When All Black and Crusaders prop Owen Franks met Emma Vieceli in a Christchurch pub three years ago, the strong, silent tough guy knew straight away he’d found the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
“When you know, you know,” says the ever-practical rugby player.
“Our relationship moved quite fast from the start and it just felt right.” So Owen (25) decided there was no point in delaying the inevitable, and proposed to Emma (21).
The pair moved in together just six weeks after they first met, but Owen picked his time to propose to the blonde beauty. It was after the All Blacks’ last overseas tour in Europe that Owen spied his opportunity to make the moment one to remember.
“We had an extra week in Spain and France, and Emma came over for a bit of a holiday,” recalls the reluctant romantic.
“We were staying on a beach about an hour north of Barcelona, and I decided to do it there.”
“I really didn’t want to go down to the beach that day,” adds Emma with a laugh.
“We were supposed to be heading to Barcelona, so I just wanted to get there,
but Owen insisted on going for a walk. I feel so bad about trying to hurry him up!”
It was there, just hours after a call to Emma’s father Louis, that Owen pulled out the brilliant-cut, platinum and white gold diamond engagement ring from the waistband of his rugby shorts, and got down on one knee.
“It was beautiful,” smiles Emma.
“We’d talked about getting married for a long time, but I really didn’t expect it to happen then. It was just perfect.”
“Getting married was always on the cards,” says Owen.
“There’s not a lot that we don’t talk about, and I had said to Emma
that if we were to get married, what kind of ring would you want? She had
a fair idea, funnily enough, so yeah, I got it made and took it away with me.”
“He kept it padlocked in his backpack the entire time,” says Emma, laughing.
“He really got it absolutely spot on, it’s exactly what I wanted.”
The young couple admit to having quite different personalities, but they balance each other out perfectly. While Emma chats happily, a mile a minute, Owen looks wistfully out of the window of her parents’ Clearwater home in Christchurch, to the golf course.
“He’s a typical Kiwi, rugby-playing bloke, that’s for sure!” admits Emma.
“We are quite different, but still complement each other really well. I’m a talker, definitely. I just like to be around people.”
“Emma likes socialising, going out, meeting friends in town, that sort of thing,” Owen adds.
“I’m sort of more, well, I wouldn’t say a loner, but...”
“A homebody,” Emma suggests, with a wry smile.
“Yeah,” he agrees. “I’m fine with spending time by myself. I’m quieter, and obviously Emma’s a bit louder!”
With the wedding planning well underway, Emma has become used to the double-takes people give her when they realise how young the bride-to-be is, but she doesn’t let it faze her one bit.
“I’m used to it,” says Emma, who works in the office of her parents’ hospitality business.
“My friends and family have all been good – they all understand that it’s just me. I’ve always wanted to get married and have children young, so they get it. When you know, you know, and as Owen is so fond of saying, what’s the point in wasting time?”
Owen is happy to leave the majority of the planning to Emma, but has one firm rule.
“Nothing stupid, like a pink tie,” he says, as Emma laughs.
“There’s got to be some manliness, I guess,” she concedes. “Astrid Braid [wife of former All Black Daniel] is helping me with the planning, but I’m doing a lot of it myself.”
It was Emma’s vibrancy and optimism that first got Owen’s attention, as well as the good looks she inherited from her mother. For Emma, it was Owen’s kindness and humility that easily won her heart.
“I recognised his face when we first met, probably from watching rugby on televsion."
“I wasn’t the biggest rugby fan, but I am now – haven’t missed a home game yet.”
It’s rugby that means Emma will be facing long stretches of time without her fiancé, with the Super Rugby finals and the All-Blacks’ jam-packed end-of-year tour to come.
“We worked it out, I think from August onwards, Owen will only have 20 days at home until early December,” says Emma.
“But that’s okay. It’s not a big deal for us. You just keep yourself busy, and I do have a wedding to plan!”