Woman’s Day (New Zealand)
The Block NZ’s Em mett ties the knot
‘THERE WASN’T A DRY EYE IN THE HOUSE!’
The besotted reno champ exchanged vows with the love of his life in an emotion al autumn ceremony
The day before The Block NZ’s Emmett Vallender tied the knot with his beloved partner Zigie Wightman, he decided he needed to practise his vows – so his reality TV buddy and fellow 2016 winner Sam Cable stepped in, pretending to be the beautiful bride-to-be! While Sam mightn’t have looked the part, the experience was both comical and helpful. “Sam held my hands and it was actually a bit easier having my best man looking at me, rather than having Zig’s face there!” laughs Emmett, reminiscing on his prenuptial nerves.
Zigie admits to rehearsing too. The physiotherapist, 31, shares that her stepmum recommended saying her vows to a photo of her 35-year-old
‘People really felt the love we have for each other’
fiancé. “It helped me a lot having had a couple of practices under my belt when I was choking up a bit.”
Still glowing after their special day at Auckland’s rustic but glamorous Kumeu Valley Estate, the new Mrs Vallender gushes to Woman’s Day about the emotional ceremony. “We had quite a few friends and family say that our vows moved them. It was lovely to hear that people really felt the love we have for each other.”
The couple’s love blossomed after Emmett – who won $480,000 alongside Sam on season five of
The Block – went to a physiotherapy appointment and spotted Zigie at work. A while later, when Zigie was newly single, he sent her a message online and they met up.
The lovebirds got engaged in 2020 and then, last November, welcomed
their first child Leo into the world. The wee boy was one of the cutest sights at the wedding, wearing a suit that matched his dad’s, complete with a black bow tie.
The six-month-old is still breastfeeding, so Zigie had to make that work throughout the big day. “I’m one of the lucky ones who doesn’t leak,” she laughs, shuddering at the thought of wet patches on her stunning dress.
It’s obvious the pair are head over heels for each other. As they talk, they rub each other’s backs and smile adoringly at one another as Zigie recalls what first attracted her to her groom.
“When I met Emmett, I remember thinking he was so funny. He made me laugh in situations where I shouldn’t have been laughing. I’d be cry-laughing at work!”
The chief operating officer of Kiwi design company Citta, Emmett’s upbeat, warm personality also sealed the deal. Looking at her new husband, she says, “I love how kind you are. You’re kind to everybody every day. I’d never met anyone like that before and I decided I wanted to be with you for my life.”
When they got engaged after a hike to the top of Roys Peak, near Wa-naka, the moment was a surprise to Zigie. They hadn’t talked about getting married, but they’d both thought about it.
“I feel like we both knew we were going to marry each other,” says Zigie. “We both knew we were going to have kids with each other, but without actually saying it.”
Emmett chimes in, “It was always important to me to propose before you felt you needed to tell me we should get married. It was really fluid and natural to get to that point.”
Both fans of tear-jerker romcoms, it was inevitable Emmett and Zigie would cry on their own big day.
“I made a bit of a joke just before Zigie started coming down the wedding aisle that with the change of season, there must have been some pollen in the air,” laughs Emmett. “I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. It was a very emotional moment, but beautiful at the same time.”
‘I like the idea of saying she’s my wife’
Zigie was a sight to behold as she walked down the aisle towards Emmett, hand in hand with her dad. They’d arrived in a 1967 Ford Galaxie, listening to Queen on the 10-minute drive from Zigie’s pre-wedding accommodation. (She’d stayed near the venue with Leo and her bridal party, while Emmett was in the city with his best mates.)
Keeping to the tradition of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”, Zigie wore a vintage blue diamond and sapphire ring that her dad had given her mum while they were still together, plus borrowed pearl drop Brie Leon earrings from a friend, with her brand-new silk Lulu Jackson Bridal gown.
Of the custom dress, handmade in Mount Maunganui, Zigie says she was looking for something simple she could rewear in the future.
“I wanted one that I could wear in 10 years’ time if we had a really nice wedding anniversary. One I could put on without people being like, ‘OMG, she’s wearing a wedding dress to a restaurant!’”
As she walked towards her groom, Zigie had an attack of butterflies. “I think it was the first time I’ve ever had that much adrenaline and excitement in a good way,” she explains. “This was the first time I’ve ever felt so excited and that nothing bad could happen.”
Fortunately, Zigie will be able to relax – as much as a new mum can! – in June, when she and Emmett will do a motorhome road trip across Canada, driving from Vancouver to Calgary. But before then, they’ll be basking in all the special moments from their big day.
