“I was more nervous asking her father for permission than anything,” Chmerkovskiy, 32, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.
Related Video: Dancing with the Stars' Val Chmerkovskiy and Jenna Johnson Are Engaged!
During a vacation in Italy, Chmerkovskiy lured Johnson to St. Mark’s Square in Venice for a pre-dinner drink and asked her to slow dance outside of a café.
“Then he said, ‘I promised myself when I met the girl of my dreams, I’d take her to Venice and propose — and this is me proposing,’ ” Johnson, 24, recalls of the moment. “I was literally shocked.”
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Chmerkovskiy worked with Jacob Arabo of Jacob & Co. to design Johnson’s rectangular cushion-cut diamond ring and secretly kept it in his backpack during the trip so Johnson couldn’t find it. “I think I hoped it would happen,” says Johnson of the engagement. “But before we left, I literally went through all of his luggage and so I kind of prepared myself, ‘Okay, it’s not happening right now.’ “
“I don’t know how she missed it,” adds Chmerkovskiy. “But I was very happy that she did!”
He also hired a local camera crew to document the entire proposal, unbeknownst to Johnson. “I’m so grateful he planned that. I look at the pictures and watch the video every day,” she says.
“Every day!” Chmerkovskiy confirms, laughing, with Johnson adding, “I got to show my parents since they weren’t there. They got to relive it with us.”
RELATED VIDEO: Dancing with the Stars‘ Val Chmerkovskiy and Jenna Johnson Are Engaged!
Now planning for their wedding next year, the couple is most excited about bringing their loved ones together to celebrate. “We both come from very big, passionate families, and so it’s going to be fun to have them all in one place,” Johnson says. “I can’t wait!”
Chmerkovskiy insists it’s going to be similar to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding meets Eastern Promises meets Meet the Parents,” he says. “A big reason why I fell in love with Jenna was how much she cherishes her family. And my family means the world to me. Our families are very different but the common denominator is love. Together we can build a bigger family and create a bigger village.”
When it comes to having kids, Johnson is anxious to have “little Vals running around,” she says. “We’re literally both the same person, just male and female, so I can’t wait to see how intense and competitive and passionate about life our kids are too.”
Chmerkovskiy will be just as happy to see little “Valeries” running around as well. “I think Jenna’s going to be an incredible mom,” he says. “She’s already an amazing companion and I love her very much for many reasons — her loyalty and ambition and passion for life in general.”
He adds, “I know our future is bright because together we can do anything we want to do. I can’t wait to have her by my side.”
Season 27 of Dancing With the Stars premieres Monday on ABC.
For more details inside Val Chmerkovskiy and Jenna Johnson’s engagement, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.