CHEATING, explosive dinners and epic ten-hour engagement ceremonies made Married At First Sight Australia’s must-see TV.
And the woman who “sex” the British relaunch of the Monday reality show promises the same.
Dating coach Mel Schilling, who joined MAFSA in 2016, is part of a total revamp of the UK format and moved to Brighton with her family from their home in Bali while filming the E4 show.
But finding love for herself hasn’t always been easy for Mel. She didn’t meet her husband Gareth Brisbane, from Northern Ireland, until the age of 39, and underwent IVF at the age of 42 to become a mother to daughter Madison, today six years old.
‘CHEMISTRY, SPARK, SEXUAL CALL – THIS IS WHAT I CANNOT PREDICT’
Mel, 49, who married Gareth in Bali in July 2018, says: “I was super single for a good decade and had a terrible habit of sabotaging every potential relationship I touched. If there was a commitment phobe or a male child within 100 kilometers, I would date him.
“To be honest, I wasn’t seriously interested in a relationship for most of my 30s. I was more focused on my career, my travels and my friends. It wasn’t until I was 38 or 39 that I said to myself, “What if I miss something? “
“As I approached my forties, the realization that my motherhood choices could become limited was a huge wake-up call for me. “
Mel believes that finding love later in life helps her identify with MAFS candidates, especially women in their late 30s.
She says, “I have to admit that I have a special place in my heart for women who aspire to be moms but haven’t met the right man yet.
“I started my training as a dating coach when I was still single. It was after realizing that I had done everything wrong in my love life and my light bulb moment of “Why don’t I apply everything I know about career coaching to the dating world?” “
“I became the first Australian coach to be accredited by the International Dating Coach Association and by the time I was ready to start helping clients, I had met mine.”
Mel has a few strong words of encouragement for any single person in their 30s who thinks love might be past them.
She said, “It’s not too late! I met Gareth at 39 via eHarmony and had Maddie at 42 via IVF. Science and technology are on your side. Make the most of it. “
MAFS ‘revamped UK series sees the number of couples involved drop from two to eight.
When asked if there would be arguments, scandals and even cheating, Mel replied, “All I can say is yes, to all of the above. You will be surprised.
“It changes a lot. The most important change is the group dynamic.
“It didn’t exist before and is an integral part of this experience. Different couples compare and make decisions as a team. It’s fascinating.
“There are also dinners, engagement ceremonies, home visits and they all live in the same building. There are so many different elements.
Filmed during the pandemic, the newlyweds formed a Covid-19 bubble, with regular testing, temperature checks and face masks behind the scenes.
Weddings are not legally binding, and Mel insists that couples are never paired up to deliberately compete for good television.
She says: “We are not going to put our reputation on the line by bringing together people who will not work. Our intention is to prepare people for success.
“It takes months behind the scenes before you even approach a camera. We look at their personality styles, their values and preferences, their relationship history, their expectations, all of that.
“We also work with a consultant psychologist who takes care of all mental health care, making sure people have the resilience to cope with the process.
“At the start of the experiment, we were sniffing T-shirts. We did not use this approach this year. It is more focused on psychological characteristics.
“We can do whatever backdrop we like, but until you get two people together and that friction starts to build – chemistry, spark, sex appeal – that’s what I can’t predict.
“So we never really know how a couple is going to respond to each other until they’re there.” UK viewership figures for the Australian show’s recent run have approached two million, with its contestants becoming celebrities, but Mel insists they don’t want celebrity seekers.
Until you get two people together and that friction starts to build – chemistry, spark, sex appeal – that’s what I can’t predict.
She says, “We strive for authenticity and our production team is highly skilled in how to separate people who just want the glory from those who really seek love.”
Mel is joined by fellow experts Paul C Brunson, of Celebs Go Dating on E4, and Charlene Douglas, of The Sex Clinic, also on E4.
Each week, the newlyweds meet the experts at an engagement ceremony and declare, in front of the other couples, whether they wish to stay or leave the experience.
If only one partner wants to leave, they have to continue filming for an additional week. Mel says, “Commitment ceremonies can last ten hours, until the wee hours of the morning. There is no time limit, we are there as long as it takes.
“We want to share each person’s story. With some people, it takes longer.
‘IF COUPLES HAD PAIN DURING THE WEEK, I FEEL THAT’
“They are less comfortable sharing what is going on and might need encouragement. Other people spit it out and there it is.
The couples are also hosting a weekly dinner – which in previous Aussie series featured wine-fueled rows and cheating – and pundits are watching the footage.
Mel, who worked as a psychologist for 20 years, says: “It’s hard to watch the drama. Sometimes it’s like, ‘Hold me back’.
“In the engagement ceremony there are times when I really have to control myself, whether it’s because I want to hug someone or tell someone to pull their head (the Aussie to back away ).
“I am a human first and then a therapist. I have a real investment in these couples and individuals. If they have been in pain during the week, I can feel it and try to get to the bottom of it.
“I came to the UK expecting contributors to be a little more reserved, which is just a stereotype, as I was very wrong and was pleasantly surprised.
“Of course, it took them a bit longer to open up, but they were engaged in the process and passionate about finding their partner.”
- Married At First Sight UK is on E4 Mondays at 9pm.
“We were a couple of actors but at least I broke the sexual dryness”
THE most recent series of Married At First Sight Australia has been successful for some couples, including Cam Merchant and Jules Robinson who now have a child together.
But Instagrammer Melissa Lucarelli says her match was purely for entertainment.
She married meditation expert Dino Hira, hoping the match would end her eight-year sexual dryness. But they broke up after just six weeks.
She says, “I feel like we were paired up for entertainment. We were so different. From our personalities to our values, our interests, even the way we communicate, we had nothing in common.
“I wanted someone with a sense of humor and he wanted someone spiritual, which I am not. We were both the opposite of what we wanted. We were obviously a couple of actors.
Melissa’s “sexual dryness” ended after the show when she spent a night of passion with her compatriot Jake Edwards, but she is single again now.
She says, “I literally had a penis but I managed to break through the dryness. With or without the show, it would have been so long because I had so much pressure to have it be The One. But I don’t like the fact that they knew it and that they still associate me with Dino.
Melissa’s most memorable scene was sleeping too much on her wedding day, which caused her to cry hysterically as the makeup artist attempted to apply her false eyelashes.
She said, “My call time was 8:30 am and I woke up at 8 am. I was living two hours from the wedding. But I was told, ‘This is your real wedding time. You have 100 people waiting for you, you messed it up, ”which was a lie.
“We were just supposed to get ready and the wedding only took place in the afternoon, but you don’t know anything about the times you’re on the show.
“They made me believe I was late and stressed me to the max. It was obviously for the reaction but they didn’t need to do that. I was marrying a stranger, I was quite stressed.
For the weekly dinners, Melissa says filming starts at 10 a.m., with the cocktail and booze starting at 7 p.m., the night sometimes not ending until 4 a.m.
Melissa’s series saw two couples, Ines and Sam, then Jess and Dan, cheat on their respective partners at dinner parties.
She recalls, “It’s a controlled environment. If you wanted to go to the bathroom, you had to be taken away by a member of the production.
“That’s the reason no one got caught [cheating], because no one else could leave. When people weren’t there, you’d assume they were in the bathroom or chatting to the camera.
“I understand the harshness of this because if things happen off-camera, it doesn’t make sense to the viewer. The cheating affected the whole group, it created a tear.