The new season of “Married at First Sight” is back!

Season 9 of the Lifetime reality show kicked off Wednesday with two hours of matchmaking, wedding drama and undeniable chemistry.

Thousands of hopeful singles in the Charlotte, NC area applied to be a part of the social experiment, where experts select four couples to enter into legally-binding marriages. The couples live together for eight weeks, after which they decide if they should stay married or get a divorce.  The marriage is legally binding, and cast members are rigorously vetted and interviewed to ensure that they’re serious about getting and staying married to their partners. Before you knock it, the show has a pretty good success rate: Six couples are still married, and there are four “Married at First Sight” babies.

Below, meet the four couples embarking on this season’s high-stakes love journey — including the first virgin cast member — and hear what the show’s relationship experts, Cal Roberson, Pepper Schwartz and Viviana Coles (who is new to the show) have to say about their chances.

Amber Bowles, 27 and Matthew Gwynne, 32

Married at First Sight Amber and Matt
Amber and MattJCM Photography

Both basketball obsessives (Gwynne is an ex-professional player, and the athletic Bowles is an avid Charlotte Hornets fan), this couple’s biggest hurdle outright just might be their height difference: Gwynne is 6-foot-9 and Bowles is 5-foot-2.

Bowles, an 8th grade English teacher says she’s a “tomboy” who eschews makeup and glamorous outfits. After years playing on teams in South America and Eastern Europe, Gwynne is setting down roots in Charlotte. Both have divorced parents, but that hasn’t stopped them from being hopeful about the process. Even though Gwynne is not on speaking terms with much of his family, “I still believe in marriage,” he says.

There was instant chemistry when the couple met at the altar, and a giggly Bowles couldn’t contain her attraction: “He’s so cute!” They gushed over their mutual love of sports, and couldn’t stop kissing once they finished the ceremony.

Why the experts say they’ll work out:

“Amber and Matt are a perfect pair because they both deeply want to create a commitment with someone special,” says Dr. Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist and sexologist. “They both are active people who want an active lifestyle, they both are avid travelers.”

And when it comes to their height discrepancy, Schwartz thinks it’s not an issue: Apparently Gwynne dated a 5-foot-2 gal before, for a whole year.

Elizabeth Bice, 29 and Jamie Thompson, 35

Married at First Sight Elizabeth and Jamie
Jamie and ElizabethJCM Photography

Bice, who works in marketing for her dad’s distribution company, is a self-proclaimed “free spirt” and “Daddy’s girl” — and she’s got a boatload of confidence. “I think I’m hilarious, to be completely honest with you,” she said. Her ideal spouse is “gorgeous” and “driven,” and also “a little bit metro.” “I’m so ok with going to get pedicures with them,” she says.

A technical consultant, “Mr. Picky” Thompson insists he’s ready to “put a ring on it.” “I’m done with the dating scene,” he says. “I definitely want to be in love.”

One little red flag so far? He was ogling the blackjack dealer during the bachelor party the night before the big day. (We won’t get to see this wedding until next week’s episode!)

Why the experts say they’ll work out:
“Elizabeth and Jamie are going to make it because they both have so much passion. She is a force of nature. Jamie also is a passionate and driven person,” says Pastor Cal Roberson. “Their challenge is that they’re going to have to learn to contain their passion, understand that their passion should drive them together and not apart. With this in mind, I believe they can be one of our long-lasting couples.”

“I’m hoping that he’s not too picky and too particular for her,” Roberson adds.

Though Schwartz says Bice is “little bit of a princess,” she concedes that she’s a “warm person.” “I would not expect this to be the easiest couple we have,” Schwartz says. “But they’ll get through it.”

Iris Caldwell, 27 and Keith Manley, 27

Married at First Sight Iris and Keith
Iris and KeithJCM Photography

Caldwell, a “hopeless romantic” who works for a non-profit, is making history as the show’s first virgin contestant.

“I have saved my virginity for marriage because I’m a very religious person,” she says. “And, knowing that a lot of guys do not want to deal with it has made me want to be ‘Married at First Sight’ because we are starting with commitment.”

Though she was visibly uncomfortable with the male strippers at her bachelorette party with the other cast members, she is open and has a sense of humor about her virginity: “I’ve never physically had sex. There’s never been a penis entered into me, ever,” she joked in an interview with the experts.

Manley works as a basketball coach and a mentor for kids who don’t always have a “male figure” in their lives. “I’m eager to start thinking about my own family,” he says. He admires his parents 29-year marriage and hopes to have their caliber of friendship with his new partner. He also has a religious background: His grandfather is a deacon, and his grandmother is a minister. He has a little bit of a struggle convincing them that marrying a stranger is a good idea, but right before he walks down the aisle, they give their blessing. Iris and Keith’s wedding also airs in next week’s episode, so we’ll have to wait!

Why the experts say they’ll work out:

“Iris and Keith could very well go the distance because they both love to help others, they both have healthy communication skills, and positive family systems that support them,” says Coles. “And because Iris has shared with us that she hasn’t hasn’t had sexual intercourse, it was important for us as experts for us to match her with someone who is kind, patient and understanding.”

Pastor Cal voiced concern about Iris being a virgin, but “I believe they can overcome it.” Schwartz says, “I think they really see the world in the same way.”

Deonna McNeill, 30 and Gregory Okotie, 32

Married at First Sight Deonna and Gregory
Deonna and GregoryJCM Photography

“I consider myself to be a great catch,” said McNeill, an operations manager who has two degrees and owns her own home. Her roadblock in relationships has been that she hasn’t dated in 10 years after a bad breakup with her high school sweetheart.

Okotie, who owns his own math learning center for kids, has also been hurt in a past relationship: He was engaged two years ago, and calls the relationship “toxic.”

But both of them have a strong Christian faith, and “didn’t want to be with anyone who didn’t put God at the center of their life,” explained Schwartz.

Before their wedding, Okotie teared up while praying with his friends and family. He and McNeill were both all smiles when they met at the altar. “Thank you for being worth the wait,” Okotie said in his vows. They were jubilant as they left the ceremony hand in hand, and toasted “to our beautiful union,” with champagne.

Why the experts say they’ll work out:

“Deona and Greg are a match made in heaven because they both share strong core values,” says Pastor Cal Roberson. “They both have educational compatibility, motivational compatibility, and they have spiritual compatibility. I believe that they are going to be our next power couple.”

“Married at First Sight” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST on Lifetime.

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