Just days after the first season of The Bachelor New Zealand wrapped on screens, series sweethearts Art Green and Matilda Rice jetted off to Rarotonga on their very first romantic holiday away from the cameras. The new couple swam with turtles, sipped on cocktails and came home buzzing with excitement about starting their new life together.
When Woman’s Day catches up with the happy pair almost three years on, they are fresh from another idyllic trip to the tropical island. They share the same honey glow and smitten smiles of two lovers who have just enjoyed five days of sun-soaked serenity abroad. But this time around, blonde beauty Matilda has returned with some very precious extra cargo – a diamond ring.
“We’re engaged!” the 26-year-old squeals, still in awe of the platinum-silver sparkler sitting snug on her finger. “I’m over the bloody moon – I didn’t know I could even feel this happy. I just want to scream it from the rooftops.”
It’s been almost a week since 29-year-old Art popped the question on a white-sand beach in the Cook Islands, but nothing – not even the chilly, wet weather that’s greeted them back home in Auckland – can knock the ecstatic couple off cloud nine.
For jet-setting Matilda, their trip began like any other, but little did she know her handsome beau had been planning to pop the question for months.
“When Matty and I walked off the set of The Bachelor, I knew she was the only one for me,” reveals Art. “A proposal was inevitable – it was only a matter of when and how.
“I love Matty and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, so it made sense to do it in Raro, a place that’s really special to us.”
Indeed, the couple agree their first trip to the island – away from fans and the persistent rumours their union was all a sham – cemented their feelings for each other.
“Until then, our whole relationship had been televised with people watching our every move,” says Matilda. “But Raro felt like a true escape. When we arrived, I even said to Art, ‘There’s something so familiar and special about here.’ He must’ve been doing happy cartwheels on the inside.”
While Art had nailed the location, he left the rest of the proposal up to fate. On their second night, after a magical day out on the water, the timing felt right. Art organised for the couple to have some “cockies on the beach” at one of their favourite cocktail bars.
And while Matilda showered that evening, he called her dad to ask for his permission.
“He’s lucky I take ages in the shower,” she smiles. “Dad said he was freaking out at first because he’d seen we’d been out on a boat that day and then he got a random call from Art.
He was thinking, ‘What’s happened to my daughter?’ “We’d had the most perfect day and to top it all off, we were on the beach in the most beautiful location. Honestly, it’s cringe-worthy how breathtaking it was – and there were two old guitarists playing my favourite jams like Sting and Eric Clapton.”
Art suggested they take a walk along the beach, parking up at a rock big enough to seat two lovebirds. He began with declaring how much he adored Matilda, telling her he’d never met another person he’d loved more. This wasn’t out of character, tells Matilda. “We say that stuff all the time.”
But when Art’s voice started to crack and she spotted a hand reaching for his pocket, she finally twigged he was about to propose.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God!’ He kneeled down, opened the box, and then the ring flipped out and fell into the sand. The next part was a blur of tears and laughter. All I know is he asked me to marry him and eventually I got out a yes.”
The newly engaged couple then spent the rest of their holiday floating around in a “romantic bubble”, says Matilda. “I went to bed that night grinning and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for the rest of the trip.”
She’s still getting used to wearing the cushion-cut diamond ring with small soft-pink sapphires, custom-made by Art’s cousin Libby.
“I usually don’t wear any rings, so I feel a bit panicky about looking after this one – like, can I wear it in the water? In the shower? I don’t know!”
The devoted duo laugh at how “very grown-up and adult” they feel now they’re getting married, but their next big step couldn’t feel more right.
“Art didn’t even know you got a second ring on your wedding day,” laughs Matilda. “It came up when I said to him, ‘You know, when we eventually have a baby,
I get a push ring, right? Which means I get an engagement ring, a wedding ring and a push ring!’”
Starting a family is definitely on the cards for Art and Matilda, who both say they want children in their near-future, but for now, the pair are focused on planning their wedding and a top-secret business venture they’ll be launching next month.
“We’re both on the same page when it comes to the big day,” says Art. “We want something reasonably chilled and nothing too extravagant. We really want a big, fun party with all our family and friends.”
But what about the popular couple’s massive fan following? On Instagram alone, they have over 212,000 followers who will be itching for a front-row seat at the reality TV wedding of the century. “We’ll live-stream it,” quips Art.
“We could run a competition – win a ticket to the wedding!” jokes Matilda.
Their unwavering popularity still bewilders the super-successful star pair, who continue to live life to the limits and motivate each other to reach their goals. Matilda has recently followed in her fiancé’s footsteps and is releasing her first book, The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Living a Beautiful Life, in October.
“Honestly, if you’d asked us two years ago, we would’ve said people wouldn’t care less about us by now – there’s a hot new Bachelor couple on the scene,” laughs Matilda. “The majority of people who follow us are awesome and it’s really kind of cool that they’ve been on this journey with us.”
Speaking of their successors, funnily enough, Art and Matilda bumped into Zac Franich and Viarni Bright, who found love on the third season of the reality romance show, while in Raro.
“It was by pure coincidence that we happened to be there at the exact same time, but given what we’ve both been through, it feels like we have this weird connection,” says Art. “Seeing them was like seeing us two-and-a-half years ago.”
“It really made us think about the wild ride we’ve been on since we met on The Bachelor all those years ago,” adds Matilda. “I know I’ll never meet anyone I love as much as Art, and now we’re going to be husband and wife! This is it – this is us forever.”