The new show, called Married at First Sight, will involve couples meeting for the first time at their own wedding.
The participants will take part in what channel 4 has described as a “legally binding” ceremony and will then live together for six weeks before deciding whether to stay together or opt out of the marriage in a non-contested divorce.
The three participating couples will be selected from over 200 applicants and will be hand-picked by psychiatrists, anthropologists and theologists.
Married at First Sight has been heavily criticised by marriage support and Christian groups who have accused Channel 4 of trivialising the commitment of marriage.
Harry Benson, from the Marriage Foundation said that in particular, it was the programme’s opt-out clause which risked “trivialising” the commitment required for marriage. He added that: “Instead of getting married with clarity and intent about their future, these couples will still be in a relationship that is riddled with ambiguity. Nobody gets married with an easy opt-out clause a few weeks later. It simply undermines commitment from the very beginning.”
Simon Calvert, from the Christian Institute, described the programme to the Daily Mail as a ‘terrible idea’, saying: “It’s disappointing that TV producers seem to be in this constant race to the bottom, and this is just another idea that denigrates marriage.
“Clearly a marriage contracted between two people who barely know each other, who are doing it solely for the sake of a TV programme, is not showing proper respect for the institution.
“Marriage is meant to be for life and contracting a marriage as part of a TV show ranks somewhere alongside getting married at 3am in Vegas … it’s horrible for broadcasters to be experimenting with people’s lives in this way.”
However, Channel 4 have been quick to defend the programme, which they describe as a “social experiment.”
A Channel 4 spokesman said: “Rather than undermining the importance of marriage this is an acknowledgement that statistically the institution of marriage has a vital role to play in creating an environment where committed and long-lasting relationships can develop.”
They spokesperson explained to the Telegraph that the programme aimed to answer big questions, such as: “Can science produce a successful relationship and can the act of marriage itself help create a psychological bond that leads to true and enduring love?”