The traditional love-story roadmap expects you to fall in love, get married, buy a house, and then have a baby and raise a family. Well, this is no longer the set path that many modern couples take.
Partners today are forging their own, less-expected routes by choosing to invest in a home together before marrying or even becoming business partners before becoming life partners. For others, the alternate path chooses them—a couple may need to get married before a wedding celebration due to visa concerns, or a post-marriage road to baby is longer than anticipated.
The only traditions I’m concerned about are the ones we create ourselves. You have to do what’s best for you and your family in whatever order that happens to be.
These couples, by choice or by fate, have tossed that traditional route to happily ever after, and discovered a new path together. As one bride put it, “The only traditions I’m concerned about are the ones we create ourselves. You have to do what’s best for you and your family in whatever order that happens to be.”
Ahead, we asked seven couples who forged a non-traditional path to their happily ever after to share their stories. While we may feel expectations to follow a certain map to a happy relationship, know that a little off-roading can be just as fun.
A Bright Idea Lead to Marriage and a Move Abroad
Andrés and Carolina Quintero are the husband-and-wife founders of sustainable accessories brand Min & Mon. However, when they first met in college at the Universidad de Los Andes in Colombia, it was not love at first sight. Over time through a shared friend group, their own friendship blossomed. Eventually, Andrés and Carolina would become roommates. During this time, they discovered a shared entrepreneurial spirit and started a lamp line together. While their first business venture didn’t work out, it was the spark that ignited a relationship of nearly twenty years and counting.
Upon graduating, the couple married and then moved to the United States, where they started their third business, Min & Mon, in 2016. As Andrés puts it: “We find it comical that two people who weren’t fond of each other at first were able to see past the first impression [and] become friends, then roommates, followed by business partners, and now a family running a business.”
Planning a Second Marriage and a Child-Free Future
Alexis Hilton met her husband Greg as a student of his acting studio. After eight months of classes, she invited him out for coffee, having a feeling that her crush may have been reciprocal. It was. After dating for three years, the two decided to marry. Remembering the pressure and stress of a big wedding from her first marriage, Alexis wanted to do something more intimate the second time around. She and Greg decided to have a private ceremony in the desert with just two friends in attendance, but have a big celebratory bash the evening before with 60 friends and family. While it was difficult to share the news with her family, Alexis felt it was important to have the ceremony be a private moment just for her now-husband and her.
With a local photographer and a set of coordinates to a location in the Red Rocks area of Las Vegas, she and Greg wed. At the ceremony, they had a cake baked by Bouchon Bakery and a bottle of champagne. Afterward, they explored Vegas. Four years later, the couple has added two cats to their family and are "happily child-free," relishing that they can go on vacation whenever they want and enjoy a gorgeous white couch without fear. One day, she says, they may get a dog.
First Comes a House and Baby, Then Comes Marriage
After moving in together with her now-husband Mike, Robyn was due to replace her IUD. However, she thought to herself, “Oh my god, I'm gonna be 35 soon. Isn’t that when your uterus shrivels and dies?!’” As she grappled with her feelings of biological pressure and the label of ‘geriatric pregnancy’ for women over 35, her now-husband suggested she not replace her IUD and, as she puts it, “not ‘try’ but not-not try. In my mind, it was definitely going to take years to possibly conceive.”
When Robyn learned she was pregnant, she told her husband by “placing the positive test on top of the fresh beer he asked me to grab for him while I was up.” At the time, the couple was living in a one-bedroom loft in Downtown LA. She describes that the “bedroom [was] so small, you could only walk around two sides of our queen bed and back again like Pac-Man.” So, they combined their life savings and purchased a fixer-upper. Once moved in, Mike proposed while on a lake trip where Robyn had grown up. Their daughter was strapped in her carrier during the proposal. The couple eventually married in 2019—with their daughter participating as an 18-month-old flower girl.
