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Leave it to Tarek El Moussa to flip his entire wedding plan.
Mere months after the Flip or Flop personality proposed to Selling Sunset's Heather Rae Young in the ultimate realtor reality TV merger, the Newport Beach, Calif.-based pair announced they'd already locked in a date and a venue on California's Catalina Island.
But as the detail planning commenced, they realized they were desperately in need of a renovation.
"I noticed that she was super stressed out even with the help of our wedding planner and I could just tell something was off," El Moussa noted on Instagram in August. "At this point we had already decided on our wedding location and sent out our save the dates but it's not official until it's official and I wanted to make sure this was fun and enjoyable for Heather so... we decided to switch everything up."
That meant hiring a different wedding planner, Young noted in her own social media post, and sending out "new save the dates that said 'just kidding' on them." In place of their original venue, El Moussa detailed, he began "pulling some strings, working some magic, and was able to surprise her by securing our dream spot."
Because why shouldn't the lead up to their wedding feel as seamless and simply meant-to-be as their entire two-year romance?
"It's incredible to think how much life can change in a short period of time," El Moussa raved on social media in January. "I love this girl more and more by the day!"
So who cares that the budget has long since been blown? (Heather's taste is "more expensive than any female I've ever met," he recently admitted to E! News.) The 40-year-old dad to Taylor, 11, and Brayden, 6, and his 34-year-old bride-to-be have been reveling in every last tasting, first dance practice and a joint bachelor-bachelorette party weekend in Palm Desert, Calif., that saw them enjoying a '80s-themed pool party.
"Heather and I have always been on the same page about the wedding since day one," El Moussa noted on Instagram, "we want it to be a really fun celebration, but we also want it to be special and a celebration about us spending the rest of our lives with each other and as a family. There's nothing more important than her and our family and we can't wait for the day to reflect and celebrate that."
As El Moussa recalled, the charming model-slash-high-end-realtor walked right onto his 50-foot luxury yacht and into his life just as he'd begun to worry he'd never find the right buyer for his heart. "I hit rock bottom," he admitted to E! News last year. "I found myself in some lonely, dark places."
In mid-2019, not quite four years removed from his stunning split with former wife and continued Flip or Flop costar Christina Haack, he was still single following a few dalliances that seemed promising at first but ultimately didn't lead to his forever home.
"On July 3rd, I was a broken, lost, sad man," he explained during his spectacular July 2020 proposal. "July 4th, you stepped onto my boat, I saw you, my heart stopped and I fell in love with you right away."
Four days later, "She moved in and we never looked back," El Moussa, who also fronts HGTV's Flipping 101 and Tarek's Flip Side, shared in a January Instagram post. "Everyone said I was crazy but here we are engaged almost two years later."
It was hardly an unexpected finale. Mere weeks after that successful first date, he confirmed just how far gone he was during an August 2019 appearance on E!'s Daily Pop.
"This is a new word for me, I never thought I'd say this word again, but this beautiful young lady, Heather Rae, is my girlfriend, officially, yeah," he shared. "She's just, I feel really, really lucky to have met her. We have so many things in common. She's amazing."
He'd fallen hard for her work ethic, he continued, and her heart: "I've been on my own for close to three-and-a-half years now and to finally find someone again, it's a really big deal for me, because a few months ago if you would have asked me, I would say 'I'm gonna be on my own forever and I'm happy being alone,' and you know what, I realize what I was missing now."
Even the stay-at-home orders that came down eight months into their relationship couldn't dull their honeymoon stage bliss.
"We are best friends. So I get to wake up to my best friend every day," Young explained to E! News in May 2020 when asked how quarantine was going. "I get to go to sleep with my best friend every day and honestly it's made us even stronger, if we could even get stronger. I just told him last night, I'm excited about every day because I get to see him. Like, we are so in love and so happy."
Behind closed doors, Young got an unvarnished look at what she called "the real Tarek," the sweet, romantic charmer that's been pulling out the big rom-com worthy guns since that first intense Fourth of July introduction. "We flirt with each other still. You know he'll walk by me and he'll just grab me and kiss me," she shared with E! News. "We'll joke with each other and we just always, you know, I'm still getting dressed up for him. I'll do my hair, I'll do my makeup, I'll put on something cute, and I'll make us dinner."
