’ hearts through the mud.

For examples, please see Matt Gwynne from Season 9, Luke Cuccurullo from Season 8 and, of course, everyone’s favorite, Chris Williams from Season 12.

While these MAFS bad boys did not take the easy-out option provided for them, we have to admit it was a good attempt on Pastor Cal’s end, and we can’t blame the guy for trying.

But ultimately, Pastor Cal’s conferences and pandemics aside, the couples have the full eight weeks now to get to know their significant others and make a decision of if they want to continue to say “I do” or end it all with an “I don’t.”

Married At First Season 13 couples pose for promo
The couples of Married at First Sight Season 13 Pic credit: Lifetime

6. The location

Last but not least, the thing that changes the most about Married At First Sight… the location! From Atlanta to New York, from Miami to Philadelphia, Married At First sight loves keeping the location fresh.

The show likes to choose big-city settings and stays mainly on the East Coast as we are yet to see a Los Angeles season(which we personally are rooting for.) The show has made it as far west as Texas and will be actually making it’s victory lap to the Lone Star State for Season 13.

While Married at First Sight did previously do a season in Dallas, this will be its first rodeo in Houston.

With all the love, fights, tears, joy, and drama the past locations have brought we can’t wait to see what Season 13 will hold for the new couples.

So saddle up, because this Texas rodeo is sure to be one wild ride.

While a lot of things about the show may have changed since season one of Married at First Sight, one thing always remains the same — the couples who risk it all to find love will always have our attention and our hearts.

Married at First Sight Season 13 premieres on Wednesday, July 21 at 8/7c on Lifetime.

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