ITV presenter Rachel Sweeney described herself as the original ‘Bridget Jones’ until a chance meeting changed her life forever. In the run up to her marriage we meet the newly engaged couple and proud mother in law to be, BBC Radio presenter and comedienne Sue Sweeney, for all the goss…
As La Di Da enters the stylish Malmaison hotel on Newcastle’s quayside, it’s not hard to find where the subjects of our shoot are. Gales of laughter and noise are emanating from one of the side rooms which has become temporary home to Sweeney HQ.
The Sweeneys are some of the best known media figures in the region. Rachel Sweeney is the ITV News Tyne Tees and Border Presenter for Good Morning Britain whilst Sue Sweeney is a BBC Newcastle Presenter and comedienne. Both blonde, glamorous and very funny, they chat away constantly whilst Rachel’s fiancée Chris Kitching, an electrician with DFP Services, looks on in quiet amusement.
Whilst the ladies decide what to wear, we chat away to the lovely Chris who tells us how the two met.
“We met through a mutual friend and had Sunday lunch back in January. There was an immediate spark. But I can’t believe it took so long to actually meet as we realised we’ve only been a mile away from each other our whole lives!.”
“I should have worn a sandwich board!,” Rachel chips in.
“I had never seen Rachel on TV. She told me she was a journalist when we started chatting on the phone, but she didn’t go into it. I think her achievements are amazing, but it’s the real woman I love,” Chris says.
“I was at the airport with my best man the other week and Rachel was on every television at Newcastle International. It’s weirdly normal now!”
“I come in like Elizabeth Taylor and he doesn’t bat an eyelid. Once my make up is off and my pjs are on, I come downstairs like a bag of washing and Chris will say ‘there she is!’, I love that,” says Rachel.
Despite the showbiz family and friends, the pair keep things very low key and normal.
“Rachel is kind and very thoughtful, she’ll make my lunch for work, I’m teaching her the site lingo, she’ll say ‘here’s your bait for graft’, it doesn’t sound right in her newsreader voice,” laughs Chris.
Despite being total opposites, their love for each other shines through. Throughout the interview the pair tease and laugh with each other and sing each other’s praises.
“Chris is the most amazing cook,” says Rachel. ” I’ll ask him for a snack and he’ll whip up some a la carte platter, I would have just chucked him a bag of crisps! He loves gardening and has created a gorgeous haven in the back garden. We have a little vegetable patch and a greenhouse he tends to. I love going out to pick spring onions before dinner. Mother Earth vibes, except with sequins! It’s more of a supervisory role I have! ”
The couple got engaged unexpectedly on holiday in Spain. Chris has been planning to propose on a romantic trip to Venice and had even asked her family’s permission.
“Christopher popped the question in a supermarket after a brilliant day of cocktails and sightseeing in Cala Bona. It was very ridiculous, very unexpected and just very ‘us’, “explains Rachel.
“We bought a four-euro ring from our hotel and cried a lot! Chris went to buy champagne and I just ran in and out of shops shouting ‘I’m going to be a wife! ‘. I was so overwhelmed and emotional! ”
“We’d just had the best day together and I had had plenty of Dutch courage and I thought, ‘she has to be my wife, right now!’. Rachel was looking for pistachio nuts but got a husband instead, “says Chris.
The couple went straight from the plane to the Metrocentre to pick up a beautiful Vera Wang engagement ring.
“Chris proposed again with the new ring in our kitchen, lost his balance, fell over and had the open box facing away from me,” recounts Rachel. “I just laughed and said ‘hand it over, man!’ ”
“We went to Team Sween HQ and I had warned my stand-up comedienne mother to TONE IT DOWN! She must have forgotten! Mam came running down the drive, threw her arms around Chris and said ‘thank goodness, we have been praying!’. I was mortified AND she had him re-wiring the house that very afternoon! ”
Both sets of parents are delighted with the news.
“Chris is everything you could ask for in a son-in-law,” says Sue. “We didn’t have a little boy, but if we did, I would have loved a son just like him. He takes care of Rachel, he works hard and he makes her laugh, the most important quality of all.”
“My friends have been saying they don’t know what’s worse… that I’ll be his wife, or Sue Sweeney will be his mother-in-law, “explains Rachel.”Poor lad! Ha ha, he’s used to our noisy eccentric family now. I only told the work gang on the Saturday and by the time I arrived for GMB on Monday morning, my desk was covered in cards, presents, balloons and banners. It felt very real then! They’re the best team ever.”
Ask them to describe each other’s best qualities and the joking stops for a minute.
“Chris has a big heart. He is adored by the people around him and will do anything to help someone else out. Chris is my best friend and he’s going to be a wonderful husband,” says Rachel quietly.
“Early on in our relationship he transformed a room in his house for me; he made it into a walk-in wardrobe/ dressing room! My lovely dresses all hung up nicely and a vintage dressing table. Who does that! I was speechless! That’s when I thought… he is The One!”
Chris loves Rachel’s big personality. “She wants the world on a stick… yesterday! I think it’s because everything in the news is so immediate and urgent. Sometimes you have to force her to put Twitter down and relax. She’s funny and people warm to her quickly, I like her confidence and how she can find common ground with anyone. My favourite thing is her singing voice; I love it when she sings.”
The couple hasn’t even thought about a wedding list but imagination will be required no doubt, given that these two already have a history of giving the best presents ever.
“Rachel surprised me on my 30th birthday with a trip to London – we went to see The Voice. It was my first time in a TV studio. It was very exciting, “says Chris.
“I adore my engagement ring so I wanted Chris to have a present too,” says Rachel. “I thought what does he love more than anything? That’s it! Chris Moyles! I arranged for a video message to be sent from the Radio X studios. He’s played it over and over and shown pretty much everyone in the North East!”
The wedding itself will be low key and private.
“We started wedding planning one night, opened the first magazine and Rachel said, ‘You know, I just want to be your wife, I’m not bothered about a big white wedding’ so we binned the mags and ordered a curry,” Chris explains.
“We decided to Thai the knot (get it?) in Phuket. We had already planned to go in March to see Chris’ best friend Blue and his wife. They’re away travelling. It works out well, as he’s the best man and there’s no way I was waiting for him to get home! I didn’t think my ‘something blue’ was going to be a six-foot Scotsman,” says Rachel.
“We will already be husband and wife as we are getting officially married at a registry office in Durham, just a low-key affair for close family to do the legal bits. We do everything back to front, only we would get married before the wedding,” laughs Chris. “We are off to Dubai straight from Phuket for our honeymoon.”
“It’s a wonderful idea! How showbiz!,” adds Sue. “Will we have to wear flip flops?! My husband Ian, daughter Jade, her boyfriend and me… following Rachel and Chris to Thailand! It’s like a fairytale.”
“My parents met when they were 11. They have the most amazing love. Growing up I always hoped to find it, but you worry, especially when invested in a career, that it won’t happen for you,” says Rachel. “I am eternally grateful for my new life with Chris and I can’t wait to be Mrs Kitching.
Words: Linda Jane Westphal
Photography: Jade Atkinson
mua: Katie Cutler
Hair: Chris Summerly (James Fulton Hair)
Location: malmaison.com (Newcastle)