On a hot summer weekend in Las Vegas back in 2002, Heather Harris and Ezequiel Martinez almost pulled a Britney Spears.
This club-hopping couple came very close to eloping (as Ms. Spears reportedly did in Sin City this past weekend). What brought them back from the brink of a quickie wedding? Guilt. The two, both now 29, decided they couldn't get married without their families close by.
Back when they met, though, Heather says they connected because they were "in the right place at the right time."
They first spied each other the day before New Year's Eve in 2000, at the Rock Bottom Brewery in downtown Portland. The location wasn't a normal spot for either of these twentysomethings.
At the time, Heather, a sales assistant, spent more time at Southwest Stark Street gay clubs with a glow stick in her hand than at downtown breweries clutching pints of lager. Having just ended a nasty marriage, she left her then-6-year-old daughter with relatives most weekends to head to the clubs with many of her gay friends.
As for Zeke, who manages the Rite Aid drug stores in Beaverton, he was just meeting up with a friend for an after-work drink. Zeke says their first conversation at Rock Bottom went so well that when Heather mentioned going dancing later that night, he invited himself along.
The rendezvous took place at Panorama, a mammoth, sometimes gay, sometimes straight downtown dance club that's been known to host foam parties one night and gothic dance parties the next.
Her ex-husband's infidelities made her wary about trusting men, Heather says, yet she felt different about Zeke. She wanted to be up-front about being a single mother, so she told Zeke about her daughter right away. When he didn't take a step back upon hearing the news, but asked more questions, Heather decided he was a keeper.
"He's genuine," she says. "I had no problem giving him all of my trust."
The very next night, the two spent New Year's Eve on the telephone, talking for hours.
A big breakthrough in the relationship came three months later, when Zeke met Heather's daughter, Anesha. The couple introduced him first as "a friend," and over time, they told Anesha that Zeke was, in fact, Mommy's boyfriend. Heather says her daughter was thrilled at the news.
As for the Las Vegas holiday in June 2002, Heather says she and Zeke sat in the lobby of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, dreaming of a low-key celebration. But when they weighed the pros and the cons, Anesha was on their minds. "She would have killed us," Zeke says.
The couple shelved their plans that day and instead planned a more formal ceremony, which took place last July in Wilsonville. Anesha, dressed in lilac, served as a junior bridesmaid. The reception felt a bit more informal, with a German Shepherd in attendance, while the kids at the party were entertained by busting a piñata.
Zeke and Heather's wedding turned into a major family event, so unlike a Las Vegas quickie, so un-Britney.