When OK! arrives at Peckforton Castle, the words “love, love, love” echo through the corridors from the rehearsing musicians.
The sentiment couldn’t be more perfect for Emmerdale star Liam Fox and actress Joanna Hudson, whose love story could be right out of a romantic film. The couple first set eyes on each other at Salford University 27 years ago, but it wasn’t until 2017 when things became romantic.
After such a long road to love, it’s no surprise the pair are keen to celebrate in style, and Liam, 49, tells us of their big day’s packed itinerary: “It’s like bloody Live Aid. We got carried away!” The day is extra special for Joanna, who battled a life-threatening tumour in 2015.
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As OK! makes our way into the Great Hall for the ceremony, we’re greeted by the Echo Strings Quartet. The aisle is lined with white blossom trees and fairy lights and guests including Fiona Wade and Chris Bisson chat excitedly as they take their seats.
It’s every bride’s prerogative to keep her betrothed waiting, and Joanna is a fashionable 45 minutes late for the ceremony. A brief pause in the music gives Chris Chittell, who plays Emmerdale’s Eric Pollard, the chance to call out “Good luck, Foxy,” filling the room with laughter.
When the bridal party finally arrives, flower girls Betsy Mead and May Pettie look adorable as they lead the way down the aisle. Betsy’s mum, Denise Van Outen, later tells us: “Betsy was so excited to be in OK!. She also kept telling me, ‘Mum, I’m going to stay up until 3am!’”
Liam, who plays Dan Spencer in the Dales, can’t keep the smile from his face as his beautiful bride, whose dress is by Hayley Paige, makes her entrance to Suddenly by Angry Anderson – also known as Scott and Charlene’s wedding song in Neighbours!
Laughter is a key component throughout the day – when asked if she will take Liam to be her lawful wedded husband, Joanna, 44, jokingly hesitates with an, “Errr…” Meanwhile, Liam’s cast mate Bhasker Patel mischievously raises his hand when the registrar asks if anyone knows of a reason the couple can’t tie the knot.
Liam has been impressively composed up until that moment, but his daughter Jemma’s performance of A Thousand Years tips him over the edge. Jemma later tells OK!: “He was looking at me crying, so I was trying so hard to hold back the tears too.” Liam is also dad to son Ben from his previous marriage to actress Nicole Barber-Lane.
Liam and Joanna’s dogs Hope, a Staffordshire bull terrier, and Teddy, a lhasa apso/Jack Russell cross, act as adorable ring bearers. And as the newlyweds sign the register, Love Actually fans are thrilled as the film’s famous flash mob is recreated by BGT swing group Jack Pack’s Andrew Bourn. They sing All You Need Is Love before Niki Mak gets everyone on their feet with a performance of You’ve Got The Love from the balcony.
As they cut the three-tier lemon drizzle cake, created by Bake Off’s Phil Thorne, with a sword, Joanna says cheekily: “I’ve got my hand on his sword!”
And their first dance is just as playful. After a brief choreographed routine, the couple run off and are replaced on the dance floor by professional dancers wearing masks of the bride and groom.
And if OK! thinks the day is spectacular, the evening affair is even more so. As guests have their faces decorated with festival glitter by Luna and Light, Andrew Bourn gets them singing along, before Liam’s Emmerdale co-stars Jeff Hordley and Tony Audenshaw hit the decks. The hardcore guests continue to party in the castle’s wine cellar until the early hours, where the fabulous Vivienne Lynsey put on a drag cabaret.
With slightly sore heads the following morning, the new Mr and Mrs Fox tell OK! about the best day of their lives…
Congratulations! Did you enjoy the day?
Liam: It was everything I’d hoped for and more, so I’m chuffed. Me and Jojo were the last ones on the dance floor at 2.50am.
Joanna: I was drinking an alcohol-free gin so I could just take in the day, but then once we got to the after party I had some prosecco.
It was a very jam-packed itinerary…
Liam: Jojo just wanted to please other people and make sure nobody was bored.
Joanna: We had some mad ideas during the planning. There was going to be a gospel choir, and then a violinist on stilts. Your brain just goes wild.
Joanna, you were nearly an hour late to the ceremony. What happened?
We started getting ready at 7am, so it felt like we had loads of time. Then it was suddenly past 11am and nobody was dressed. Then it was way past the 12pm start time and I was still getting into my dress.
Liam: The registrar told me she had another ceremony to get to. Luckily she stalled the next wedding, but imagine if we had all that booked and then she just buggered off!
How did you feel when Joanna did finally come down the aisle?
Liam: I was relieved and she looked well fit.
Joanna: My best friend Susannah walked me down the aisle because she looked after me when I was ill. My biggest heartwarming moment was watching Jemma singing during the ceremony.
Liam: It made me emotional. She’s my stepdaughter, but she’s my daughter. Luckily, mine and Nicole’s divorce wasn’t messy in any way, so our relationship hasn’t been affected. I even had my ex mother-in-law at the wedding! If Nicole wasn’t on tour, she’d have been there too.
Joanna, you sadly lost your mum when you were 18. Did you have anything to remind you of her?
We had a memory table, which had photos of everyone who couldn’t be there. We had a photo of my mum and dad’s wedding on the wall too, which makes me well up even now. When I walked through the door I felt like she was there with me. We also made sure the last song was New York, New York, which my mum would always finish a party on.
There were a lot of laughs during your vows…
Liam: There was a part where I had to say I’d be faithful and I paused because I was getting emotional, but everyone thought I’d stopped as a joke!
Joanna: It was nice to hear everyone laugh. It felt like we were in a room filled with love, and everyone was behind us. I think we set the mood by having me walk down the aisle to a Neighbours song. We chose it because it was so cheesy it was hilarious.
