London, August 2012 - I was having a staycation during time off I had booked for my friend's wedding in the USA. I couldn't go because of the price of travel insurance, due to a heart operation I had the previous year. Meanwhile in Nashville, Tennessee a young lady by the name of Nicole Rae Drummond was recovering at home from a gall bladder operation.
I was looking at a hashtag about video games and randomly 'liked' one of Nicole's pics on Instagram. She then checked out my feed and liked a few of my photos back... This started a slew of commenting between us, an exchange of email addresses and before we knew it we spent the whole week texting back and forth and FaceTiming like crazy.
Fast forward to a full 3 months of FaceTiming and texting every day, I told Nicole "I want to meet you". We both booked flights to meet in Washington DC and have a fly-drive vacation. From the moment we laid eyes on each other at the airport it was love; we got on so well and felt super comfortable with each other.
10 days later we both flew home with tears in our eyes, we didn't want to part. Nicole had hidden a note in my bag that simply said "I Love You" and when I got back to London after my 8 hour flight, I called her and told her that I love her. Sadly, It would be 6 months until I saw her again in person.
During our time apart it became increasingly tough and there were times when we missed one another so much. I found an app called Pair, now Couple, that really helped us stay connected alongside FaceTime. One useful way we used Couple was to leave voice messages to wake up to and listen on our walks to work; As I was 5 hours ahead of Nicole.
Upon my arrival in Tennessee in September 2013 after a full 6 months apart, I proposed to Nicole… happily she said yes! We had originally planned to have a fly drive holiday in the southern states, but instead I helped move Nicole the 900 miles to New York City where she was due to start a new job. During the drive across the eastern states we were talking about how excited we were to get married and decided to elope in NYC a couple of days later.
On the 24th of September 2014 we went to the New York City clerks office and registered for a marriage certificate. The next day we got dressed up, full of butterflies we met another instagrammer - @chaotic_fusion_nyc - (who took some amazing photos of us) and a friend Nicole had made while staying at his place thanks to Airbnb earlier that year.
We waited in line for our number to be called, mingling with other wedding parties until finally, a couple of hours later, it was our turn!! The actual marriage ceremony only took a few beautiful moments and then suddenly we were handed a certificate - We burst out into the bright sunshine of NYC as husband and wife: Mr. and Mrs. Dearling.
I should say that we burst into the world as a "secret husband and wife." We hadn't invited our family nor friends to the wedding and I had to return to the UK before we would finally be together in NYC. I spent the next three months working in London, saving up to move to New York, still having not told anyone I was married - wearing my wedding band on my right hand, same as when Nicole placed in on my finger during our vows.
On December 25th 2013 I excitedly departed the UK to finally be with my wife! My friends and family still didn't know I was married at this time. Fortunately my good friend, had set her wedding for August 2014, and as I would be flying home for the ceremony. It was the perfect opportunity to introduce Nicole as my wife.
Fast forward to August 2014 - where I informed my friends and family that I'm happily married.... 11 months after our private ceremony. Some of my family accepted our announcement really well, others less so, but everyone was excited for us in the end, because they know our love is real. We finally got to take our honeymoon in Crotia 11 months after we got married.
...Oh and one more thing. When I met Nicole she was engaged, but if you want to know that part of the story, you'll have to ask ;)
We're still wearing our wedding rings on the wrong finger... It feels special to us.