Wedding dress shopping should be something you savour. Sipping bubbly with your besties as the stylist picks out delightful designs, it’s surely every bride-to-be’s dream day.
But for Emmerdale star Amy Walsh, trying to find the perfect gown to wear in the show came with another dilemma.
“I literally had just chosen my wedding dress before I found out I was marrying in the show,” she says, speaking to mark her return to work as Tracy Metcalfe after 18 months’ maternity leave.
“My biggest fear was what if I found a dress that I’d prefer to my own one when we went shopping for my character?
“I kept averting my eye as we looked on the rails. In the end, we’ve gone for quite a nice dress for Tracy rather than anything tacky but thankfully I am still happy with the one I’ve chosen for my own wedding!”
It was only a fortnight before returning to the hit ITV1 soap that she had finally found her dream design for when she marries her fiancé, former EastEnders actor Toby Alexander-Smith, abroad later this year, with their one-year-old daughter Bonnie playing a key role.
Yet while Amy, 36, is hoping for a stress-free big day, the same cannot be said for her character’s mystery wedding.
In true soap style, all hell will break loose when Moira and Cain spot Tracy back in the Dales after 18 months away.
She had run off with daughter Frankie, who she shares with Nate Robinson, but now suddenly returns standing in a wedding dress outside a registry office with an attractive man.
Moira and Cain fear Nate, who also rushes to the scene, is trying to win full custody of Frankie and is about to gatecrash Tracy’s wedding. And so, to avoid a confrontation, they kidnap Nate before he can go inside, knocking him out in the process.
“The scenes at the wedding are farcical,” explains Amy. “Nothing goes plain sailing.
“Viewers will be left wondering if she is, indeed, marrying this man or not at all. We had a lot of fun filming the scenes though and it’s great to finally be back in Emmerdale.”
She smiles as she adds: “Hopefully my own wedding won’t be as chaotic as this soap one!”
The likeable and down-to-earth actress says the entire cast has been incredibly welcoming since she returned.
She had already returned briefly for the soap’s 50th birthday celebrations last autumn and so it wasn’t quite as intimidating as it could have been.
Amy says: “I absolutely love being a mum to Bonnie and it’s been amazing spending time with her. I love it and I could literally spend all day with her, every day! But it was time to come back and the fact I’d already dipped my toes back in last year made it less daunting.”
Adjusting to her new work juggle has, however, been a huge learning curve.
Amy and Toby have moved back to Leeds from London, where they had spent her maternity leave so they could be closer to her family, including her Girls Aloud star sister Kimberley Walsh. And she admits like any new mum, she has found it tough combining her roles.
“It was great to be near to my family as we are very close and they are all obsessed with Bonnie,” she explains.
“But I knew it wouldn’t make me happy if I was constantly on a train commuting from London. So, we are back in Leeds now. It’s great though as it means I can finish work and get home quickly to have lots of cuddles with Bonnie.
“I’ve been back at work for about four weeks and I am just trying to get used to everything.
“I’ve soon learnt you are not only spinning plates physically but also mentally. I’ve got so much respect for every working mum. I don’t know how everyone does it, but I am slowly getting there!”
To help with childcare, the actress and Toby have managed to secure a place for Bonnie in a nursery ideally located near Emmerdale’s studios.
“It was particularly emotional the first time I did the drop-off,” Amy says. “Toby kept asking me if I was sure I would be OK because I was going to have to head to work immediately afterwards but I kept saying, ‘No, I will be fine!’
“When I got there, I couldn’t help but cry my eyes out! The staff were amazing and kept assuring me she would be fine and of course she was but by the time I got to work, I was still crying. I headed straight to make-up and the crew were so comforting and told me, ‘Let’s do your hair rather than make-up first!’ They totally understood. That is one of the great things about working on Emmerdale – it is like having a second family around you and a familiar comfort blanket.”
She continues: “I miss Bonnie terribly when I am at work but equally, I know how lucky I am to have a job I love.
“Playing Tracy is so much fun because there are many different sides to her. She is vulnerable but she is also trying to do good. I believe in the character and I understand her.
“It’s like as if I have stepped back into my old life but now rather than going home to an empty flat, I go home to Bonnie and Toby.”
She is keeping tight lipped about what lies in store for her character and if she has a “happily ever after”.
“I don’t think you can guarantee anything in soap land,” she chuckles. “There is always something around the corner, but I am excited to be returning with such a big storyline with this wedding – or not!”
Her own wedding plans to Toby are, she adds, well underway. “I have been shopping for my nephews’ page boys outfits this week,” she says. “It will be lovely when we do get married.”
She met Toby four years ago in the audience at Strictly Come Dancing. Initially, they successfully navigated a long-distance relationship. Now together in Yorkshire and looking forward to their upcoming nuptials, she says becoming a mum has given her even more respect for her own family.
“My mum was a single mum and there were four of us,” she continues. “I don’t know how she did it! “Toby is a great dad and we share the parenting 50/50. I think it does help a lot he is an actor as well as he understands the soap world. He never gets bitter by the hours involved.”
- Emmerdale is on weekdays on ITV1 at 7.30pm.