Nate Duhon didn’t have a typical summer wedding. The 26-year-old Lansing native married a complete stranger in front of a television camera crew.
Duhon, a Chicago-based business manager, appears on the latest season of Lifetime’s “Married at First Sight,” a reality TV social experiment where participants marry someone they haven’t met prior to their wedding day.
“Marrying a stranger was extremely odd,” Duhon said. “One day you’re single, and the next day you have someone calling you ‘husband.’ You don’t know this person, what their living habits are, their likes and dislikes — wait, better yet, what’s their number?!”
The show kicks off its fifth season 9 p.m. Thursday. Participants go through an extensive application process, including background checks, questionnaires and psychological tests. A panel of three experts accompany the contestants throughout the process, offering guidance, therapy and support.
Cameras document the participants’ wedding, honeymoon and home life. After several weeks as husband and wife, the couple decides if they want to stay married or get a divorce. Previous seasons have resulted in some successful couples, including two couples from the first season who are still married.
After watching the third season of “Married at First Sight,” Duhon admits he thought the people participating were insane. But when the opportunity arose and he got to hear about how the process worked, he went for it — sweaty palms and all.
“It took about three months to go through the entire process,” Duhon said. “This included thousands of questions pertaining to what I want in a mate and multiple interviews with the experts.”
The show’s season five expert panel comprises sociologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz, relationship and communication expert Rachel DeAlto and Calvin Roberson, a pastor and marriage counselor.
Religion was one of the key components of Duhon’s experience. He wanted a woman who brings substance to the table and is spiritually strong, someone with whom he could build a respectful, loving and honest life.
This season was filmed over the summer last year. Duhon found the schedule exhausting. Camera crews followed the couples at home, on dates and to therapy, usually five days a week.
“I work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and then I would have to film right after work, which made for really long days,” he said.
Keeping the marriage status under wraps until the television premiere hasn’t been an easy task, especially considering today’s ever-present social media scene.
“It was definitely difficult keeping things a secret,” Duhon said. “Especially when people who are friends see you wearing a wedding ring and ask ‘When did this happen? To who? I could have sworn you weren’t dating anyone!’”
The J.W. Sexton High School alum played basketball through high school and later at Lansing Community College. He went on to play NCAA basketball at Chicago State University from 2012 to 2014. While there aren’t many similarities between the basketball court and courtship with a stranger, he describes both as unbelievable experiences.
“The process has taught me that God can work in mysterious ways, and patience will take you a long way,” he said. “There is no perfect marriage, but a good one would be one where each partner is willing to be patient and understanding.”
Duhon is also hopeful the process can help viewers too.
“Hopefully people find inspiration from watching the show and find ways they can improve in their daily lives/relationships,” he said.