The old nursery rhyme goes, “First comes love. Then comes marriage...”
For four Philly couples, first came marriage — the moment they met each other at the altar — for the first time.
We caught up with the only couple who stayed together and agreed to be interviewed from the eighth season of Lifetime’s “Married at First Sight,” and one bride who arguably underwent one of the worst experiences in the show’s history.
Stephanie Sersen, 36, and AJ Vollmoeller, 38, first laid eyes on each other on their wedding day, Sept. 8, 2018. They were among eight people who agreed to participate in an extreme experiment — enter into marriage with a complete stranger, trusting the show’s matchmakers to find them a perfect pairing.
If everything stays as smooth as it’s been going for Sersen and Vollmoeller, the couple will soon be celebrating their one-year anniversary.
So, what’s married life been like since saying those vows? For these two, they’ve had their ups and downs, but they say it’s been pretty close to everything they imagined.
“We are super strong as a newly married couple can be for not knowing each other,” Sersen said. “But obviously, there are still things we have to work on...AJ has a reputation for being this short-fused, New York guy. We’ve done really well at working at that since filming has ended, and he’s just really aware of who he is…He’ll snap at something — he now comes back around and [corrects] himself.
“But it’s been amazing,” she continued. “AJ and I just laugh all the time. We have so much fun together. He cooks. I work a long day, and when I get home, he has dinner ready for me on the table. I have all our events planned. I just think we complement each other really well.”
Vollmoeller said the moment Sersen came into focus as she walked down a long aisle, he was “overjoyed.”
“From her physical appearance — I immediately had that attraction to her. That was one small portion of the whole thing, but it was there immediately,” he said.
Vollmoeller, who owns his own staffing company, and Sersen, a financial consultant, both said they found the courage to sign up for the reality TV show and take the leap of faith because of their past romantic failures.
“I’m a big believer that if you have the opportunity to work with an expert in a field that you are either not successful in or you don’t have that much success in that you should always do it because their outcome will ultimately be better than your own,” Vollmoeller said. “Why would I not want professionals who are at the very top of their career to do the legwork for me?”
But weren’t they nervous? Not Sersen, anyway.
“The wedding day, for me, was just a step in the process I had to take in order to ultimately find love, which was my end goal,” she said. “The wedding day wasn’t personal to me. I didn’t know the guy I was getting married to. I think what I was nervous about was, whenever I do get to know this guy, how am I going to make it work? How are we going to get along? How will this marriage work for the future? I was much more forward-looking than I was on the actual wedding day.”
In describing her personality, Sersen said she enjoys being adventurous, going out with friends and traveling. She listed these criteria going in, so the specialists at Lifetime (a spiritualist, a relationship coach and a sociologist) “created” her spouse “on paper” before matching her up with the right guy. No couch potatoes, please, she asked of them.
“I made it clear to the experts that I’m a very busy person,” she said. “I have an adventurous lifestyle…I have a big social life…That was one of my biggest must-haves — someone who liked to travel and had a lot of friends.”
While Sersen and Vollmoeller made friends with virtually all the couples filming “Married at First Sight” Philly edition, not all of them walked away happily ever after.
There’s 28-year-old Kate Sisk, who shared her bachelorette party with Sersen and three other brides but didn’t stay married long to her husband, Luke Cuccurullo.
Sisk said what she thinks toppled her marriage was the fact that Cuccurullo wasn’t attracted to her from the start. Earlier this year, Newsweek reported that Cuccurullo was accused of gaslighting Sisk and quickly became season 8’s villain when he admitted he was “repulsed” by kissing her.
“I think there were so many factors that went wrong from day one…Finding out that one of the people in the couple is not attracted to the other can cause a lot of tension and a lot of hurt — a lot of issues that are difficult to navigate when you’re just trying to get to know someone,” Sisk said.
For her part, though, Sisk said she was happy with her first impression of Cuccurullo.
“It was both terrifying but also very exciting. There was so much going on that it was hard to really understand how crazy it was and what was really happening on the wedding day. It was very surreal. There was a part of me that felt so sure. I was ready to be married and I knew that I was doing something that I wanted. I wanted to find love,” she said.
These days, Sisk is single, lives in Philly and has decided to let her love life run a more natural course by meeting people organically.
In March, she launched her own women’s lingerie and sleepwear business called Hidden Intimates. With the tagline “Often hidden but not to be overlooked,” the website features a fresh-faced-looking Sisk and several ex-“Married” women as models.
“The marriage didn’t work out. My plan was to have a family,” Sisk said. “Now that I don’t have that passion, I thought, ‘How can I fill my life with inspiring things that I love,’ and since love isn’t happening for me right now, [this] is how I can still feel fulfilled in my life.”
As for Sersen and Vollmoeller, Sersen said she sees a long future together with her new husband. Kids might be in the cards in a few years. For now, though, their focus has been on having fun as newlyweds and traveling. The couple lives in Center City.
Asked what advice they would have for anyone who may audition for “Married at First Sight,” Vollmoeller, Sersen and Sisk all agreed: Be yourself and have fun. After all, you’re marrying a stranger.