Warning: major spoilers ahead.
HBO Max left us wishing for a fresh few inches of snow with the release of 12 Dates of Christmas, its eight-episode reality dating show set inside a magical winter wonderland-style castle in Austria. The new series followed three leads—Chad Savage, Christian Faith Fernandez and Garrett Marcantel—on a quest to find that special somebody to bring home for the holidays. And it's officially set to return for season two.
Yes, the premise is quite simple and each episode is packed with funny and ridiculous dating drama. (The showrunner and executive producer is Sam Dean from Love Is Blind, hence any similarities). But Chad took things to the next level during the finale by proposing to Kate Steinberg, the copywriter and hockey fanatic he says kept him sane throughout the whole journey. Speaking to E! News exclusively ahead of Thursday's reunion special hosted by Shangela, Chad and Kate opened up about their fairytale ending and what's next for them as a newly-engaged couple.
For one, they're both excited to no longer have to hold their big secret, something Kate said she got so good at, her friends joked she could now join the CIA. "I can wear my ring again!" Kate said, referring to her vintage-style Ritani jewel. "It's been cooped up in a little box these past couple months and now I'm just like, I got it out!" As they hinted on the show, their plans to move in together are also in full swing.
"We signed for a place like two months ago!" Chad said. "We've just been celebrating behind the scenes, taking our own pictures, letting immediate family know. We've been really happy. The castle experience was amazing, but just to be out of the castle and have each other at the end is magical—not to sound cheesy, but it really is. It's something we'll be able to cherish forever. We're looking forward to the next chapter, which is me moving to Chicago on Feb. 1 and just starting a life together. We're really excited!"
While saying yes after Chad got down on one knee, Kate said that they bonded over cereal, pizza, sports and family—and the bond so far has only strengthened. At home, they said they're eating plenty of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and spending date nights watching Disney classics. Chad said, "We just ate pizza two nights ago and it's been amazing being with her. Before going into the castle I was in the mindset that I might never leave New York. I love the energy there and I love my friends, but I love Kate more."
As for whether Chad thought he'd complete the 12 Dates experience with a fiancée, he said "absolutely not." "I didn't have many questions before coming into the experience, but one of my big ones was, this isn't like The Bachelor, right?" he said. "Because I wouldn't do something like that. I go at my own pace, but at the same time, I like to be as open as possible and take chances. If it had been an expectation going in that I needed to propose, I probably wouldn't have done the show."
Ultimately, Kate's charm won him over. "I knew how special Kate was and I knew that Kate would make me laugh and I knew that Kate was so caring and upbeat and something about her energy and smile all sucked me in," he said. "But it wasn't until we left the castle that I knew 100 percent that Kate is the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. She was just a bright, shining star from day-one in the castle and she honestly got me through so much of it. When I saw how she was with my family and I saw how quickly my family took to her, I felt like I could gauge her heart and I just knew that she was the one."
For Kate, sparks flew inside one particular room. "It was in the library where I honestly fell in love with Chad and it was that moment where I was like, I'm here for him," she said, explaining that while the women Chad dated were "so beautiful, so stunning, so intelligent," she focused on being herself. "I was nervous at times but I just had to keep reminding myself Chad's gonna like me for me, so I'm just gonna continue to unapologetically own who I am and just let it all out."
"I've never believed in the saying when you know you know, but when I met him I was like, I just never want this person to leave my side," she said. "He became truly my best friend before we were even boyfriend-girlfriend. Everything with him was just so natural and I've never experienced that in my life. Our bond just got stronger over time and now, here we are. He's completely changed my life for the better."
As fans saw during the reunion, Kate did share a secret kiss with Tyson, one of the singles originally introduced for Faith. But that didn't bother Chad, who called Tyson "the man."
"I screamed!" Kate said while discussing the moment Shangela rolled the clip. "Coming out of the castle that was one of our first phone calls and FaceTimes, just getting it all out there. He definitely was aware of the Tyson kiss, the infamous Tyson kiss. I was surprised they aired it but I think we can all laugh about it now."
And yes, Kate had thoughts about all the women Chad locked lips with back in Austria. "Of course, Chad being my fiancé , it's not something I want to see or know about but the reality is I know what I signed up for," she said. "I know he had to go on these dates to make these connections and figure out what he wants, but he wouldn't be sitting here today if he didn't go out there. I might fast forward through some scenes in the future but for the most part it doesn't bother me."
Giddy about her engagement ring, Kate said she can't wait to finally get to post about it on social. "Oh, I've been sitting on it since the day I got engaged," she said. "You should see how many posts are in my Instagram just waiting, I don't know which one to do, what to say. My brothers, they're like my clients, they're making the final decision on the caption. I'm ready to post it! I'm ready to launch the campaign. Just kidding."
The 12 Dates of Christmas reunion special is now streaming on HBO Max.