Newly Engaged Tarek El Moussa Told Daughter Taylor, 9, About Proposal Plan: A 'Big Girl' Secret
“That's the most excited I've ever seen her,” the HGTV star says of the moment he told Taylor of his plan to pop the question to girlfriend Heather Rae Young
“Taylor knew I was proposing before anybody else,” El Moussa, 38, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I actually told her right before Heather and I left for the trip, so she knew a few days before.”
The Flip or Flop star, 38, popped the question on Saturday night while he and Young, who stars on Netflix’s Selling Sunset, were celebrating their one-year anniversary with a boat trip to Catalina Island, California.
They left for the romantic getaway on Wednesday (the actual day of their anniversary), setting sail on El Moussa’s boat, “Bad Decisions,” which he purchased after splitting from ex-wife Christina Anstead in 2016. El Moussa shares Taylor, as well as son Brayden, 4, with Anstead.
“You know, she's nine years old, that was a big secret,” El Moussa says. “I was like, ‘Honey, I’ve got to tell you something. I really need you to be a big girl here.’ And she did it. She didn't tell anyone.”
Though she stayed mum the entire time, El Moussa says Taylor couldn’t help but keep checking in to see if her dad had popped the question while he and Young were away: “She texted me a million times that day saying, ‘Did you do it? Did you do it? Did you do it?’" Tarek laughs.
Since meeting El Moussa in July 2019 and confirming their relationship in early August, Young has quickly become a staple in his kids' lives, referring to herself as a “bonus mom."
In April, they moved into a kid-friendly beach house together in Newport Beach, where Young helped Taylor and Brayden design their own rooms.
Taylor fell head over heels for Young shortly after they met, El Moussa says, so when he told her his plans to propose she was beyond ready to officially welcome Young into the family.
“Oh my God, that's the most excited I've ever seen her,” the father of two says of the moment he told Taylor. “She was so thrilled. She just loves Heather, looks up to Heather, adores Heather, wants to be like Heather — it just makes me so happy.”
RELATED VIDEO: Tarek El Moussa and Heather Rae Young Show Off Their New Family Beach House: Our ‘Next Chapter’
Even though she didn’t know what was happening at the time, Young remembers what she was doing while El Moussa was sharing the secret with his daughter — and she’s impressed by how calm and collected Taylor acted immediately afterward.
“That morning that he told her I was downstairs with Brayden making breakfast,” Young recalls, “and Taylor came down and she didn't even lead on anything. I had no clue! She’s such a great girl.”
The happy couple video-called Taylor right after the proposal, and “she was so happy,” Young says.
The proposal was a total surprise for Young, who thought the trip was planned to celebrate their anniversary. She says she was stunned when she walked down a beach path lined with flower petals and flickering candles and found El Moussa waiting beneath two “kissing” palm trees.
An ombré flower arrangement using over 5,000 stems of Young's favorite blooms, including roses, peonies, dahlias, ranunculus, butterfly lisianthus and hydrangeas, cascaded down the palms. Shades of red and pink, Young's two favorite colors, made up the color scheme.
Dressed in a tuxedo, the HGTV star got down on one knee in the sand and asked for Young's hand in marriage. The father of two revealed that in preparation for the big moment, he secretly drove to Running Springs, CA, to ask her parents for their blessing, which they gave.
“I drove up to the mountains to tell her parents,” El Moussa recalls. “I rushed all the way up to Running Springs, a two-hour ride, sat down for like 15 minutes with her parents, told them my plans and I had to head back home."
“He came to meet me for yoga after and I had no clue,” Heather adds. “My parents kept it a secret and acted like nothing was happening. They're so excited. My mom was crying!”