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When we catch up with Alexandra Mardell and her fiancé, actor Joe Parker, the happy couple, who are both 27, are on cloud nine. Joe popped the question in April, but as we chat to the self-confessed “soppy” pair about their engagement it’s clear they’re both still buzzing as though it was yesterday.
Most of us know her as Coronation Street’s lovesick barmaid Emma Brooker but, in reality, Alexandra – or Ali as she’s also known – isn’t nearly as unlucky in love. As she and Joe cuddle together and reminisce about their relationship, it’s obvious they’ve both hit the jackpot.
Joe tells us that he originally planned to propose in Paris, where they’d hoped to be celebrating Ali’s birthday, but with restrictions still blighting travel plans he decided to get down on one knee in the couple’s kitchen instead. Ali and Joe, who were used to a long-distance relationship, moved in together at the start of last year and have gone from strength to strength ever since.
Sadly, Ali’s father, who passed away in 2016 from cardiomyopathy, won’t be there to witness her happily ever after. As we talk to the soap star, she admits she’s sad her dad won’t be walking her down the aisle. However, she knows he’d have loved her future hubby. Plus, Ali has an amazing relationship with her stepdad, Mick, who’ll be the one doing the honours.
Here, the couple recount Joe’s adorable proposal – from picking the ring to popping the question, hint at who’ll be on the guest list and reveal the special way Ali intends to honour her beloved dad at her wedding.
Congratulations! How are you both feeling?
Ali: We’re so excited! I don’t think the buzz has worn off yet.
Joe: We can’t wait.
Did you know Joe was going to propose?
Ali: No, it was a complete surprise. I was at the kitchen sink like, “Is this happening?”
How did you prepare, Joe? Tell us everything…
Joe: I knew the type of ring she wanted and I saw a stone that was just perfect. I didn’t have any idea how long it would take to make, but it came a lot sooner than I thought! [Laughs] I had to get it from London but, luckily, I was there for work, so I managed to sneak off without Ali knowing.
How did the proposal go down?
Ali: The end of lockdown was approaching, but we’ve actually been enjoying our indoor date nights. So we thought we’d have a big Italian feast. Joe put on some Italian music and made a spag bol. He spent all Friday night making it ready for Saturday.
Joe: I nearly burnt it on Saturday, didn’t I?
Ali: He’d been making it for hours! You didn’t know you were going to propose that day though, did you?
Hold on, what?
Joe: [Laughs] Yeah, it was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I was trying to think of ways I could do it but nothing was open. The original plan was to propose in Paris, which we’d booked for Ali’s birthday, but that got cancelled so I went for the kitchen instead.
Do tell us more…
Ali: We’d finished dinner and were dancing to some Italian music. We started talking about how we’ve been really lucky in lockdown to have had such a nice time together when Joe disappeared. I thought he was going to the toilet, so I started doing the washing-up. When he came back he told me to leave the pans and asked me to dance again. Next thing I know he was down on one knee.
Joe, when did you know that Ali was The One?
Joe: I’d known that for a while to be honest. My original plan was to propose before Christmas, but my brother got there first with his girlfriend so I couldn’t just jump in straight after.
Ali: The timing has been perfect really because we’ve been able to celebrate with friends and family.
What was going through your head when Joe popped the question?
Ali: I just couldn’t believe it. It’s a moment that you expect to happen in your life and I was like, “This is that moment!” It felt surreal and
I was crying for ages.
Joe: I remember thinking, “Is that a yes?”
How did you tell your families?
Ali: I rang my mum straight away and was like, “Mum, Joe proposed!” She was there with my stepdad and they were so happy for us.
Joe: My mum knew I had the ring, so when I told her she said, “I knew you wouldn’t be able to wait.”
Sadly, your dad isn’t here to celebrate with you, Ali. What do you think he would have made of Joe?
Ali: Ah, he would have loved him. That’s the one thing – we wish they could’ve met. My dad would have been so happy.
Do you feel sad that he won’t be walking you down the aisle?
Ali: Kind of. Luckily, I’ve got two dads. My stepdad Mick is a massive part of my life, so even if my dad was alive I would have had the pair of them walking me down the aisle. Even though my real dad won’t be there I’ve still got Mick. I might give him a little token from my dad – like a tie or something – so that he’s there with us on the day.
Have you thought about your dress at all?
