Houston couple Jay Patel and Alexis Preston’s journey to the alter started with a proposal fit for a princess.
After scoring a last minute reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Castle during a 2016 trip to Disney World, Patel got caught up in the moment — the chandeliers! the fireworks outside! — and got down on one knee.
“He was like, ‘Please don’t freak out because I don’t have the ring, but will you marry me?’ And I said, yes,” Preston tells PEOPLE. “I had a Mickey ring from Pandora for a few days and then when we came home I got my actual engagement ring.”
The couple, who’ve known each other since 2007, started planning their big day last summer, and they even considered returning to Disney World for the wedding. But, “we realized it was way too expensive even to have a small group,” Preston says.
So they moved forward trying to adhere to a strict budget and incorporate cultural traditions (Patel’s parents are Hindu, while he and Preston are Christian), and landed on a church wedding followed by a brunch reception in Houston in December.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August, destroying their home and car, wedding talk halted. “Once Harvey hit we stopped thinking about it all together probably until like February or March of this year,” Preston, a teacher’s aide, says. “We didn’t have flood insurance or anything.”
But just like a fairy tale, Patel and Preston found out on Good Morning America May 2 that they were selected from over 2,500 couples to get married in front of Disney World’s Cinderella Castle in a wedding complete with all the royal trappings.
“We thought we had seven months,” Preston says, referring to their original wedding plans. “And then when GMA showed up at our house we went from seven months to seven days.”
Patel and Preston, who visit Disney roughly every other year, were the perfect pick for a regal Disney affair. “If I’m not watching Disney movies, I’m watching documentaries on the royal family,” she admits. “That is literally the only two things that if I’m on Netflix I’m watching.”
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The pair flew to Florida on Saturday and spent the week leading up to their Thursday nuptials making arrangements. Preston selected her princess dress from an array of 30 Kleinfeld gowns flown in from New York City, and got picked up at 2:45 am to start getting ready to say “I do” on TV.
“I was really calm all morning,” says Preston, who arrived at the ceremony in Cinderella’s Glass coach, pulled by six white ponies. “Then I teared up a few times because I got ready in the Cinderella suite and that’s a great come true. The second I saw Jay, that was the first time that I cried. I was so excited and he had his eyes closed. He was waiting to see me so that amped up that anticipation of seeing each other.”
And of course, Jay cried too once Preston walked down the aisle to royal trumpeters, joined by Cinderella‘s Major Domo, flower girls and page boy. Some guests even wore fascinators.
“I was shocked because Jay is not a crier,” Preston continues. “I was like, well either he’s going to love my dress or he’s going to be like, Alexis, you are obnoxious. Well if you’re getting married at the castle, you gotta own it. Go big or go home! He definitely was full on crying. He had trouble saying his vows because he was crying.”
When it came time to kiss the bride, Preston was surprised by a royal detail she only dreamed of: confetti cannons!
“Jay and I are having our first kiss and there’s confetti cannons. I’ve always wanted them at my wedding and they didn’t even ask,” she gushes. “That was the most magical part of it.”
The newlyweds will spend the rest of their wedding day riding the rides and having fun in Magic Kingdom before watching the fireworks from their suite in Cinderella’s Castle.
“I think I’m just going to get a lot of snacks, hunker down and try to soak in every moment,” she says. “I’ll be like, well Meghan Markle, I can relate to you on a very small level; with the cameras, and the planning and the people coming at you from every angel and it being filmed. But I also know theirs is on a grander scale.”
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Preston and Patel, a high school engineering teacher, might even bump into Prince Harry and Markle this summer when they take their honeymoon to France and England, courtesy of Disney.
“Disneyland Paris and Buckingham Palace will definitely be on the list of go-to spots,” Preston says. “I’m trying to like process that we still have a honeymoon that we get to go on the other side of the world! I feel overwhelmingly princess-y!”