Monica Rizzo
August 03, 2009 12:00 PM

On Jan. 3 Dallas insurance agent Tye Strickland woke up with a plan: to marry his former girlfriend Melissa Rycroft. There was just one problem: Rycroft had gone on ABC’s The Bachelor as a contestant and ended up getting engaged to Jason Mesnick. “I called her, spilled my heart out and said, ‘I love you and I’m going to marry you,’ and she hung up on me,” says Strickland, who, undeterred, called back and vowed that “I would wait and be there for her.”

He did just that, helping Rycroft pick up the pieces when her engagement ended later that month and cheering her on during her triumphant third-place finish on Dancing with the Stars. And true to his plan, he finally popped the question to her on June 25 at White’s Chapel in Southlake, Texas. Strickland, 28, read several Bible passages before getting down on one knee and pulling out the ring. “I saw it and just screamed,” says Rycroft, 26, who tearfully said yes.

While the couple have set a wedding date, “we want to keep it private,” says Rycroft, still giddy from admiring the platinum-and-diamond engagement ring. “It will be a big party. I just want it to be a fun day everyone will remember.”

And a day decidedly without the Bachelor camera crews that recorded both her engagement to and breakup with Mesnick. Still, “as rough as the times we’ve been through, it makes you appreciate the good ones that much more,” says Rycroft. “No disrespect [to Mesnick], but to me, this is my one engagement. Tye is my true love.”

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