One Ridgewood woman said “I do” to her perfect match, but she hadn’t laid eyes on him until moments before her vows — all for the A&E reality show “Married at First Sight.”
Jessica Castro, 30, was having trouble finding the committed relationship she was looking for after her fiancé, who she had been dating for seven years, cheated on her.
“[Dating] really is tiring. You go on a first date, and you go on another first date with a different guy,” she said. “No one really wants to settle down or they think that there’s someone better out there.”
Castro and her match, who will be revealed in the upcoming season of the reality show, were one of three couples to be paired by four matchmakers: psychologist Joseph Cilona, sexologist Logan Levkoff, sociologist Pepper Schwartz and spiritual adviser Greg Epstein. Two of the three couples from the first season are still happily married, while the third decided to get a divorce at the end of the six-week experiment.
This was the second time that Castro had applied to be on the show. Although she had made it through the entire process for season one, including interviews with the show’s experts, they were unable to find a suitable match for her.
“When I heard of season two, I figured, why not give it another shot?” she said. “I had a gut feeling that this would be it for me, that they would find me my match.”
So Castro, a receptionist at a Manhattan law firm, applied again. “I plugged in all my information into the website, and they reached out to me,” she said. First, she filled out “really intense” questionnaires. One took her five hours to fill out, and she had to “be an open book about everything,” such as her upbringing in Bushwick, which at the time was “one of the tougher neighborhoods in Brooklyn.” Then the experts each interviewed her for 20 to 30 minutes.
When Castro heard that she was matched for season two, “I was honestly in shock,” she said. “Dr. Pepper Schwartz called and said, ‘We have some wonderful news for you: we found your match,’ and I think my reaction was, ‘What?’ … She was like, ‘Yeah, you’re getting married next week!’”
“Everything was within days and it was a very intense preparation, but it was so worth it,” she continued. “It was 100 percent worth it.”
“I’m Puerto Rican and my family can be overbearing,” she said. “We’re loud, we can be obnoxious, but we like to have a really, really good time and we are loving at the same time. But you don’t know if the other family is as outgoing or kind of more reserved, so I was afraid to see how the families would mingle.”
Castro said that her parents’ support was extremely important as she prepared to walk down the aisle. When she signed up for the chance to be matched for the first season, her best friends told her, “You have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” she said, but her mom “was not thrilled.”
“When I found out the first time around I wasn’t matched, it was a little bit of a relief for all of us because, you know, it’s terrifying,” she said. “But my mom actually got to see season one, we all watched season one, and we realized how much the experts and the couples put their all into this. When I came around and I told them I was doing season two this time around, my mom cried and she said, ‘I know this is what you want.’”
“My mom is my best friend, my right-hand woman, and if she didn’t approve it would be devastating,” Castro said.
She didn’t tell her dad she was applying, though. “We kind of kept him in the dark at first, we told him it was a dating show, just so he wouldn’t freak out, because we didn’t want to give him all of the information and then say I’m not matched. So we figured we’d wait until I got a definite answer, and when I told him his eyes got watery and he said, ‘If this is what makes you happy, I support you.’”
During filming, Castro said that she “blocked the cameras out sometimes, because when you think that they’re there and they’re watching you, you freak out, you get nervous, and you don’t want it to come off as unnatural. You know, this is your life, it’s all real, none of it is fake.”
For her, the experiment was all about just being herself. “Don’t put up a front for anyone or anything. The only way you can truly go through the motions of this process is just to be yourself.”
She loved working with all of the experts, but psychologist Cilona helped her with communication, which she calls her “biggest downfall.”
“[Cilona] gave us some exercises, and when we met with him it was an eye-opener for both of us, like, we both want this and we really just have to put our best foot forward to make this work.”
Tune in to A&E on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. — starting with the season premiere on March 17 — to find out who Castro marries and if she and her husband decide to stay married come the end of the experiment.