Not many people meet the love of their lives when they’re just five years old, but that’s what happened to Madison Highland and her husband Chad.
‘You can see it in the way I looked at him in all the pictures from that time,’ explained Madison, now 28. ‘I was probably in love with Chad when I was five. We always joked that I had already claimed him when we were kids.’
Although now happily married, the couple revealed that even though it was practically love at first sight when they met through their parents – that didn’t mean their course of true love ran smoothly.
In fact, both went on to marry other people before they finally reconnected as adults 18 years later.
Talking about their childhood together, Madison recalled that she and Chad, also 28, were ‘inseparable’, adding: ‘He tells me that I was his version of the “girl next door” – even though we lived in the same house.
‘He loved me from first sight.’
She goes on: ‘We were always together. We went dirt bike riding in the Mojave Desert with our families. The two of us would speed around on child quad bikes and camp out in the desert together.’
Chad, who has an older and a younger brother, was always Madison’s favourite – even as a five-year-old.
‘Even as a child,’ she said, ‘he was always a little bit quieter and I have always been the extrovert, getting him to play with me and get out of his comfort zone.
‘It’s very similar to how we are now, too.
‘We always just felt right together – our opposites attracted, and we clicked.’
They met because their parents were close friends – so close, in fact, that they decided to move in together with their families in the 90s. Even though their parents had stayed close over the years since they’d lived together, things fell apart after Madison moved away when she was 10.
‘It hit me hard when we stopped seeing each other because as families we had always spent so much time together,’ she remembered.
‘At that age, we were at the mercy of our parents and didn’t have cell phones so could not stay in touch.
‘When we were teenagers, our parents got back in touch with each other, but I never saw Chad in person.’
The pair would hear little things about each other’s lives here and there, and went on to have families in different states – Madison had son Pierson, nine, and Chad had sons Tanner, six, and Parker, four.
But after Chad separated from his wife in 2017, he reached out to Madison on Facebook for support, and the pair arranged to meet in person in January 2018 with their children at a theme park.
Madison said: ‘We met under the pretence of getting the kids together and to help him with his move back to California.
‘He didn’t really know anyone in the area anymore, especially not with children.’
Recalling the first time she saw and spoke to Chad properly since they were kids, she said: ‘I was extremely nervous to see him. I wasn’t really interested in any sort of relationship.
‘I was still healing, even though it had been a long time since my divorce.
‘He was nervous too because his emotions had already started to be rekindled by that point.
‘I was shaking with nerves. He pulled up in his huge loud truck, with more facial hair than I expected and listening to rap music.’
However, from the moment Chad picked up Madison and her son for their day out, they felt a strong connection.
‘I remember, to my surprise, I instantly wanted to impress him,’ she said.
‘The second that we saw each other that day it was like we had never been apart. It was so natural and easy and fun.
‘I remember thinking all the time, “I wonder if he’s looking at me as much as I’m looking at him, or is he just paying attention to the kids?”‘
A year later, they moved in together (again).
In November 2019, Chad popped the question and the pair got planning the wedding Madison – who became a pagan in 2012 – dreamed of.
Madison recalled: ‘I slowly introduced him to that side of me – my interest in crystals, meditation and manifesting, and thankfully he didn’t think I was a total weirdo.
‘The Viking way is all about the village community. We believe strongly in helping out in our village, and we love the nature-based life path and belief.
‘I think a Viking wedding is a good foundation for a happy marriage.’
She added: ‘After I told him that I wanted a wedding like that, he got really into it. He didn’t need convincing at all.’
Deciding to tie the knot in front of 50 family members and friends in Strawberry, California – a remote wooded location, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains – they rented 12 log cabins there and recreated their own ‘Viking village’ for the weekend.
‘In Chad’s vows, he said, “I met you as a child – a boy burning with the knowledge that one day I’ll be your husband”‘, Madison said.
‘In my vows, I told him, “Sappy’s never been my thing, but I think our story changed that. I like to think it was written in the stars.”‘
Then it was time to sit down with their families to a feast with turkey legs, sprouts, roasted beetroot and corn with homemade mead, before cutting the pine-cone-covered cake with an axe.
Madison said: ‘Everyone said they had never been to such a love-filled wedding.
‘My whole family adores Chad.
‘Not everyone knows that we’re childhood friends so when some of our newer friends found that out, they were blown away.’
‘I always felt drawn to Madison as a kid, something was always there, like we were supposed to be together,’ said Chad.
‘We always felt connected like this person is meant to be in my life.
‘When we reconnected the first time all those years later the spark was there, and I knew that with her was where I needed to be.
‘It seemed like she was my soul mate, and we were with the right people after all this time.’
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