Strictlys Tess Daly and Vernon Kaye’s ups and downs made 20-year marriage stronger

Tess Daly may be about to embark on her 21st series co-hosting Strictly Come Dancing, but September is also a special month on a personal level, as she celebrates her 20th wedding anniversary with husband Vernon Kay.

It feels like only yesterday that we saw photos of TV’s golden couple looking full of joy as they emerged from St Mary’s Catholic Church in Horwich near Vernon’s hometown of Bolton after their ceremony in 2003. But this week, the pair are marking two decades of marriage, with Tess, 54, describing them as "soulmates".

Talking about their milestone, which according to pals they will celebrate with a "lavish party", Tess said their relationship is as fresh as ever. "We still sit down for dinner and have so much to talk about – we just have a real laugh," she said.

The presenter also shared how laughter is one of the things that keeps the passion alive. "He’s always messing about, dad dancing, singing and laughing," she said. "There’s never a dull moment."

When the former models first laid eyes on each other at a BBC Christmas party in 1999, it was a case of love at first sight and, according to Vernon, they bonded over the fact they’re both northerners.

"She didn’t know anyone except me because we’d worked together that day – she spotted me in a crowd and we had a laugh," Vernon, 49, said. "I was instantly attracted by how independent Tess was – and that’s not changed at all."

Luckily for Vernon, Stockport-born Tess was just as enthralled with him and described their connection as "instant".

In September 2003, they got married and a year later they had their first daughter, Phoebe, now 18, with second daughter, Amber, now 14, arriving in 2009. It looked like Tess and Vernon – who had settled down in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire – were a picture of domestic bliss and professional success.

But in 2010, their marriage was tested when Vernon admitted he’d been sexting Rhian Sugden, now 37, behind his wife’s back after meeting the glamour model in a Bolton nightclub.

Vernon, who was a BBC Radio 1 DJ at the time, addressed the scandal with a public apology, saying: "You may or may not be aware that because of some foolish and stupid decisions I have made, I have disappointed and I have let down a lot of people. To my family and everybody, I am very sorry."

He explained: "Tess is extremely upset about this and we’re working through it. But in some ways I’m glad this story has come out. It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I knew it was getting silly. I’m never going to do it again and hopefully I can clear the slate clean and start again."

However, despite the incident, Vernon said he never thought his marriage would end because of it. "I knew we would deal with it," he said. "Our relationship is strong enough that we deal with this."

Three years on from the scandal, the pair seemed stronger than ever and renewed their vows on their 10th wedding anniversary at a small ceremony in France with their daughters. But in 2016, Vernon was linked to Rhian once more, when it emerged that they’d been exchanging more messages. Vernon, who shot to fame when he presented Channel 4’s popular T4 segment in the early noughties, was quick to point out there was nothing in it this time.

"There was never any inappropriate intent to our communication," he said.

"I was merely trying to find answers to questions that I’ve had since 2010. Tess is aware of everything that has been discussed with Rhian."

Tess spoke out about it in an interview in 2017, saying: "All marriages have their moments. Marriage is a work in progress. Vernon and I are just people at the end of the day."

They may be "just people", but their careers have gone from strength to strength, with Tess now co-presenting Strictly alongside Claudia Winkleman and Vernon taking over from Ken Bruce’s BBC Radio 2 mid-morning show in May. It’s clear that after all these years, the pair have never been happier.

According to relationship expert Tina Wilson, founder of dating app Wingman, their union has been such a success because of their mutual support. She said: "Tess and Vernon had their ups and downs publicly many years ago, yet they’ve stayed the course and grown stronger.

"A successful marriage is something that showcases the good and the bad and it’s testament to their commitment when they tackle both sides and still come out smiling, still wanting the best for each other."

She added: "They had a strong foundation being from the same industry and having a similar start in life. When they both found fame on an equal footing, it allowed them both to flourish and shine in their own right."

Describing Vernon as a "sweetheart", Tess said: "He’s the calm one in our house. I’m the one who sort of vibrates at a much higher frequency and runs around like a bluebottle in a jar." She added: "We’re soulmates, me and Vernon. It’s been a ride – and I love him more than ever."

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