'Mark got down on one knee and proposed in Paris, then said he was glad I'd said yes as he had booked the wedding in Jamaica ... in seven weeks' time'
BBC NI's newsreader Linzi Lima talks to Stephanie Bell about her DJ husband's very romantic proposal and juggling bringing up daughter Clara with a busy media career
Linzi Lima might just be married to one of Northern Ireland's most romantic men. BBC Northern Ireland's newest newsreader describes husband Mark Lima as the family joker, but the DJ wasn't fooling around when he asked Linzi to marry him.
Mark (43) whisked her off to one of the most romantic cities in the world, Paris, to propose, popping the question on bended knee on the riverbank below the Eiffel Tower.
He then left an already surprised Linzi totally gob-smacked when he revealed he had also secretly organised their entire wedding for just seven weeks later.
The 33-year-old, who lives with Mark in Dundonald, where they're doting parents to little Clara (2), laughs as she recalls the events of five years ago.
"We had been together seven years and it had become a bit of a running joke about when we were going to tie the knot," she says.
"I'd always wanted to go to Paris, and Mark surprised me with a trip there. He got down on one knee and proposed, then he said he was glad I'd said yes because the wedding was booked for seven weeks' time in Jamaica.
"I don't know if I was still standing at that point. I had no idea - it was all such a surprise.
"I absolutely loved that he did it. I am terrible at making decisions, so to have that taken out of my hands was lovely. It meant I didn't have to think about it and it was all taken care of.
"Thankfully, the only thing he hadn't thought of was the dress, because Mark and I would have very different ideas about fashion. Everything else was perfect... it was the best surprise ever."
The couple enjoyed a quiet romantic wedding on a stunning sandy beach in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, with Linzi's sister, Samantha, and Mark's best friend as the only guests.
On returning home, they held a traditional reception for all their family and friends in Belfast.
Linzi grew up in the east of the city, the eldest of eight children. As she says, family is the most important thing in her life.
Her parents always encouraged her to follow her dreams, and today, as a happily married, doting mum with her BBC career taking off, she is doing just that.
Linzi studied for a communications degree at Ulster University in Jordanstown, always with an eye on a career in the media.
She honed her skills during her degree by working with local community broadcaster NVTV.
Like most students, immediately after graduating she took work where she could find it, spending a few years working in a call centre and a bank, all the while never losing sight of her dream to go into broadcasting.
The lure of a busy newsroom was always her goal, and she finally secured a job at BBC Northern Ireland's Ormeau Avenue base, albeit first in administration.
"I was always interested in broadcasting, and during uni I did a lot of voluntary work with NVTV and worked on my own entertainment show with them," she says.
"I really enjoyed that - it was a great opportunity and it really opened my eyes as to how the industry worked.
"When I got the job as an administrative assistant in the BBC nine years ago, it wasn't what I wanted to do as a career, but it gave me a chance to learn even more.
"Outside of my job in the BBC, I worked on putting together an entertainment guide for Citybeat radio, just to get the experience. I worked in the BBC administration role for four years, using that time to learn as much as I could about the BBC.
"That whole period helped me to identify that it was news that I really enjoyed and wanted to work in.
"I loved the fast pace of the newsroom and I tried to find out as much as I could about it. I was just so excited to sit in the gallery and see the live programme going out. I knew that was what I wanted to do."
Linzi, whose maiden name is Corr, would have already been known to many people for producing and presenting The Girl Friday Guide for Citybeat on her now husband Mark's show a few years ago.
The DJ, who is currently a presenter at Q Radio, was well-known for his award-winning breakfast show on Citybeat.
He was happy to guide and help his very ambitious girlfriend with her weekly events guide, which covered everything from art, theatre and exhibitions to festivals, food and family fun days.
"It just happened that the guide worked best on Mark's show, and that's how we ended up broadcasting together," Linzi says.
"We were going out together at the time, but it was strictly business on the show. It was a bit like having a relative teach you how to drive, because Mark would have given me hints and tips on improving my delivery and on how I produced my segment. That felt like criticism sometimes, but looking back it really helped because he knows his stuff.
"I used to produce video content for my website section on activities you could take part in across Northern Ireland, so I got my own back by recruiting him as my unpaid cameraman - we were jumping into icy cold Strangford Lough coasteering one week and then flying gliders on the north coast the next. It was a lot of fun."
Linzi's hard work finally paid off when the BBC advertised a position for a trainee journalist. She applied, and with her experience behind her, secured the job three years ago. Since then, her star has been rising.
While she has covered her own stories and read news bulletins for BBC Radio Ulster, her week is now divided between reading the breakfast and lunch-time news, as well as working as a senior journalism researcher.
It means 5.30am starts twice a week, although Linzi doesn't mind those because it works well with her home life, freeing up most of the afternoon for spending time with Clara.
