With the advent of online dating, as well as dating show First Dates, it’s getting easier by the day to go on a first date with someone you’ve never met before. But what if that first date led you straight up the aisle?
The first time I’d heard of the concept of an arranged wedding like this was back in 2009, when my local radio station Beat 102 103 ran the social experiment. The bride and groom, known by their code names Lady and Batman (but by Beibhinn and Alan to their mothers) weren’t exactly enamoured by each other, and their marriage didn’t make it to the three month stage they could have made things legal at, and they parted ways after a week. The fact they declined to move into their new home for a rent-free year in Wexford said a lot, didn’t it?
“I’m definitely not going to see him again,” said Bebhinn, who said she enjoyed the holiday with the radio station reps but not with Alan.
I forgot about it for a long time after this first introduction. Then this year, midlands-based station iRadio had a similar experiment, this time with three potential suitors- the bride had to choose her groom from two men she’d never met. Once again, the marriage would be revisited after three months to see if the couple wanted to take it further, but unfortunately Ann Marie and Nigel didn’t even make it to three days into the honeymoon before things took a sour turn.
While flicking through the TV listings on a day off work recently, I also spied an ad for “Marriage at First Sight”, a Channel 4 reality TV show run under the same idea. This one matches couples together with 70 per cent compatibility, following the pair from the morning of the wedding until bedtime that night. They then live together for a further five weeks, before making a decision on whether to continue seeing each other. First broadcast on July 9th, there’s still plenty of time to catch up before tonight’s second episode.
The iRadio competition ran at the same time as the Marriage Referendum in Ireland, and the people were up in arms. Cries about the real threat to the sanctity of marriage rang across the country louder than the bells after the ceremony.
But there’s one hiccup here. None of them were actually married.
Without three months notice to the registry, the marriage wasn’t legally binding at all, It was simply a first date taken to an extreme height. There was no pressure on either couple to continue their union after three months together had passed, and luckily for them it was a nice clean getaway rather than a messy divorce proceeding that awaited when they found themselves incompatible. Worst that happened, they got a free holiday out of the deal.
That said, if I go on a first date and he’s wearing a tuxedo and standing in front of a bunch of chairs, I might just have to collect my mother from the airport that night.