When I realized: amidst a gathering of 25,000 people, he suddenly materialized – and transformed my existence.

Dancing in the afternoon sun at a music festival on New Year’s Day, Erica Valenti turned her head and fell in love at first sight.

On New Year’s Day 2016 I was getting ready to hit another music festival – this time Field Day in Sydney. As I exuberantly applied glitter to my eyes, I had a visceral, full body moment of gratitude – for being a single girl living her dreams; for getting to go to festivals as part of my job in music marketing.

A few hours later, my whole life would change. I would no longer be free and single, but I would find love at first sight. The odds of this? About one in 25,000 festival-goers.

During a set by Flight Facilities, Justin appeared out of nowhere, dancing right next to me in the afternoon sun. He was from New Zealand and living in Melbourne, but had chanced on a last-minute freebie ticket.

I remember turning my head, catching his eye, and that was that. It wasn’t like the movies. I wasn’t struck by a lightning bolt of chemistry, or overcome by passion. Instead it felt deeper than that. An instant sense of knowing, feeling seen and understood. I’d never felt like this before.

I’ve always been a slightly anxious person, and his calming presence stopped me in my tracks. Cheeky, handsome and gregarious, he immediately made me feel at ease. Everything felt like an adventure that day – hunting for beers, bouncing from stage to stage, meeting other people and coming up with an elaborate backstory for our “relationship”.

At first, I figured he’d be my “festival best friend”. That happens sometimes: you forge an easy connection at a daylong event, do everything together for a handful of hours and, as the final artist finishes their set, the feeling expires.

But instead, we made sure we stuck together as we filed out of the festival. We went to a friend’s apartment, then ignored everyone around us so we wouldn’t waste a minute apart. We stole away to a nearby harbour beach and sat on a wharf, talking under the stars for the rest of the night.

Our relationship grew easily from there. From that first meeting, there was never doubt from either of us. We had found each other. No games, just moving forward. We kept our pace steady, developing a friendship alongside our romance. A year later, I gave him a Field Day poster for our anniversary. Then Justin moved up to Sydney and in with me. The poster still hangs in our apartment now.

Our wedding day was on Valentine’s Day 2020 – we must have a penchant for big calendar dates and good timing, because a few weeks later and it would have been cancelled. We wrote our vows secretly, but both of us referenced that surprise meeting on New Year’s Day, how special it felt. The only difference in our vows was the number. Justin’s a financial planner and had been conservative with his crowd estimate, putting our chances at one in 20,000. As a marketer, I’d rounded up to 30,000 for dramatic effect.

New Year’s Day will for ever be the anniversary of our meeting, but five years later it took on even greater significance. On 1 January 2021 we found out we were pregnant with our first son, Luca.

Before meeting Justin, I was so immersed in my job, I assumed it was impossible for me to meet someone – and didn’t care, anyway. But it turns out all I needed to do was hit the dancefloor.

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