When Natalie Crowe and Austin Tatman were 5 years old, they were the best of friends. The pair met in their preschool class and were inseparable for three straight years.
Fate would pull them apart for over a decade, as Crowe moved with her mother and siblings out of state following her parents’ divorce at the end of her preschool years. That early connection clearly went deeper than anyone expected, though—so when they reconnected a whopping 12 years later, their subsequent love story seemed like destiny being fulfilled.
Crowe and Tatman were married in April of 2018, cementing a friendship and love over two decades in the making while writing a love story all their own. In honor of their incredible journey to this happily ever after, Crowe spoke with PEOPLE about how truly special their relationship was—and still is.
It all started when the pair were put together in a preschool class at age 2.
Although most children are barely speaking full sentences at that age, the duo immediately latched on to one another. They were rarely seen apart, with pictures from those early years detailing shared trick-or-treating adventures and adorable candids standing together while the rest of their classmates stood in a group.
“We just automatically became best friends and our parents realized it,” Natalie explained in the interview. “It’s strange when you’re that age—you don’t usually hang out with the opposite sex. But from when we were 2 until we were 5, we were constantly together.”
The divorce on Natalie’s side, when she was 5, pulled the pair apart, separating them as she and her mother and siblings moved up to Connecticut. And while her mother still had piles of photographs of the best friends together, her memories of those early years started to fade with time.
Fate would bring them together a second time, though, when they were 17 years old.
Crowe had been going through her mother’s old address book when she came across Austin’s name, strengthening her desire to see how her old friend was doing.
Hoping that he remembered her as much as she remembered him, she added him on Facebook—and when they realized that Austin still lived just 10 minutes from Natalie’s dad in Florida, they agreed that they had to meet up when she got into town a few weeks later. From there, it was like they’d never been separated in the first place.
“Ever since that time, we’ve been together. It was like the second I saw him, it was a friendship that had come back to life instantly,” Natalie explained.
The pair explained that the sparks really started to fly on their second date after reconnecting, but Crowe doesn’t believe that it’s their preschool friendship that forged their current love and marriage.
“We had a storyline and a display of our pictures in order,” she notes. “As amazing as our story is, I didn’t want it to be the focal point of us being together … we have this amazing story but the story isn’t what kept us together for 7 years since we’ve reconnected.”
Those pictures and memories, though, have certainly played a role. On their wedding day, they recreated an old picture of the pair standing on an electric toy jeep together—and although they’ve forged new memories and experiences during their year of long-distance dating, college experiences, and engagement, those earliest tokens of their bond are still a nice reminder to have.
“After we had picked the place we were gonna get married, that’s when it was like ‘I’m literally marrying my preschool sweetheart.’ This is insanity,” she said.