Gilles Marini's Birthday Present for His Wife – a House

10/02/2009 at 02:15 PM EDT

Gilles Marini's Birthday Present for His Wife – a House
Carol and Gilles Marini
Chelsea Lauren/WireImage
Husbands, take note: French actor Gilles Marini knows what a woman wants for her birthday – a new house.

Marini, 33, surprised his wife Carole at her 32nd birthday party Wednesday night by giving her "the house she has dreamed of for years," he tells PEOPLE.

"We have lived in this [apartment] complex for about five, six years, and every day we walk around the neighborhood," Marini says. "She always saw this one house on our walk and said, 'This is my dream house.' A month ago we saw the house was for sale."

Marini, who was a sensation on Dancing With the Stars last season and who has a recurring role on ABC's Brothers and Sisters this fall, went so far as to have the couple's real estate agent tell Carole that the four-bedroom, 3,000-sq.-ft. house in Studio City, Calif., had already been sold to someone else.

Gathered with family and friends at Carole's birthday dinner Wednesday night – the couple are parents to son Georges and daughter Juliana – Marini presented her with a birthday card.

"Inside I put a picture of the house and a poem I wrote her," says Marini, who first made a splash in the U.S. with his sexy shower scene in the Sex and the City movie. "It goes: Eleven years of sweat, blood and tears. You never gave up ... It is a small way of showing you how I'm feeling. I love you, my wife, my soul, my everything."

Carole's reaction? "She pretty much died inside out," Marini says. "I was crying. Everybody at the table was crying ... It was one of the best days of my life."

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