When radio presenter Lana Searle was cast away on Celebrity Treasure Island back in February, it was perfect timing for the bride-to-be.
"We were in the depths of wedding planning, so it was convenient timing for me to fall off the grid," the More FM Breakfast Club host tells Woman's Day, laughing. "There was a long list of things to be done and I'm not a planner, so it was all up to my fiancée, who luckily is great at organising things.
"It's going to be perfect because she'll have done it all. I just need to be given the time on the day to turn up!"
Lana, 34, will marry her partner of four years, beauty salon employee Katie Cochrane, 39, in Tutukaka, Northland, on November 19 and the broadcaster says it's important they have "a ceremony that reflects us as a couple".
So what are they like as a pair? "We're just extremely grateful that we've found each other. It's a little bit later in life than some people, so we're still that sick couple who are madly in love, going out on dates and going away for weekends by ourselves."
Spoiler alert: When it comes to their big day, "there will be a quiz halfway through the ceremony" to reflect the brides' love of trivia "and there's a game of hide-and-seek for the rings", grins Lana.
"We've peeled back the traditional wedding because we're not traditional people. There's all sorts of quirky things to make it more fun."
As for what she'll wear, Lana admits she's "halfway through" sourcing a dress in Christchurch, where the couple live. "If it's ready six weeks before the big day, that's me being organised," she says, admitting her 9kg weight loss on Treasure Island has expanded her options.
The fact Lana is originally from Northland, where the TVNZ 2 show was filmed, was a huge advantage to Lana, who grew up in Te Kōpuru, near Dargaville, and is of Ngāti Kurī- and Croatian descent – "a typical Northland blend", she quips.
"I knew where to find certain seafood and shellfish, and what materials you can use for different things. I used flax to catch fish when I was a child and my dad's been an eel farmer. Helping him was a job I hated – I never thought it would ever come in handy! I'm just a rugged small-town kid who found herself living in Christchurch."
Lana relocated to the South Island for radio work and was 23 when the Christchurch earthquake hit. She recalls, "I was in the middle of town and had to continue working. Seeing first responders pulling bodies out of the rubble was like living in a horror movie. It took me a long time to realise it had messed me up. My world crumbled and I had to build it back up again."
After lots of counselling and a brief relocation to Hamilton, Lana says she "finally found out who I was" and realised she was gay.
She explains, "Growing up in a small town, I wasn't really exposed to gay people. I knew they existed, but I thought it was a city thing. I just thought I was a tomboy. I wasted a good 10 years of my life!"
It was back in Christchurch where Lana met Katie, and where she started her More FM gig alongside co-host Gary McCormick and former colleague Simon Barnett. She shares, "It was quite a well-established show when I came in and we got a lot of trolls saying, 'Who is this scruffy, daft woman who doesn't know what she's talking about?'
I'd had 10 years in radio, but it was a real putdown."
These days, however, Lana claims she's "grown a thick skin", and she and Gary, 69, have a "bizarre friendship".
She laughs, "Sometimes I love him and sometimes I hate him. We're like an old married couple. Don't worry – Katie is fine with it!"
Despite that thick skin, Lana felt "a bit dirty and gross" forming a secret all-female alliance on Treasure Island, but she insists, "If you weren't scheming, you were going to be left behind. It was a yucky feeling, but after watching what happened behind my back on TV, I'm glad we made a plan. There was a lot of sneaky interaction from people in my team that I didn't realise was happening!"
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