Chip Gaines Proposed to Wife Joanna at a Mall — and without a Ring

The couple got engaged in December 2002 and tied the knot a few months later in May 2003

chip and joanna gaines cover portrait
Photo: Courtesy Chip & Joanna Gaines

Chip and Joanna Gaines' marriage started off in a rather unconventional way.

In a new special edition of PEOPLE, Chip & Joanna Gaines: 20 Years of Marriage and Magnolia, the couple revealed that Chip proposed to Joanna without a ring at a shopping mall — but he had a plan all along.

Once she said yes, he was able to bring her into a friend's jewelry store inside the mall where she was able to design her own engagement ring. The Fixer Upper couple got engaged in December, 2002, a little over a year after they started dating. They tied the knot a few months later in May 2003.

Joanna Gaines Instagram

This year they celebrate 20 years of marriage, during which they've had five children, starred in a hit show and built a home decor empire, most recently launching their own TV network.

Joanna recalls their early romance was a bit of an opposites attract situation as Chip was drawn to "outgoing" girls and she was attracted to more of the "quiet" guys, but they hit it off and stayed strong despite a a few small hiccups when they started dating — like when Chip said, "I love you" and Joanna replied, "Thanks."

chip and Joanna gaines book cover

"We both were like, 'This isn't really what we thought we'd end up with.' But now we realize it was a perfect thing for us," she told PEOPLE.

Despite nearly two decades of marriage, the couple shared that didn't come without its own challenges, especially early on.

"In the first months of our marriage, we were always flipping a house. We were working on this little shop. We had babies early in the process," Chip said. "We pretty quickly had to say, 'We're either going to go at each other and blow this thing up, you and I trying to fight each other about every nook and cranny, or we can figure out how to come together as a team.'"

Chip & Joanna Gaines at their family farm, January 2023 Magnolia Network Courtesy Chip & Joanna Gaines_ contact Taylor Dir. of Publicity for any additional usage
Chip & Joanna Gaines at their family farm, January 2023. Courtesy Chip & Joanna Gaines

They chose the latter and worked to strengthen their relationship as a couple.

"Jo and I — I don't know if it's our hearts — we're aligned in this sweet way to where we've just always been there for each other," Chip said.

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"When adversity came against us — when your natural tendency is [to be] almost the ugliest to those people you love, especially in times of real pressure — with Jo and I, we felt adversity and would get together like a little team and say, 'What do you think the problem is?' As opposed to maybe typically being like, 'Well, it's because of that thing you bought' or 'because of that dumb thing you did,'" he continued.

RELATED Video: 'I'm Over Reining It In': Joanna Gaines Opens Up in Sneak Peek from Her New Memoir

Learning how to communicate and address "adversity" within their marriage was ultimately beneficial for the couple, as Chip explained to PEOPLE, "We made each other stronger."

"The best is that we're growing together," Joanna added.

For more from the Gaineses, as well as interviews, recipes, and home ideas from Magnolia Network experts including the Maine Cabin Masters, Zoë François, Hilton Carter, chef Erin French, garden guru Jamila Norman, and many others, pick up PEOPLE's new special edition, Chip & Joanna Gaines: 20 Years of Marriage and Magnolia, available now wherever magazines are sold.

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