Before Heather and Adam Woodruff were married this Christmas in Las Vegas, Heather spent 17 years finding--and then losing--Adam. Heather's mission to keep in touch with her former boyfriend was, well, determined. Here, then, is a timeline of the long and winding road that eventually led the two 34-year-olds to say, "I do":
1986, Bellingham, Wash.: Heather Ott, 17, spots Adam Woodruff at a party. He swoops in, she says, "like a lightning bolt." Adam, who's also 17, sports spiked, multicolored hair and wears a studded black leather jacket. He's a skater and, as she later learns, a bad boy. Heather wants Adam--and she dumps her boyfriend to get him. They're together as a couple for less than six months, then break up when Adam moves to Portland to live with his grandmother. The move wasn't his choice, Adam admits. "Let's just say I had a big party and my parents and the neighbors were not happy."
1988, Charleston, S.C.: Heather hears Adam has enlisted in the Navy in South Carolina. She calls the base and tells U.S. Navy officials a lie, that she's pregnant with Adam's child. Adam says he wasn't surprised to hear from his old flame and invited her to visit. "I didn't know then that he was the epitome of a sailor--he had a girl in every port," Heather says.
1992, Bellingham: Four years later, Heather and Adam decide it's time to see each other again. Yet things get complicated when Heather meets someone else right before the trip. Heather still visits Adam in Charleston, but cries the whole time because she misses her boyfriend back home.
Things don't exactly go as Adam planned. He says: "I was hoping to send her back pregnant and with a ring on her finger." Instead, he sends Heather home early to be with her new beau. " I was a 22-year-old male," he says, claiming he wasn't too jealous. "I was like 'OK, yeah. Whatever. Bye.'"
1993, Portland, Ore.: When Adam leaves the Navy and moves back to Portland, he begins living as recklessly as he had back when he was a teenage punk rocker. "Everybody we went to high school with was pretty certain I would be dead by the time I was 25," he says. "I was fearless and thought that life didn't have repercussions."
1997, Bellingham: Heather, now in a new relationship, gives birth to a baby girl, Olivia.
2002, Portland: After eight years, Adam is surprised to receive an email from Heather. His response? "Heather: I live in Portland. I live with my girlfriend. I work at a power company. Have a great day."
Undeterred, Heather pushes for more, and two months later, the two meet up in Seattle. Even though he's still involved, Adam offers Heather his own surprise: He's seen a psychic, who predicted that he would be married before he turned 36. He tells Heather she has two years and two months to marry him.
2003: In July, Heather receives a job promotion and moves to Portland. After Adam breaks up with his girlfriend, he and Heather spend months working on a new relationship.
December 2003, Nassau, Bahamas: In the midst of a Caribbean cruise, Adam mentions marriage again. After he convinces Heather he isn't joking, the two search for a marriage-license board in Nassau. They don't have the necessary international documents, so on their return home they stop off in Las Vegas and are married on Christmas.
January 2004, Portland: Adam credits Heather's determination for moving their relationship forward. "She fought so hard to show me that somebody loved me," he says. "She always won out in the end."