August 16, 2021 • pillow talk
Ben Higgins & Jessica Clarke Talk 'Meaningful' Wedding Plans — Including Their Bachelor Nation Guest List!
After their original 2020 wedding was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ben Higgins and Jessica Clarke can’t wait to finally tie the knot this November — and with many beloved Bachelor Nation members by their side.
“The people that I’ve met through this franchise are some of my greatest friends. And they have also become so close with Jessica over the course of our relationship,” the Season 20 Bachelor tells BachelorNation.com in an exclusive interview. “At this point, over the last year, I haven’t gotten to see a lot of these people. So, I’m just really excited to reunite everybody.”
According to the Denver-based couple — who got engaged in March 2020 after two years of dating — the guest list will include such familiar faces as Ashley Iaconetti Haibon, Jared Haibon, Dean Unglert, Caelynn Miller-Keyes, Wells Adams, Becca Kufrin, Nick Viall, Becca Tilley, and Sydney Lotuaco.
“Honestly, everyone is amazing,” Jessica says. “I can’t think of anyone that I’ve met and had a sour taste in my mouth. All of Ben’s friends are just the best.”
The esthetician and Just Skin Den founder adds, “Becca Tilley and Becca Kufrin, I probably know the best out of the girls. And Ashley, she’s like family at this point. We stay in touch, and they reach out and they’re super nice. I’m excited for everyone to be there. We haven’t seen them all in so long, so it’s going to be really meaningful to have them all in one place.”
Below, Ben and Jessica chat more with BachelorNation.com about their upcoming nuptials and plans for the future.
Jessica, before you met Ben, how would you describe your relationship with the Bachelor franchise? Were you aware of who he was?
Jessica: My relationship with the franchise was minimal. I didn’t really watch seasons all the way through, but when I was in college, we’d watch an episode here and there. At home, my mom would watch it. All my aunts are really big fans. So, I was aware of what it was. But when he specifically messaged me on Instagram, I knew I should know his name because I heard it before. But I had to ask my mom exactly how I knew his name.
Ben: She had my poster in her bedroom growing up!
Jessica: (Laughs) Yeah, I manifested this.
When we spoke to Ben in January to promote his book “Alone in Plain Sight,” he had the sweetest things to say about your relationship. So, we’re curious to know, what do you love most about Ben, Jessica?
Jessica: OK, plug your ears so you don’t get a big head, Ben. Honestly, he challenges me in the best way. He makes me a better friend and a better person all around because he is so intentional. He really does lead by example, and he is a great leader. He also chills me out a little bit. I tend to be super Type A and he reminds me to rein it in and to take breaks and to calm down and have a glass of wine. He’s been my perfect balance.
Ben: If I’m good at anything in life, it’s helping people find alcohol. (Laughs) That’s my love language.
And now you’re only months away from making things official! How would you describe the pandemic’s impact on your wedding plans?
Jessica: We planned it knowing that we would have to cut down the guest list or change the venue. And we haven’t had to, thank God. We made some decisions up front in the hopes that people would be vaccinated and people would be comfortable to gather. Luckily, we haven’t had to change everything, which has been great. We planned really optimistically.
Ben: We went into it with a really positive mindset. We were like, “Let’s plan this like it’s going to be normal and then change it or shrink it down if need be.” It’s a lot easier to do that than it is to send out invitations a week in advance and be like, “Now you can come!”
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How do you process all the alone time you shared together because of the pandemic? Does it feel like a blessing in disguise to have had more time to bond before getting married?
Jessica: Totally. We weren’t even living in the same place when we got engaged. I moved to Denver from Nashville earlier this year. So, the fact that we’ve been able to be in the same city before getting married has been huge for our relationship. I think it would have been a really hard adjustment otherwise.
Ben: When the pandemic hit, I was on the road for “Bachelor Live on Stage.” When that got postponed, I went to Tennessee and spent three months with her family, her two brothers, and her one brother’s wife. So, we were all in one house for three months. Most people hear that and it gives them a little heartburn. I promise you it was really great, and it probably will never happen again. That was an incredible experience just to be able to spend that time with her family, get to know them better, and make memories with them. That’s been big.
In terms of our relationship, I don’t know what it would have been like without it. But it’s been really hard at times. We’ve had a lot of friends suffer and get sick. But for us, it’s been a lot of quality time that we’ve never really had together before.
Has wedding planning been a collaborative process?
Ben: I’m definitely taking the lead!
Jessica: He’s joking. But honestly, I’ll ask him about certain things and he always has an opinion.
Ben: I mostly step back. I’ll speak up when asked and she’s always good at asking me. But a lot of this is not my thing. I don’t know what kind of flowers to get or what colors to put on the tables. When I’m asked, I share my opinion. But her and her mom have been amazing. My mom planned the rehearsal. The entire team has just been so awesome. I don’t know if they’re stressed out. I know I’m not.
Jessica: I’m not stressed at all. I hope no one else is. We’ve also been engaged for over a year, so we’ve had a lot of time to plan. It’s been really nice.
It sounds like you two have avoided the stress that seems to come with planning a COVID wedding.
Ben: The way we planned the wedding and the great care that Jessica, her mom, and Sara Fried’s wedding planning team has done, they’ve done everything accordingly. I feel really prepared. It hasn’t been as stressful maybe as some people’s COVID weddings because they’ve taken the proper precautions along the way and did one step at a time.
