Shutting the front door as the nation went into lockdown, a newlywed couple look nervously into each other’s eyes as they wonder how the next three months will play out.
For many couples who have just exchanged their marriage vows, the thought of having so much uninterrupted time with their loved one sounds like wedded bliss.
But for primary school teacher Michelle and IT sales manager Owen, it was a strange situation to find themselves in.
That’s because the couple only met moments before they said ‘I do’.
At the start of 2020 they were among more than 7,000 people who signed up for the new series of Channel 4’s hit show Married At First Sight.
The couple’s wedding took place just before lockdown hit and they soon found themselves having to move in together at Owen’s mum’s house as she was away.
The pair were given the length of the lockdown to decide whether they wanted to stay married and a national pandemic certainly gave them the time to think about their decision.
“It did kind of feel like I was going into the unknown,” smiles Michelle. “But with that kind of comes a lot of excitement as well. It’s why we both signed up for this experience in the first place!”
The show sees singletons put their love lives in the hands of a team of professional matchmakers in the hope of finding ‘the one’.
And after weeks of profiling, investigations into their personal lives and detailed sessions with a psychologist, Michelle and Owen were matched and agreed to marry, even though they had never met and only knew each other’s names.
So when they clapped eyes on each other for the first time during a lavish ceremony at Eastwell Manor in Ashford, Kent, did sparks fly?
“Waiting outside the door was the most terrifying moment of my life,” admits Michelle, 25, from Hastings.
“It was just knowing that as soon as that door opened it was going to be an absolute life-changing moment.
“I was shaking all over and hyperventilating. Owen must’ve thought I was a lunatic!
“But the moment I saw Owen I instantly felt calmer because he had such a kind aura around him. I found him attractive and the feelings of being terrified just instantly fell away.”
“I did a little fist bump to myself,” laughs Owen, 31, who lives in Sheffield. “Michelle looked gorgeous and I was like, ‘Come on, she’s hot!’.
“That physical attraction was definitely there straight away and then I just felt relief that she hadn’t done a runner and had actually turned up!”
Many will wonder why Michelle and Owen resorted to such desperate measures to settle down, especially when they are still young and have the world at their feet.
But for Michelle, who has only had two relationships in her life, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
“I was quite happy with all the other parts of my life,” she says. “I was enjoying my career. I have a really good group of friends and an amazing family.
“The one thing that was missing was a relationship and I didn’t ever get on with modern ways of dating, like apps, because you become quite a boring version of yourself, you’re having the same manufactured conversations over and over.
“I just thought that this is far more appealing because instantly you have that shared experience. You have that real depth to conversation because you are married.”
For Owen, who’s been single for two years, he felt he’d lost his mojo and could never work out when a woman was interested in him.
“If someone was flirting with one of my friends, I would know straight away,” he adds. “But if it’s with me, I just didn’t really recognise it.
“I always felt a little bit awkward pursuing women and thought handing all of that to a professional would be much easier.”
While the couple might have been sure of their decision to marry a stranger, their families were sceptical, especially Michelle’s mum, Anne, who burst into tears when she broke the news that a match had been found for her.
“There were a lot of tears. My family found it very, very difficult to begin with, they’re reasonably traditional and they just couldn’t really get their head around the idea that it was a complete stranger I was marrying.
“You put yourself in quite a vulnerable position by marrying a stranger. So I think that they were quite worried.”
There were even more tears from the mother-of-the-bride when Michelle picked out her wedding dress.
It wasn’t the beauty of her daughter that had the tears flowing as Anne admits to the camera she feels “side-lined” during one of the most special times in Michelle’s life.
That’s because there was just six weeks between the couple being matched and the day they got married, so all the details of their big day were taken care of for them.
Michelle, who is sworn to secrecy over whether she’s still married to Owen, got to pick her own dress and Owen his suit, but that was it.
Owen admits: “The bits I felt bad about were the more traditional things. I never asked her dad for her hand in marriage. I never got a ring. I never got down on one knee. We never had a fun engagement because we didn’t know each other.
“But at the