TV

Married at First Sight expert Tony Jones on his own wedding crisis

Tony thanks his lucky stars he’s here to share his life with Kirsty, little Luca and number three on the way.

By Ashleigh McEnaney

When it came to the matchmaking on Married at First Sight NZ, the experts didn't always get it right – Lacey and Luke's union fell apart on the honeymoon, Claire and Dom quit the experiment, and Haydn and Bel went bust after an explosive dinner party.

But the course of true love never did run smooth, not even for the reality show's relationship counsellor Tony Jones, who nearly called off his own wedding back in 2009. The British-born father-of-one was struck down with a deadly bout of meningitis just eight days before he was set to marry his sweetheart of six years, Kirsty.

He reveals, "I felt a bit out of sorts but thought it was just the flu, so I went into work. By the time I got there, I was dripping in sweat, had a mind-numbing headache and was on the verge of collapse.

"I was ambulanced to hospital, where I stayed for the next six days. I lost 8kg and had to organise a new suit overnight, but nothing was going to get in the way of me making it down that aisle."

Indeed, two days later, Tony and Kirsty – who is now 35 weeks pregnant with a little brother for their son Luca, five – tied the knot on Waiheke Island. And apart from the fact that guests – many from England – drank the venue dry just three hours in, their big day went off without a hitch.

"We suspect the staff had underestimated just how much a Brit loves a pint," smiles Tony, 36, "but after everything, I was just happy to be there – it was perfect."

The lovebirds, from Rugby, Warwickshire, never planned on putting down roots in New Zealand. They were in their early 20s and on their OE when a lack of funds meant they stayed put in Aotearoa.

"We thought we'd give it a year, but that turned into 10," smiles Kirsty, 33. "It was very easy to stay. Going back to England is something we often talk about, especially with number two on the way, but we'd have to sacrifice such a wonderful environment for our boys to grow up in."

New Zealand is also where Tony, a former teacher and police officer, returned to his beloved counselling career.

It was on a stressful day in which he'd been working with Child, Youth and Family to rehome four children that he received a call from Married at First Sight producers about appearing on the Three show.

Tony's first response was no, but after an enlightening counselling session with a couple on the brink of divorce, he changed his mind.

"They confessed that watching Last Resort, a show about couples trying to save their marriages, encouraged them to come see me. I thought, 'If me doing this show gives other couples the confidence to do the same, then that's totally worth it.'"

Despite the show's failed marriages, Tony and his co-star Dr Pani Farvid – who whittled down 4000 entries to six couples – stand by their matches.

"We laboured over the entries for months," says Tony.

"I'm a counsellor and it's my duty to care about people, not ratings. I'm not saying they were the best couples in the world, but they matched and I genuinely hoped they'd find what Kirsty and I are lucky enough to share – true love."

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