How we met: 'We married in secret five weeks after meeting'

Lizzie Cernik
How we met: 'We married in secret five weeks after meeting'. Laura and Jay Anderson were 18 and 20 when they met as students in the early 90s. They now live in Minnesota with their two children and three dogs

It was January 1992 when Jay spotted Laura in a bar in Washington DC. “I was on a date with someone else, but it was clear there was nothing there for either of us,” Jay recalls. The bar was busy, so he and his date began chatting to other people. “I thought Laura was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I had to speak to her.”

The pair discovered they were both students at local universities and quickly hit it off. “I’d never seen such a well-dressed college kid,” says Laura. “He had lovely manners and seemed very grown-up for his age.” At the end of the night, she gave him her number but he lost it. “I remembered the prefix of the number for the building she lived in, so I called about 50 people until I found her.”

Over the next few weeks, he took Laura to some of the city’s nicest bars and restaurants. Then he invited her for a homecooked Valentine’s Day meal. “I’ve no idea how, but the discussion turned to marriage,” says Laura. “It sounds insane, because we were only 18 and 20 and we barely knew each other, but we just decided it was a great idea.” Ten days later, they drove down to Virginia to get married, without telling their families. “We didn’t think it through at all,” says Jay. “Even on the drive down we were both thinking how mad it was. It was young love and lust. We just went for it.”

A few months later, the couple confessed their secret to their families. “My parents were really upset. My dad has always wanted to walk me down the aisle,” says Laura. “My family were a bit more accepting,” Jay says, “but Laura’s really struggled. We have a good relationship now but I completely understand why they were so angry.”

Although many rushed weddings end in tears, Jay and Laura were determined to work through any teething problems. “At the beginning, we had nothing. No money, no home. It was tough,” he says.

The couple moved to Philadelphia after they married, where Laura completed her college degree. In 1995, they went to Georgia for two years, where Jay studied, before they both moved Minneapolis-Saint Paul in Minnesota, where they still live. “Luckily we found out we did actually like each other,” Jay laughs. “We were so young we didn’t care about the material stuff. We just built a life together.”

Jay now runs a printing business, while Laura works in a wellness clinic. They “love the outdoors and share an interest in politics,” says Jay. Once every four years they travel to Iowa to check out the presidential candidates.

They waited 10 years before having children. “We decided we wanted to spend some time building our relationship first,” says Laura. Their two boys are now 17 and 16 and they have three rescue dogs.

“I’ve grown up with Laura,” says Jay. “She’s the most well-meaning person in the world and she makes me want to be a better person. She still has this air of mystery about her, too, even now.”

Laura laughs. Jay calls her “part of my DNA”.

They have no regrets about marrying so quickly. “When I tell people our story, they say: ‘That’s crazy,’” says Laura. “I mean, I probably spend more time choosing a purse now. But it worked out.” Jay says he would make the same decision in a heartbeat. “In hindsight we rushed things a bit, but now she’s my best friend and the mother of my children. I’d do it all over again every time.”

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