Apart from two chilly festive seasons working in London, Dan McLaughlan has spent every Christmas celebrating with his family and friends in Wellington, but this year, Santa will have to travel further south to find him.
After falling in love with Yuki Sato on Married at First Sight NZ, the electrician will be spending December 25 with the Japanese-born hairdresser in her adopted hometown of Christchurch, which they both see as a milestone in their fledgling relationship.
"This is the first time I've been in New Zealand and haven't spent Christmas with my parents, so it's a big thing," Dan, 31, tells Woman's Day as the pair enjoy a romantic picnic during our festive shoot in Wellington.
"It's something I haven't done before, but I'm looking forward to it. Let's take a punt!"
Yuki, 32, had been keen to follow the Japanese custom of eating KFC on Christmas Day (yes, really), but she suspects her local outlet will be closed, so instead, she'll whip up her famous lasagne for Dan and some of her mates. "It'll be our new tradition," she smiles.
Afterwards, they'll head to Hanmer Springs for a few days of hot pools and candlelit dinners, then they'll celebrate the New Year together in Christchurch, before travelling to Tauranga for a friend's wedding.
Of this three-week summer break, Yuki says, "I'll be taking him around the South Island and really trying to show him how beautiful it is – and I'll have to take him to a cricket game."
"She actually likes cricket!" exclaims Dan. "I was shocked when she told me, but it's definitely a selling point. When I married a Japanese girl, I was expecting maybe she'd like a bit of rugby, but cricket? You're not a typical Japanese girl, Yuki!"
It's been nearly three months since Dan and his bride first met at the altar on MAFS and since the hit Three reality series ended, they're enjoying no longer having to hide their relationship and are making regular visits to each other's hometowns.
"It's good being back in the real world and just being a normal couple, holding hands as we walk down the road," explains Dan.
"People have stopped talking about how the show is going and started asking us how we're doing."
Shortly after filming finished, Yuki flew to see Dan in Wellington, where they celebrated her birthday with a cheeseburger at McDonald's, before heading to the Wairarapa wine country for a romantic day trip.
"It was definitely a charm offensive," admits Dan. "It was a perfect weekend without a cloud in the sky and showed her what an amazing place Wellington is. I'm trying to get her up here as much as I can before the winter weather comes in because then it's pretty hard to sell!"
Yuki confesses, "I'm feeling good about Wellington – this is my third visit, and it's really quirky and cute. I like it here, but it's a bad-hair day every day. It's too windy! What will I do with my hair?!"
Needless to say, they haven't made any decisions on where they will live in the future.
Also in Wellington, Yuki met Dan's parents for the first time.
She says, "It was really weird as they know me so well through the show. I was nervous because so many of my clients are mothers who are a bit overprotective of their sons, but they're lovely people and welcomed me into their family.
"I was worried they'd think I'm crazy because I'm from another country and we met on a TV show, but they're a nice family. We bonded."
Smiling, Dan adds, "Mum and Dad just want to see me happy, and they can see we're happy together – that's the main thing they care about."
While other MAFS couples struggled with intimacy, Dan confides, "We've had no problems at all – it's been good!"
Laughing, Yuki adds, "Not to excess! Not too much! But we're more relaxed about it now."
Dan continues, "It's got better because we know each other more. From the start, I knew she was a really cool chick, but as I've got to know her, she's got more awesome and now, every day, I feel like she's more and more my wife. It's cool."
However, while Yuki confesses she's ready to say "the L word", Dan can't quite bring himself to utter it. He admits, "I really want to say it – it's just the last thing to come out of my mouth.
"Every time I want to say it, I can't. It's like asking a girl out when you're 12 years old. Maybe I'll say it on our second honeymoon."
This is happening in February, when the lovebirds will celebrate Valentine's Day in Fiji. Dan jokes, "She's booked my holidays for the next 12 months. She's my travel agent. It's awesome."
And then there's their upcoming trip to Japan during the Rugby World Cup, when Dan will meet Yuki's parents in her hometown of Saitama, near Tokyo, with his Mum and Dad in tow.
As previously revealed in Woman's Day, while there, they hope to make their marriage official with a traditional Japanese ceremony.
Yuki explains, "It's a legal thing. We want to get married again, but because I'm a Japanese citizen, it's a bit tricky for us to get married in New Zealand."
Dan adds, "We have to do the legal forms in Japan, so we might as well do the whole thing over there."
But that's not where the plans end! Yuki and Dan are also dreaming of spending some time working in Singapore.
Yuki smiles, "I want to see him in an Asian country because if I ever have children – not next year, but in a few years' time – I want them to go to preschool in Japan so they are in touch with my culture. I need to see that he can cope in an Asian country. It's very different from here."
It's a big step, but Dan is totally on board with the dream. "I support that, absolutely," he says.
"Yuki is definitely everything I want in my life. Waking up to her is honestly the best thing ever."
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