Kaitlyn Smith never expected to be this happy.
After losing more than 208 lbs. naturally and undergoing three painful skin-removal surgeries, the PEOPLE.com blogger married her best friend over the weekend.
Smith, 21, tied the knot with Zach Woods, 24, in Destin, Florida on Saturday in front of 30 guests. The beachside ceremony was followed by a casual dinner at one of the bride’s favorite restaurants.
“I felt like a true princess!” she tells PEOPLE. “My fairy tale came true.”
Since the Portland, Tennessee-based couple got engaged in January, it’s been a whirlwind of preparation, says Smith. Shopping for a wedding dress after losing so much weight was particularly meaningful. “It was so nice to know that the dresses I was about to try on would actually fit!” she says.
Like many brides, she was careful about what she consumed leading up to the big event. “My eating was super strict and boring,” says the pharmacy technician. “I literally ate the same things each day – oatmeal, plain chicken, broccoli and hard-boiled eggs – plus lots of green tea and a gallon of water a day!”
But wedding planning also had its more reflective moments. “Every time I tried on a dress, I thought back to the time I didn’t even love myself and couldn’t imagine anyone else loving me. And now I’ve got my blessing.”
Smith, who weighed 414 lbs. in high school and lost the weight naturally through diet and exercise, says Woods stood by her through some of the hardest times of her life: her three skin-removal surgeries.
“He’s seen me at my absolute worst and still managed to make me feel like the most beautiful girl,” she says. “He’s the true definition of a gentleman. He’s honestly my best friend, my rock and my better half.”
And she never felt more beautiful than at her wedding. “I was so ready for everyone to see me!” she says. Her dress showed her arm and back scars, but she didn’t mind. “It’s a part of me.”
VIDEO: This Woman Lost 208 Lbs. – Here’s What She’s Doing Next
While the couple plans to remain in Florida for their honeymoon – “We’re already getting married in paradise, why not stay there?” – they have big plans when they get back to Tennessee.
“I’ll be starting school to become a dietician and specialize in pediatrics,” she says. “I feel like I went through all of this for a reason.”