'Married' - and unmarried - in the blink of an eye

Did couples' inability to hold legal weddings in Israel for reality TV show affect the outcome?

Wedding rings [Illustrative] (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Wedding rings [Illustrative]
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Five couples began this journey. Now only one remains standing.
Well, one and a half... depending on how you’re counting. As it turns out, it’s not so simple.
The first season of the Israeli version of the global reality TV experiment Married at First Sight came to a close last week.
If you’re not already familiar, the show’s team of “experts” match up total strangers who then get married and live together for six weeks before deciding if they want to give it a real shot. And the results here – like other versions around the world – were decidedly mixed.
But unlike the other iterations that have aired around the globe, the weddings that took place at the start of the show on Keshet 12 were not legally binding. This is because there is no civil marriage in Israel, only marriage through a religious authority.
When the Chief Rabbinate learned of the upcoming show, they slammed it as “a desecration of the sanctity of the supreme value of family life and marriage.”
Needless to say, the show opted instead for a ceremony that included religious elements and wedding symbols but was not an actual legally or halachically binding event.
Six months later, how did those five couples fare? In short: one of the couples matched up at the beginning of the show remains together today. That gives it a 20% success rate, which matches exactly the rate of the first five seasons of the US version of the program – three out of 15 couples are still married.
At the end of the six weeks, however, two couples, or 40%, chose to give it a shot. For the US version that figure is 67%.
Did the couples’ inability to take part in a legally binding wedding affect their commitment? Were they less likely to give it a shot knowing they could easily walk away? And, after watching the six-month update show, it’s hard not to wonder if it was also easier for them to move on quickly to new relationships. And what about that half couple? Well, let’s take a look at the results of the show.
At the outset of the program, five couples were matched up: Achva and Tal, Adi and Tomer, Michaela and Eli, Reli and Elad and Yael and Chaim.
Within a couple of weeks, Adi and Tomer had called it quits, unable to stick it out for even the six weeks they had signed up for. While that is rare in the US version, it did happen once, in season 4, when a couple split after just two weeks.
The remaining four made it to the end. Two couples chose to remain together – Achva and Tal, and Yael and Chaim, and two split up – Michaela and Eli, and Reli and Elad. Fast-forward six months and Achva and Tal had broken up, but reconciled when the show started airing and are still together today.
In video clips they can be seen discussing having a “real wedding,” a clear indication of the secondary status of the taped nuptials. Yael and Chaim also broke up shortly after the show stopped filming and remain apart. But Yael isn’t exactly single: she and Tomer – who split from Adi early on – met because of the show and have been dating for a few months.
So can the show chalk that up to a win? Questionable.
They weren’t the only couples to have moved on quickly: Eli, Michaela and Reli are all reportedly dating other people. It’s not hard to imagine that not having to file divorce papers makes it easier to rebound.
And while it’s hard to compare the statistics of the show’s success after just one season in Israel, there should be more data available soon. Keshet has said it is currently casting for season two, and that should come as no surprise. After all, the season finale of the show, which aired last week, brought in a whopping 24% of the viewing public.
That figure is a record high for ratings since Channel 2 split in two back in November – with no reconciliation in sight.
So more fake televised weddings will be heading your way soon. And it’s not too late to sign up yourself...