Reading the news is her dream job. "I haven't looked back since getting the trainee position," she says. "I've had so many opportunities to work on so many different things in news with fantastic people.
"I just love the fast pace of the newsrooms and how things have to be turned around so quickly. Reading the breakfast and lunch-time news is very busy in itself.
"I have a 5.30am start, and when you come in you are checking to see which stories are making the headlines and which stories have broken overnight.
"There are three of us, so it is a small team and we would be working with our colleagues in radio and digital.
"Then, after the breakfast news, we will be doing the same routines for the lunch-time bulletin, and that is another busy programme.
"The rest of the week I will be assisting journalists and helping put programmes out. I'd also be in the TV gallery helping to set up stories and putting packages together.
"I love the variety of the job, and I have also brought my own stories to air. If I see something I think is worth covering, I will put my own package together.
"Reading the news was always a bit of a dream for me, and it is an honour to be asked to do it. I love what I am doing now so, looking ahead, I just want to do more of the same."
Away from her busy broadcasting career, Linzi's life revolves around her family - daughter Clara, husband Mark, her mother and father and her seven brothers and sisters.
Her parents divorced when she was 14, and her mum remarried. Linzi has a sister, two brothers, two half-brothers and two half-sisters and is close to every one of them.
"Despite the massive age gap - my youngest brother is 10 years old - we are all very close," she says. "Clara is the first grandchild in the family, so she is surrounded by people who dote on her and want to have her for sleepovers at the weekend."
Mark and Linzi have been together for 12 years, and first met on St Valentine's Day, although they didn't get together until a few months later when their paths crossed again at an awards event.
It was another memorable occasion, because Linzi accidentally knocked Mark's award off the table and smashed it.
She recalls: “I remember the first time I met Mark, I was up at the crack of dawn to go to Dublin to interview people taking part in the Big Brother auditions.
“It was February 14 and he was there and came over and joked about being my biggest fan.
“Then, in August, we were at the Big Buzz awards in Londonderry and I was working for NVTV and Mark was there with Citybeat.
“We didn’t really know each other, but then we ended up sitting together through mutual friends.
“For some reason, people were smashing glasses. I went to take my bag off the table and heard something smash to the ground. I looked down and it was Mark’s award. He had won it for best breakfast show.
“He was laughing and I thought he thought it was just another glass smashed, but when I told him it was his award he just kept laughing. I knew then he had a very good sense of humour, and we still laugh about that day.”
The arrival of Clara, who will be three in a few weeks’ time, made Linzi’s life complete. Juggling parenthood with her career has been easy thanks to the support of family — both Mark and Linzi’s mums look after Clara while they’re working.
Linzi’s early starts mean she can be home early in the afternoon to spend the rest of the day with Clara.
She loves to get out into the fresh air and the family enjoy taking day trips around Northern Ireland.
“I think having Clara has made me work even harder,” she says. “I knew if I was going to have to spend time away from her that I would want to make the most of that.
“I enjoy work, and when I am not working I want to spend as much time as I can with her. I have a pretty good work-life balance, but probably not so much sleep thanks to the early starts.
“When I do get home, I like to take Clara and our labrador out into the air. I think the fresh air is good for all of us. Coming home from work to a wee smiley face and a bouncing labrador is hard to beat.”
Of course, Linzi had a good role model when it came to being a mum who juggles childcare with going out to work.
“When I was little, my mum worked and I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, and I think it is great now that Clara gets to do the same,” she says.
“I also saw mum out working, though eventually, when she had four kids, she had to give it up. I like to think that having my job will give Clara someone to look up to and will show her that if you work hard you can be happy and successful.
“My parents always taught me to follow my dreams, and I would hope to pass the same message onto her.”
While spending time with family and friends is top of their list outside of work, Linzi and Mark also like to keep active and enjoy long walks together, as well as swimming a couple of times a week.
Crawfordsburn Country Park and Stormont Park are favourites for an afternoon outing, while a full day out would see the couple and Clara exploring Northern Ireland’s coastline.
Cooking is another favourite pastime in the Lima household.
“We love cooking in our house,” says Linzi. “I will have Clara alongside me, so you might find that, having chopped the vegetables, there are little bite-sized pieces eaten out of them, but that’s okay because it is only us eating them! We also love to catch up with our family and friends over coffee or a meal, and the beauty of Northern Ireland is that you be anywhere you want in a couple of hours — the north coast or Newcastle and the Mournes.
“There really is so much to see and do here, and it is great to do it all with Clara and see it all again through her eyes. I could never be cooped up. I always like to have something to do or see to make the most of our time together.”
Linzi Lima presents breakfast and lunch-time news bulletins on BBC1 NI