A Postponement, a Small Ceremony, and a Celebration of Life
Dara Patel and her husband Kunal never looked forward to a large wedding, but with parental encouragement, they chose to have a large Jewish and Hindu wedding in 2020. Upon the 2020 Covid shutdown, not only did the wedding have to be postponed, but Kunal’s Tanzania-based parents and sister also had their visa approvals indefinitely postponed. Knowing that Kunal’s immediate family would likely not be able to make it to the first-postponed date, the couple planned a small ceremony in Santa Rosa with the couples’ California-based family joining.
During this time, Kunal’s father grew ill with tuberculosis. While Dara and Kunal struggled to embrace having a ceremony with Kunal’s father sick on the other side of the world, they moved forward with a small ceremony and family gathering. Kunal’s family coordinated Zooming in guests from around the world. All the while, they reminded the couple that Kunal’s father would be happy knowing they were married.
Shortly after the small ceremony, Kunal lost his father. While nothing is what they had envisioned at the beginning, Kunal’s mother just recently had a visa approved to visit in the fall of 2021. The couple now plans to have a one-day Hindu ceremony where Kunal’s father will also be honored.
From Classmates to Partners to Man and Wife
Both acupuncturists, Ganit Kriel and her husband Bryan met studying together at Emperor’s College. Friendly with one another at school for over a year, the couple started dating when Ganit totaled her car and Bryan offered to help drive her around for a couple of months until she found a new one. Their love and work story unfolded quickly, and they opened an acupuncture practice together as business partners right after graduating, just seven months after they started dating.
At the time, Bryan had been practicing with a chiropractor while Ganit was working at an OB/GYN office at UCLA. They named their acupuncture business after the Greek word for passion, Thumos Health Center, focusing on helping women with fertility and pregnancy-focused treatment. Ganit says that they knew as soon as they started getting serious about opening a business together, that they would eventually marry. She calls going into business with and marrying Bryan “the best decision I ever made.”
With their new fertility and pregnancy-focused acupuncture business now open, Ganit was running out of time on her student visa. In order to prevent her from needing to return to Israel, Bryan proposed and the couple married a few months later. Exactly one year later to the date, Ganit’s parents planned a big, traditional Jewish wedding with 250 guests for the newlyweds in Israel.
A Family Worth the Wait
Julie Serber and her husband Gary had been dating for about five years and living together for four when they began shopping for houses and discussing marriage in 2016. They were not ”necessarily married to the idea of any particular order of things," as Julie puts it. They ended up purchasing a home together that December, where Gary staged an "elaborate proposal," complete with a backyard full of twinkling lights and the question “will you” and “marry me” spelled out on their dogs’ collars.
While planning their wedding, Julie’s father became progressively ill with prostate cancer, and she says, “All I knew was that I wanted it to be at a certain place with certain people, my dad being one of them.” They rushed to set a wedding date less than a year after getting engaged, but her father would pass two months before their two-day, Hindu and secular wedding.
Julie and Gary started trying for a family in September of 2018. After a miscarriage in 2019, the couple started IVF, with four or five rounds of egg retrievals. Their last cycle resulted in the embryo that is now going to be their son due on January 1, 2022. Julie shares, “We’ve been through so much in the nine years we’ve been together. I think that no matter what order things happened in, I’d like to think we would still be where we are now—together.”
A Very Long Engagement and a Quick Change of Plans
My own journey to ever-after began with seven years of dating and a six-year engagement. Yep, that means I was with my partner 13 years before getting married. Most of our engagement was spent living together in San Francisco, where we regularly talked about a traditional wedding but could never commit to a destination or venue. Eventually, we moved to Los Angeles, where we continued to talk about wedding plans and shop for our first home in the meantime. We found the perfect house before we could find the perfect wedding venue, and we planned to have our wedding at our new home in May 2020.
With our plans all firmed up and the wedding invitations sent, my close family friend threw me a beautiful bridal shower in February 2020, with all of the women in my family and good friends. Then in March, our traditional wedding was postponed. Instead, my husband and I eloped just the two of us at Meadowood Napa Valley. Now, I couldn’t have envisioned our wedding any other way.