Sealed with a Kiss
updated 03/15/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 03/15/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST
Luckily, McKee was smitten too. "When I walked out of the limo, it was 'Uh-oh,' " he recalled after the finale. "I love this girl." But McKee, 29, a former equity research salesman raised in Brazil, played it cool. "From day one, he said he could never see himself proposing to a woman on national television or saying the words 'I love you,' " recalls co-executive producer Lisa Levenson.
So Levenson—like almost 80 percent of Bachelorette viewers, according to an ABC poll—believed Phillips would select Hickl. But she picked a trembling and nearly hyperventilating McKee, who ditched his preppy reserve during the final rose ceremony and asked Phillips to marry him. "When he dropped to his knee, [series creator] Mike Fleiss and I dropped to our knees, and Mike was like, 'He's going to do it!' " recalls Levenson, who was watching off-camera. "We had no idea!"
Phillips has made no secret of the fact that she'd like to get married ("I'm 30 and I'm ready for that"), but don't expect to see a Trista-style TV wedding anytime soon. Instead, she's thinking a small ceremony on a beach somewhere. "When, I don't know," she says. "But I know right now that I am in love and I'm happy that I've finally found my companion."
Until then, "they plan to live together, and have a couple cities in mind," says Levenson. "Ian wants to show Meredith Brazil, and Meredith wants to show Ian her world." Starting with a barbecue at her parents' Portland, Ore., home. "I've been searching my whole life for this person," says Phillips. "And that I found him on national television? That's pretty great. Pretty unconventional, but pretty great."