Meant to Be: They Married Their High School Sweethearts
Two Pittsburgh couples share how they faced life’s challenges alongside their high school sweethearts, and how growing up with each other really can strengthen a relationship.
A Love Story 22 Years in the Making
Photos by Kristi Telnov Photography
When Rebecca Maddas and Joshua Velicevich were set up on a triple blind date 22 years ago, it wasn’t exactly love at first sight.
The two attended Uniontown Area School District and Rebecca, who was a freshman at the time, says that she and then-senior Josh barely spoke that evening, so she was surprised that he asked her out again. After the initial awkwardness wore off, the two began to talk more often, and after several more dates, Josh asked Rebecca to go to his senior prom with him. They became a couple, and decided to stay together as Josh went off to Oberlin College in Ohio.
The couple went long distance in a time before social media and cell phones made communication easy. The next few years of their relationship were filled with letters, care packages, and phone calls made from landline phones. Any time that the couple could spend together was cherished, and most of it was spent in the mountains during summer breaks.
At the end of Rebecca’s senior year, she and Josh attended her senior prom together. After that, she went on to attend California University of Pennsylvania. Over the course of the next 16 years, Rebecca earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a certificate in administration and a Ph.D.
Rebecca says that she wanted her wedding to wait while she pursued her education, plus she was also working full time, first as a teacher and then as a principal. After she earned her doctorate, life settled down for her, and then she felt it was a more opportune time to start thinking about the wedding.
“Josh was very patient during that time,” Rebecca says.
On New Year’s Eve, Josh popped the question as the ball dropped. Twenty years after their first meeting turned into 21, and on May 20, 2017, the couple was married at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Uniontown.
Rebecca and Josh’s relationship was embodied with a Gospel reading at their wedding from John 15: 9-12, which is called “Remain in my Love.” Despite the challenges that the couple faced, they remained in each other’s love.
“In 22 years, you have ups and downs,” Rebecca says. “You change and grow, and we were fortunate enough to make it work.”
From Classmates to Soulmates
Photos by Leeann Marie Wedding Photographers
Rachel Exley and Dominic Dyer didn’t have chemistry when they met, but they did have biology — that is, they met in biology class in their sophomore year at North Allegheny High School.
Rachel says that Dominic’s outgoing personality made her like him first, and she actively pursued him shortly after their meeting. Dominic was nice to everyone, Rachel says, so it was easy for the two to become friends. Eventually, the two began spending more time together, and after a few months of unofficially being together, Rachel and Dominic made their relationship official in July of 2010.
During the first part of their relationship, when they were both 15, the couple’s parents and older siblings drove them to and from dates. Rachel says that the driving situation allowed for the couple to get close with each other’s families very quickly.
After graduation, Rachel went to Kent State University, while Dominic spent two years at the Community College of Allegheny County then two years at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“Being in a long distance relationship was definitely not easy, but we saw it as a temporary situation that would be worth it in the end,” Rachel says.
One Halloween weekend when Rachel and Dominic were both home from college, Dominic proposed at SOBA in Shadyside. Rachel says that going back to school after that weekend was more difficult, but the idea of getting married to her best friend got her through.
Dominic graduated a year before Rachel, who spent five years at Kent State. Their wedding date was set to be three weeks after her graduation, and between classes, Dominic’s new full time job, and planning the wedding, the last year before their marriage became very busy. They felt it was worth it, though, when the couple married on June 3, 2017 at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.
Rachel says that growing up with Dominic, and now being married to him, is her favorite thing in the world. The couple has been together for nearly eight years.
“It's cool that I went to my high school prom with the man I'm now married to, and I love that we graduated together and were able to share those years with each other,” Rachel says. “These memories are something I'll cherish forever.”