"Rachel, when I first stepped out of that limo, I knew I was on the ride of my life," Bryan told Rachel at the Final Rose Ceremony filmed in Rioja, Spain, for which she donned a stunning form-fitting, silver-sequin gown with her curled hair gently pulled back.
"When we first kissed, it was literally as if a chemistry bomb had just exploded, and I just knew that first night with 100 percent certainty in my heart that we definitely could be something special. You are everything I could ever want in a woman, a wife, the mother of my children. I am completely, head over heels, totally, and absolutely in love with you. I just hope you feel the same."
Rachel chose Bryan, a 37-year-old chiropractor from Miami, FL, over her runner-up Peter Kraus, a 31-year-old personal trainer and business owner from Madison, WI.
Eric Bigger, a 29-year-old personal trainer from Los Angeles, CA, finished in third place.
In a Bachelor-franchise first, Rachel's finale aired as one giant three-hour episode, rather than a two-hour broadcast followed by a one-hour live After the Final Rose special.
Host Chris Harrison was joined by Rachel the entire time, as they watched the finale together -- along with a studio audience and millions of viewers at home -- and conducted interviews along the way. Throughout the three hours, Chris and Rachel were also joined by Eric, Peter and Bryan one at a time.
Rachel was very nervous because she hadn't seen two of the men since May, when filming wrapped. She also had to express herself after watching back very difficult moments in her experience for the first time.
Before the finale episode kicked off, Rachel talked to Chris about her "standstill" relationship with Peter going into their Fantasy Suite date.
"I was shocked. I didn't expect to be there with him at this point in the journey, and so I'm sitting there trying to figure out, 'What's next? Where do we go from here?' I started to see a change in our relationship back in Geneva, but I was still hopeful of what could be, and, you know, I was still trying to ride it through with Peter," she said.
The live portion of the broadcast then switched to the finale footage, when Peter and Rachel were having a deep and emotional conversation about their relationship in Rioja. Peter asked Rachel flat out how she'd feel if he said he wasn't ready to marry her in a week.
Rachel wanted an engagement, and so it was difficult to hear that Peter may not be willing to give her that.
Rachel was previously in a five-year relationship that never advanced to the next stage, so she worried that might happen again with Peter, but Rachel told the bachelor that she knew he cared for her.
Peter said they had something he had never experienced before, and they were alike in so many ways, which is why he kept pursuing things and fighting for their romance. Peter hoped the engagement wouldn't come between them, because watching Rachel crying was filling that emotional void he had been missing from her up to this point.
"I don't question his feelings for me by any means," Rachel said in a confessional. "I just feel like he's fighting it... We need more time with each other to sort this whole thing out."
Since they had so much more to talk about, Rachel offered Peter an invitation to stay as a couple in the Fantasy Suite, and he accepted the offer. He wanted to spend as much time with her "as humanly possible."
Rachel worried that neither of them would compromise in order to remain a happy couple, which reminded her all too much of her past failed relationship. However, she decided to follow her heart and hope for clarity in the morning.
When the pair woke up the next morning, Peter's feelings of doubt were starting to disappear, although they weren't gone entirely. But he knew they had something special.
Rachel knew that Peter and herself were on "opposite sides of the spectrum" when it came to a proposal, and she never thought she'd be in a situation where she could pick someone who didn't want to pop the question. She was simply in her head and couldn't get out of it.
Rachel later embarked on her Fantasy Suite date with Bryan, who couldn't wait to spend the day with her. The couple went horseback riding through the Spanish countryside, exploring a beautiful vineyard. Bryan said it felt like a dream and he had blind faith Rachel was in love with him.
"I love Rachel tremendously. Out of all the guys remaining, I feel I have the strongest feelings for her. If all goes well today, within a week's time, I could definitely be engaged," Bryan told the cameras.
Rachel admitted in a confessional that Peter had messed with her mind and she was "struggling with the decisions" that were coming. Bryan said his date with Rachel was "rough" and "awkward," that he didn't feel Rachel was fully present. Bryan said the date didn't go as planned and only time would tell where she stood with him.
