Dashing Dancing With The Stars star Rhys Mathewson reveals how laughs turned to true love

The Dancing With the Stars NZ favourite introduces his leading lady - his new wife Chelsea

They say a shared sense of humour is the secret to a lasting relationship – and newylweds Rhys Mathewson and Chelsea McEwan Millar have been making each other laugh since the day they met.
Then living in the UK, Kiwi comedian Rhys was back in Aotearoa for a few months in 2014 when he met his future bride while they were both making an appearance on a mutual friend's podcast to review the film Divergent.
They both agreed it "sucked" and then kept bumping into each other at New Zealand International Comedy Festival events.
"We just gravitated towards each other until we were holding hands in the back of other people's shows," confesses Rhys, 31.
The comedian and Chelsea with their border collie/fox terrier cross pup Gus.
But shortly afterwards, the funnyman had to return to the UK. They dated long-distance, with Chelsea juggling her role as CEO of skincare company Go Native New Zealand by day and rehearsing for a play at night, while Rhys was on the stand-up circuit in the UK.
He moved back to his homeland later that same year and the pair became inseparable, but it wasn't until 2019 that Rhys decided to pop the question.
"About a month before, we were watching a TV show with someone who proposed at the top of a mountain," the Billy T Award winner tells Woman's Day. "I said to Chelsea, gently probing for information, 'Hey, if I would ever propose, would you want that?' And Chelsea said, 'Oh, God, no. Do it in the bathroom or something.'"
With a rare Saturday off together, Rhys had already asked family and friends to keep the afternoon free to celebrate their engagement. The couple was having a lazy morning with pizza and coffee in bed when Chelsea, 35, told him, "This is my happy place. It's my favourite thing to do."
It had been a fairytale ride for Rhys and DWTS partner Phoebe Robb until they tested positive for COVID-19 this week
Rhys recalls, "I had the ring under the sheets, so I pulled it out and asked, 'Would you like to do it forever?'"
They planned a summer wedding, but unfortunately, the pandemic had just started sweeping through the world. Rhys tells, "Half of our bridal party was overseas, so we thought, 'Let's just see how bad it gets.' I'm not sure if you've kept up with the news, but it got pretty bad!
"So then it was a year later and things died down, but then it ramped up again and we thought, 'We can't wait any more – we just want to be married!'"
That day finally came in January, with just 100 people watching them exchange gem-encrusted rings – Chelsea's has diamonds and green sapphires, while Rhys has a blue sapphire – at the COVID-friendly ceremony.
Rhys tells, "We had to make some tough calls. We didn't want to uninvite people or have them not able to come because they were immunocompromised, then reinvite people again.
"Because one of my groomspeople was overseas in London, I left a spot open and we did a lucky dip at the start, pulling a name out of a hat. So my auntie ended up being part of the bridal party!"
Laughing loudly, as she does to much of what her new husband says, Chelsea adds, "We wanted it to be that kind of feeling where it's not like we're on stage presenting a show for everyone – everyone was involved. We wanted to have jokes, not in a way that we're diminishing the importance of it at all, but in a way that it's not a precise show."
Their venue, Old Forest School on the outskirts of Tauranga, not only met their non-negotiable requirement of allowing their four-year-old dog Gus to attend, but it also let the couple bring in their own food. Rhys is vegetarian and Chelsea is vegan, so they had vegan tacos and ice cream for their 100 guests.
They flew out to Rarotonga the next day, the very date that New Zealand went into the red traffic light setting.
Meanwhile, it wasn't just their wedding plans that took a hit from the COVID pandemic – Rhys reveals he is the only person remaining from the original cast of the ninth season of Dancing With The Stars NZ, which was initially scheduled to air in 2020.
The series was put on hold after three days of rehearsals when Aotearoa went into its life-saving lockdown, then history repeated itself in August last year.
"Watching your partner already working so hard and the rug being swept out from underneath him was hard," says Chelsea. "Rhys dealt with it so well."
The comedian hopes it'll be third time lucky as he wows the judges and audiences alike on the top-rating Three show. Rhys knows his years spent tap dancing from age four to about 15 have certainly helped – to an extent.
"I can kind of get my head around the music and the rhythm of it fairly easily," he shares. "But ballroom is a completely different kettle of fish. Tap dancing is making loud noises with your feet and ballroom is doing a push-up while you're doing a plank, then going into a squat for 90 seconds and making it look effortless!
"I really like to go fast. A friend once described my dancing as like watching a small boy eat ice cream too quickly. I'm loving the process. It's certainly a new skillset – boring was never my wheelhouse. I'm going to be funny in everything I do. You can't turn me off."
With impeccable timing, Chelsea interjects, "I've certainly tried!"
Rhys admits to never being so tired as he rehearses for long hours, spurred on by knowing he is helping the Fred Hollows Foundation.
"I just really believe in the work that they do," the comedian explains. "I've donated to them for a couple of years myself. I think we, as New Zealanders, are very lucky to have our place in the Pacific, and it's our responsibility to give back to our brothers and sisters in the islands.
"For $25, Fred Hollows can stop someone from needlessly losing their sight. It's a hell of a bargain – and they help train local people to help support their communities further."
As Dancing With The Stars continues, Rhys says the bond between the cast members is getting ever closer, making Monday night eliminations brutal on the whole team.
Like all good comics, he tries to lighten the mood with gags – but we'll have to wait to hear all about these backstage shenanigans until he hosts the Comedy Gala in September.
For now, Rhys simply and sweetly tells us, "I really love these people and I really want them all to succeed – to do themselves and their charities proud."
Dancing With The Stars NZ screens 7.30pm Mondays and 7pm Sundays on Three. For more info on The Fred Hollows Foundation or to donate, call 0800 227 229 or visit hollows.org.nz. For tickets to the Comedy Gala, go to comedyfestival.co.nz.
Rhys and his dance partner Phoebe Robb have unfortunately tested positive for COVID-19 and have had to withdraw from Dancing With The Stars NZ - Kerre Woodham will re-enter the competition with her dance partner Jared Neame

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