MELISSA RYCROFT, she was one of 25 women competing for Jason Mesnick's attention on The Bachelor. "I went on the show with an open mind and an open heart—and I think everyone knows how it ended!" the 26-year-old jokes. (In case you missed it, Jason proposed to Melissa on the season finale, then called off the engagement on a follow-up episode just six weeks later to pursue a relationship with the show's runner-up.) But instead of dwelling on that public disappointment, Melissa moved on. She nabbed an impressive third-place finish on Dancing With the Stars (DWTS) , became a Good Morning America special contributor, and reconnected with Tye Strickland, whom she'd dated off and on for two years. Then last December, Melissa and Tye said "I do" in front of nearly 200 friends and family members in an ocean-side wedding on Isla Mujeres, Mexico. "I still can't believe it," she says. "This past year, my life has been a fairy tale!" Melissa sat down with Shape to share what that "crazy" time taught her about falling in love, planning a wedding, and following your heart no matter what.
True love will find you
Melissa and Tye were a couple before The Bachelor, and their breakup was what prompted Melissa to go on the show. "I was completely heartbroken, and I figured it would get me out of Dallas and reintroduce me to life," Melissa says. "Plus, it gave Tye time away from me." Not long after the show's follow-up episode, she and Tye got back together, and they've been inseparable ever since. "We've had a crazy road, which is why our wedding song was Rascal Flatt's 'Bless the Broken Road,'" Melissa says. "But when we look back on it, we know it was all part of God's plan for us. Everything falls into place when the timing is right.
"I heard someone say that when you find your true love, you'll feel at home all the time. Tye is my home: He's my peaceful, comforting place, and I have a feeling of complete happiness whenever I'm around him."
There's no such thing as the perfect wedding
"I wanted my family and Tye's family to be happy witth the wedding, but of course I wanted to be happy too," Melissa says. "So I served a variety of foods and played a mix of music, and I made sure every guest detail from transportation to activities was covered." Her favorite tip for brides-to-be: Just relax and make it your perfect day. "My philosophy was that I was going to eat the food, dance to the music, and spend time with my husband—and not let little things like centerpieces or napkins stress me out. Even if my cake had shown up black and my flowers were all dead, my wedding still would have been perfect to me."
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