“I’m So Grateful I Found Her”

Ben Higgins, Jess Clarke

Ben Higgins / Instagram

Ben Higgins is a married man!

The first Bachelor tied the knot with girlfriend Jessica Clarke in a romantic ceremony on Saturday at The Estate in Cherokee Dock near Nashville, Tennessee, PEOPLE exclusively confirms.

Guests who were all vaccinated or received negative COVID tests included companions Bachelor franchise students such as Nick Viall, Becca Kufrin and Thomas Jacobs, Jared Haibon and Ashley Iaconnetti, and Wells Adams, who also served as a groom.

“I’m so excited,” Higgins, 32, tells PEOPLE. “We have so much to look forward to. And I know we’re going to have a nice wedding.”

RELATED: Ben Higgins’ girlfriend, Jessica Clarke, says she “Never Feeled More Beautiful” at Wedding Dress

During the “simple and beautiful” ceremony, planned by Sara Fried of Fete Nashville and photographed by Jordan Voth, Clarke, 25, who was engaged to Higgins in March 2020, walked down the aisle in Anne Barge’s dress, while the groom wore tuxedo. Clarke and Higgins exchanged personalized oaths and the ceremony also featured handwriting and quotes from Winnie-the-Pooh which were specially chosen by the couple.

After the ceremony, guests went to a lakefront reception for cocktails and individually packaged dinners with the couple’s favorite foods – including pizza and skates – while The Taylor Pace Orchestra played.

Higgins and Clarke, who met on social media in 2018, showed up to PEOPLE about each other days before the wedding.

RELATED: Ben Higgins Reveals That He and Boyfriend Jessica Clarke Sleep in Different Beds Until They Get Married

“Ben not only makes me want to be a better person, but he actually makes me a better person,” Clarke said. “He assures me of all my dreams and all my goals. I never thought I would have a partner who accepted every part of me.”

Higgins said, “Jessica is so incredibly empathetic and caring. She encourages me and she supports me and I know she cares about who I am and where I’m going. I’m so excited that I can love her – and be loved. By she – every day. And I’m so grateful I found her. “

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