It was worth the wait!
For three years after they got engaged on Aug. 10, 2012, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux faced a chorus of questions that grew louder and louder: When would they wed?
The answer finally came on Wednesday, when the couple tied the knot at their $21 million Bel Air home in front of 75 of their closest friends – a superstar crowd including Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Kimmel and Sandra Bullock.
Aniston, 46, and Theroux, 44, "were giddy to have pulled off an amazing wedding celebration with their friends," a source tells PEOPLE in the magazine's new cover story. "And they were proud to finally be married."
In the new issue of PEOPLE, sources share details of the joyful, top-secret ceremony – and explain why the couple took their time getting to the altar.
For Aniston, who has called her new husband "a protector" and "just a good human being," the connection with Theroux was unlike anything she'd ever experienced. They first met on the Hawaii set of 2008's Tropic Thunder and stayed friends before they began dating in 2011, shortly after filming the movie Wanderlust together.
"From the beginning, this was a different relationship for Jen," says an Aniston friend. "They were just so comfortable together and became inseparable pretty quickly." At the same time, "Jen was never in a rush to get married, because they were just so content," adds the friend. "But marriage was always the plan."
Despite their physical attraction – from the start they had "wow-like chemistry," an industry insider says – the couple took a slow-but-steady approach to their relationship as they worked through their significant differences.
Initially, "it wasn't easy for them to figure out ways to merge their lives," says the Aniston source. While Theroux enjoyed living in downtown Manhattan, Aniston "tried to live in New York City" early in the relationship, "but realized that she prefers L.A.," says the source.
The busy stars' many film and television projects often mean weeks apart. But "they seem to thrive on being apart and doing their own thing," says an entertainment source.
The two have different personalities, but mesh well, friends say. "Justin brings a very laid-back element to their relationship," says a source close to Aniston. "He loves playing pranks and makes their relationship fun. He also is Jen's rock. He calms her down. And Jen is very attentive and nurturing."
Eventually, Aniston and Theroux decided they were ready to tie the knot – but needed to settle on a plan. For a while, "they couldn’t decide what kind of wedding they wanted to have," the source says.
After considering a destination wedding or eloping, they opted to say "I do" at home: the hillside estate with terraced grounds that Aniston bought in 2012 – in part so they could include their dogs, German shepherd Dolly and pit bull mix Sophie, in the celebration. "They are like Jen's babies," says the source.
Surrounded by their closest friends on Aug. 5, a beaming Aniston and Theroux knew they had made the right decision.
A source who knows them both tells PEOPLE: "The timing was finally right."
Reporting by PERNILLA CEDENHEIM and LINDA MARX
For much more about Jen and Justin's dream wedding – and their friend-filled honeymoon in Bora Bora! – pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, out on newsstands this week