The show then rolled back to Rachel and Chris live. Chris was fascinated to see the emotion play out on the Bachelorette's face as she was watching the show.
"That was a really, really rough week for me," Rachel told the host. "It was hard for the first time to compartmentalize the relationships that I had with each one of them and focus on the guy in front of me."
When asked if she was close to breaking up with Peter on the night of the Fantasy Suite, Rachel confessed she was "right there," and she was "ready to send him home."
Going back to the finale episode, Bryan said his date with Rachel that day was a little off and he was afraid to get hurt. During the night portion of their date, Bryan explained at dinner he honestly didn't feel Rachel was "100 percent there." Rachel felt guilty, saying the process was a lot to go through but she didn't want it to take away from their time together.
Rachel gave Bryan a kiss and offered him the Fantasy-Suite invitation, which he was thrilled to accept. Bryan saw himself proposing to this woman and hadn't envisioned any other scenario in his mind. Bryan was ready to hit the last brick down of the wall Rachel had built up.
Rachel said Bryan was passionate both physically and verbally, and it was comforting to know that Bryan was absolutely in love with her and wanted to move forward.
The next morning, Bryan said he got back on track with Rachel and was more confident than ever that he'd receive her final rose. He said their chemistry was hotter than ever as well.
Rachel was "extra sensitive" at the next Rose Ceremony because it's the same time Nick Viall had sent her home on The Bachelor's 21st season earlier this year. Rachel said her decision came down to whom she could envision spending the rest of her life with.
When comparing her relationships with the three men, Rachel said she needed to figure out if her relationship with Bryan was just a fairy-tale, and she didn't know where her romance with Peter stood. Eric, on the other hand, was secure in what he wanted and she saw no red flags with him.
At the Rose Ceremony, Rachel admitted she was "more confused than ever." She was trying to be true to herself and said -- while looking at Peter -- that she wanted a proposal at the end of this because she didn't star onThe Bachelorette just "to date" men and get a boyfriend.
Rachel wasn't prepared to send one of her three remaining bachelors home, but she maintained composure and handed a rose to Bryan.
"With Peter and Eric, it's like, which one do you want? Do you want the guy who's saying, 'I love you,' but I personally don't feel like he's ready for marriage, or, do I go for the guy who I feel like is ready for marriage [but] he's just not willing to propose at this time?" Rachel asked herself.
Rachel then handed a rose to Peter, sending Eric home. She said it was hard to say goodbye when she had such strong feelings for Eric. Rachel explained to the bachelor that while she loved him, she wasn't "in love" with him.
Eric thanked Rachel for opening him up and bringing out his vulnerability. He said he'd always love her, and Rachel noted that Eric understood her in such a special way because there was no bitterness, hate or regrets.
"That is why Eric is such an amazing and beautiful person. It's also why I'm not completely confident in my decision to say goodbye to him. This is the strongest that I felt, 'Am I making a mistake?'" Rachel told the cameras after walking Eric to the SUV.
"I'm just going to miss her, bro. I'm just going to miss her, man, the whole entirety of her. I'm happy I got to experience life with a person that's so beautiful. [It's not easy] to think the next person is going to be for me, because she was 'the one,' for sure," Eric said following his ouster.
Meanwhile, Peter didn't know what was holding him back, but he acknowledged that he wasn't ready to lose Rachel while choking back tears.
The episode then returned to Rachel and Chris live in the studio, and Rachel revealed that a part of her wanted to run after Eric's car and tell him to come back.
When Eric joined the pair onstage, he confessed he was absolutely ready and willing to propose marriage to Rachel had he made it to the end; however, he said he understands she did what she had to do to be happy. Rachel also told Eric that she meant every word she had said to him.
Eric told Rachel that he was a boy who became a man on the show thanks to her because he's not only ready to give love, but to receive it going forward. Rachel said he's going to be such a great catch for someone else, and it was a little hard for her to say that out loud.
Going back to the finale footage, Rachel was about to embark on her last two dates of the season. Rachel gushed about how she was "falling in love" with both men. Rachel was drawn to Peter in a way that she couldn't explain, but Bryan was the sure thing because of the love he felt for and expressed to her.
