Ben Higgins is opening up about the exact moment he got down on one knee to propose to longtime girlfriend Jessica Clarke — and why she was “shocked” when he popped the question.
The former Bachelor shared details of the proposal on his Almost Famous podcast, which he co-hosts with fellow Bachelor Nation alum Ashley Iaconetti Haibon, on Monday.
Higgins led Clarke to a bench in her family’s backyard in Tennessee, where they are currently practicing social distancing. Once they reached the picturesque spot, “I just got down on one knee and I pulled out the ring,” Higgins recounted for Iaconetti.
“And she at that point still didn’t know what was happening,” Higgins said of Clarke’s surprise. “Because her face was shocked… her mouth is wide open, she doesn’t even say ‘yes’ when I ask her to marry me. She just shakes her head up and down.”
Higgins said he asked her if her nodding was a ‘yes,’ “and she goes, ‘y— yeah.’ Like just complete shock and excitement.”
The reality star said they were both crying by this point — but there was yet another surprise in store: both of their sets of parents walked around the corner, as well as Clarke’s brother and sister in law.
“And we all celebrated together and we were able to enjoy this,” Higgins said. “It was quick but so special… it was the most beautiful setting.”
One reason for Clarke’s surprise, Higgins said, was the social distancing that they’re practicing due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Higgins had initially planned on proposing on March 21 in Central Park while the couple would have been in New York City for the Bachelor Live tour, but the event was postponed.
“I honestly think when the tour got postponed, her heart like dropped out of her chest because she thought, ‘I’m moving back home with my parents, I have no clue of when I’m going to get engaged, I don’t really know what my future looks like, Ben hasn’t talked to me about our future in months and I don’t know why and if he’s ending things or if he’s still in love with me as he’s always said,'” Higgins explained.
The podcaster said that he couldn’t stand the thought of his girlfriend living with that confusion any longer, so he went ahead with the proposal.
When Iaconetti asked if the couple would move in together before the wedding, Higgins said that they will wait to tie the knot before cohabitating.
“That is a choice that we’ve talked about and we’ve gone back and forth on it,” he said. “For a couple reasons we won’t. One is, I think a lot of it is respect for my family and her family.”
“It’s also like I’ve talked about before, it’s lessons learned from past relationships and also I think for Jessica and I, we have abstained and tried to do this the best we can to make our relationship as healthy as possible and there are steps we still want to take to do that,” he said. “So that’s why right now we will not be moving in together before we get married. But I think we’ll be finding a house before then that we can both start to make our own.”
When Iaconnetti asked if the pair had decided what time of year they’d like to get married, Higgins said it will depend in part on Clarke’s brother, who is a professional baseball player.
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“Everybody I’ve talked to in the Clarke family has made sure that I know that we have to do this during the off-season,” Higgins said. “So there is a very select few months that baseball is not active, and so because of that we’re going to be getting married in those months.”
While normally, that would fall sometime between November and February, baseball is one of the many things impacted by COVID-19, leaving plans up in the air.
“So like right now, the question is like, I don’t know when baseball season is going to be coming back and I don’t know the new calendar dates or the schedule,” Higgins said, adding that for everyone’s “peace of mind,” he and Clarke are holding off on making plans until they can “have a clearer idea of when we even could get married and what dates would be available.”
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