updated 03/27/2014 AT 3:50 PM ET
•originally published 03/27/2014 AT 4:45 PM ET
The Bachelor is known for devising over-the-top romance, but for Renee Oteri, 32, it was her experience after leaving the show that became one for the record books.
In a span of just five months, the real estate agent, who became a fan favorite on Juan Pablo Galavis’s season, reunited with her longtime love Bracy Maynard, got engaged, moved to Seattle and tied the knot!
“I’m still walking on air,” Oteri tells PEOPLE. “It’s surreal. It may seem like it happened so fast, but for me, because I’ve known him my whole life, it’s not.”
In fact, Oteri met Maynard over twenty years ago, when the pair were middle school students in North Carolina. “He was my first crush, my first kiss, my first boyfriend,” says Oteri. “When I was 12-years-old, I wrote in my diary that I was going to marry Bracy Maynard. It’s insane!”
After Oteri moved away in high school, the pair kept up a friendship, writing letters for a time and then reconnecting over MySpace when both were in college. Then, in 2008, after Oteri’s first marriage ended in divorce, the single mom to Ben, then 3, entered into a long distance relationship with Maynard.
“It was tough,” Oteri admits. “I think I went broke trying to keep the relationship up! It ended after two years because it had to. We weren’t mad at each other, it was just sad.”
In 2013, following a different breakup, Oteri applied to go on The Bachelor. “I wanted to get married, have a family. I went there on a clean slate.”