What is your vision for the day?
Jessica: It’s all pretty simple. I never really had a huge vision for my wedding. I always wanted one in a backyard under a tent. So, we’re having it in a backyard under a tent in Nashville. So, it’s going to be great.
Why did you decide to get married in Nashville instead of Denver?
Jessica: We actually threw around the idea of doing a destination wedding. The more that we started to plan for that, I realized I wasn’t familiar with different destinations, and it would have been really hard. I have a big Italian family, so telling them where to stay and what to do would’ve been a nightmare. So, it just made more sense to do it at home. It’s also closer to Ben’s family because they’re all in Indiana. So, it just made more sense for our families.
Where are you with your dress, Jessica?
Jessica: I have it picked out. I’m working with Anne Barge. They are creating it right now. His mom and my mom came shopping with me in October and we got it. It’s simple, but it’s really different at the same time. I also don’t have any photos of it on my phone, so I don’t really remember what it looks like. (Laughs) I kept it off my phone because I knew that one night Ben and I would probably go out to eat, I’d have a couple glasses of wine, and then show him. So, I just decided to not have any photos of it. But if I want to see it, I can ask my mom or Ben’s mom because they have photos.
Ben: She’s said to me, “Don’t be surprised if you come home one day and I’m sitting in my wedding dress because that’s how much I like it.”
Jessica: I do love it. I actually joked about wearing it to dinner during our honeymoon.
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What wedding details are important to each of you?
Ben: We went to weddings for a year when we were dating before the pandemic and we always were talking about, “OK, what about this wedding killed the vibe?” So, we were really particular about making this a celebration for all. We would feel most celebrated if everybody’s celebrating. So, we tried to eliminate the parts of the wedding that maybe would slow things down and just find space to pick things up. And for us, that’s music all night. I’m also going to have a whiskey bar and a cigar bar, which are two things that are important to me. A lot of grab-and-go food. We really want to make it a party from start to finish instead of as traditional as people might expect.
Jessica, what is your counterpart to Ben’s cigar and whiskey bars?
Jessica: My big thing was the band. I have this weird obsession with twinkle lights. I want them everywhere. So, at our reception, it’s just going to be like a giant fairy garden.
Faith is important to both of you. How will it be centered in your ceremony?
Jessica: We have three different pastors from three different phases of our lives. So, they’re going to be leading the ceremony. One will open, one will do the vows, and one will close it out. The ceremony will be a little bit more reverent, but we want it to be a situation where everyone feels comfortable, too. So, it’s not going to be overly religious or anything like that because that’s not really our vibe either.
Ben: It’s really cool that we’re going to have pastors from every season and celebrating what Jesus has done for our relationship and for us. But we also don’t want anyone to feel super weird and uncomfortable about it. We just want to celebrate our life together, the relationship that we have, and doing it with people who have meant a lot to us throughout our walks. It’s important to have those people standing up there with us.
What are you most looking forward to about the wedding day itself and then married life afterward?
Jessica: The day itself, I’m really excited to be able to spend the morning with my bridesmaids. I don’t have any sisters, so I just have a lot of best friends. I can’t wait to have that morning with them. And then obviously, marrying Ben and then seeing him when I walk down the aisle is going to be a feeling I can’t even imagine. And then just dancing all night. For married life in general, I think that we’re going to make a really good team. I think we’re going to make a positive impact in the world together. I’m excited to wake up every morning with him and just have normal days. We didn’t have a lot of normal days when we were dating so it will be fun to have those coming up when the world opens more.
Ben: The day itself is the excitement and seeing so many people in one place that we love and are there to celebrate us. I hope they feel loved and appreciated. Seeing her walk down the aisle will obviously be pretty crazy. The day is going to feel like a dream. I’ll probably be super nervous, which is something I don’t feel too often anymore. And then married life together, my life has already become increasingly better with Jessica in it. She encourages me and supports me — but she gives me the freedom to be the biggest and baddest version of myself. She’s opened up my world to all these new opportunities and pursuits. Also, trying to be the best husband possible is something I’m excited for and something that I’m ready for in life. I’ve tried to prepare myself for this moment, so I’m excited to see how I do. And being able to start building memories together for the rest of our lives is pretty cool.
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Is starting a family something that you’re already thinking about as well?
Jessica: We know that we want kids, and we also recognize that a lot of couples have a hard time getting pregnant. So, if we’re blessed to have kids, then that’s amazing. We don’t really have a timeline. We’ll see how a year of marriage goes and then we’ll go from there.
What advice would you give couples who are in the process of planning their wedding?
Jessica: Enjoy it. There’s nothing worth stressing about. Everyone keeps telling me, “On the day of, things are going to go wrong. You can’t control it.” So, there’s no point in stressing leading up to it. You’re only engaged once. I only get to call him my fiancé for a year and a half, so I’m going to enjoy that. And then he’ll be my husband forever, so there’s no reason to rush the whole process.
Ben: Celebrate this time. Take a moment to breathe. Take some moments together in silence and soak in what’s happening. You found someone you plan on building a life with. The wedding is awesome, but it’s a day and you have a long time together. Celebrate the small moments and have fun with the planning process. This is a great place to learn how to compromise and make your relationship stronger. It’s a great test to come together and get excited. It’s good practice. It can be super fun if you let it be.