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Will Jardell and James Wallington were the first LGBTQ couple to get engaged on The Amazing Race back in 2018
The couple wed Friday, Dec. 3, PEOPLE exclusively reveals — exactly three years to the day after Jardell proposed to Wallington on screen when they won the CBS competition series.
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"Now that the moment is over, we can breathe, we can celebrate, we wipe all the joyful tears and start our new lives as husbands!" the couple tells PEOPLE. "We are overjoyed and feel so incredibly loved. We couldn't be happier."
Ahead of their nuptials, Jardell said he was "excited for everyone that I love and everyone that's been impactful in my life to be in the same space," adding: "I think having everybody there to witness us committing to each other for the rest of our lives but also to have this big celebration together is really exciting."
"It's exciting and overwhelming ... just so much emotion," said Wallington. "It's been a long time coming."
Jardell and Wallington first met in 2014, when Wallington was working on America's Next Top Model and his now-husband was chosen as a finalist on the show.
Four and a half years later, they embarked on their Amazing Race journey, which Jardell said he knew from the start would be the backdrop for their engagement.
Will Jardell and James Wallington
Credit: Jonah Rodriguez/888 Productions
"I knew that I was going to do it while we were on the show, but James had no idea," he said. "I told the producers 'I'm going to propose to James while we're running around the world,' just because this show is his dream — childhood dream."
"And then it all just worked out perfectly that it was at the finish line when we won," he continued, while Wallington added that the moment was "an out-of-body experience."
The proposal also made the duo the first LGBTQ couple to get engaged on the show, which Wallington said has inspired "a really strong and positive response from members of the community."
"It's been really nice and supportive, especially young gay youth who have reached out saying 'thank you for giving us hope' or 'thank you for giving me the courage to come out to my family,' " he said. "It's been really touching."
As for the wedding itself, Wallington and Jardell had to postpone it multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the delay in their Amazing Race season actually airing. (Though their engagement was in 2018, it didn't hit TV until December 2020.)
The Amazing Race - James Wallington, Will Jardell
Credit: Sam Lothridge/CBS via Getty
The pandemic was "an added component to navigate" in wedding planning, Jardell said, and they ended up implementing a rule that all guests had to be vaccinated or show a negative test in order to attend.
The pair got married at the New Orleans Athletic Club surrounded by 200 of their friends and family members. The city is a nod to their engagement, as it is where their Amazing Race journey concluded.
"We do have some elements incorporated that are a tip of the hat to our experience on The Amazing Race, like our bow ties are purple because we were the purple team," Wallington said. "We're having a King Cake, not only because it's New Orleans culture, but also because we did King Cakes on the final leg of the Amazing Race."
While they donned purple, Wallington and Jardell said their "grooms-women" got to pick our their own dresses with the help of sustainable bridesmaid dress brand Dear Cleo, which Jardell said also aligns with their goal of making sure their wedding didn't have "a huge negative impact on the world."
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The happy couple is now preparing for their January honeymoon in the Galapagos and the Amazon — and they're also looking forward to starting a family.
"We're both ready to be parents and start a family together," Wallington said, noting that his own adoption story has inspired him and Jardell to adopt.
"And just finally being married!" added Jardell. "We've been together now for almost eight years and I don't think much is going to change, just because I think we've felt married for a while now, but having this celebration past us ... it's going to just jumpstart the next chapter."
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