Local high school sweethearts ace ‘marriage test’ on “Rachael Ray Show”

Two near-newlyweds from Brooklyn got the chance of a lifetime – and the seal of approval from Rachael Ray herself – as they made their small screen debuts in a special Valentine’s Day segment on the star’s popular morning talk show.

The couple – Dyker Heights native Christina Castronovo and Bensonhurst native Joe Castiglione – met in elementary school before eventually becoming high school sweethearts. The two — who filled out an application to appear on Ray’s show — got engaged last summer and, since then, have been planning the wedding of their dreams.

There to help with the hard stuff was Ray, who asked the couple before taping to partake in four “dates” specially curated by Jill Andres and Brook Silva-Braga, the married authors of the relationship advice book The Marriage Test: Our 40 Dates Before “I Do.” From there, the two appeared in-studio to discuss their results, and to partake in a fifth “date,” a spin on “The Newlywed Game” that took place in front of Ray’s live audience.

Before the in-studio filming, Andres and Silva-Braga gave the couple a series of tasks to carry out to determine whether or not they are “on the same page” before taking their vows, including trading credit cards for a day, and going the whole day without talking, among others.

The experience, the local couple told this paper, was one they will cherish forever.

“I think it really hit me the night the production crew came to my house to do the pre-show interviews,” said Castiglione, a Xaverian High School graduate currently attending medical school. “Having the lighting, the multiple cameras and microphones on was just a really cool moment. The challenges were a lot of fun too.”

Though, as fun as they were, Castiglione said, they were also important.

“They initiated conversations about things like finances and buying a house, despite not being ready, that we probably would not have had otherwise,” he said, admitting also that “the financial topics are hard being that I’m still in school, so there has been more pressure on Christina to save for the wedding.”

“The date challenges were fun, but stressful,” agreed Castronovo, a Bishop Kearney High School graduate who currently works full time as a speech pathologist at Millennium Brooklyn High School. “The actual in-studio was awesome as well. Rachael and her staff really went above and beyond to make the experience fun and engaging.”

Castronovo called the experience “a breath of fresh air during a money-crunching, stressful time.”

“Overall, it allowed us to have discussions that were necessary but probably would have been avoided,” he went on.

That was exactly the point, noted the authors, who, like Ray, gave the couple their full support to wed.

To top it off, Ray gifted the pair – whose number one issue has been making ends meet – with a honeymoon to Mexico.

“An added bonus is the honeymoon,” said Castronovo, “but honestly, the whole experience taught us so much about each other and opened the lines of communication for us to have these necessary discussions about building our future together.”

Watch the full segment below:

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