How quickly life can change. Just a few months ago, Natalie Martins and Ed Walsh were putting the finishing touches on a splashy December wedding in Florida, with family, friends, and sunshine. Instead, on Valentine's Day, they were married in a private ceremony at Concord's Colonial Inn, after weathering a terrible health scare.
Ed Walsh said he wouldn't have had it any other way.
"I'm thankful it turned out the way it did," he said. "It was a very private and special ceremony, and we were both here and able to enjoy it."
They were among five couples who married or renewed vows at the inn on Valentine's Day, through a special promotion offering free cake and a ceremony for the couples and their guests.
Natalie, 29, wore a simple white dress, Ed, 26, a black suit. They had no guests, only a photographer present at the ceremony, which was conducted by Concord Town Clerk Anita Tekle.
"Their story is so touching," said Tekle. "They'd gone through some tough times, and they were very sweet. I really enjoyed officiating."
The Walshes met four years ago in Acton. The couple now lives in Shirley. A native of Brazil, Natalie immigrated to the United States when she was 17, without a high school diploma.
"I was taking Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a type of martial art, and Natalie was the receptionist at the desk," said Ed. "I had kind of a crush on her, and one day I just asked her to go get something to eat. It kind of grew from there."
"Edward is such an amazing person, very caring and loving," she said. "We got engaged two years ago."
The couple first discovered the Colonial Inn as they were looking for somewhere to host their wedding, which they eventually moved to Florida to accommodate Walsh's family. They had everything ready except the photographer when, a few days before leaving, Natalie was rushed to the hospital with a blood clot.
"It was really scary," Ed said. "We found out that she couldn't be in a plane, or even ride in a car for more than an hour at a time. There was no way we could get to Florida."
They were forced to cancel their wedding, and assumed they would plan another ceremony for a later date - until they got the e-mail from the Colonial Inn and decided to get married there.
"All of our friends were excited for us," Natalie said. "People were joking around, saying we still had time to change our minds, but we wanted to do it."
They obtained their marriage license less than a week before the ceremony.
"My family was very supportive, even though they couldn't be there," Ed said. "They were just happy that we were able to get married."
Natalie said that they were planning to have a reception sometime in the summer, and were considering the Inn as the locale. Plans for a honeymoon are on hold for education - Ed, a construction worker, is completing nursing school, and Natalie is working toward her GED, which she expects to get in the spring.
"After that, we want to look for a house, and eventually, we want to have four kids," Natalie said.
Sarah Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.