It’s been a tough couple of years for former reality star Jessica Hayes, but she finally feels like she has something to celebrate.
The former Love Island star, 29, has exclusively revealed to OK! she is engaged to her new man Zeb, who she met through pals on a night out.
“We’d only been together for a year so I wasn’t expecting it,” she tells us as she flashes her diamond engagement ring. “It was a massive surprise.”
Jess beams as she reveals how the property developer got down on one knee back in October as the pair watched the sunset at Es Vedrà in Ibiza during a surprise trip to the Balearic island.
“We went there on a private jet which was just crazy!” she continues. “I asked him to get some videos of me for Instagram so I was just there posing away on the edge of a cliff, and then I turned around and he got down on one knee! I was like, “Oh my God, are you joking? Are you pranking me? Is this a real ring?’
“I didn’t get emotional at all and then about three days later I started crying when it sank in.”
Jess and Zeb, who moved in together in September, met when romance was the last thing on Jess’s mind, so she was bowled over when it was “love at first sight” with the 37-year-old.
The happy news of her engagement follows heartache – Jess tragically lost her son Teddy in November 2020 after experiencing a late miscarriage at 19 weeks.
Six months later, she split from her fiancé Dan Lawry, with whom she shares three-year-old son Presley.
“I’d had a really tough year and when I look back I was at breaking point and struggling so bad with everything,” she tells us. “I was really at rock bottom and I wasn’t ready to meet someone as I was healing from what had happened.
"Then Zeb just came along and really saved me in so many ways. As soon as I saw him I was obsessed and we were just inseparable from then on. I just knew he was for me.
"When things are going wrong, it’s hard to pick yourself up and picture anything else, but I 100% believe that even the bad things you go through in life are things falling apart so better things can come together.
"I wouldn’t have expected everything to be so good now and I’m so happy. When you’re in something you don’t always realise how bad and toxic things are until you’re in a normal, happy relationship.”
Son Presley was at home with his dad when Jess and Zeb got engaged and Jess says he is a bit too young to fully understand Mummy is getting married.
“I said, ‘Do you like Mummy’s ring?’ And he was like, ‘Oh wow, it’s so pretty,’ but he doesn’t understand,” she says. “But I can’t wait to see him all dressed up in a little suit. I guess he’ll be a pageboy or maybe he could bring the rings down?
"But he’d probably have a strop on the floor and lose them!” she laughs.
Fiancé Zeb is also dad to an eight-year-old daughter from a previous relationship and Jess says she and Presley share a special bond, as does Zeb with Presley.
“They’ve got a lovely relationship and he’s so good with him,” says Jess. “It’s so nice and he has got a lot of patience with Presley as he’s hard work.”
She adds of Zeb’s daughter, “Presley and her fight like brother and sister and they’ve taken on that brother/sister relationship so quick. Presley absolutely loves her to bits and it’s really sweet.”
As for having children of their own one day, Jess says, “It’s definitely not off the cards. I’m not getting any younger.
"I’ve always said I want a big family but Presley is so hard so I go through stages when he’s having a meltdown and I’m like, ‘There is no way I’m doing this again,’ and then I’ll see someone post a baby picture and I’m like, ‘Aww.’ I change my mind every day!”
The couple may have only been engaged for a month, but Jess is keen for the couple to tie the knot “soon” and confesses she wants “three weddings with three dresses”.
“I’ve got in my head what I want to do at my dream place so I’m set on something now,” gushes Jess, who has set up a real estate business with Zeb called Elements Properties.
“It would be so much money but you’ve got to dream big, average is boring!
“I’m really excited, but I know these things get booked up so far in advance so it’s hard to get a spot. It’s also abroad and it’s hard as you want all your close family there, so I think I might have to have three weddings so I can celebrate with everyone.
"Then I can have three dresses, too! The brand I love is Berta.”
As for whether or not any fellow Love Islanders will be getting an invite, Jess adds, “I’d invite Katie [Salmon], Emma- Jane [Woodhams], Cally [Jane Beech], and Hannah [Elizabeth], and Charlotte Dawson is one of my best friends so she’d definitely be there.”
As Jess looks ahead to her wedding, there is one person who she will so desperately miss on her big day – little Teddy. She reveals the harsh reality of each milestone.
“As soon as November comes it really hits me,” she tells us. “I put some songs on the other day that remind me of him as sometimes I feel like I need that space to grieve a little.
“I look at Presley and I think they probably would have been very similar. Presley finds little feathers and he says his name and points to the sky and says, ‘Brother Teddy’. It’s crazy that he has that connection with him even though they never met.
“There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think of him and I don’t think it ever leaves you. It’s really hard. There is a little place I can visit him and I’ll go down there with Pres [on the anniversary]. I’ll also get his memory box out and look at photos of him.”
Christmas is understandably a particularly hard time for the star, but Jess doesn’t want to be sad forever.
“Last Christmas was really tough. I’d only just met Zeb and I saw him briefly on Christmas Eve and then I was on my own with Pres and that was a moment it really hit home for me,” she says.
“I associated everything I normally associate with Christmas with Teddy and it would bring back all those feelings. I remember one of the songs they played when I was walking into the funeral was Silent Night and every time I hear it now I just can’t cope.
"I can’t listen to it, it brings tears to my eyes.”
Jess adds, “But we’ll make this Christmas really special with the kids. Zeb is so supportive and I’m in such a different place now so it won’t affect me in that way this year as I have so much distraction.
"This year will be a lot easier and I have so much to look forward to.”
For help and support with baby loss visit https://www.tommys.org
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