Sweet Sixteen

How a night in the park changed the course of a couple's lives.

Picture this.

You’re a teenager heading home from a concert when a girl you don’t know comes up to you and asks if you’d like to sleep in the park with her and her friends.

What do you say? 

When Antoine found himself in the same situation, he answered with a resounding Yes. Soon, he found himself sitting by the campfire with Vicky, bonding over their shared experience as English-speaking teens in their French town. 

Unbeknownst to them, that night in the park was only the beginning of a relationship that has grown over the past 16 years. This September, the two will tie the knot. 

Here’s their story. 

How did you meet? 

Vicky: It was 16 years ago, I was 16 and Antoine was about 17. We met in the street. I was coming back from a concert with some friends and he was coming back from a friend’s party. We actually later discovered it was a shared friend, but we didn’t know it at the time!

I had decided with my friends that we were going to camp in the main park of the town — as teenagers do, I guess — and we were looking for mates. We were missing a couple of sleeping bags and things. I decided to go ask Antoine if he wanted to join and, if he didn’t live too far, if he would mind grabbing a few extra sleeping bags. He didn’t have any sleeping bags, but he did join and we chatted all evening. 

Antoine: I think I had a couple of blankets, though. 

What were your first impressions of each other? 

Antoine: Vicky is very easygoing. Back then, when you’re a teenager, you tend to be on the backfoot most of the time. I found her very welcoming. Going up to people in the street is something that I think is very interesting. 

Vicky: I think I just found him cute and I had a good excuse at hand to talk to him. Because he grew up in South Africa, he was fluent in English. And I have a British dad. There weren’t a lot of English speaking teenagers in my town. So I remember being like Oh, that’s cool, a guy who’s a bit different and has traveled. During the evening as we were talking I remember thinking I want to stay in touch with him

Antoine: It went naturally. We talked through the whole night until dawn. And we realized we had a lot of values in common. The whole night went so well. It was a pretty crazy night just being by the campfire and sharing stories and having a good time. Everybody was sleeping, it was just us two. 

How did you get together? 

Antoine: There’s a celebration in France that’s like a Music Day. Basically all the groups are playing music in the streets. That was a perfect excuse to invite a couple of friends and make our friend groups overlap. 

Vicky: I remember that you weren’t very obvious about liking me. Antoine is amazingly outgoing and finds everyone and everything interesting, so I was like I think he likes me but I’m not entirely sure. We were hanging out during that music festival and I wasn’t entirely sure he was interested. But we saw each other a few days after that and we ended up kissing in the park. 

Teenage Vicky and Antoine in 2009.

How did things grow from there? 

Vicky: We didn’t have that much in common [in our lives] besides that friend. We didn’t go to the same high school, but obviously it’s a small city so we could walk from each other's houses. We would see each other quite regularly because we were walking distance from each other's houses. But yeah, we didn’t actually have a lot of overlap in terms of friends in high school, which I think in some ways was quite nice because we didn’t have all the drama of being in the same school. We could create our own relationship at our own pace. 

It’s been 16 years since you met. Why do you think you stayed together all this time?

Antoine: I think part of it is we’ve grown a lot since then. In 16 years we’ve changed quite a bit. We’ve grown together and grown to know each other. And I think a key factor is we didn’t live together early on. We had a bit of space around us to grow as individuals, which I think is pretty important when you’re young. We had shared friends, but we also had our own friends. We both lived abroad, we had some working experiences abroad, and we decided to stay together during that. 

Vicky: I can’t see us doing this now, but one thing that helped us is we did a fair bit of long distance. It sounds counterintuitive, but I think we gave each other the space to figure out who we were so that we were choosing each other and it wasn’t that we didn’t know who we were without the other. We were deliberate in our twenties to kind of cover our own space and pursue professional opportunities. 

Antoine: I think we learned to talk to each other better. I was pretty stubborn and not talking too much when I was younger, and now I think I express myself a bit more. 

Why’d you decide to get married now? 

Antoine: I think it started when we started talking about having kids. And it’s also because we like partying a bit. We like inviting all our friends and mixing everybody up. It felt like what we were needing at this point, a big party with all our family. 

Vicky: The last couple of years it’s felt like we really arrived at a point in our relationship where we felt content. I know that doesn’t sound very positive, but it is. It’s that beautiful stillness when you’re just super happy. You have less of those existential questions of Should we stay together? How are we going to be together? I think the wedding and the marriage is about concretizing us being a family. It’s as much an opportunity to celebrate what comes next as celebrating the journey we’ve been on for the past 16 years. 

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📊 Last Week We Asked…

  • [poll] “When someone you like is not initially interested in you, what's the best approach?

    • 54% said “Prioritize personal growth and stay open to possibilities”

    • 38% said “Stay patient and keep showing your true self”

    • 8% said “Communicate openly, without expectations”

Thoughts from the Meet Cutes NYC community: “I think remembering to focus on yourself and what you want is more important than them not liking you. Which is hard because it’s so heady to get wrapped up in the thoughts of “is it me? Am I not ____ enough?” Which is dangerous. That’s why focusing on yourself, remembering it may just be timing is important.”

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Interviewed and transcribed by Nicolas Vega. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.