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EXCLUSIVE: Inside MAFS expert Mel’s intimate wedding day

"It was very special."
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For the past 10 seasons of Married at First Sight, therapist and relationship expert Mel Schilling has played matchmaker and dished out no-nonsense advice to the brides and grooms on the show. But when it came to her own wedding, on December 24, 2020, Schilling, 48, admits she was super-emotional.

“I had a bit of a cry on the day,” she told WHO of her nuptials.

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“It’s just the meaning of it all. I was a late bloomer in life, like, I didn’t meet my husband [Gareth Brisbane, also 48] until I was nearly 40 and then we had our daughter Madison, 6, when I was nearly 42, so to be finally saying our ‘I dos’ was an emotional time. It was very special.”

Here, we take a look back on what Schilling shared with WHO in 2021 of her very personal, very joyous “second” big day.

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“We both decided to put a positive spin on love, connection and our relationship by making it official.” (Credit: Supplied)

You had a commitment ceremony with Gareth in Bali two years ago. Why did you decide to marry officially now?

Our commitment ceremony in Bali felt more like a wedding and our actual wedding felt more like a commitment ceremony, but that’s OK. We decided to make things official because Gareth and I were so keen to finish 2020 off on a positive note. I’d spent three months away from him and Maddie during the year to film Married at First Sight.

Due to the restrictions in place at that time, I couldn’t go home to Melbourne to see them and they couldn’t come to Sydney to see me and it was really hard. It just emphasised to us how important connection is in a relationship. So we both decided to put a positive spin on love, connection and our relationship by making it official. We felt like, “Yeah, now is the time.”

You wore a bridal gown at your commitment ceremony. What look were you going for on your wedding day?

I wanted my wedding dress to be very relaxed and boho. I wanted my hair to be free-flowing and for it to just be more me. Both Maddie and I had orchids as a nod to Bali, where we’d lived as a family for almost three years.

My dress was made by Puerto Rican designer Erika Peña, who I knew of from my time in Bali. The colour was chosen to match Gareth and Maddie’s eyes – and it’s always good to have something blue for the bride at a wedding, right?

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Mel had a commitment ceremony with Gareth in Bali two years ago. (Credit: Supplied)

Did you have the ceremony at home in Melbourne?

It was at a little wedding registry office in [Melbourne suburb] South Yarra. We could only have six people there in total, so it was the three of us, plus a witness each and the celebrant. Later that afternoon, we turned up to celebrate Christmas with my family in our outfits, and said, “Oh yeah, guess what? We got married this afternoon!” My family loved it and thought it was hilarious. Gareth is from Northern Ireland so we FaceTimed his family, too, and told them. Everyone was thrilled.

Did you write special vows for the wedding?

It was a really cute moment, actually. The celebrant asked us beforehand if we wanted to say any vows, but I told her that we’d done that last time [in Bali]. Then, during the ceremony, she turned the music up really loud and said, “I’m going to give you two an absolutely private moment so no-one can hear what you want to say to one another.” So we whispered some secret, spur-of-the-moment words to one another. It was just a really lovely, spontaneous moment in the ceremony where we both really just expressed our love and gratitude to one another.

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Schilling says her Christmas Eve wedding was full of “laughs, love and a few tears, too.” (Credit: Supplied)

Is it true you met Gareth on eHarmony?

Yes. When we met, I’d been single all through my 30s. When we matched he was living in Adelaide, so we texted each other for six weeks before we could meet. We couldn’t talk on the phone because at that point, I couldn’t understand his strong Northern Irish accent. It meant we really had a chance to get to know each other on
a more intellectual level.

Why does your relationship work so well?

We’re far from perfect. He runs his own online business and we’re two alphas – both very strong-willed! But we’re open to learning from each other as well. That doesn’t mean the odd door doesn’t get slammed but we’re also pretty good at going, “OK, what happened there?” Gareth will say to me though, “I’m not one of your MAFS participants or clients” – which, of course, I really love.

But Gareth was exactly what I was looking for. The missing piece for me while I was dating was someone I could spar with, who would challenge me, and make me think bigger and grow. And he did that from day dot and he still does it daily.

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Maddie was a big part of her parents’ wedding day. (Credit: Supplied)

You then did IVF early on with Gareth to have Maddie?

Yes, the early years of our relationship were pretty full on. But we’re now just so happy as a little family of three and, even though I’m biased, I have to say Maddie is just a bloody dream, she really is.

Since we’re older parents, we made the decision that she would fit in with our lifestyle and come everywhere with us – cafes, pubs and travelling from a very young age. She’s got so many stamps in her passport! It was so special for her to be such an integral part of our wedding day, too.

Meet the cast of Married At First Sight Australia 2024 here.

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