Love Is Blind's Jessica Batten Is Engaged to Boyfriend Benjamin McGrath: 'On Cloud Nine'
Jessica Batten is ready to turn her "I Don't" into an "I Do."
The Love Is Blind star — who famously ended her engagement to Mark Cuevas on the Netflix reality show by saying "I don't" — got engaged to her boyfriend of a year-and-a-half, California-based foot and ankle surgeon Benjamin McGrath, on Sept. 10.
"I don't think it has quite sunk in, but I'm definitely floating somewhere on cloud nine," Batten tells PEOPLE exclusively. "It's been really, really exciting!"
McGrath, 35, proposed to Batten, 34, at Akash Winery in Temecula, California, with all of their family and friends on hand to celebrate.
"It was quite sneaky," the Illinois native says with a laugh. "We'd been planning on my dad being in town that weekend for the Bears-Rams football game, but then my dad made a change to his itinerary at the last minute. I thought that was a little strange, but then he said he would plan dinner for all of us on Friday night. I didn't think too much about it. Then Friday came and Ben said, 'Hey, I ran late in surgery and hit traffic, can you just meet me at this winery? We're having dinner there.'"
"So I got in the car with my dad and my step-mom to head to the winery, and I could tell my dad was prolonging things," she continues. "I think Ben was still setting up. But anyway, we make it out to the winery, and it was just a gorgeous night. I walk out and this woman meets me and takes my purse, which I thought was a little strange. She said, 'Let me escort you down into the vineyard.' I'm like, 'Oh we're getting a wine tour!'"
What was waiting for Batten in the vineyard ended up being even better than she could have imagined.
"I walked down into the vineyard, and one of the aisles of grapes had rose petals all the way down to this gorgeous arch with roses all around it," she says. "Ben was standing there, and I pretty much knew at that point what was happening. So I just started getting overwhelmed with emotion. When I walked down, the first thing he said was, 'I want you to remember this moment for the rest of your life.'"
As the sun was setting behind the mountains, McGrath got down on one knee and popped the big question with a round brilliant ring from Mark Broumand. In the background, their favorite JP Saxe song, "Line by Line," was playing.
"I was totally overwhelmed," she says. "The best part was — and I had planned this for whatever he asked me — I recited this line from Suits because we had watched eight or nine seasons together when we were long distance: 'Do I have brains in my head? Do I have a heart in my chest?' So that's what I said instead of 'yes.' We were both crying!"
As Batten and McGrath then shared a kiss, she says she could hear cheering nearby.
"As we start walking back to the winery I see all of my best friends who had flown in from all over the place," she says. "Ben's brother had even flown in from Jordan, and his entire family was there. There were all of these people there to celebrate us. It was super cool."
Afterwards, Batten and McGrath celebrated their happy news with family and friends and enjoyed a night of music by DJ Sammy and food by the Naughty Pig Butcher Shop. Floral designer Brandi Nicole did all of the floral arrangements.
While Batten has yet to share her big news with her Love Is Blind castmates, she plans on telling some of them soon.
"I'll probably reach out to Gigi [Gibelli], Diamond [Jack] and Kelly [Chase] and let them know," she says. "But so far we're still on family. We both have pretty big families and a lot of close friends. But yeah, I think I'll definitely let those three know, as well as Kenny [Barnes]."
Batten recognizes she's come a long way since Love Is Blind first started streaming in February 2020.
"It was such a weird time, and I was definitely experiencing some hate when the original show came out," she says. "It was like, kind of like that Taylor Swift song, 'Reputation.'"
RELATED: The Celebrity Engagements of 2021
But not everything to come out of the show was negative. McGrath actually reached out to Batten on Instagram after watching her on it. They then decided to meet for a bike ride in March 2020, right before California was sent into lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It was crazy timing," Batten says. "We were the epitome of a COVID couple. Between COVID and long distance, we had to find ways to make our relationship work, but it also was great timing because he was supposed to go visit his brother in Jordan and that got postponed. He wasn't able to go on that trip so we were able to spend that time together. I would have been on the road traveling for work too. So I think COVID actually brought us together."
With McGrath based near his practice in Murrieta, California, and Batten an hour-and-a-half away in Los Angeles, the couple had to do "a lot of FaceTiming," she says.
"We watched Suits together on FaceTime, which is kind of creepy now thinking back on that," she says with a laugh. "Then we would just hang out on the weekends when he was able to. We would stay in, and it's a great way to get to know someone."
"I feel like when you usually start dating someone, it's a lot of entertainment and doing things, but we were forced to be home getting to know each other," she adds. "I still remember we went on our first date to a steakhouse, and it was after we had been together, I think, seven months."
The couple have since moved in together and gotten close to each other's families, including McGrath's two kids from a previous relationship and Batten's dog Payton, who Batten says is "very happy to have a new dad."
"I mean, I could never have imagined somebody loving her more," she says. "I even think it competes with my love for her. It's wild. But it's grown over time. She actually plays dead all day while I'm home working, and then when Ben gets home with the kids, she just goes wild."
Throughout their relationship, Batten says there wasn't just one moment where she knew he was "the one," but rather a series of "little things that showed he was different."
"He kept showing up," she says. "And seeing him form a relationship with Payton and seeing him be a dad, all those things were really important. We moved in together about five months ago, and we got so much closer when we moved in together. So it's probably been since May or June that I really knew that this [engagement] was something that I wanted."
RELATED VIDEO: Jessica Batten On Why She Showed Up to 'Love Is Blind: After the Altar' Alone to 'Face the Music'
As for what keeps their relationship strong, Batten credits weekly meetings on Wednesdays in which they "communicate anything that we need to get out."
"Otherwise we find that we bottle things up, and that doesn't go well," she says. "So every Wednesday we have a little meeting where we talk about our relationship and how we're feeling. It's a little business-y, but I think we've both been in relationships in the past that were not so good, and we've learned from those that a strong friendship, strong respect and open communication are really important. We try to lead with those things in our relationship."
The engagement, combined with the support she's gotten since sharing her side of the story on the Love Is Blind: After the Altar reunion that aired over the summer, has Batten feeling "overwhelmed."
"I've received nothing but an overload of love and support, and I couldn't have asked for more than that," she says.
Now Batten can focus on the wedding — but first, she and McGrath are going on a getaway to Mexico.
"I'm thinking once we get to Cabo, we'll start talking about what we think we want for the wedding and things like that," she says. "But we're still very much in celebration mode and letting our closest friends and family know the news."
- Travis Barker Played 'Big Part' in Kourtney Kardashian's Engagement Ring Design, Says Lorraine Schwartz
- Scott Disick Is 'Not Happy' About Kourtney Kardashian's Engagement to Travis Barker, Source Says
- From Avril Lavigne to 3OH!3, Rock Out with PEOPLE at Las Vegas' Emo Nite Experience
- First-Ever Grease Night Is Coming to Dancing with the Stars — See the Cast in Rehearsals