Broadway’s Jessica Phillips and Chelsea Nachman Are Engaged: 'We Both Said Yes' (Exclusive)

The actress and the publicist, who have been dating for three years, open up to PEOPLE about their two proposals this month — and those gorgeous rings

<p>Jenny Anderson</p> From Left: Jessica Phillips and Chelsea Nachman celebrate their engagement

Jenny Anderson

From Left: Jessica Phillips and Chelsea Nachman celebrate their engagement

Jessica Phillips and Chelsea Nachman are engaged! The couple — who both have extensive Broadway credits for their work in the theater industry; Phillips as an actress and Nachman as a publicist — each popped the question this month, after three years dating.

Now, PEOPLE has the exclusive look at their proposals — and their rings!

The pair proposed to one another on different dates, with Phillips, 52, doing her proposal in Washington, D.C. on April 15 and Nachman, 35, in Brooklyn, New York on April 22.

"We both said yes!" Nachman tells PEOPLE, explaining that she and Phillips came up with the concept of doing two proposals when they first decided they wanted to get married back in February.

"It was important for us that we did this on our terms," she says. "Once we decided, 'We actually want to do this; this is what we want for our future, this is what we want our timeline to be,' it became clear that we each wanted to be involved in the planning of it together."

Related: 'Dear Evan Hansen' Star Jessica Phillips Is Rediscovering Herself at 50 as Part of the LGBTQ Community

<p>Ingrid Michaelson</p> From Left: Jessica Phillips and Chelsea Nachman

Ingrid Michaelson

From Left: Jessica Phillips and Chelsea Nachman

That was especially impactful for Phillips, who has been married twice before and has two adult sons from a previous relationship. "She’s never had this kind of proposal before," Nachman says. "She has never chosen a ring before, never planned where it was happening or gotten to ask the question herself. So doing it this way, we both were able to have agency in the decision to take this next step together in our relationship."

The two started by picking out rings. They found a designer on Instagram they both fell in love with — a female-owned custom jewelry company called Frank Darling — and made an appointment to try on pieces together.

"It was so giddy and exciting for both of us," Nachman says. "And what was great was that we were each able to pick out our own designs and settings. So they're our own; not the same, but coordinating."

Both went with lab diamonds, with Phillips choosing a 4.5-carat Asscher-cut diamond, which she had set on a yellow gold band with platinum bathtub bezels. Nachman, meanwhile, went with a 5-carat, Emerald-cut diamond, which she also had set on a yellow gold band. 

<p>Jenny Anderson</p> Jessica Phillips (left) and Chelsea Nachman (right) wearing their engagement rings

Jenny Anderson

Jessica Phillips (left) and Chelsea Nachman (right) wearing their engagement rings

As for the proposals, both knew the dates they were happening but kept the plans for the occasion a surprise.

"We approached it with the same mindset of when you're planning a vacation," Nachman tells PEOPLE. "Part of the fun of that is the anticipation of where you're going to go, what you're to do, what you're going to wear. So we looked at it the same way. This way, I could get a manicure, and we could pick out outfits together. It ended up being this joint experience that was really unique to us, both as a couple and as two women."

There was another perk to doing that for Nachman. "I hear so many stories where people say, ‘I blacked out, I couldn’t remember a thing,' and I didn't want that to be my experience," she laughs. "I don’t do well with surprise parties. It was much better for both of us if I knew it was coming."

Nachman and Phillips first met in July 2017 and have been dating since May 2021. Though the two live together in South Orange, New Jersey, each proposed in places meaningful to them.

<p>Daniel Corey</p> Jessica Phillips (top) sings for Chelsea Nachman

Daniel Corey

Jessica Phillips (top) sings for Chelsea Nachman

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Phillips chose Washington, D.C., where she has been performing for the past two months at the Signature Theatre in a show called Penelope, about the wife of Odysseus. Nachman showed up at the theatre on Phillips' day off to pick her up, and instead found her now fiancée standing on stage in a "beautiful navy gown" with a 5-piece string band onstage.

