Getting hitched just two weeks after meeting may seem rash to some, but not to Ben and Jackie Foden. After being introduced to each other by a mutual friend in the summer of 2019, the smitten couple said their vows onboard a luxury yacht barely 14 days later – and are now celebrating their daughter Farrah’s first birthday.
Here, the couple exclusively invite OK! VIPs into Farrah's birthday celebrations and reveal plans to add to their brood.
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Inviting us to the adorable tot’s celebrations in New York, rugby player Ben, 35, and businesswoman Jackie, 36, seem blissfully happy with life in the US.
“Jackie has taken to motherhood so well,” beams Ben. “We might have another baby next year,” adds Jackie. “Ben’s kids idolise him.”
Ben, who famously appeared in The X Factor: Celebrity as part of boy band Try Star along with Thom Evans and Levi Davis, is also dad to Aoife Belle, nine, and Tadhg, six, with his former wife, singer Una Healy.
The children live in Ireland with their mum, but have spent time in the US with Ben and Jackie – and it’s clear their blended family is a success.
Here the besotted pair pop the champers to celebrate Farrah’s birthday at a swanky hotel, as they reveal their desire for more kids, and why they’re thrilled to prove the doubters wrong….
Hey Ben and Jackie! How did Farrah enjoy her birthday party?
Jackie: She had an amazing time! I couldn’t get over how beautifully it was decorated. She received so many gifts!
Ben: Farrah loved it! There was a little teepee which meant that people who hadn’t been able to meet her could sit in there with her.
Tell us about her special day…
Jackie: We got her a cake from a cool bakery and some balloons! We invited everyone we knew who was vaccinated.
Ben: It was more of a brunch! I had a game the next day and my rugby team mates came. We were annoyed we couldn’t join in. All of Jackie’s friends were making the most of the mimosas [laughs].
What did you get Farrah?
Ben: We’re talking about getting her an iPad. But our front room is littered with gifts from guests.
Are you big on celebrations?
Ben: Jackie is!
Jackie: Well, we didn’t have a wedding and we got pregnant so quickly. This was the first big party we’ve thrown. Everyone got to meet Farrah for the first time after a whole year on this planet.
Can you believe she’s a year old?
Jackie: It’s a miracle considering the amount she puts in her mouth! We kept her alive for a year [laughs].
Has she got a real personality now?
Ben: Everyone at the party said she is a mini me with Jackie’s personality. Jackie sees a lot of my son Tadgh in her too.
Does she love having big siblings?
Ben: They adore her! We went back at Christmas and they played with her. You could see how much her development had come along.
Jackie: She started crawling.
Ben: And clapping. She comes on in leaps and bounds when she’s around them.
Jackie: She lights up around her brother and sister. Whenever they are on the phone she comes running. We’re looking forward to having them all summer again. When they’re in school they are with their mum in Ireland and in the holidays they are with us.
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Does that work well for you all?
Ben: Yeah! It gives Una a bit of time to herself if she wants to go on holiday.
Have Tadgh and Aoife adapted well to being big siblings?
Jackie: Tadgh especially. He loves being a big brother.
Ben: Aoife is at the age now where she’s very into her friends and her phone. They’ve just started sports as well, which is nice to see.
Are either of them into rugby?
Ben: No. But he’s the fastest boy in his year!
Is there any sibling rivalry?
Ben: They’re pretty good when they’re here. Aoife and Tadhg are thick as thieves. But they argue quite a bit.
Are you proud to have a blended family?
Ben: Yeah! Una and I have come a long way since our divorce. Our main priority is raising two healthy and loved children. Una’s always been a great mum. I’m trying to be as hands on as I can, but I am obviously over here with Jackie. We wanted to start a family which obviously happened really quickly and people questioned it. But Jackie came into my life when I really needed her. We have something really beautiful here. Now we have little Faffs to cement that and she’s been nothing but a dream.
What do you love most about being parents?
Jackie: I’ve always wanted kids, I love it. It fills me with joy.
Ben: Mummy is definitely Farrah’s favourite.
Jackie: I love seeing the person she’s becoming.
