Love in par­adise

Zac and Viarni’s per­fect ro­mance

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - This week -

With clear blue sky, crys­tal wa­ters and stun­ning stretches of beach, Raro­tonga is the picture-per­fect spot for a white wed­ding. And as Zac Franich and Viarni Bright stare ador­ingly into each other’s eyes on their ro­man­tic is­land break – her in an ethe­real ivory gown and him in a smart sleeve­less shirt –the Bach­e­lor New Zealand love­birds could cer­tainly be mis­taken for a cou­ple of new­ly­weds.

Viarni is even sport­ing a sparkler on her ring fin­ger! “The se­cret’s out – we’ve eloped!” teases the 23-yearold, who ad­mits she ab­sent­mind­edly slipped the piece of jew­ellery on her wed­ding fin­ger. “When you know, you just know, so we thought, ‘Why the hell not? Let’s com­bine the wed­ding and the hon­ey­moon in one!’”

As if it wasn’t clear she was jok­ing, Viarni dis­solves into gig­gles. The smit­ten pair – who fell head over heels on the third sea­son of the Three re­al­ity se­ries – aren’t quite ready for mar­riage. But they are on the verge of an­other very ex­cit­ing com­mit­ment.

“We’ve talked about love, but we’ve not said the word quite yet,” Viarni smiles bash­fully. “We don’t want to say it just for the sake of it and we’re re­ally happy with

what we’ve got go­ing on. Put it this way – I like Zac very, very, very, very, very much!”

It’s been six months since surf-life­sav­ing coach Zac and his flame-haired sweet­heart made things of­fi­cial. And while you won’t al­ways find the con­tented cou­ple flaunt­ing their blos­som­ing ro­mance on so­cial me­dia, they couldn’t be hap­pier, telling Woman’s Day they’re still very much to­gether.

“V and I love what we have,” beams 28-year-old Zac. “We’ve re­ally found our rhythm as a cou­ple. We are al­ways laugh­ing and smil­ing when we’re to­gether, but at the same time, we don’t need to be in each other’s pock­ets to know that we care very deeply for each other.”

The ad­ven­tur­ous, young adren­a­line junkies have bonded over snow­board­ing trips and quad bik­ing, and share a love of indie mu­sic and al­ter­na­tive rock. Both food­ies, they also en­joy any oc­ca­sion where they get to sam­ple some­thing new and de­li­cious.

“But we could sit on the couch and do noth­ing, and we’d find a way to make it fun,” tells Viarni. “On The

Bach­e­lor, it’s these sorts of in­ti­mate mo­ments we craved. Lately, we’ve had to make a con­certed ef­fort to ac­tu­ally get out of bed on a Sun­day be­cause all we want to do is lie around and cud­dle.

“That’s why our time in Raro­tonga – our first in­ter­na­tional trip to­gether – was so spe­cial. It made us stop and re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery­thing we en­joy about each other.”

Zac’s habit of leav­ing wet tow­els on the floor is the only com­plaint from Viarni these days, but the cou­ple are can­did about the chal­lenges they faced when they first got to­gether.

Viarni ad­mits, “When I think back to the day the show ended, and Zac and I were do­ing our very first in­ter­views as a cou­ple, I was happy and ex­cited, but there was still an el­e­ment of the un­known. We found the first month quite over­whelm­ing.”

Zac nods, “There was this ex­pec­ta­tion of what you think your re­la­tion­ship should look like and what peo­ple think it should look like. There were al­ways go­ing to be com­par­isons to the out­comes of pre­vi­ous sea­sons, but we are Zac and V, and it took us a while to fig­ure out what worked for us.

She’s the one

“It was a lit­tle weird to start with, but I know me and V are com­mit­ted to each other and in this for the long haul. That’s a pretty pow­er­ful foun­da­tion to work from.”

While their idyl­lic get­away to the Cook Is­lands – where they sipped on cock­tails, swam with tur­tles and pad­dle boarded un­der the stars – might look and sound ab­so­lutely per­fect, they insist their lives are far from glam­orous.

“We’ll al­ways be thank­ful to the show for bring­ing us to­gether, but gone are the days where my hair was perfectly curled and I had a face full of make-up,” smiles Viarni. “Now I’ll wake up look­ing com­pletely cooked in my track­ies and Zac doesn’t bat an eye­lid. You know you are truly com­fort­able with your boyfriend when you can fart in front of him!”

Clearly not put off, Zac – who’s sport­ing some new fa­cial hair that Viarni reck­ons is “hot as” – still goes the ex­tra mile to make his girl smile, leav­ing notes around the house for his girl­friend and reg­u­larly sur­pris­ing her with her favourite flow­ers, proteas and sun­flow­ers, just be­cause.

“I al­ways want V to know she’s spe­cial to me,” he tells. “I al­ways want her to feel loved and val­ued, and to know there is no other girl for me.”

His ro­man­tic dec­la­ra­tions leave Viarni with lit­tle doubt she is dat­ing the sweet­est, most sup­port­ive man on the planet. This was re­in­forced when the for­mer model’s bat­tle with Crohn’s dis­ease – a chronic in­flam­ma­tory dis­ease of the bowel – took a turn for the worse in Au­gust.

“The day af­ter I posted about cel­e­brat­ing two years of no hospi­tal ad­mis­sions, I got my MRI re­sults back, which showed the Crohn’s was ac­tive again, ex­plain­ing the re­turn of my symp­toms,” tells Viarni, who takes a daily steroid and im­mune sup­pres­sant, and has fort­nightly in­jec­tions of a bi­o­lage drug de­rived from liv­ing cells to avoid fur­ther op­er­a­tions.

Side ef­fects in­clude headaches, nau­sea, lack of en­ergy and oc­ca­sional in­som­nia – but Zac has been there ev­ery step of the way.

“I guess I al­ways have a fear that some­one I en­ter a re­la­tion­ship with won’t un­der­stand or sup­port me as much as I need them to, but Zac does – in all as­pects of life – and with my health strug­gles es­pe­cially,” says Viarni.

“Crohn’s symp­toms can be so on and off – one minute we have a din­ner with friends planned, then I go down­hill so we have to resched­ule. But Zac is so chill about it all and al­ways looks af­ter me. When I feel crook, he’ll do any­thing to make me feel bet­ter.”

Grin­ning, Viarni adds, “And it goes both ways. I’m there for him no mat­ter what. We are al­ways there for each other.”

Yet to ut­ter the L-word, Zac and Viarni seal their ro­mance with a kiss.

They’re in deep! The pair have only grown closer since Zac first swept his sweet­heart off her feet.

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