Long before Married at First Sight and reality romance shows even existed, a strapping young bachelor from Hamilton took a leap of faith and signed up to a radio matchmaking contest to find the woman of his dreams.
Serendipitously, a lovely Taranaki lass who had "been unlucky in love" tuned into The Edge radio station and, falling for the wannabe suitor's sexy voice, entered knowing there was nothing to lose.
Twenty years and three children later, the two strangers who met at the altar, Zane and Paula Nicholl, are still blissfully loved-up as they mark a significant milestone in their married life.
Celebrating their milestone anniversary on October 1, the radio wedding couple – who have shared so much with Woman's Day readers over the years, including their romantic honeymoon, family plans and the births of their darling babies – are more than delighted the gamble paid off.
"The whole reason I did what I did was to meet my lifetime partner, which I have," enthuses Zane, 51, revealing it took just a month before he had fallen head over heels and dropped the L-bomb. "But since then, I tell Paula I love her every day," he smiles.
"You probably tell me two or three times a day, don't you," says Paula, 48.
Now the parents of boys Max, 18, and Jack, 15, and 10-year-old daughter Olive, the Hamilton couple say the attraction felt the moment they laid eyes on each other is still there, along with a healthy dose of humour and respect.
"Every day is a blessing, it truly is," gushes Zane.
"I really enjoy the banter that Paula and I have. We generally don't take each other too seriously. I also cherish the spark and the camaraderie that we have – I have her back and I know she has mine. We have our off days, but we work it out and we never go to bed with a chip on our shoulder."
Adds Paula with a smile, "And for me, it's definitely the same sense of humour. I tell him he's a very lucky man all the time, just in case he forgets."
Relaxing in their comfy lounge, the couple are really thankful for the crazy way they met – and say they are still recognised years later.
Zane shares, "I remember Jack coming home from school one day and asking, 'Are you guys famous? What have you guys done?' It was really hard to explain, so we pulled out a few of the old magazines and flicked through them, saying this is how Mummy and Daddy met."
Though Paula will never forget one of the more embarrassing encounters happening after a Woman's Day cover screamed: "Why we're not having sex" when the couple decided to follow an ancient Chinese abstinence regime to conceive a girl.
"I was cleaning the windows at the front of my store and people were yelling out, 'Are you putting out yet?'" laughs the former fashion shop manager.
When it comes to marking the 20-year milestone, they're not fussed about recreating their lavish Venetian getaway of their first weeks of wedded bliss, instead opting for a relaxed family celebration closer to home.
"We've travelled so much recently with work that we've decided to spend it with family and have a picnic," tells Paula, adding they'll tuck into treats such as ice cream, donuts, cupcakes and chips to make it extra special.
"Yes," pipes up Olive. "I've been wanting to do that."
As veterans of a media marriage, they've been watching the contemporary versions such as Married at First Sight and The Bachelor, and reckon the TV shows are missing a critical piece of the formula to make lasting love matches.
"The experts always say the attraction will grow, but I don't think so," offers Paula.
"You've either got it or you haven't. You just end up in the friend zone otherwise. The experts don't seem to get many successes, whereas with us it was Zane's friends and family that chose. Perhaps they should try something like that."Adds Zane, "It brought back a lot of memories when I started watching the very first Married at First Sight. You knew exactly what they were going through – not the anxiety but more the eager anticipation of seeing who's going to come down the aisle. My biggest fear was whether she was going to like me or not."
Smiles Paula, "I couldn't have had a better match."
Zane continues, "There are days I pinch myself. I've got three beautiful kids and a beautiful wife – it's everything I'd hoped for that first day I met Paula.
"It's an amazing ride and I can't wait to spend my senior years with this beautiful woman. We can share zimmer frames together and wear adult nappies. Let's go!"
"As soon as you need adult nappies, you're in a home," exclaims Paula as the pair dissolve into gales of laughter.
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