Joe: [Covers ears]
Ali: I need to get on Pinterest for inspiration. When I was younger I saved loads of pictures of wedding dresses, but now I look back
and I don’t like any of them. We won’t be getting married for another couple of years, so it’ll be difficult to pick something I’m
always gonna love.
Which part of wedding planning are you most looking forward to?
Ali: Of course. Plus, we’ll have to make a playlist. I think that’ll be a fun weekend.
You’re both big foodies. Have you thought about what will be on the menu?
Ali: Our ideal would be a seafood starter and then some sort of steak main.
Joe: I want loads of pizza in the evening as well. I love pizza.
Will you stick to tradition?
Joe: We won’t have the wedding in a church because we’re not religious…
Ali: …but we’ll go as traditional as possible. Bouquet toss, first dance, vows, speeches – we’ll do all of that.
Mel B’s mum Andrea is a family friend. Will she be at the wedding?
Ali: Andrea will definitely be at the wedding. I think she’ll be coming on the hen do as well. I don’t think Melanie will come, though.
I went to her wedding, but I’m not sure she’ll come to mine.
Will anyone from Corrie be on the guest list?
Ali: Hopefully. We went to Sam Aston’s wedding, which was great fun, so fingers crossed him and [his wife] Briony will come to ours.
How emotional are you both – will there be any tears at the altar?
Joe: [Laughs] I’ll be crying my eyes out.
Ali: He’ll be crying so much. If I need to hold it in I will because I’ll be so annoyed if my [false] eyelashes fall off!
What would you each say you love most about the other?
Ali: Oh, gosh there’s so much. Joe is so generous – and I’m not talking about money or anything like that – just his kindness. He’s so thoughtful and he puts me first a lot of the time. [To Joe] You’re lovely.
Joe: Ali is so caring and always knows how to put me in a good mood. She makes me a better person.
Ali: We’re so soppy.
Rewind a little, can you remember your first date?
Ali: It was near Waterloo, wasn’t it?
Joe: Yeah, in that nice tapas restaurant near The Old Vic.
Ali: It was really nice. We’ll have to go back there now.
Who said “I love you” first?
Joe: I did.
Ali: [Laughs] He couldn’t wait… it’s a recurring theme.
It’s not long since you moved in together…
Ali: No, Joe was only here for a month and then we went into lockdown.
Was that difficult?
Ali: Strangely, it wasn’t.
Joe: It was kind of better if anything.
Ali: I think because we’d been long distance for so long it was nice to actually spend time together. Thankfully, we didn’t irritate each other. I feel like lockdown either ended in break up and divorce or make up and proposal… so we got lucky.
What helped you get through it?
Joe: We had a lot of fun.
Ali: We’ve got such similar interests and we like having a good time. We even enjoyed the chilled time spent going for walks…
Joe: …and cooking.
Were there hiccups or was it smooth sailing?
Ali: Some days I’d get in a mood and I didn’t know why. Joe was always like, “It’s just lockdown, let’s do something fun.”
Joe: I just had to say we’d get a takeaway and it was all fine.
Ali: [Laughs] Give me some garlic bread and cheese and I’m happy!
Let’s talk about your on-screen alter ego, Emma. She’s not lucky in love, is she?
Ali: No, she isn’t. She needs a Joe in her life – she’d be thrilled.
You’ve obviously found your perfect match. What advice would you give her?
Ali: She needs to stop looking. When we got together I wasn’t actively looking for a relationship. Maybe if she chills out a bit somebody will appear.
Is Ali anything like Emma, Joe?
Joe: [Laughs] Not at all. She’s a lot wiser and doesn’t wear as much pink.
You mentioned filming an ad in London. Is there anything else you’re working on?
Joe: I’m about to start filming something in a couple of weeks, but I can’t say what it is.
What do you imagine your future together will look like?
Joe: Lots of cooking and lots of fun.
Ali: I’m so excited, I think it’ll be lovely. It’ll be weird and nice to have the same name and to be able to call Joe my husband. I keep calling myself “Future Mrs Parker”. It sounds so mature. I can’t believe we’re at the age where we’re getting married and all our friends are having kids. Where does the time go?
Speaking of kids, is a family on the cards for you guys?
Ali: We definitely want to have a family, but we’ll wait a bit longer before having any kids.
Joe: For sure, but we’ve got a lot more travelling to do and fun to have.
Ali: Especially after lockdown. We need to travel and party a lot more to make up for the time we’ve lost!
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