When Survivor: Fiji winner Earl Cole was named one of PEOPLE’s Sexiest Bachelors in 2007, he said he was “looking for laughter. If you laugh at my jokes and I laugh at yours, then we have a lot in common.”
Cole, 39, has found his match in L.A.-area pharmacist Shelley Lee. “We laugh a lot,” he tells PEOPLE. “That’s the main thing. She laughs at my jokes, and that’s excellent. That makes her a keeper.”
Cole and Lee were wed Saturday in a sunset beach ceremony at the St. Regis Princeville Resort on Kauai before family, friends and a couple of Survivor veterans, including Bobby Mason from Panama: Exile Island.
The island setting was appropriate. “I knew I wanted it to be somewhere nice and I always wanted a beach wedding, outdoorsy, and she did, too,” says Cole, a Santa Monica-based advertising executive. “I always wanted it to be simple, not 10 groomsmen looking like a basketball team.”
The couple met in the summer of 2006 at a bar. On one of their first dates, a reality-show casting director asked if they would want to do The Amazing Race.
“She didn’t want to do it,” Cole says. “She didn’t have time. A week later, the same person called me and said, ‘We need somebody for Survivor. You want to be on?’ Just like that. So this girl I’m dating, I leave for two months of no-talking in the middle of dating!”
In fact, the pair parted ways for a while after he returned from Fiji and in the wake of his Survivor fame. “A year afterward was when we met again,” Cole says, “and we continued where we left off.”
Now Lee will get a small dose of reality TV herself when Cole’s fans tune in to The Style Network’s Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? this summer to see how the in-laws, who have never met each other, blend cultures and families during their wedding celebration. The series itself premieres July 10.
“At first I was a little reluctant to put my private life out there,” Cole says, “but you know what? I’m okay with announcing this to the world. This is the girl that I love, this is the woman I want to be with, that I want to have a family with, and here we are, everybody!”