A highlight they’ll remember forever was Emmett’s 93-yearold grandfather and Zigie’s 89-year-old grandmother being their witnesses. “It was cool to see how much it meant to them,” tells Emmett. “We had them up the front and they got escorted by our mums.”
As a gesture of her love, Zigie’s grandma gave her a treasured ring that her late husband had gifted her before he passed away. “It’s also a sapphire, so it’s very similar to the one my dad gave my mum,” shares Zigie. “It’s two generations of diamondsapphire rings, which is just so special.”
But the paramount thing for Emmett is making his relationship with Zigie official.
“It completes the whole picture when it comes to family and everything that goes with it,” he smiles. “I like the idea of saying she’s my wife and I’m her husband. That, for me, is so important.”
Radio star Cam Mansel was buying food for his rabbit at his local pet store when a teacher recognised him. Introducing herself, she explained how one of her students had been struggling with his sexuality until hearing Cam on ZM’s Late Show. The 30-year-old broadcaster recalls, “She was like, ‘You said something that resonated with him and really helped him.’ It was an incredible moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.” Helping others navigate identity struggles means everything to Cam as his sexuality has attracted vile slurs and death threats, as well as seeing him bullied throughout his school years, when he was teased about his weight with nasty comments that still haunt him today. But as he proudly rocks a bright tee in support of anti-bullying campaign Pink Shirt Day, Cam hopes to show anyone facing bullies that the horrendous time will pass. “I went through stages where I felt super-alone and had no friends,” he recalls. “It felt like it would never end, but it does – and it builds resilience.” Thanks to drama class and the school band, Cam was a confident kid until classmates started commenting on his body when he was around nine. “Kids go through stages where they grow out and grow up, but
I had a grow-out phase and became quite a chubster,” he tells, adding that the bullies dimmed his love for sports.
“I was good at basketball, but the coach benched me every game and my teammates told me I was so fat, I wouldn’t be able to jump. I ended up quitting. I wish I hadn’t allowed others to take that pleasure out of my life, but getting hassled for my weight every practice didn’t make me feel good. The more people said mean things to me, the more I believed it.”
Cam eventually adopted healthier eating habits and began cycling, but the bullying got worse in high school, when homophobic taunts made him dread walking through those gates.
“People called me fairy or f **** t. I got bullied for my sexuality before I even knew what sexuality was. They’d say, ‘You’re gay,’ but I hadn’t even thought about that. Their comments really made me question myself, but it wasn’t until uni that I fully accepted it.”
Adding that he had girlfriends in high school, Cam continues, “For so long, I tried fighting it because I thought it was a bad thing, and I didn’t
want to let my friends and family down. I thought if I told people, they would resent me for it.”
But after he came out to his best mates, Cam realised he wouldn’t lose loved ones by sharing he’s gay, so he told his sister Megan, then his parents Ann and David. “It hasn’t been a walk in the park, but they have been super-supportive and knowing I have their support means everything,” says Cam, adding that his brother Brad’s reaction was, “That’s freaking cool!”
As for how he conquered school bullies, Cam says turning up to mufti day wearing Nike Air Force sneakers, which were popular at the time, proved a pivotal moment. “People’s reactions to me completely changed, which is the most ridiculous thing,” he laughs.
“I went from being an outsider, to losing some weight and wearing particular shoes,
then having people want to be my friend. I just thought, ‘This is weird. I’d rather be friends with people who genuinely care about me.’ That was a massive lesson.”
Finding authentic friends, largely through drama class, helped Cam gain confidence, but he notes that while the bullying has made him a more empathetic person, it’s also had a long-lasting negative impact.
“There are aspects of body dysmorphia I still struggle with. Because I spent years of my life being told I was fat every day, even when my body changed, I still heard those voices in my head.”
And while being in the public eye has attracted new bullies – like a listener who was unhappy ZM had employed a gay host and sent a death threat via Facebook – Cam’s grateful to have radio as a platform to support other people who are struggling and to be a media role model to the LGBTQI community, which was something lacking when he was younger.
“I just watched the Netflix show Heartstopper, which is an amazing representation of a gay relationship, which I wish had been a thing when I was growing up,” says Cam, who’s currently single but hoping “Prince Charming sweeps me off my feet”.
He adds, “Now Australia has the world’s first bisexual Bachelorette, the first samesex couple just danced on Dancing With The Stars NZ and people are embracing diversity on TikTok. It’s great for young people to see that no matter what their sexuality is, they can do awesome things with their lives!”
‘I felt super-alone and had no friends’
Wear a pink top on Friday 20 May to support Pink Shirt Day and help stop bullying. To register or donate, visit pinkshirtday.org.nz. ZM’s Late Show With Cam Mansel airs 7pm to 10pm weeknights.