Survivor: China‘s Jaime Dugan and Erik Huffman may not have won the prize money when they were voted off the island last year, but the couple won the ultimate prize: love.
Dugan, 23, and Huffman, 27, who got engaged a couple of months ago in Charleston, S.C., are revealing the details of his proposal – which took place during a fake photo shoot elaborately planned by Huffman – and their romance.
“When I turned around and saw him on his knee, I thought he was doing a really weird pose,” Dugan tells PEOPLE exclusively. “Slowly it started to sink in. I was thrilled.”
The couple met on Survivor: China in 2007 and learned that they’d grown up just 25 miles apart in South Carolina and had even attended some of the same concerts. When they returned home after being voted off the show, Huffman called her the next day and invited her to dinner. “Life has been a whirlwind ever since,” he says.
Since then, the couple moved to Nashville, where Huffman is a musician in his band Florez. Dugan works for Mercy Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit group that helps young women with addictions.
Finding it difficult to plan a long-distance wedding, the couple decided to enter a wedding contest in Charleston, S.C., and submitted a video to “help make our wedding dreams come true,” Huffman says in the clip. Last week, they learned they were one of four finalists.
Still surprised that she met her husband-to-be on the other side of the world, Dugan says, “It was worth eating snails and worms.”