"I was so overwhelmed," Nachman recalls. "I was led to a seat in the front and sat down and Jess started singing Elton John's 'Your Song,' which has been my favorite song since Ewan McGregor sang it in Moulin Rouge. And she changed the lyrics to the second verse to make it about us, and I was just sobbing. I was so confident I wasn’t going to cry cause I knew it was coming, but then I got there and immediately, was a puddle. Instant ugly cry face!"

After the song, Phillips invited Nachman onto the stage and popped the question. The rest of the day, the two spent FaceTiming friends before having a romantic, beautiful dinner together.

<p>Daniel Corey</p> From Left: Jessica Phillips and Chelsea Nachman hug after getting engaged

Daniel Corey

From Left: Jessica Phillips and Chelsea Nachman hug after getting engaged

Nachman incorporated a bit more humor into her proposal, tricking Phillips with two ring boxes — one given to her first thing in the morning, while the two were in bed, and another while on a hike on a reservation near their Jersey home. Both had notes inside them, with the first saying, "not yet," and the second saying, "sike."

"I wanted to have fun with it," Nachman says.

Then, on a drive to a Passover seder with Nachman's family on Long Island, they stopped in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, where they had frequented when Nachman lived in the area.

"We got to the park at noon, and I had a group of friends who had written sidewalk chalk pink hearts at certain points along the path," Nachman recalls. "Every heart, I stopped and told our story about our past, our present and how excited I was to build our future together. And she was sobbing!"

<p>Jenny Anderson</p> From Left: Chelsea Nachman proposes to Jessica Phillips

Jenny Anderson

From Left: Chelsea Nachman proposes to Jessica Phillips

Related: RHOC Stars Jennifer Pedranti and Ryan Boyajian Are Engaged! Inside His Surprise Bahamas Proposal (Exclusive)

The path then swung by a beautiful arched tunnel, where singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson — a friend of the couple's and the composer of The Notebook musical — stepped out to perform an acoustic version of her single with Jason Mraz, "Love Is."

"Jess was crying and even though I swore I wouldn't, I instinctually got down on one knee," Nachman says. "Only, because I didn't want to put my knee on the ground, I kind of squatted? Plus, I was holding the ring box, my phone, and my keys for some reason? I lost my mind. It was a whole whirlwind of a moment."

The pair then had a picnic on the lawn with champagne, strawberries, cheese and other treats. "We just hung out there for an hour or two, toasting and telling the story of the day before going to seder with my family," Nachman says. "It was really beautiful."

<p>Jenny Anderson</p> From Left: Jessica Phillips and Chelsea Nachman celebrate their engagement

Jenny Anderson

From Left: Jessica Phillips and Chelsea Nachman celebrate their engagement

Looking back, Nachman gushes about both proposals. "We didn't plan it, but I love that we both had a live performance music element to ours, which speaks so much about who we are and what we love in life," Nachman says. "It was so personal to both of us, and so special."

Asked what she loves the most about Phillips, Nachman points the the thing she noticed first about her: "The way she moves through the world with such empathy."

"And I think that’s directly coordinated with how she is as a mother," Nachman says. "Watching her relationship with her children was life-altering to me. It allowed me to see myself in a different sense with how she saw me. I have truly become the best version of myself with her and because of her."

"Also, she's really hot," Nachman jokes.

<p>Jenny Anderson</p> From Left: Jessica Phillips and Chelsea Nachman share a kiss in Prospect Park

Jenny Anderson

From Left: Jessica Phillips and Chelsea Nachman share a kiss in Prospect Park

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Phillips pointed to Nachman's sense of humor in her response.

"Chelsea is my absolute favorite person on the planet!" she says. "Truly, I just love being with her, whether it’s flying across three time zones or sloth-ing in sweats on the couch. She makes me laugh like nobody else does, and her gigantic, squishy, empathetic heart melts mine. She’s fiercely passionate about theatre, fiercely opinionated about T. Swift, and you will never meet a more generous or loyal friend."

"She’s my loudest cheerleader and my gentlest voice of reason when it comes to owning my s---," the actress adds. "I love that I’ve found someone who cries at commercials and songs and babies as much as I do and that I’ve met my match at a Thursday crossword."

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