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When Ruth Cohen and Shery Rosenstein became best friends while attending high school in California, they never imagined they'd go on to have babies a month apart and those kids would one day fall in love — but that's exactly what happened. And during a fairytale wedding in Colorado on Oct. 24, Cohen's daughter Maddie and Rosenstein's son Adam said "I do."
"I really feel like we were made for each other," 26-year-old Maddie, who works in finance for Creative Artists Agency, tells PEOPLE. "There were so many things drawing us to each other, I feel so lucky."
The twists of fate that brought them together started when Ruth and Shery, who have remained the closest of friends since their high school days, learned they were due on the same late June day in 1995. Maddie, born in Atlanta, arrived early. Adam followed weeks later in New York that July.
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Adam and Maddie first met when they were about 4 months old. They'd go on to see each other just a handful of times while growing up, yet Adam sensed something special early on. He recalls connecting with Maddie when they were just 8 and both families were visiting relatives in Arizona.
Sara Knobel Photo
"We had a day where we went mini golfing and had lunch together," Adam says. "That was the first moment that we remember just being able to talk with one another; it was really surprising just how natural our conversations flowed at that age."
Courtesy of Cohen & Rosenstein Families Shery Rosenstein and Ruth Cohen while pregnant
Though the two didn't see or speak to each other again until they were 14, they learned through their mothers' frequent phone calls that they "lived just these oddly parallel lives."
"I would win an award at school for something, and Maddie would win an award that same week. I fell off my bike and strained my leg really badly, and Maddie did the same thing the same week. Or we had strep throat at the same time," says Adam. "And I always remembered Maddie as that friend that I always was able to talk to really easily."
After Maddie's family, then living in Colorado, visited the Rosensteins at their New Rochelle, New York home in the fall of 2009, the then-14-year-old kids stayed in touch and developed a friendship through texts, phone calls and Skype. Soon they were talking for hours at a time.
Courtesy of Cohen & Rosenstein Families Maddie and Adam meeting for first time
Midway through high school, Adam realized he was in love.
"She was the friend I could talk to about everything — even the stuff I don't want to talk to her about," he says. "There was something about her that was so much the ideal and perfect woman in my eyes."
When he told his mother he wanted to ask Maddie to his senior prom, "I was shocked — it was like it came from nowhere," says Shery, 55. "She was never on the radar. They were good friends and there for each other from a distance but never something like a prom date."
Courtesy of Cohen & Rosenstein Families Adam, Maddie and their moms in California
Adam asked, and Maddie flew from Denver to New York for a magical night. It was a turning point that included a first kiss at the prom.
"I was really excited to spend the night with my best friend," says Adam. "And I realized that I really do have strong feelings for Maddie."
The feeling was mutual.
"We had just the best time. That was the first time I could see something here romantically," Maddie says. "I didn't ever let myself think about what it could possibly be."
Courtesy of Cohen & Rosenstein Families Adam and Maddie at his high school prom
But even as their connection grew stronger, Adam and Maddie were wrestling with conflicting emotions. They began college over 900 miles from each other — he at the University of Rochester, she at Drake University in Iowa.
"It was something that felt so idealistic, not practical," he says. "Neither of us ever really entertained it as a possibility."
Still, they spent countless hours on the phone every day, usually as Adam walked laps around the freezing campus and Maddie relaxed in the basement of her dorm.
During the second semester of their freshman year, Maddie knew she had fallen in love with Adam when she realized he was the one person with whom she wanted to travel to Israel in a program called Birthright.
"That was the moment where I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I am love,' " she says. "I knew I had feelings for him, but it was like, that was the moment for me."
Courtesy of Cohen & Rosenstein Families Adam and Maddie in Italy during college
Maddie ended things with her college boyfriend, but she and Adam still found reasons to hit pause on their relationship. In June 2014, Ruth — who has an autoimmune disease affecting her bile ducts — underwent a liver transplant to treat the disorder. She received a living liver donation from her husband.
The couple's breakthrough moment came months later, when Maddie visited Adam at college that October. Their first date kicked off a transformative weekend of sharing their deepest feelings for each other.
"We both had an 'it's-now-or-never' moment," says Maddie. "We knew there would always be a million excuses not to have what we want, but we basically said, 'Screw it, it's time to make this happen.' "
Adds Adam: "We were like, 'This is what we wanted.' "
Meanwhile, Ruth and Shery both stayed out of the budding romance.
"We were not the pushy mothers at all," says 54-year-old Ruth, of Englewood, Colorado. "If anything, when they started dating, I said to Maddie, 'You dated a number of guys. This is not like the other guys. If you're going to go date Adam, it is special and families are involved.' "
courtesy of Rosentein family Ruth Cohen, left, and Shery Rosenstein at college as sophomores
The couple never had second thoughts as their romance continued to grow during visits every six weeks and trips to Italy and Israel.
"My love for Maddie was very much like the love that I wanted in my life," says Adam, "but I just didn't think that I could have it."
After graduating from college in 2017, they moved to California to work and pursue graduate degrees — Maddie in accounting at USC, Adam in computer science at UC San Diego — but they still lived apart, with a 45-minute drive between them.
"It was totally fine," says Maddie, "especially when you go from having a four-hour flight with a layover in Atlanta."
Courtesy of Cohen & Rosenstein Families Adam and Maddie, age 5, in San Francisco
On Oct. 13, 2018, the fourth anniversary of their first date, Adam proposed at the same San Francisco bench where they sat as 5-year-old kids when their families got together. He figured out the exact spot by running around using Google Street View and asked a friend to photograph the moment.
Nine months later, Adam, now a software engineer for The Trade Desk, moved with Maddie into a one-bedroom apartment in Costa Mesa.
"Living together was so easy," says Adam. "And we gained so much time in our day because we didn't have to travel. We've spent a lot of our time together during the pandemic."
Madeline Hermann Adam and Maddie on the same bench they sat on in San Francisco at 5, for 2018 proposal
Adam and Maddie love walking on the beach near their apartment (they recently moved to Dana Point), tackling the New York Times crossword puzzle, unwinding with a day at Disneyland and binge-watching every animated Disney film.
More than anything, they still love to talk to each other.
"He makes me feel just so comfortable and safe," says Maddie. "It was just so natural and easy all the time."
Sara Knobel Photo Adam, Maddie and their parents during the wedding ceremony
Due the pandemic, the couple moved their November 2020 wedding to Oct. 24 in Colorado. It was a traditional Jewish ceremony, with 85 guests watching on under sunny skies and spring-like weather.
"The wedding was like a big family reunion, which made it so much more special," says Adam. "We always considered one another's family our family, and now we really are."
After a brief mini-honeymoon in Taos, New Mexico, Adam and Maddie returned to Colorado, where they will primarily live through the end of the year to be near Ruth, who is undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma. She received the diagnosis weeks before the wedding.
Looking back on the special day, Ruth says, "It was wonderful to have something that was so joyous."