Chloe Madeley and England rugby union star James Haskell's lavish wedding is due to take place in 2020. But the bride-to-be exclusively revealed to HELLO! in October 2018 that they are holding a small, intimate ceremony in church this December to make their union official ahead of the big celebrations planned for after the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Originally the legal ceremony was going to take place in a registry office but, inspired by the royal wedding in May, it will now be held in the church near where the groom grew up. "James is a traditional guy and wants us to marry in a traditional setting," said 31-year-old personal trainer Chloe, who was a guest with James, a friend of the Duke of Sussex, at the royal nuptials in Windsor Castle’s St George’s Chapel.
Chloe Madeley and James Haskell at the royal wedding in May
"I think it was Meghan and Harry's wedding that inspired James to choose to get married in church. He sat me down and said: 'I can tell you why I love you every day but I won't get to make these vows unless we marry in church. I want to get married in a serious, historical ceremony,'" remembered Chloe. "It was very romantic. Until then I'd assumed we'd just pop in to a register office. Now I find the thought of standing in front of him in church very exciting. I love him to bits." Preparing for her two big moments, the bride-to-be slipped into four show-stopping wedding gowns for HELLO!'s exclusive photoshoot. "I've looked at every style imaginable," she explained after casting her eye over 160 designs in one day. "From fishtail to corseted, crystals to lace and embroidery. You name it, I've seen it. But it's been so much fun."
Her magical pre-Christmas wedding in Berkshire will be a close-knit occasion, attended by only 30 guests, including Chloe's parents, TV presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, and rugby pals Paul Doran-Jones and Dylan Hartley. With only weeks to go, Chloe has become something of a wedding dress aficionada. "A subtle gown with an elegant silhouette would be perfect for the church," she declared, demonstrating her favourite designs. "For me, the back of the dress is as important as the front. It's the part most guests will see when I make my vows. I'm keen to wear a gown with a long elegant train because I love the sweeping sound it will make as I glide up the aisle. A long veil is a must, too. As a little girl I always imagined how it would feel, the moment my bridegroom lifts the veil off my face and looks into my eyes."
Although Chloe has not disclosed to her husband-to-be which style of dress she will be wearing, she has shown him a photo of herself wearing a full-skirted gown and a tiara. "He said: 'Wow, you look just like a princess. I'm so excited to be marrying you.' It's all thanks to Zoe Hardman. When she married James's best friend Paul [Doran-Jones] last year, she wore an amazing Pronovias dress with a beaded shoulder strap and offered to recommend us when we got married. But I rolled my eyes because I wasn't sure if it would ever happen. James didn't seem romantic and I wondered if he would ever propose."
However, the rugby ace surprised Chloe in spectacular fashion. In March he whisked her off to the city of love, Paris, where they enjoyed a romantic dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Eiffel Tower as it illuminated the night sky. The next morning, on bended knee in the Jardin des Tuileries, he proposed, presenting her with a dazzling art decostyle ring he had designed himself. "It was so romantic and thoughtful, like something out of a fairytale," revealed Chloe. "He really blew my socks off. James is big and brash and says what he thinks, but he has a huge heart. Despite his bravado he’s really sweet and caring." The couple, who met four years ago after James saw Chloe on Twitter and invited her for a drink, are looking forward to spending their first Christmas together as husband and wife. "We love Christmas," said Chloe. "We adore our families but every year we escape to do our own thing, from wine tasting in Portugal to a night at The Ritz. Last year we went on a pub crawl and ended up dancing in the foyer of The Ritz."
The couple's church service will be rousing. "James has chosen a selection of rugby hymns, such as I Vow to Thee, My Country," said Chloe. "The rugby boys will love belting those out." It will be followed by a champagne reception and dinner at country house hotel Coworth Park, near Windsor. "My parents are very excited. Dad is so looking forward to walking me up the aisle, and chauffeuring me to the church. We have a tradition of going on road trips together, so he'll decorate his black Jaguar sports car with white ribbons and take me there himself."
She added: "Mum's feeling very emotional, too. From the minute she met James she loved him. I'd only been dating him for a few weeks when she told me he was the one for me. She was right. The longer James and I are together, the happier we become." But has the bride-to-be tracked down her dream dress? "Yes, I've found The One. It was the first I saw as I walked in. After I tried it on, that was it. I've never seen a dress like it. I've completely fallen in love. My childhood fantasy of how I will look as a bride has come true. Now I can't wait to walk up the aisle and say: 'I do.'"
Like this story? Sign up to our newsletter to get other stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.