After Jeannie Mai and Jeezy said their "I dos" in front of 40 of their closest friends and family, The Real co-host decided to celebrate in the sweetest way.
In this week's issue of PEOPLE, the activist, 42, opens up about the couple's intimate, backyard ceremony at their home in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 27 — and the sentimental reason she threw her handwritten vows in the pool.
"I can't find anybody, whether it's God himself or the Bible, that would be able to say how I feel for Jay," Mai says of her new husband, who founded the Street Dreamz Foundation — which makes a vital impact on the local level, providing assistance and necessary funds to those underserved in Atlanta.
"For Jay, he's a man of words. He's an artist, a songwriter, and he knows exactly how to describe what it feels to marry me. We knew right away that we wanted to write our vows. Jay didn't write down his vows, he spoke them from the heart," she explains.
But unlike Jeezy, who "had no notes" and "was able to just tell me how he felt and shared with me his feelings right off his heart, right there in front of our close family friends," Mai says she wrote out three pages of vows.
"Everybody knows on The Real that I'm long-winded," she shares. "So my vows were on three pages and I read every word to him."
And after she "was done, I threw them into the pool because they've been sealed in his heart forever," says the Dancing with the Stars alum.
A year after getting engaged, Mai and the Grammy Award-nominated recording artist and philanthropist, 43, decided to tie the knot.
Though they "originally wanted a wedding celebration that would have all of our friends and family from both the journeys of our lives," Mai says they realized it "would be a pretty big wedding and there's just no way that COVID-19 would allow it."
"There's no safe way to really do that," adds Mai, who, along with Jeezy, provided rapid COVID-19 tests for guests the day of the ceremony. "We also wanted to have a destination wedding because Jay and I are big travelers and we would have loved something in one of the countries that we spent time in, but we also can't travel at this time."
For more about Jeannie Mai's intimate wedding, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.
So rather than "waiting for COVID to figure itself out, we really just boiled it down to what really matters when it comes to our life, and that is being married," Mai says of their decision to have a small, spring wedding.
While Mai says that "if it were up to us, we would just keep it as that — just us getting our vows done," they wanted to make sure family was included in their special day.
"But we also are very close to our family members and we wanted to make sure our family witnessed this massive moment between us. So, that led us to having a mini one," says the new bride.
For the nuptials, Mai wore a custom, nude-colored Galia Lahav gown with a sheer bodice that flowed into a billowing chiffon skirt. Matching appliqués were applied to the dress by hand.
Jeezy matched her color palette with a champagne-blush Teofilo Flor suit. Guests were asked to wear off-white, which represents "peace," Mai says.
"This was a moment of light and we needed peace and we needed a very light color to just bring everybody together that we had handpicked to be at our wedding," says Mai.
Before the couple said their vows, they participated in a traditional Vietnamese tea ceremony to pay respect to their parents, Mai says. Following the ceremony and the exchanging of vows, they danced the night away with friends and family at their reception and after party — and enjoyed some red velvet cake.
"Jay and I love just good old red velvet cake," she says. "We had fun picking a cake that was just our favorite red velvet with our favorite buttercream frosting. And what's fun is that even though we had our guests dress in off-white, we're breaking rules by making everybody eat a red velvet cake … and if you made a mess, we had [Cozy Earth] pajamas for everybody afterwards."
The following day, the newlyweds and their loved ones kept the celebrations going with a "boozy brunch."
"The best part of our mini ceremony was having everyone back the next day to keep the celebrations going. Jeezy's sister, Katrina, of Katrina's Elegant Events, put together the most beautiful boozy brunch filled with delicious Southern foods like waffles, shrimp and grits, mixed with our favorite R&B jams," says Mai. "We kicked off this relaxing Sunday with a family prayer and relived everyone's favorite memories of our ceremony."
Now, the couple is looking forward to their next adventure together.
"I'm excited to call him my husband and he's so excited to call me his wife," Mai says of Jeezy.
"I just can't wait to start our love story. I mean, it's already been written, but even more so now I'm eager to just fill out our entire journey," says Mai. "I'm just excited to start."
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