They were heartbroken to come second on Mitre 10 Dream Home, but Jay Blair and Amanda Fail finally have a fairytale ending – going from building a dream home to planning their dream wedding.
The last time Jay cried in public was in September, during the couple’s crushing defeat in the series finale of the TV2 reality DIY show. Fast forward two months and Jay was crying in public again, but this time they were tears of happiness when she got down on one knee to propose to her girlfriend of two years in a crowded Christchurch restaurant.
“I didn’t actually ask her the question ‘Will you marry me?’ I was just on my knee in tears,” says Jay with a big laugh. “I was crying so much I couldn’t talk, but she said ‘yes’.”
Adds Amanda, “I cuddled her and whispered in her ear: ‘You haven’t even asked me to marry you, but I know what you mean.’”
Much like the couple’s disaster-stricken experience on our screens, there were a few hiccups before Jay asked Amanda to be her wife.
Fabric cutter Jay (31) had prearranged with the Harewood restaurant and berry orchard, Sweethearts, to bring out the engagement ring on top of Amanda’s favourite dessert. But feeling unwell on the day, hairdresser Amanda (32) almost cancelled the lunch and ordered ice cream instead of her usual cheesecake. Luckily, a quick-thinking staff member put the ring on top of a rosebud to save the jewel from sinking.
Jay’s sweet proposal was what Amanda had actually been thinking about that very day.
“The restaurant has these cute little words and phrases on the walls and there was one about making a wish. I secretly wished for her to marry me. Not actually thinking she’d ask me then and there,” she says laughing.
“Being in a same-sex relationship, I could have asked her myself, and I was getting to the point where she was taking so long, I was thinking maybe I would have to.
“But I had told her that she had to be the one to ask me, and luckily she did.”
The couple’s unconventional love story began three years ago, when they met through friends. Amanda was going through a separation from her husband Warren – the father of her three children, Josh (13), Bailey (10) and Summer (8) –
and she and Jay stayed friends before realising they loved each other a year later.
“The way I explained it to the kids was that I fell in love with Jay, not with her gender,” says Amanda. “I had always been straight, and at first I liked her as a friend, but realised there was more to it than that, and I loved her.”
“This is a different kind of love. We’re best friends and Amanda’s a beautiful person,” Jay adds.
Pregnant with her eldest son Josh at age 18, married by the time she was 20, and a mother of three by the age of 23, Amanda lost her sense of self as a young mum.
“[Warren and I] were happy, but I think I was caught up in that idea of wanting to have a perfect family with the father of my children,” she says. “But now I’m with Jay, I’m a better version of myself.”
Jay agrees that Amanda has grown into a more confident person during their relationship, and Jay, in turn, has become the stepmum she never thought she would be.
“When I first met Amanda she would just smile, nod and walk away when you talked to her. Now she’s stronger in her opinions and we communicate really well,” says Jay.
“Her kids are the best thing since sliced bread as far as I’m concerned. I love being a part of their life too.”
Jay and Amanda’s engagement joy is poles apart from the devastation they felt when they lost to the Giles family on Dream Home at the live finale, and Amanda fled the stage to look after her upset kids.
Although the couple missed out on the free home, they are paying off the house they then won at auction for $375,000.
Aside from the chartreuse green walls in the master bedroom (which they are having second thoughts on), Jay and Amanda love their house. But on the night of the auction, seeing her children cry sent Amanda over the edge.
“Emotionally, I just lost it,” says Amanda. “Seeing my kids so crushed made me feel like a bad parent. We were trying to stay positive before the finale, but I felt like I hadn’t prepared my kids for that outcome.”
The kids will play a big part in the nuptials, which will be held next year in Christchurch, and while their wedding will be “quirky”, tradition is important to the couple – and Jay asked Amanda’s mother Gaylene for permission before proposing.
Both brides will wear white, but Jay, who only wears men’s clothing, will have an ivory suit.
“I’m putting myself in the male role for the wedding,” says Jay. “I refer to my bridesmaids as ‘the boys’ – but there will be one woman and a couple of men in my bridal party and they will all wear suits,” says Jay, whose brother Daniel will be one of her “boys”.
Meanwhile, Amanda is taking her time choosing her fairytale wedding dress, but Jay has other ideas.
“I was thinking you could wear a miniskirt,” jokes Jay.
“No, that’s what you will be wearing,” quips Amanda.
The pair admit to being overwhelmed by all the details of planning a wedding. But after all the sleepless nights on Dream Home, they know they can survive anything.
“It was a privilege to be one of the first gay and lesbian couples on screen, especially in a year where. as a family, we watched the Marriage Equality Bill being passed on TV,” says Jay.
“But this is our day, and it’s about us, our family and our love for each other.”
Photos: kelly Shakespere • Hair & make-up: Callie Sandford • Styling: julie vernon •clothing: p24. Amanda Wears ts14+, jewellery by max. jay wears barkers p25. amanda wears tunic and white cardigan by TS14+, shorts by the coast, top by city chic, jay wears barkers, bailey, summer and josh wear pumpkin patch.