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At the end of this month, Louisa Lytton was meant to be walking down the aisle to marry the man of her dreams, fiancé Ben Bhanvra, in front of all their loved ones. The EastEnders star, 31, had organised every detail of the beautiful ceremony, which was due to take place over the bank holiday.
However, like so many others across the world, their plans were thrown into chaos by the coronavirus pandemic and, earlier this summer, the couple made the heartbreaking decision to delay their nuptials until summer 2021.
“It was emotional making the decision to postpone it because you put all this work and effort into something, build it all up in your head, and then suddenly it’s not happening for ages,” Louisa reveals as she and Ben sit down with OK! for the first time since they exclusively announced their engagement to us.
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Back then, in May 2019, the couple were on cloud nine after Ben, 29, popped the question while they were holidaying in the Maldives. “When I saw him on one knee I started crying like a baby,” Louisa said at the time. “I was so excited but my brain went into overdrive and I started freaking out. I had no idea he was going to propose.”
The actress – who plays Ruby Allen in the BBC One soap – also made no secret of the fact that they were hoping to “get cracking” with starting a family as soon as they were married. But the loved-up pair insist putting their wedding day on ice won’t derail their ambitions for a family.
Here, the couple talk about their difficult decision, their plans for the future and why lockdown has made them closer than ever…
We’re sorry to hear you’ve had to postpone your big day. How are you feeling about it?
Louisa: It feels strange to think we should have been getting married this month and now we’re not. It was emotional making the decision to postpone it because you put all this work and effort into something, you build it all up in your head, and then suddenly it’s not happening for ages.
Ben: It was stressful deciding what to do, but to be honest, once we actually made the decision to rearrange the date, it took the pressure off a bit. We’re looking to move from our flat to a house at the moment, so maybe moving and getting married at the same time would have been too much!
When did you decide to postpone the wedding?
Louisa: At the beginning of June. We had to let the venue know whether we still wanted to change the date or go ahead 12 weeks before. They told us that if we didn’t move the date then we could miss out on next summer too, as they were already booking up. That made the decision for us really. Another factor was that we really want our grandparents at the wedding, and we were concerned because they are on the vulnerable list. There was no way I was going ahead with the wedding if our grandparents would be at risk, and there was also no way I would get married without them there.
Ben: We’re both so close to our families, so that wasn’t an option.
So when will you get married now?
Louisa: We have moved the date to next summer. We’re still keeping the same venue because we fell in love with it as soon as we saw it. And even though we’re not getting married on a bank holiday any more, we still want to make a long weekend of it and have everybody enjoy a three-day celebration.
Ben: My family are in York and Louisa’s are in London, so we wanted to drag it out and make the most of having everyone together.
Can all your guests still make the new date next year?
Louisa: Yes. We’ve invited 186 people to the day event and another 50 to the night. When I emailed them, they all said they can still make it. We thought we might have a few cancellations, but so far, so good.
Have you invited many of your EastEnders co-stars?
I have invited quite a few people from work. Obviously Lacey Turner [Stacey Slater], Natalie Cassidy [Sonia Fowler] and James Bye [Martin Fowler], they’re all a given. Hopefully they can all get the day off! We are like one big family at EastEnders, but naturally you build up strong friendships with people that you work closely to.
Did you consider starting your plans from scratch?
Louisa: I did get a bit irrational at one point. I had a moment where I was like, “Let’s just scrap the whole thing and start again!” I’m quite superstitious and thought that maybe this wedding wasn’t meant to happen how we planned it and perhaps we needed to do
the whole day somewhere else.
What made you change your mind and stick to the plan?
Louisa: It was Ben who was the calm one and made me see sense. He was like, “You are being irrational – this is because of a pandemic, it’s not that we are not meant
Ben: I reassured her that it’s still going to be the same wedding we had planned before, just on a different date, and hopefully everyone will be safe by then.
Louisa: I think what made me emotional is that we don’t actually know when we are going to be able to get married. Yes, we have moved the date to next summer, but because we don’t actually know what is going to happen with this pandemic, there
is always that fear that it will not go ahead next year either.
Had you picked out your dress, Louisa?
Yeah, I had my dress and he had his suit. Luckily we hadn’t had anything altered because we ate a lot in lockdown! I’ve kept my dress at the shop and will collect it next year because I didn’t want to have it around where Ben could see it, and also I don’t want to keep looking at it because another year is a long time to wait.
How long did you spend looking for that perfect dress?
Oh, ages. I found it really hard because I liked pretty much everything. I went with my mum to most of my appointments and
in the end I went with one that my mum liked. I walked out and my mum started crying. She was like, “Oh my God, that’s it.” It’s quite a classic dress, but I can’t say too much more as Ben doesn’t want to know. I wanted to show him, and he was like, “No don’t be stupid!” [Laughs]
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Have you had any input into what Ben wears?
Ben: Yeah, she had to approve it!
Louisa: I had to approve the colour, because Ben can be a bit wacky. And also it’s hard because you know what your dress looks like but you can’t give it away, so you have to make sure that the suit complements the dress.
Did you have your honeymoon booked?
Louisa: Luckily we hadn’t even looked into it. Originally we wanted to go somewhere far away and do a bit of travelling, so we were going to wait until a few months after the wedding to go on honeymoon for financial reasons. So in a way, it’s good because we really are starting from scratch on that and we have totally changed what we want to do now.
What are you going to do now?
Louisa: Now we have had to delay the wedding, I want to do the honeymoon straight after the wedding. I have always wanted to hire a car and drive around Italy. It’s where my mum’s family are from and I went there as a child, so that will be special. When Ben and I first met, I told him what I’d like to do and he bought me a beautiful map of Italy for our first Christmas together. I have the map framed above our bed.
Louisa, after cancelling the wedding, you posted footage from your socially-distanced hen do in a park. Why did you decide to go ahead with your hen?
It wasn’t actually my hen do. I was meant to go away to Croatia with the girls, so that weekend my best friend planned a get together in the park with all of us as a surprise. I wasn’t going to do anything that weekend but it cheered me up because we hadn’t seen each other all of lockdown. I’m sure we will still go away for a hen next year if we can.
You’ve said previously that you are keen to start a family. Has delaying the wedding meant you’ve had to push your baby plans back?
Louisa: We were always going to wait until next year to start trying because we wanted to get married and enjoy that time together first, so it won’t really change that much for us. I will be 32 by then and while we’ve still got time, I want a few kids so I don’t want to leave it too late. And if we have to push the wedding back by another few years, then we will start trying for a family beforehand. That is the most important thing for us, we won’t push back having kids for the sake of getting married.
Ben: One of the things I love most about Louisa is that she is such a family girl. We’re both on the same page with what we want from life.
Did all those months of lockdown test your relationship at all?
Louisa: It was a test, but it brought us closer. We survived lockdown in a tiny one-bedroom flat, so we can definitely survive marriage!
Ben: We don’t really argue. Of course we have disagreements, but we work well together.
Louisa: It sounds cheesy, but he is everything I always wanted in a partner. He keeps me on my toes and we have a lot of respect for each other. And he can cook too, so that’s great!
EastEnders airs on BBC One on Mondays at 8pm and Tuesdays at 7:30pm.
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