"I told her fiancé, 'It's a lot of work. But anything worthwhile is,' " Al Roker tells PEOPLE

By Dave Quinn
April 16, 2020 06:39 PM
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Al Roker

Al Roker had more than a sneaking suspicion that his daughter’s engagement was on the way.

On Thursday, the longtime NBC weatherman and co-host of the network’s 3rd Hour of Today spoke to PEOPLE about his eldest child’s happy news, revealing that Courtney Roker’s now-fiancé Wesley Laga reached out to ask for his blessing before popping the question.

“It was very nice,” Al, 65, recalls. “He texted me to say, ‘Can we get together? There is something I want to talk to you about.’ So I had an inkling and said, ‘Okay.’ We went to a local restaurant in our neighborhood that we’ve enjoyed, The Simone, and our friend Tina Vaughn — who is the owner there — gave us a corner table for some privacy. And he asked for my permission there.”

Of course, Al didn’t hesitate to say yes. “I told her fiancé, it’s a lot of work. But anything worthwhile is,” Al remembers.

In fact, he says he’s pretty easy going when it comes to who his kids date.

“I’m like any father, and it doesn’t matter if you’re marrying one of my daughters or you’re a friend of my son’s, as long as you treat them well, then I’m Joe Friendly,” he explains. “If I feel that you’re not, then that’s another story. And that’s not a threat, I think every parent is like that. You welcome people, as long as they treat your kids well.”

“He’s a wonderful young man,” the television star boasts, of Laga. “They’ve been dating a little more than a year or so. She’s just happy, and that’s all you want for your kids.”

Courtney, 33, shared the good news on Instagram over the weekend.

“I said yes to my best friend last night and I am over the moon!” she wrote, captioning a photo of herself showing off her sparkling ring. “Thank you Wes for making me your partner in crime for life. I love you ❤️.”

She went on to explain that Laga had hoped to propose when the couple traveled to Paris, where her 21-year-old sister Leila Roker is currently studying, but that the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic kept them grounded.

Instead, Laga brought Paris to Courtney, “with the music, lights and live cam shot of the Eiffel Tower on our TV.”

“I give him an A for execution. He planned it very well,” Al says. “I think it’s a beautiful ring. … She was ecstatic, and we are all thrilled. It was really very special. We’re very, very happy.”

As for planning a wedding, that’s still far off, with the pandemic and all — a silver lining, for Al.

“It’s funny because, there’s such a question mark over planning things. It’s an interesting time. And it’s something we’ll figure out,” Al says. “The main thing is, they’re engaged, they’re happy.”

“As I always say, like any event, it really more is the planning than the actual event that brings you the most joy,” he says. “We’ll have extra joy because we’ll literally have more time to plan this.”

Al Roker, Deborah Roberts, and Nick Roker
Roy Rochlin/Getty

Al and his wife Deborah Roberts, 59 — who will be married 25 years this September — have yet to see Courtney and their future son-in-law in person, the couple socially distancing in their home upstate with their 17-year-old son, Nick Roker.

“We’ve had this home upstate for 22 years and this is the longest we’ve ever been up here,” Al jokes. “It’s a nice change of pace.”

During the day, both Rokers have been busy with work, Al broadcasting on Today from his family room while Deborah, a journalist herself, makes the occasional appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America.

“We’ve had it three times now where our hits were almost simultaneous,” Al explains, teasing, “We just have to get Nick a gig on Fox and we’ll be set!”

When off work, the family of three have been playing board games (Trouble, Uno, Taboo, and Sorry) and watching old movies. Al and Nick have even developed a cooking show each evening on Al’s Instagram page.

“Nature hates a vacuum, so we’re filling it this time on pause with lots of things,” Al says. “My son and I have the cook show, which has been so fun. My wife Deborah, who doesn’t often have time to cook a lot, made banana bread the other day. And then of course, we’re keeping in touch with Courtney and Leila, who has been kind of giving us an international take on this coronavirus as she files reports for her school paper. That’s been exciting.”

They’ve been reaching out more to others like they haven’t before, either, Al says. “Deborah started these family Zoom calls,” he explains. “She got on the phone with all of her siblings — which, of course, is a comedy unto itself when you get people above a certain age, trying to get them to unmute their phone or to turn their camera on or in my sister’s case, just to flip the camera around so it’s facing them so you can see them instead of their living room. And I’ve been having more phone conversations with old friends. We’ve got the time to do that.”

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And while he admits the pandemic hasn’t been easy, especially after his NBC News colleague Larry Edgeworth died from the virus, Al said he’s tried hard to find a lesson in all this.

“It is teaching us to appreciation those we live with, those we know, those who are friends, those who are coworkers,” Al says. “I guess we intrinsically supposedly know you’re not guaranteed tomorrow, nor is anybody in your orbit. But this kind of brings it home.”

Today airs weekdays on NBC beginning at 7 a.m.