In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Vanessa Grimaldi reveals that Josh Wolfe popped the question atop the Saint-Louis Gate in Quebec City

By Michele Corriston
August 10, 2020 01:56 PM
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The Bachelor season 21 winner Vanessa Grimaldi has found her happily ever after!

Grimaldi, 32, is engaged to her boyfriend, Canadian businessman Josh Wolfe, she announced Monday on Instagram. The romantic news comes after Grimaldi told her Instagram followers on Sunday night that the couple was headed on a road trip to Quebec City.

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Grimaldi reveals that Wolfe, 35, popped the question atop the Saint-Louis Gate "in what was an intimate, beautiful moment that was candle-lit." An accordion player performed songs, including "A Whole New World" from Aladdin, for the fiancés. "It was absolutely beautiful!" the bride-to-be gushes.

Grimaldi adds that the proposal completely took her by surprise.

Vanessa Grimaldi and Josh Wolfe
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"I knew we were going to get engaged eventually, but I had no idea it was going to happen when it did," she explains. "Josh is the first person I am with where I am at complete ease and where I never second-guessed his love for me. I’ve been ready to say YES! I am the luckiest woman!"

Wolf helped design her stunning ring, featuring a 1-carat oval diamond with two side stones, set on a 18K yellow gold band, from Teresa and Sons, a local jeweler in Montreal.

Vanessa Grimaldi's engagement ring
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The couple has been dating for a year and a half, after Wolfe slid into Grimaldi's social media DMs. They spoke on the phone for a few weeks while she was out of town (they both live in Montreal) and had one of their first dates in New York City. "We booked flights without ever having met!" Grimaldi recalls. And the rest was history.

"I feel at home whenever I am with Josh. His love and affection for his family is something I’ve always admired about him and what I’ve always looked for in a partner," Grimaldi says. "I love how much he values family and that he loves spending quality time all together. That is how we both were raised and one of the many reasons I grew a strong connection with him from the beginning. Who knew my person was living in the same city as me all these years!"

Vanessa Grimaldi and Josh Wolfe
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Wolfe echoes this sentiment. "I knew Vanessa was the one after the first Sunday lunch I had with her family in Saint Leonard," he tells PEOPLE.  "It was then that I realized just how important family was to her, as it is to me. I felt so welcomed, and just grateful at the idea that they may one day become my extended family. I felt like I was at home. Also, the first time she made me her pasta sauce. It’s something else!"

Looking ahead, the love birds will celebrate with a small engagement party at their favorite Lebanese restaurant, Garage Beirut, in Montreal. (A portion of the bill will be donated to Red Cross Lebanon to help those struggling in Beirut as a result of last week’s explosion.) The COVID-19 pandemic means wedding planning remains up-in-the air, but Grimaldi dreams of a quieter affair regardless.

"Younger Vanessa would have wanted a typical Italian wedding: big and lots of guests," she says. "Now, I envision something small, simple and intimate with my closest friends and family.

In 2017, Grimaldi, a special education teacher, became a reality TV star when she accepted Nick Viall's final rose on The Bachelor but split. The two got engaged on the finale five months after the proposal aired. "We just realized we were different people fighting to keep a relationship when ultimately we just weren’t the best fit for each other,” she told PEOPLE at the time.

Grimaldi continued to lead a relatively private life in Canada after the show, founding No Better You, which helps build sensory rooms for schools with special education programs, and starting her own lifestyle YouTube channel.

Would she want her wedding to be filmed for TV? "I love having memories we can look back on," she says. "I most definitely want a private and intimate wedding and for parts of it to be recorded for us to keep as a memory and for our future children to see one day."

As for the latest Bachelorette bombshell, Grimaldi says she supports both Clare Crawley and Tayshia Adams.

"After my experience on the show, everything happens for a reason," she says. "They are both beautiful, confident and intelligent women who I am sure will make the decisions that are best suited for them. I am looking forward to watching and supporting their journeys!"