He, in turn, never hesitates to say it with flowers or, you know a Ferrari. "Like, the romance has been from the very beginning," she noted on an October 2020 episode of Flipping 101 with Tarek El Moussa, "and it's going to be the rest of our lives."
Take the Catalina Island getaway he'd arranged for their official first anniversary on July 22, 2020.
They'd done a bit of off-roading, indulged in some spa treatments and then, ahead of their planned dinner, "He had a glam team waiting for me at our hotel room," she detailed to E! News. "He had a stylist there with a rack full of beautiful dresses, perfect size shoes, jewelry, a makeup artist, hair. He made everything so special for me."
Though she was hopeful there was a particular reason she'd want to be camera-ready, "I just thought you were being super extra romantic," she shared on Flipping 101.
Which he was, sourcing the perfect emerald-cut ring ("I had diamonds flying in from all around the world," he told E! News), reserving a private beach and lining it with rose petals before dropping to one knee to ask his "best friend in the world," to remain by his side forever. "I'm so in love with her, and she really changed my life," he explained. "And I'm a different man today because of her."
Her yes, she later shared, was "the best decision of my life."
By that point she'd already cemented her place in the El Moussa household, stepping into her step-mother mode, his daughter Taylor gushing to People that she "felt this bond" with Young the first time they met. "She's so nice, she does all this kind stuff," continued the fifth grader. "I love hanging out with her."
Particularly now that their outings involve, say, selecting the perfect Galia Lahav gown for Young to wear down the aisle and helping Taylor plan what Young called "the most beautiful dress" in a recent chat with E! News.
"We just involve them with everything down to Taylor going shopping with Heather to look at dresses," El Moussa told E! News of that September 2020 excursion. "We wanted the kids to be really, really involved because we're a family and we're just really excited about it."
The cozy foursome—who remain tight with Haack, she and Young often exchanging texts about the kids, dinner recipes and even flowers this past Mother's Day—have already developed their own set of inside jokes. That includes their habit of saying, "Yes, sir Mr. El Moussa" and "Yes, ma'am, Mrs. El Moussa" what Young called the "special thing that we do around the house," turning into an all-together misunderstood tattoo she got as a surprise for her soon-to-be spouse.
"I did it as something special for my fiancé, my future husband," she explained on E!'s Daily Pop in February as fans took issue with the somewhat subservient-seeming messaging. "I will be Mrs. El Moussa, so this is my name."
Once she's officially announced as his "wifey" in what she hopes will be "a huge amazing party" put together by the team at Pure Lavish Events she's already trusted with her bridal shower and El Moussa's surprise 40th birthday bash in August, it's off to the Maldives for a week and a half of relaxation. "That's going to be incredible," El Moussa recently raved to E! News. "We got a house on slits on the water for 10 days and then we fly to Dubai. We spend a few days in Dubai and then fly home."
Back in the States, the pair are eager to settle into a happily ever after at their renovated Newport Beach spread that looks a lot like the life they've been living the past few years.
"I already feel like I have two kids," she explained on E!'s Daily Pop in June about not adding on to their family any time in the near future. (Save for Bugz El Moussa, the teensy pup that joined the crew last month.)
"I'm raising Tarek's babies, and we have them 50 percent of the time. I am such a good bonus mommy. I adore those kids. I raise them like they're mine," she noted. So combine that with their dueling reality television shows, the businesses that make those TV careers possible and, "Right now our household is freakin' crazy," she continued. "I'm filming TV shows, I'm raising kids, I'm building businesses."
And reveling in every last second of it, BTW.
"I never knew how much love I had to give until I came into these babies' lives and as of now I can't see myself wanting to add another into the family," she added in a subsequent Instagram post. "The kind of family we have is special and my heart is so full already that I really don't feel the need for more."
She's already a "super mom" as El Moussa put it to E! News, noting, "She's definitely a bonus mom." Right now, he agreed, they're not in the market to expand their family, "But there's one thing I know about life is that you can't predict the future."
For now, though, the present is pretty effing great.
"I feel lucky that I have this type of relationship," Young gushed to E! News ahead of their engagement. "It's something that I've always wanted and I've always believed in, and, now that I have it, I feel so happy and so lucky that I found him. We're best friends and we just laugh and we have the best time together. We're still in our honeymoon period and I hope to be forever in our honeymoon period."