After weeks in the Bachelor bubble, contestants are always forced to return to reality during the now-infamous hometown dates every season.
While some parents welcome the lead into their home with open arms, hoping to help their son or daughter secure the final rose, other families make it clear that they aren’t giving their blessing if there are still three more men or women in the running for the ring. And while it’s rare, sometimes, the families refuse to participate at all.
“[Mine are] the only parents in history that didn’t do the hometown,” Bachelor season 13 winner Melissa Rycroft recalled on Us Weekly’s “Here for the Right Reasons” podcast in 2020. “I remember my dad telling me, ‘You know, my coworkers are going to be watching this.’ … Back then it was harder to explain to them why I was going. They’re like, ‘This is a stupid reality show, you’re not gonna find your person.’ [Back then], you didn’t get fame out of it. That’s not why you were going on the show. They were terrified I was going to embarrass them with the hot tub scenes … They really did not want me in a hot tub.”
While Bachelor Jason Mesnick only spent time with Melissa’s friends during the 2009 season, he still proposed to the Dallas Cowboys cheerleader during the finale. Their romance didn’t last, however, with Jason dumping Melissa to reunite with runner-up (and now-wife) Molly Malaney.
“I think if they could’ve picked, they wouldn’t want their daughter being dumped on TV. I think it was just as hard for them to have to relive,” Melissa told Us. “Not relive — they didn’t live it the first time — but to live, you know, through that and see me actually [going through it].”
During traditional seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, the lead travels to see his or her top four contestants with their families in their respective hometown. During season 16 of The Bachelorette, which was filmed at one location amid the coronavirus pandemic, the families traveled to La Quinta Resort in Palm Springs to meet lead Tayshia Adams.
“When we get to hometowns, I always say, believe it or not, this is really the halfway mark because the season starts now,” longtime host Chris Harrison told Us in December 2020. “It’s not that everything before that wasn’t meaningful, but those last few weeks are like years in. What’s about to happen with families, with overnights, with meeting the other person’s family, with the ring by and the proposals. And I mean, what’s about to happen in these next few weeks is massive than it is life-changing. And [season 16] is very different even from prior seasons because hometowns had to come to us. Because of the pandemic, we had to bring everybody in. So, it’s very different. And you had really a fish out of water sense of being for these poor people that were like, ‘Wait, what?’ You know moms and dads, like, ‘We didn’t sign up [for this], but this is what’s happening.’ So very different intimacy that you’ve got as well.”
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Scroll through for a breakdown of the most memorable hometown dates in Bachelor history: