Happier than ever, Reese Witherspoon hit Paris on January 20th with her girlfriends for a glam weekend getaway and shopping spree in preparation for her upcoming wedding to showbiz agent Jim Toth. From the most chic boutiques on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (and yes, wedding gown fittings were on the agenda, a source tells PEOPLE in this week's issue), to the famous candy-colored macaroons at Ladurée tea salon, Witherspoon staged her French invasion like a woman on a mission. "She knew where she wanted to go and moved fast," an observer tells PEOPLE. "It was impressive."
Clearly, the 34-year-old Oscar winner is eager to embrace her new beginning. Four years after she split from ex-husband Ryan Phillippe, 36 – with whom she shares custody of their kids Ava, 11, and Deacon, 7 – the actress has
found love again with the low-key Toth, 40. A savvy Hollywood insider minus the big-screen star baggage, "he gets her and her world," says a Witherspoon friend. "He is not intimidated. There's no competition. He's a grownup who's really ready to take the next step. He's a family-oriented guy, and that's all she ever really wanted."
Still, those closest to the actress have been "surprised," says an insider, by the lightening speed with which the couple of one year – who met via overlapping circles at CAA, where Toth is an agent and Witherspoon is repped – have gone from dating to engaged to finalizing wedding plans. Ready to start their life together, they've even discussed the possibility of having more children. Says a friend: "It feels right."
It's a long way from the heartbreak Witherspoon struggled with after her seven-year marriage to Phillippe crumbled. Their divorce was "very humiliating and very isolating," she told Elle in 2009. "You control very, very little…That was a revelation. Changed my life."
With Toth, say friends, she has learned to relax and enjoy herself – a welcome break for the famously type-A perfectionist. Unlike her high-profile relationship with Phillippe and actor Jake Gyllenhaal, 30, whom she dated for more than a year before things fizzled out in 2009, "with Jim, things are easy," says the insider. "He makes her laugh. She's truly enjoying her life right now."
It shows. Tucking into homemade pasta at Paris bistro Le Cherche Midi on January 20th with a small group of friends, the bride-to-be "had a smile from one ear to the other," says one observer. And no wonder. Gearing up for her big day – and her new life – "she's very giddy," says another insider. "She's excited to see what the future holds."
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