Rachel's feelings were "all over the place" but her relationship with Bryan took to new heights when they enjoyed a hot-air balloon ride. Bryan was absolutely ready to propose, but he was a little afraid of what her answer might be. Rachel feared making the wrong decision and her mind was not made up.
That night, Rachel gushed to Bryan about how real he was, saying that he scared her because she's used to "fixing" and "saving" relationships with men. Bryan told the Bachelorette that he could make her happiest out of her Final 2 and would spend the rest of his life loving her. Bryan said it would be a mistake if Rachel didn't choose him.
"I would be devastated. I'd be the most heartbroken I've ever been in my life if I lost you. I just love you," Bryan told her.
Bryan gave Rachel a hand-made English to Spanish dictionary with phrases she might want to learn, such as "husband." Rachel loved the gift, but Bryan was upset the other guy left would have "the final say." However, Bryan told the cameras she'd be making the biggest mistake of her life if she didn't choose him.
Rachel was very scared going into her next date with Peter because she didn't know how she was going to treat or react to him. She never thought a man would've made it this far who was unsure about whether he'd want to propose. But the minute Rachel saw Peter, she released all anxiety, and the couple took in the beautiful scenery at a monastery.
Peter was feeling "insecure and unsure" about where he was at in his relationship with Rachel, because he thought she was speaking directly to him at the previous Rose Ceremony when she said she wanted an engagement. And he was right.
Peter expressed to the cameras how marriage and an engagement are the same thing in his mind, that he only wanted to do it once in his life.
Peter wanted Rachel to continue being in his life, but he thought an engagement was the ultimate sign of love, and he wasn't certain that Rachel was "the one" and his "true love" -- even thought he was definitely "falling in love" with her. All Peter knew was that he wasn't ready to say goodbye.
Peter could picture activities and dates he wanted to share with Rachel in the future. He said marriage didn't scare him, as he was really looking forward to that in life, but it was multiple marriages that scared him, as well as multiple proposals, since they are one in the same.
Peter didn't expect to meet someone he deeply cared about, but he was afraid about only having 24 hours to determine that Rachel was going to be his one and only, his future wife. Rachel bluntly said he needed to figure that out. She was frustrated and started to cry.
"It's like I'm forcing something to happen and you just don't want me in that way. That's how I feel about Peter," Rachel vented to the cameras in tears.
"But then I get confused when you start telling me about how we're going to spend our lives together, and Peter isn't somebody who just says something to be saying it. So I'm just so confused about how you can see forever with me, but you can't do the stuff you have to, to get to forever. I don't get it."
That night, Rachel said she kept looking for something from Peter that she just wasn't getting. Her goal was to leave their date knowing exactly where he stood with her.
When Rachel joined Peter in his hotel suite, he really opened up to her.
"I am in love with you. That became very clear to me today, but these feelings are so recent. They've been growing... but I don't feel I'm ready to ask you to marry me tomorrow," Peter told Rachel. "But I don't want to stop being with you."
Rachel told Peter it was confusing because he'd talk to her about vacations, dogs, where they would live and what size bed they'd have, and he'd fantasize about this future that he wanted, but when reality set in, he wasn't ready to face things. Peter said he wanted to take the right steps in their relationship -- but in time.
Rachel admitted her fears, that if she agreed to just date Peter, there was no guarantee they'd ever move out of that stage as a couple.
Peter apologized to Rachel that it took him so long to figure out his feelings and verbalize them, but he just wasn't ready to say he could spend the rest of his life with her. Peter, however, insisted he wanted to try hard, really hard, to get there.
Peter couldn't explain to Rachel why he didn't feel an instant, "I want to marry you," but Rachel wanted someone who wanted the same things. Peter said "a single gesture" was separating their needs and desires.
"You know for a fact, right here and now, that I'm the man you want to spend the rest of your life with?" Peter asked.
"I can't answer that question," Rachel said.
"Why not?" Peter probed.
"Because I can't answer that question," Rachel repeated in tears.
"So if I can't, you walk away?" Peter pointed out.
