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Danica McKellar's Wedding: A Dream Come True

Danica McKellar's Wedding: A Dream Come True
Mike Verta and Danica McKellar
Del Rio Studios

03/24/2009 AT 05:00 PM EDT

When The Wonder Years's Danica McKellar first started planning her wedding to composer Mike Verta, she had one wish: "I didn't want a huge event," she tells PEOPLE. "I wanted to be able to talk to everyone and I wanted it to be intimate."

At her recent wedding in La Jolla, Calif., McKellar's wish came true. The couple, who have dated for 7 ½ years, tied the knot in an ocean side church in front of 150 family members and friends, including her maid of honor, the bride's sister, Crystal McKellar, who played Becky Slater on The Wonder Years.

At the black tie reception, the newlyweds danced their first dance to a love song composed by Verta, before cutting the wedding cake: a triple-tiered creation with layers of devil's food and hot milk sponge cake with fresh fruit.

A Tearful Engagement

McKellar, 34, who went on to study mathematics after her Wonder years, and Verta, 36, got engaged last August in Chicago, where he surprised her with a platinum and diamond engagement ring during a promotional tour for her second book, Kiss My Math.

"I had no idea!" McKellar tells PEOPLE. "His mother and grandmother, who both live in Chicago, came to the book signing. Then he showed up and he said, 'By the way, you're not going home tonight, we're spending a week here at the Ritz Carlton.' That's when I suspected something was happening. The night he proposed, I cried."

As for what makes their relationship click, she says it starts with "mutual respect for each other."

"It's a true partnership. All my other relationships, there always came a point where there were no interesting conversations left," says McKellar. "We have them all the time! It's a great connection."

So what's in their future? "We'd love to have a family together," she says. "That's the plan."

For more on Danica McKellar's wedding – including exclusive photos – pick up the new PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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