Five years after tying the knot in a stunning, red rose-filled ceremony in Illinois, Donnie Wahlberg whisked Jenny McCarthy away for a surprise vow renewal ceremony to mark their anniversary.

Returning to Turks and Caicos, where they got engaged in April 2014, the couple recommitted to each other with McCarthy donning a plunging, blush gown and Wahlberg dressed in white.

“We were on vacation when I proposed to her with myself and Evan, my step-son, and we’re literally going back to the same spot, so it’s going to be really special,” Wahlberg recently told us while planning the secret getaway. “She doesn’t know the exact plans yet.”

The couple started dating in 2013 and tied the knot at Hotel Baker in St. Charles, Illinois, where all of Wahlberg’s New Kids on the Block bandmates watched on as McCarthy walked down the aisle in a gorgeous, strapless Di Santo gown.

Photo: Brian Babineau / Instagram @brian_babs_babineau
Photo: Brian Babineau / Instagram @brian_babs_babineau

Reflecting on the five years since, Wahlberg says marriage is so much better the second time around. “I had no idea how much better it would actually be,” he says. “It gets better and better every day! This was a forever thing for us and we’re fully committed to the relationship. We work at it all the time. When I look back at the first and second year, I think of how far we’ve come and we often talk about how we’re growing closer and more connected.”

McCarthy echoed Wahlberg’s sentiments while talking to us in 2017 about her “fairytale” relationship. “There’s no doubt that comes from the experience of having gone through the nightmares before and putting work into it now,” she said. “It’s not like we never have problems, but we know if [we do] it’s an opportunity to look inside and say, ‘Does this remind me of something from my past that I need to work on?’  We’re able to love each other and not put expectations on each other to make each other happy and that’s a big one when it comes to relationships.”

One of the biggest lessons that Wahlberg says the pair learned from their previous marriages is putting their relationship above and beyond every other aspect of their lives. McCarthy was previously married to director and actor John Asher (with whom she has 17-year-old son Evan,) while Wahlberg’s ex-wife Kim Fey (mother to his two sons, Xavier, 26, and Elijah, 18) worked in the music business. The lessons of those showbiz marriages have proved valuable when it comes to their current nuptials. McCarthy juggles her Sirius XM radio show with business ventures like her mixers line Blondies and fashion brand Jenny McCarthy Collection, plus her judging gig on The Masked Singer. Meanwhile, Wahlberg recently wrapped the New Kids on the Block’s Mixtape Tour and his family’s reality series, Wahlburgers, and is now back to work on Blue Bloods, while continuing to plan further NKOTB fun, new television projects and help his family run their ever-expending Wahlburgers chain.

“There are a lot more demands schedule-wise, but we’ve built our relationship in such a healthy way that it’s much easier now for us to do all these things because we have such a solid foundation that it’s not problematic [juggling] everything,” Wahlberg says.

“I think we both learned in our first marriages that we were young and had aspirations and all these different things going on [which didn’t always make] the relationship come first. Now, it comes before everything,” he continues. “Jenny didn’t just say, ‘I’m going to go and do The Masked Singer in L.A.’ We talked through the process and what it was going to be like for the relationship when she’s gone, and I made sure I could be around to stay with the kids before we would commit. And, it’s the same with a New Kids tour, whereas before it was like, ‘Hey I got a movie, I’m going to go do it, bye!’ We’ve learned from the past and the relationship takes precedent over everything and I think in order to make a marriage work that has to be the case.”

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As for what helps them stay connected while dealing with the challenges of juggling their careers, since they are often on opposite sides of the country, Wahlberg says, “We have rules like the five-day rule where we can’t go five days without being together no matter what our work situation is.

He adds, “We sleep together every night even if we’re not together – we’ll just FaceTime sleep! Technology has allowed us to spend nights together and do our pillow talk.”

Renewing their vows every year on their anniversary has also helped them stay true to their promises to each other. Wahlberg previously documented their 2018’s vows renewal on Instagram Live, taking a blindfolded McCarthy to an airport hangar for the ceremony, before the couple jetted off. The previous year, they headed to St. Charles’ Arcada Theater to renew their vows on their third anniversary.

“Donnie had the idea with our first anniversary of renewing our vows and it was such a beautiful experience to reconnect,” McCarthy said shortly after the third anniversary celebration. “People renew their driver’s license every five years! It’s a recommitment to our love and if you live busy lives, to slow down for 15 minutes to renew your vows… there’s nothing more romantic.”

It’s such efforts that have made the pair frequently referred to as “couple goals,” by fans. Wahlberg’s biggest relationship tip is that people ensure they’re more than their partner’s best friend, pointing out there are things he shares with McCarthy that his closest friends will never know.

“[The reason] we’re couples goals is because we have goals – to grow individually and collectively,” he says. “And the only way we can grow as a couple is to grow as individuals. If one of us is struggling with insecurity or something, we count on each other to do the work to grow through that, and hold a light for each other to get through things as a team. We do see a lot of ‘#couplegoals’ and it’s because we have the goal of making this marriage last forever and doing whatever it takes to make that happen.”

The two also honoured Saturday’s anniversary on social media, with Wahlberg gushing how blessed he felt to be husband to a “queen.” “It took forty five years for me to find you, or you to find me, or for us to find each other, or for whomever had this grand plan to unite our spirits — as they were always intended to be — but forty five years is a small amount of time to invest in finding something as wonderful as this love,” he wrote.

McCarthy meanwhile promised to “grow young” with Wahlberg (who recently celebrated his 50th birthday) “until the end of eternity. And that includes every lifetime we reincarnate into.”

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During their years together, their strong bond has also evolved into working together more and more. The two previously starred in the reality series, Donnie Loves Jenny, and also co-produced and appeared on NKOTB bandmate Joey McIntyre’s series, Return of the Mac. Wahlberg and his brothers, Mark and Paul, also welcomed self-confessed “Blockhead” McCarthy into their family business by bringing her mixers line, Blondies, onto their Wahlburgers menu.

“It’s hard to be around them because what you see is true – they are deeply, madly in love, ad nauseam,” jokes big brother and Wahlburgers executive chef Paul Wahlberg, about observing the couple. “They’re very cuddly, very close and you never know when Donnie will suddenly be FaceTiming Jenny. He’ll suddenly go, ‘Hey, look it’s Jenny!’ She’s his soulmate and the two of them found each other and it’s just awesome. And she’s so nice all the time, as is Donnie. They’re perfect for each other.”

When it comes to working together, it’s only the beginning for the couple, with Wahlberg revealing that they have several more ideas and joint projects on their minds.

“There’s a bunch of stuff in development,” he says. “Jenny and I are looking to work together more. I think in a perfect world we’ll be sitting together on a set, a lot. That might be behind a desk or on a sofa in a talk show capacity or it could be on a sitcom, but our goal is to work together as much as possible and I think we have a lot to offer so we’re looking forward to seeing where it’s going to go.”