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Gemma Atkinson shares her plans for low stress registry office wedding with Gorka

Gemma Atkinson and Gorka Marquez have been together for almost five years, and got engaged on Valentine’s Day last year.

But when we ask Gemma about their wedding plans, it’s fair to say the couple are decidedly laid-back.

"There have been a few times now where we’ve driven past a registry office and said, ‘Shall we just go in and do it? Yeah, let’s do it!’" says Gemma, 37. "We’ve not planned anything other than we know we want it really small and really intimate.

"We’ve agreed on just close family, a handful of friends, and a big party a week or so after. It’s just finding the time really. We’ve had lots of people saying, ‘You clearly don’t want to get married if you haven’t done it yet!'.

"But I think it’s because we’re so happy with how it is."

It’s no surprise Spanish Strictly Come Dancing professional Gorka, 32, and former Emmerdale and Hollyoaks actress Gemma don’t have much time to spare at the moment.

While he is to-ing and fro-ing between Manchester, Leeds and London with his hectic schedule, Gemma is holding the fort at home with their daughter Mia, three.

"I’m always aware that from this time until Christmas I need to be full-on with Mia because Gorka’s away," she says. It’s a routine the couple are familiar with.

"Since we got together, he’s always been on his tours and I have my work. Because it’s always been that way, we’re used to it," she continues. "We always say how lucky we are to have each other, because if Gorka was with someone or I was with someone who was needy and couldn’t cope alone, it wouldn’t work.

"It’s not possible with our jobs. During lockdown we did nearly four months away from each other. He was in London, locked with the Strictly bubble and I was up north. We just thought, 'It is what it is.'

"I think it’s nice because it keeps you missing them and we always, always have something to talk about because we’ve been doing our own thing."

Gemma, who was a Strictly finalist herself in 2017 with Aljaž Škorjanec, is clearly delighted about Gorka’s celebrity partner for this series – television presenter Helen Skelton.

"We’ve FaceTimed a few times," Gemma reveals. "It’s been absolutely lovely. I know they are getting on so, so well in rehearsals."

As Helen lives in Leeds, and Gorka and Gemma are in Greater Manchester, Gemma is hoping she’ll be able to see a bit more of her fiancé during the week.

"He’s been able to be home in the week and he’ll be home every Sunday as well. We’re lucky really. He has to do a lot of choreography.

"He was playing me the music the other day for his Week 2 dance and I was saying, ‘Oh my gosh, you should do this and have her doing this, pick her up.’ He was like, ‘Just calm down, I’m the choreographer, not you.’ I think I get more excited than him by it!"

Gemma’s already spotted Will Mellor’s talent, too. "I know he’s going to do well. He’s got hips, that Mellor. It will be a great series."

She also says Mia absolutely loves seeing Gorka perform and enjoys dancing too. "She always reminds me, ‘Daddy’s the better dancer than you, Mummy!’ She loves dancing. Any time there’s music on, she’s bopping away.

"She loves Spanish reggaeton because Gorka plays it so much."

Family life is important to Gemma and she’s a great role model for her daughter. On her Instagram she shares videos of them in their home gym and going on walks.

She says they are also very open with Mia about emotions. Gemma recently developed an infection after having a wisdom tooth out and it laid her low for weeks, but Mia was a great support.

"It is the most horrendous pain I’ve ever been in. I was in tears at one point and Mia gave me a hug. I would never want her to think she couldn’t cry or express herself."

Gemma, who is vegetarian and usually works out five days a week, says she’s been kind to herself getting back to normal.

"I listened to my body. When you’ve had time off, there’s always the urge to just go for it. I’m more of a slow and steady wins the race. You’ve got to build yourself back up slowly."

She’s an advocate for looking after your gut and takes the water-based probiotic Symprove as part of her daily routine.

"I’ve been taking Symprove for years now. It’s the start to my day. The saying ‘trust your gut’ is true. Everything we feel comes from our gut. For everything else in your body to function well, you have to take care of it.

"It’s hard to feel bad about a body you are taking care of. You can sometimes find yourself in a position where everyone’s at peace and you’re in pieces. It’s nice to sometimes just take a step back."

Not that Gemma will have much time for that over the coming months. She has a drivetime show on Hits Radio, a fitness range with In The Style and The Toddler Club on CBeebies.

Mia is at pre-school four days a week and Gemma manages to fit everything in with the help of mum Sandra and stepdad Peter, who live nearby.

"I’m really lucky that I get to take her there and have breakfast together. I never wanted to move away from my family, the area. I don’t know if that’s a northern thing, but we are just a really close-knit family."

The other big loves in her life are her dogs Ollie, a working cocker spaniel, and Norman, a sprudel – a springer spaniel poodle cross. "I don’t know what I’d do without them," says Gemma. "I’ve always said, whatever happens in life, as long as I have dogs I’ll be alright."

Gorka is also close to his family and frequently FaceTimes his parents, who live in Bilbao. They recently travelled to Spain to see his relations – the first time in two and a half years.

"It’s the first time Mia’s seen her Abuela and Abuelo, as she calls them, since she was six months old because of lockdowns," says Gemma. "As soon as she saw them at the airport, she shouted Abuela and ran straight over to Gorka’s mum. It was lovely.

"Mia can count to 10 in Spanish and she says hello and goodbye. I can get by and understand it a lot better now. I had one-to-one lessons for about six months and it was going really well, then lockdown happened and I stopped doing them.

"I need to pick it up again. It’s embarrassing because Gorka speaks Spanish, Portuguese, English and a little bit of Italian. He puts me to shame."

But for now, Saturday nights are wind-down time for Gemma, watching Gorka and Helen take to the dance floor.

"I’m looking forward to the countdown to Christmas with Strictly. As soon as it starts on the telly, I’m on the couch with Mia and the duvet. We’ll be rooting for them all the way."

For more information on Symprove, visit symprove.com

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