It’s a glorious day in Australia’s Whitsunday Islands. The incredible blue of the water is matched only by the sky, the mercury has topped 30°C, and Woman’s Day has joined Art Green and Matilda Rice on a gleaming white yacht in this tropical paradise.
Sailing past a little church nestled into the coastline of one of the gorgeous islands, Matilda’s just had a spur-of-the-moment, slightly outrageous idea. “Hey, look, a chapel! Might as well, don’t you think? We’ve got the white dresses, the make-up artist, the photographer ... the only bottleneck is in your area, Art!”
“The ring!” he replies, chuckling. For now, the stunning couple, who found fame and love on the first season of The Bachelor New Zealand, are just having a laugh. But 2016 has proved to be a defining year for the tanned, toned and totally smitten pair, who have just taken the big step of moving into their own place.
“That’s definitely been a massive highlight,” tells Art, 28. “It’s so nice to have our own space, just the two of us.” It’s almost two years since the down-to-earth duo met on the reality series and while they’ll always be grateful for The Bachelor, it really does feel like Art and 26-year-old Matilda are embarking on a new chapter in their lives, with new jobs, new challenges and new priorities.
Matilda, a sales rep, is leaving the corporate world, resigning from her role at TVNZ to form her own, as-yet-unnamed social-media consulting firm. “We were throwing around ‘Advice from Rice’ – that’s a joke!” she says, erupting into giggles as Art shakes his head.
“I took a look at what I was doing one day and asked myself if that’s what I wanted for the rest of my life. So it was time to take a risk while I’ve got no kids or a mortgage.”
“And you’re very good at it,” Art smiles. On top of forming her own business, Matilda has just launched a blog, and is continuing her roles as ambassadors for Jockey and Maybelline. Being asked to parade around in her undies was a bit daunting at first, she admits. “I’m no model – I don’t have massive boobs or anything!”
But Matilda looks amazing in her bikini as she and Art carefully climb over the yacht’s railings so our photographer can grab a shot of them jumping off the side, with the slightly apprehensive blonde beauty proudly telling us she’s managed to conquer her fear of water this year during a trip to Fiji.
“I never would have done this a few months ago!” she exclaims before leaping off the edge, her hand tightly clutching Art’s as they splash into the turquoise water.
“It sounds like common sense, but I realised that I can actually do anything if I put my mind to it – I have heaps more confidence and motivation.”
While the pair still pinch themselves when they talk about how blissful their lives are, they’ve vowed to make changes, promising each other they’ll travel more and take more time for
themselves in 2017.
“We’re hopefully going to plan a big trip at some stage, maybe South America,” tells Matilda. “But we also really want to make sure we have more time for just us.
“This year has been amazing, but it’s been hectic. We haven’t had a lot of time to just do nothing. We moved into our house two months ago and there are still boxes to unpack! So it’s about finding work-life balance.”
Adds Art, “We haven’t had a day or a night with no plans for about a year. “We both work full-time and we do so many things outside of that. And there’s the added pressure of being in the public eye so much, so our lives are pretty full-on and stressful. That’s why it’s nice to come away and visit places like this.”
There’s little chance that public interest in their modern-day fairytale will die down soon, with Kiwi fans asking for photos everywhere they go. While most people are lovely, Art and Matilda admit the interest can get a bit intimidating sometimes.
She shrugs, “Look, we’ve realised that New Zealand has been on this journey with us from the start, so there’s a little sense of ownership and people feel like they’re part of it, which they are to an extent. But we’ve got a lot better at figuring out where the line is and keeping things just for ourselves. It’s been a learning curve. At the end of the day, it’s just us two in this relationship and we’d like to keep it that way!”
In the Whitsundays, though, the pair have a little more freedom to be like any other couple, strolling down a stunning white beach by themselves ... oh, and our photographer and make-up artist in tow!
“Art isn’t a huge fan of PDA,” grins Matilda, “but here we can hold hands and nobody stares!”
Of course, now they have their own little house to hide away in, a luxury that’s still a novelty for the couple.
“We just fit together – we’re great roommates,” says Art. “She doesn’t even have any annoying habits.”
“Neither do you, actually,” Matilda replies. “The only thing I used to do that annoyed you was leave stuff on the bathroom floor. I’m a little messy, but I haven’t done that once in the new place. That’s respect!”
The fun-loving couple take the mickey out of each other almost relentlessly, but Art says that even if they annoy each other, they “just go with it”.
“Like how I use the butter as a stick when I’m making toast,” he smiles as Matilda rolls her eyes. “Why use a knife? It’s just like a giant glue stick. And, of course, Matty had a problem with it at the start. Now I catch her doing the same thing.”
“Yeah, well, I still don’t like the old toast crumbs getting stuck in the butter!” she says with a faux grumble. Banter, they tell, is one of the most important parts of their relationship.
“It’s awesome if you’re best mates too,” Matilda grins. “We can hang out as friends as well and not be coupley all the time. Maybe that’s why we don’t get sick of each other.”
As our photo shoot finishes and the intense sun begins to set, a family of turtles swims lazily past the yacht and the pair take a little time to themselves on the boat’s bow, sharing a sweet embrace and a giggle.
“It’s definitely been a great year,” Matilda nods. “We can’t wait for the next one.”
Text: Kelly Bertrand.
Pictures: Robert Trathen.
Hair, make-up & styling: Jules Armishaw.