Rachel asked where things went from there, and Peter said they couldn't break up. Rachel appeared devastated because neither individual wanted to take a risk to give the other person what he or she wanted. Peter asked her if she'd give tomorrow a chance, but Rachel had no confidence anything would change overnight.
Peter suggested he could change his mind in the morning, and if she got what she wanted, he'd be doing it for her. But Rachel didn't want a proposal out of peer pressure. Rachel thought Peter would propose as a way to not lose her, which was true, but Peter said he'd sacrifice in order to keep her.
Peter explained that while he felt it wasn't the "correct time" to propose, he believed Rachel was the "correct person."
Peter was ready to go against what he believed to prove to Rachel how much he cared for her, but Rachel told Peter that if he didn't want to propose, he shouldn't do it. Peter, in reply, said losing her would hurt more than sacrificing something that's important to him.
Rachel asked Peter if he would be resentful about the engagement if it were to happen, and he couldn't promise her that. Peter hoped he'd be mature enough not to be resentful, but since he's an emotional person, he couldn't say one way or the other.
"I want somebody who knows what they want to do," Rachel said.
"Great. Then go find someone to have a mediocre life with," Peter noted. "Because I will give you an amazing life and an amazing relationship."
Peter told Rachel that he didn't know what to do tomorrow, and Rachel said she couldn't "do tomorrow" if he only wanted to be her boyfriend.
"Then I can do nothing but wish you the very best," Peter said in tears as Rachel broke down crying. "I think we are both going to regret this decision."
"Maybe," Rachel said.
"I know I am," Peter noted. "If you change your mind, you know where you can find me."
The couple hugged and kissed goodbye, but the kiss lingered on and on as if neither person wanted to stop.
"I love you, Rachel," Peter said.
"I love you too," Rachel admitted.
This was the first time Rachel actually told a man, "I love you," in this process.
"I can't say goodbye," Rachel confessed, before Peter asked her to "take a chance."
"It's not going to change your mind. You're just going to feel pressure to do it," Rachel cried. "You know you are."
When Rachel walked away, Peter took his sweater off and cried into it. He started bawling and asked himself, "What is wrong with me?"
"My biggest fear in this entire thing is saying goodbye to somebody I'm not supposed to say goodbye to. Peter has me questioning, 'Am I forcing myself to do something I don't want to do?' I just feel like I'm making a big mistake," Rachel cried to the cameras.
Turning the cameras back to Rachel and Chris live in the studio, Rachel had a defeated look on her face and swallowed hard. She said saying goodbye to Peter was frustrating then, and it's frustrating now to watch.
Rachel said it's no secret that she cared a lot for Peter, but she had been in that position before, and she saw a man who wanted a future with her but didn't want to take the risk to make it happen.
Chris pointed out that Rachel's goodbye to Peter didn't even seem like an official, complete breakup. Rachel said she cried her "eyelashes off" and it was a "serious" meltdown. She didn't know what to think when she left Peter that night.
On the live special, Peter joined Rachel onstage after being apart for months. Rachel was at a loss for words, and she said that never happens. Peter said it was incredibly difficult to watch that footage back and he was forced to re-live it all over again. The bachelor said he was "shaking like a leaf" and "terrified."
Peter told Rachel that he wanted to proceed with her in a relationship but he just wasn't sure about what the next step should be. He said the split was very hard and he was "incredibly emotional" at the time. Peter said she was the girl he could envision spending the rest of his life with, as she possessed all the qualities he wants in a partner.
Peter didn't know why he couldn't get to the point of proposing, and he still struggles with that question to this day.
Rachel explained it wasn't all about the engagement, that she discovered some deep-rooted issues with him in Geneva -- showing they weren't in the same place in life. Rachel said her emotion stemmed from the fact she had experienced this situation before in a prior relationship and Peter reminded her of that hurtful past.
Peter said he doesn't believe anything is wrong with himself now. If he could take back one thing from the experience, it would be to open himself up more to the process and to Rachel, and to get out of his own head.
Rachel appreciated that Peter was true to himself, and she said he just needed more time, like this whirlwind process is simply not for him. Rachel said, however, that takes nothing away from who he is as a person.
