Why Gretchen Rossi Is Still Hitting Pause on Her Fairy Tale Wedding – 3 Years After an Over-the-Top 'RHOC' Proposal

Gretchen Rossi proposed to Slade Smiley in April 2013

Photo: Wenn

In April 2013, Real Housewives of Orange County audiences watched Gretchen Rossi flipped the script and proposed to her longtime boyfriend, Slade Smiley. Fast-forward three years, the happy couple is still engaged and confirms that “technically the wedding planning is in full-force,” but they haven’t marked a date on the calendar for a variety of personal reasons.

Rossi and Smiley, who will celebrate eight years together in February, plan to have a destination wedding for their big day, but hope to welcome a baby first.

“Really, the thing that ultimately held us back from pulling the trigger is the fact that Slade and I don’t do anything really small; we kind of do things over-the-top and a little snazzy. Right now, our focus is really on trying to have a baby of our own, and our money and our stuff is going towards that and towards his son,” 37-year-old Rossi exclusively tells PEOPLE. “Until we kind of get some of those things figured out, I think it doesn’t feel right to spend $200,000 on a wedding right this minute. I think that’s why we’re at that place.”

She says of having her big day with a white dress: “That is definitely my hope and dream. We’re just putting our resources into other things that are a little bit more of a priority for us right now. Once we feel like it’s appropriate to spend that kind of money on the type of wedding that we would like, then we will definitely consider that.”

Though the couple hopes to have a formal wedding, they aren’t in a rush to say their nuptials for anyone else’s sake.

“The truth is that Slade and I already feel married and we’re in a very committed relationship as if we were married, and so it’s not something that we feel like we have to have a marriage certificate to qualify our love for each other,” she says.

So what is the couple hoping for when it comes time to walk down the aisle? Rossi tells PEOPLE that they both have “always had kind of this vision and dream to get married in a castle.”

“Every castle that we found and looked at was in Italy or some really far away place. The more that we looked at that we just thought, ‘Gosh, that would be so difficult to get our family and friends to that type of a location.’ So we started looking for anything here in the States that would resemble a castle-like feel,” she tells PEOPLE. “We came across the Biltmore and we were so taken back by it. It’s such a breathtaking property. It’s just so beautiful. I think every girl wants to feel like a princess on her wedding day, and I think that kind of sets the theme for that.”

She also revealed that fellow Housewife NeNe Leakessecond wedding served as inspiration.

“We really want our wedding to be a full weekend event where there’s something to do every day and everybody is coming in and really enjoying themselves. That’s our vision. When we went to NeNe Leakes and Gregg’s wedding, that’s what they did. They really made it an event for all their guests all weekend long. It was such a memorable wedding that we both said to each other, ‘That’s the kind of feel and the kind of experience that we want all our guests to have.’ That’s kind of what is in our mind when it comes to the Biltmore,” she says of the North Carolina property.

RELATED VIDEO: Gretchen Sets the Record Straight

When it comes to guest count, Rossi says “100 would be perfect for me.” And for hopeful fans who are eager to witness Rossi and Smiley say “I do” from their television screens, the Bravo alum says there’s a possibility – if the circumstances are right.

“We want it to be very authentic to our love and to how we feel for each other, and I just think that it has to be the right network and the right channel for us to say yes to that,” Rossi says of televising the event. “I really want it to truly to be more of a true documentary rather than a reality, soapy-type documentary that’s berating.”

As the couple looks to the future, they’re reflective of their past and the hurdles they overcame that built the committed relationship they’re in today.

“As [viewers] know watching us on the show, we’ve gone through hell and high water to stay together and be at where we’re at,” Rossi says of her 42-year-old fiancé. “We’ve both sacrificed so much for each other and that day is going to be such a special, special day for us. I’m really looking forward to that day.”

The Real Housewives of Orange County airs Mondays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.

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