Why did you have reindeer at the wedding?
Joanna: I’ve worked at children’s parties so it was a nice little nod to that. I had a dream that I should have nine as it was the exact number that Santa had on his sleigh, but when I woke up Liam said no.
Liam: We had the dogs there too as ring bearers. We couldn’t have not had them there. They’d been practising walking in a straight line with their dog sitter and they did well.
Who came up with the first dance idea?
Joanna: I was a bit worried about the dance because I have a phobia of doing it badly and people laughing at me, so getting Libby and Rob pretending to be us was my way of getting out of it.
Tell us about your dress…
I loved it, and my custom made cape by Claire Martin. It was a wildcard that the shop assistant picked out and it just felt right. One wedding shop I went to was like something out of a sitcom. The shop assistant was so miserable. She was like, “Long or short?” I said “long” and she said, “Well, we specialise in short.” Then I picked out a dress and she said, “Why would you pick that? It’s horrible.”
Did you buy each other wedding gifts?
Joanna: We had gifts sent to each of our rooms to open on the morning. Liam gave me a beautiful necklace with a heart on from the Vera Wang Love collection to match my ring. I bought a souvenir plot of land in Scotland, which allows us to legally call ourselves Lord and Lady Fox!
How does it feel to be married?
Liam: I woke up this morning and said, “You’re my wife now. I want my tea on the table at 5.30pm every day.”
Joanna: I kept saying, “Where’s my husband?” at the wedding. It didn’t feel real. Now we get to enjoy being married. We’re going to the Lake District for our mini-moon, then we’re both working, but in the middle of March we’re going to go on honeymoon. We haven’t decided where to go yet.
How did you choose Betsy and May as a flower girls?
Joanna: I met Denise Van Outen while I was doing entertainment at children’s parties, and ended up doing all of Betsy’s parties when she was younger. Then we just became friends. The other flower girl May is Denise’s goddaughter. They are the loveliest girls.
Liam, were you touched that so many of your Emmerdale colleagues were there?
Yes. There’s about 80 in the cast and I sadly couldn’t invite everybody, so it’s been really awkward walking around the corridors lately [laughs]. I decided I’d just invite the people whose mobile numbers I had saved – they are the people I’d talk to even if I wasn’t in the show. They all made it very fun. Chris Bisson was running round with a mask of my face on till very late.
Joanna: Samantha Giles [who plays Bernice Blackstock] gave us a wedding blessing spell as she is a practising white witch.
You met in 1993 and now 27 years later you’re married. Does it feel like it was meant to be?
Liam: It did feel like a long time coming. We got engaged last April and now we’re married, which might seem a bit rushed to some people, but it just felt like it was meant to be. We could have had 15 kids by now if we’d got together then!
Joanna: I don’t know about 15!
Would you still like children together?
Liam: Possibly – anything is possible. If we do, we do, and if we don’t, we don’t.
Joanna: If we have them naturally then that’s great, but if not we’ll just have 500 dogs.
Liam: And we have Jemma and Ben.
Liam, did you ever think you’d marry again?
I was never averse to the idea, but it wasn’t something I desperately thought I needed to do either when I got divorced. It was just that if the right person came along, I’d marry them, and here she is.
Joanna, after your health scare in 2015, does that make you appreciate all of this more?
Yeah, definitely. It has turned into quite a big wedding, [to Liam] because you had a small wedding last time, didn’t you?
Liam: Yeah, my last wedding was £850!
Joanna: Part of me was like, I wouldn’t mind running off and doing it abroad, but because of the health scare we wanted all our friends there. That combination of faces in one room will never, ever happen again. I think that’s the best thing about a big wedding – you’re bringing so many people together. After nearly dying, I didn’t care about the expense.
Liam, you were initially only contracted for eight episodes on Emmerdale. Do you feel lucky to still be there?
Oh god, yeah. I came here and Dan was a bit of a nastier character on the page, but I realised that if I could shape the way I delivered it, so we had a cheekiness behind it, he could have another side to him. Luckily, it paid off and three months later I became full time. I’ve been there 10 years next year. They might do a testimonial episode for me where I get all the proceeds. Not! [Laughs]
Joanna: I remember when his first episode was on. I was in the local pub and I made them put it on. We were still friends and I was just really proud of him, and now we’re married!
Liam: If you count my Emmerdale marriages, this is about my fifth wedding!
Do you see yourself sticking around for another 10 years?
Liam: I’ve got a script that’s with a couple of production companies at the minute, so I’m quite happy to fulfil my creative needs outside the show through writing. That enables me to go to work and enjoy it and do my job and not want to go on tour and audition and all that malarkey. As you get older, life isn’t just about you, it becomes about more important things, like being with Jojo and even just walking the dog or going to see things in the world. It’s a great job, so I’ll stick with it.
Would you ever get Joanna to star in one of your scripts?
Liam: Yeah, possibly. We had a read through the other week with some producers, so she read in on that. It will be way down the line before it gets produced, but it’s quite exciting at the minute.
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Were you pleased about the NTAs win?
Liam: When I first started Emmerdale, they said we’d go to all these award dos but we won’t win anything, so just enjoy yourself. Now they win everything! It’s like being a Man United fan when we used to be good.
Joanna, what are you up to now?
It’s just been so manic organising the wedding. I’ve just signed with Liam’s agent, so that’s exciting. That feels like a new start and I’m going to double barrel my stage name. I did two episodes of Emmerdale a couple of years ago as a doctor and that was really good. They made me a consultant, which means there is always room to come back, if there are any more hospital scenes or any deaths!
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