Shortland Street actress Emily Robins’ dream wedding

Meeting her man at the altar wasn't the only reason she cried tears of joy on her big day.

Bem-vindo à Nova Zelândia! For actress Emily Robins, these surprise words from her dad Danny, who learnt a little Portuguese especially for her wedding, were the perfect salute to her new life with Brazilian husband Vanderson Pires.

“He memorised how to say ‘Welcome to New Zealand’ for Vanderson’s best friend and his wife,” the former Shortland Street star tells, speaking of the guests who travelled here for 16 hours to attend the couple’s ceremony. “She started crying, she was so touched by it!”

But the sweet gesture wasn’t the only cause for waterworks as the proud father-of-the-bride took to the stage at the reception. Just weeks earlier, the Aucklander’s life, and the chance to walk his girl down the aisle, was threatened by a massive brain aneurysm that doctors said cause most people to “die on the spot”.

The elegant bride with (from left) dad Danny, mum Susan and sister Megan.

Panic before her dream wedding

Suddenly, 29-year-old actress and law student Emily, her mum Susan and her sister Megan found themselves swapping cake tastings and suit fittings for waiting rooms and terrifying talks.

Emily – who played rich-girl receptionist Claire Solomon on Shorty and PR girl Toni van Asch on Filthy Rich – recalls, “The surgeons were saying, ‘We don’t know what his speech or physical mechanics will be like.’ When you’re in that situation, everything else becomes so trivial and all that matters is they pull through.”

Emily as Shorty receptionist Claire, alongside co-star Alison Quigan as Yvonne Jeffries.

Undergoing surgery to sew up the aneurysm, Danny spent two weeks in ICU before being discharged, after which Emily was thrilled to have him by her side as she arrived at the Hunter Council Chamber, an historic Victoria University building in Wellington.

Vanderson, 38, had recently moved to the capital – where he owns jiu-jitsu martial arts school Combat Room – from his native Brazil when he matched with Emily on Tinder in 2015. She says, “He thought I was catfishing him because he Googled me and it came up with Shortland Street, so he was like, ‘Am I actually talking to this person or is this a joke?’ But then he drove to Auckland to meet me.”

As the good-looking South American walked into Orewa Surf Club, the actress – who now goes by the name Emily Iris Pires – was stoked to find him “way hotter” than his photos and admits he charmed her “immediately”.

Love at first swipe! The couple met on Tinder and have gone from strength to strength.

For their second date, she invited Vanderson to her uncle’s 60th birthday, where his ease with meeting her family proved a “good sign”. Daily phone calls followed and the long-distance romance proved a blessing. “We had to get to know each other without the physical aspect,” says Emily. “We were forced to talk more and bond solidly before we got into each other’s physical space.”

Emily eventually transferred her studies to Wellington and Vanderson, after getting the blessing from Danny, unexpectedly proposed in late 2016, at the surf club in which they’d first met.

Aisle be yours

On the big day, the actress only had eyes for her groom as she walked down the aisle on the arm of her father, in a plunging blue silk Zimmermann gown, while local busker Daniel White played Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender”.

She says, “It was like there was no-one else in the room. I had a huge smile on my face and we just stood holding hands. He had tears, which I was pleased about!”

Vanderson, who volunteers teaching meditation and mindfulness to inmates at Rimutaka Prison, adds, “When I saw Emily, something changed inside me. She looked so beautiful and every detail about her was perfect. It was magical. I got emotional because I’ve never felt anything like that before.”

Guests – including Emily’s former Shorty co-star Nicole Thomson, who played troubled teenager Scarlett Valentine – then rode Wellington’s cable car to a fun-filled reception at Foxglove Bar & Kitchen.

Honeymooning in Melbourne, the lovebirds are still buzzing. “Marriage does feel different,” says Emily. “Now that we’re legally a team, we’re committed and working hard to achieve everything we want for ourselves and each other.”

The legal aspect is very important to Emily now she’s put acting on the backburner to focus on completing her law degree, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in politics and international relations – a decision that came after a stint pursuing acting in Hollywood at age 22.

“There were certain aspects in the industry that I didn’t want to be a part of, so I left Los Angeles and decided to do something else,” she explains. “When all that #MeToo stuff came out, I was like, ‘Yeah, duh!’ Every audition, there’s a pervy guy going, ‘She’s hot. Show off her body. Wear something tight.’

“I wasn’t forced to do anything, but I wanted to take myself more seriously. I wanted to return to acting on my own terms, when I know who I am, what I’m capable of and can stand up for myself.

“Already, I feel like a stronger person and I’m still very creative, so I haven’t given up on acting. I’d love to help create some great New Zealand television, whether it’s acting

or behind the scenes, because we have some of the best people in the industry.”

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