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Married at First Sight has delivered plenty of jaw-dropping moments over the years, from Jamie Otis’s wedding day breakdown in season 1 to unhappy newlywed Alyssa’s angry rant to producers about her husband Chris in season 14. But no one was prepared for the show’s biggest twist yet: when season 17 groom Michael was jilted at the altar by his expert-picked bride. 

What went wrong with Michael’s match? And why did the show’s experts decide to break with tradition and give him a second chance at happily ever after by finding him a new wife? Showbiz Cheat Sheet chatted with Married at First Sight expert Pastor Cal Roberson about his reaction to Michael’s first wedding day and why he thinks some people are too quick to abandon the MAFS process. 

Michael’s failed first wedding was ‘a shock,’ the ‘Married at First Sight’ expert says 

Roberson has been with Married at First Sight since season 4. Over the years, he’s helped match dozens of couples, some of whom are still married years later. While he and the show’s other experts have seen their share of failed relationships, he wasn’t prepared to watch one implode before it even got started. 

“Everybody up to this point has gone through and said ‘I do,’” he said. “This was a shock. We were pretty disheartened by it.”

Before the wedding, Roberson and the two other MAFS exerts, Dr. Pia Holec and Dr. Pepper Schwartz, were “very confident” that Michael and his mystery bride “would thrive and that they would be a great couple.” But they couldn’t account for how she would feel on her wedding day. 

“I don’t think she knew until it actually happened that that’s what she was going to do,” he said. “Sometimes the pressure is just too much.”

On choosing Chloe, Michael’s new bride 

Once Michael’s bride backed out, the show was in “uncharted territory,” Roberson said. But it didn’t take long to decide that the unlucky groom – who took being rejected at the altar with a surprising amount of grace – deserved another chance. 

“It was definitely a collaborative decision between we the experts, the network, the production company, the producers. We all decided that because of who Michael is – I mean, he’s such a mature guy. He was so deserving. It really wasn’t a hard or tough decision as to whether or not he should get another chance. The bigger decision, the bigger question, rather, was whether or not he was willing to. I mean, this is quite traumatic.”

When he was offered the chance to walk down the aisle again, Michael readily accepted. The experts returned to their pool of candidates and found Chloe, a 39-year-old director of development for a nonprofit organization. 

While Chloe might not have been their initial choice for Michael, she’s far from a runner-up, Roberson said.  

“What a lot of people don’t know, is that whenever we’re making choices and trying to match people, we normally have alternates. We have more than one person,” he said. 

“I don’t think Chloe is second to anybody,” he added. “I think Chloe just as easily could have been the first choice. She brings so much maturity and so much depth of character that it was an easy decision to look back and say, you know what, she was another possible first choice.” 

Pastor Cal still has faith in the ‘Married at First Sight’ process 


‘Married at First Sight’ Denver: Meet Chloe, Michael’s New Bride

Denver’s runaway bride was an unexpected twist in Married at First Sight Season 17. Though it hasn’t substantially altered how the show selects candidates, there were lessons that came from the experience.

“Every season we learn. We we try to self-correct,” Roberson said. Going forward, they’ll be extra attentive to signs that someone might bolt. 

“I’m not going to lie, we are a little more sensitive,” he said. “If someone shows, you know, more trepidation than we think there should be, that that’s going to be a red flag.”

So far, there’s only been one wedding day disaster in MAFS history. But in recent seasons, several couples have separated before Decision Day. Roberson said he had seen changes in how people approach relationships over his time with the show. He has an idea about why they might be less willing to give a new partner a chance. 

“I think that people are looking at relationships as disposable,” he said, pointing to dating apps as one reason for the shift in how people look at dating and marriage since Married at First Sight started. “I think it has created sort of this mindset of disposing of each other very quickly at the first sign of difficulty.”

So, is a more traditional approach to romance dead in the era of Tinder? Roberson and his wife, Wendy, don’t think so. They’ve created an app, Marriage Ain’t For Punks, that aims to build connections based on more than the superficial. The app is in development and should launch early in 2024. 

“There’s no swiping, and you’re not going to see the person,” he said. “The idea is that we want you to learn about each other based on your values … We’re trying to put measures in there so that people can get to know each other from the inside out as opposed to outside it. We’re trying to change the game from a meat market to a mate market.”

As for Married at First Sight, Roberson still believes the show’s process works, despite some failed marriages.

“I do have faith. And here’s why. Of all the relationship shows out there, we’re the most successful,” he said, citing successful pairings such as season 7’s Danielle and Bobby Dodd, who now have three kids, and season 9’s Greg and Deonno Okotie, who welcomed a baby in 2021. 

“These are families that the show is actually created,” he said. “They would say that this show is very successful because it brought them the love of their lives. So, do I believe in the process? Absolutely, I do.”  

​​New episodes of Married at First Sight Season 17 air Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime. 

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