Ben: I love watching Jackie. She’s such a good mum. She worries that Farrah will grow up not liking her because she’s a bit strict but their relationship is really good. Farrah adores her.
Jackie, what kind of dad would you describe Ben as?
Jackie: He’s really strong. He makes me feel like everyone is going to be OK, which I love because I worry all the time. We equal each other out. He’s so affectionate with Farrah. They play together and he’s up at night with me.
Would you say you share parenting duties equally?
Ben: No, it’s all Jackie!
Jackie: In the beginning it was very equal. But the rugby season just started so he’s been working and when he comes home I can see how physically exhausted he is. We do have a nanny.
Where are you based now?
Jackie: We were living in my parent’s summer house in Connecticut. But we found a lease in Brooklyn to be closer to Ben’s work in New York.
Ben, how do you find living in the US?
Ben: I was always a big fan of the US. It was one of the reasons I chose to come and finish my career out here. But obviously meeting Jackie was the cherry on top.
Would you say it’s your forever home?
Ben: Jackie wants us to school Farrah in England and be closer to Aoife and Tadhg.
Jackie: I see Ben’s kids and I think they are more well behaved. I want that for Farrah. I think they are amazing kids. When it’s time for her school, we’ll be in England and then when it’s not we will be in New York. So the goal is to have two homes.
How have your first two years of marriage been?
Jackie: [Laughs] It’s been Ben’s dream come true.
Ben: It has! I’m always talking about Jackie.
Jackie: We’re best buds. We love being around each other.
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What would you say is the secret to a happy marriage?
Jackie: Loving talking with that person. I’m waiting for Ben’s looks to fade. I know when he stops playing rugby all that chocolate will catch up with him, which is going to be fun to watch [laughs].
Some doubters said you married too quickly. Are you happy to prove them wrong?
Jackie: Sometimes we do look at each other and we say, “Wow! What idiots we were – that could have gone really badly!” But I just have to trust that I know what we were feeling. I knew he was the person for me even though it was crazy. It was extremely insane but it was the best gamble I’ve taken. It was a dream come true. I’m so happy now.
Ben: I was a bit different from Jackie because I’d been married before. I never thought I’d get married again because of the hassles that came along with it. Obviously with Una it was a bit out there for everyone to see. But when Jackie and I got married we didn’t think it would be a big deal. But it blew up! It was pretty risky and we were probably very stupid but it’s worked out very well. We rarely argue.
What happened with your wedding?
Ben: Jackie’s sister was our witness.
Jackie: I’d met Ben a couple of weeks prior and invited him to a wedding. My sister was visiting anyway which is when we tied the knot.
Ben: We phoned my parents the day before and told them which was a bit of a shock. I spoke to Jackie’s dad the day before and asked for her hand.
Jackie: The planning for a big celebration got put off because Ben went home and then I got pregnant. But we had such an amazing day together and it was just the two of us. It was the most special thing I’ve ever experienced.
Would you consider renewing your vows with a bigger celebration?
Ben: Maybe in 10 years.
Do you feel like your family is complete now or would you like to have more children?
Ben: It’s a conversation we constantly have.
Jackie: The first pregnancy was really hard on me. I remember breaking down to Ben one night because I was so exhausted. Then we had to induce at 37 weeks which turned into a C-section. It was brutal. I’m 36 now, I’d love to have another kid because after having Farrah I see it’s the reason I was put on this planet.
What are you doing for work now, Ben?
Ben: I’m playing for Rugby United New York.
Would you ever return to music?
Ben: I’d love to! But I don’t think anyone would pay me [laughs]. I loved doing The X Factor.
Do you ever go out on double dates with your Try Star bandmate Thom Evans and Nicole Scherzinger?
Ben: Yeah! I’m just waiting for the wedding invite.
Do you think marriage is in their future?
Ben: I hope so! They are so good together.
What do you do to take care of your mental wellbeing?
Jackie: I feel like I’m in the best place I’ve ever been just having Ben with me. He puts my head at ease a lot.
Ben: Before I met Jackie, they were probably the darkest six months of my life in terms of going through a divorce, not seeing my children and negative press. Jackie saved me. She gave me structure and finally something to be happy about.
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