Peter inferred the night of their breakup that Rachel was choosing a ring and a proposal over happiness, and Peter said it was an emotional comment he made in the heat of the moment that he doesn't even remember. He apologized for saying she chose a mediocre life, and Rachel snapped back -- throwing her hair towards him as she turned away in her seat -- that she's living "the best life" now.
"There's no denying I didn't love Peter," Rachel said, adding that she's not angry with Peter.
"I still care about you deeply, to this day," Peter admitted. "I feel attacked and it sucks because I didn't want it to end the way it did. I didn't want to hurt you or waste your time."
Peter said he still has feelings for Rachel and wouldn't be so worked up and nervous otherwise, but he wouldn't have handled the night of their breakup any differently if he could go back. Peter revealed he had asked to reach out to Rachel after the show but was denied the opportunity.
Rachel felt Peter didn't know what he wanted on the show, which is why she shut down all communication, but her runner-up insisted he wants a wife and a marriage and a family. But on the show with Rachel, he just needed more time and more life experience with her.
"I think all of this is just not for you," Rachel said of the reality dating franchise.
Before Peter exited the stage, he and Rachel wished each other the very best, and Peter thanked her for proving real feelings of love can develop on this show.
When The Bachelorette finale returned, Rachel explained her last moments with Peter made her wonder and question whether she was rushing things with Bryan and needed more time.
Heading to the final Rose Ceremony, Peter said he was "99.9 percent confident" Rachel was going to choose him. She's everything he always hoped for and dreamed off, and he hoped she'd be ready to take a leap of faith with him.
After Bryan gave a beautiful speech in a courtyard overlooking the Spanish countryside, Rachel said her heart had never been more confused in the final week of this process because she had always gambled her feelings on complicated relationships.
Rachel explained it was the damaged connections that always offered her the chance to run away, and that's why she worried her romance with Bryan was "too perfect."
Rachel was trying to find cracks in their relationship, but after some deep soul-searching, she found the courage to challenge herself. Rachel said their love was mature and it tested her in ways she couldn't have ever imagined.
Rachel added that she couldn't picture her life without Bryan and she saw her forever and future with him.
Bryan went in for the kiss with a big smile on his face, but Rachel had one more thing to say.
"I just want to say I love you, I'm in love with you, and I can't imagine spending my life with anyone else," Rachel gushed.
After sharing a kiss in Rioja, Bryan said, "I am the best version of myself when I'm with you. You are so easy and effortless to love, and I just want to love you for the rest of my life."
Rachel began bouncing up and down, cheering out loud, as Bryan got down on one knee. He then asked Rachel to marry him with a pear-shaped, halo diamond by Neil Lane.
"Ahhh, it's so pretty, yes!" Rachel yelled.
The couple shared a big kiss, and Bryan said he felt "so lucky and so blessed." Rachel gave Bryan her first rose and then proudly handed him her last rose. Bryan accepted it with the utmost love.
"So you are my, what?!" Rachel asked as the church bells were ringing.
"Your fiance!" Bryan replied.
As Rachel flashed her diamond ring, she told the cameras, "It feels so good," and Bryan noted in Spanish that he'd make her the happiest wife ever.
On the remainder of what is typically After the Final Rose, Chris welcomed Bryan onstage so that he and Rachel can finally go public with their engagement.
Bryan immediately got down on one knee and asked Rachel to re-marry him, saying he has fallen deeper in love with her every day and never wants her to take the ring off again.
Bryan told Chris it was tough to be apart from Rachel post-filming but revealed their future together entails merging their lives and figuring out which city -- Miami, Dallas or Los Angeles -- they want to live in.
As far as a wedding goes, Rachel would love a winter wedding. The couple is just looking forward to getting to know each other in a normal sense.
Rachel also shared that her family has gotten to know Bryan better in recent days and she realized he was "the one" for her when she acknowledged that Bryan was her "best friend" at the time he had met her family. About The Author:Elizabeth Kwiatkowski
Elizabeth Kwiatkowski is Associate Editor of Reality TV World and has been covering the reality TV genre for more than a decade.