Never did the phrase "what dreams are made of" feel more appropriate.
A little more than one year ago today, a remarkably well put-together, four-days postpartum Hilary Duff took to Instagram to share that she and Matthew Koma had finally met their little girl, who arrived Oct. 25 via water birth at their Los Angeles home.
"This little bit has fully stolen our hearts," she wrote of her bundled-up baby girl, not named Cofant Croissant as older brother Luca Comrie had hoped for, but rather the similarly unique Banks Violet Bair, the now 1-year-old receiving dad's given surname. "She joined our world at home on Thursday afternoon and is absolute magic."
The same could be said of Duff's entire existence these days. Because at that same L.A. home this past weekend, Mom and Dad officially committed to forever—marrying in a backyard wedding that was as intimate as it was sweet. Banks and Luca taking to the mic not long after the 20-minute ceremony finished.
"They thanked everyone for being there and then yelled, 'Party!'" an eyewitness told E! News. "Everyone erupted in laughter and got a big kick out of them."
A decade-and-a-half after Duff starred in A Cinderella Story, the 32-year-old multi-hyphenate is living out her happily ever after.
She's got the thriving career, balancing Younger with the revival of Lizzie McGuire, the beloved Disney Channel series that made her a household name at 13, a family that appreciates her enough to make the show's 2003 movie mandatory Sunday night viewing ("She was so cute, it was awesome," Koma recently told E! News) and her prince charming in Koma, the 32-year-old singer-songwriter pals say she always knew would be her guy.
I mean, peep the ink he got of Luca holding Banks' hand, the musician taking to Instagram to thank the tattoo artist "for engraving my kids."
So we'd say their love is fairly permanent—they just had to get past a few initial stumbles.
Duff was enjoying a bit of a third act when she and the record producer, who helped pen hits for Zedd and Shania Twain, first connected in 2015. Having followed up 65 episodes as the titular teenage Lizzie with the standard tween fare (see: Cheaper by the Dozen, Agent Cody Banks), she pivoted back to music in 2007, co-writing nearly every track on her third disc, Dignity, a follow up to Metamorphosis and Hilary Duff.
"There's songs about the breakup," Duff told Ellen DeGeneres in 2007 (that would be her messy split with rocker Joel Madden), "but there are also songs about being in a really happy relationship. It has a lot in it for everyone, how about that? It deals with a lot of different emotions."
Months later, she found herself experiencing the latter, a chance meeting on a flight to an Idaho getaway, leading her to fall hard for Canadian hockey player Mike Comrie. By 2012, they had wed, in an intimate Santa Barbara ceremony, and she had given birth to Luca. And at 24, she found herself taking a break to focus on raising their son. "In love," with motherhood, as she put it to E! News in May 2013, she was finding a particular knack for the role: "A lot of intuition just kicks in that you maybe didn't know you had before."
But by early 2015 she and Comrie had split, albeit remained a cohesive unit, treating Luca to joint vacations in Hawaii and other amicable coparenting behavior. And though she told E! News that April she thought about giving Luca a little sibling, "right now it's time for me to focus on work and the things I love to do outside of him and find what that balance looks like."
For Duff, it looked like landing the role of confident, ambitious book editor Kelsey Peters on Younger, the sitcom TV Land premiered in 2015 and recording her first new album in nearly a decade.
While Breathe In. Breathe Out. (released just three months after Younger's premiere) largely reflected back on her split with Comrie it brought her face-to-face with her future as Duff teamed with a certain in-demand producer to pen the title song.
"It's the title of a track on the album that I did with Matthew Koma, and it stuck with me," she told Entertainment Weekly of the name inspiration. "Over the past few years of my life it's just been something that really helped me—just taking a deep breath in and letting a deep breath out. It can be a good thing, it can be a struggle, it can be a power thing—it's just a good reminder for everyone to remember to do that. It's a relief."
Though their collaboration didn't instantly lead to teaming up outside the studio—Duff would go on to briefly date trainer and Rise Nation founder Jason Walsh first—the baseline was there. "They had great chemistry in the studio," a source told Us Weekly at the time. "Hilary thinks Matt is very talented and cute."
A January 2017 red carpet debut at a pre-SAG Awards party turned into the pair jetting off to Costa Rica the following month, but by March the couple had pressed pause, dueling schedules (he was on tour; she was stationed in New York City filming Younger) having proved to be their undoing.
But, as Duff would share on The Talk that December, two months after the pair reunited for a third time, "Timing is such a big deal...third time's a charm!" Her working theory, she continued, is "that you have history and a past with someone and love, and just because it doesn't work out the first time, as long as there's not too much damage done, then, it can always work out again."
Which it did, now that their previous obstacles were out of the way. Koma turned up to celebrate Duff's epic 30th birthday bash in September 2017, cementing his role as boyfriend. "Since Matt got back from tour, they've been seeing each other again," an insider explained to E! News at the time. "Him being gone on tour was the main reason things didn't work out the first time around, so now that he's back, they picked up right where they left off."
That meant spending most of their weekends together, talking about diving back into the studio for another collaboration where Duff could make use of the guitar he gifted her on her birthday and just generally talking about how happy they were together.
"I got a really nice guy," Duff told E! News at the June 2018 Younger premiere. "He's so great. My mom was at Matt's birthday and she's like, 'I just love him, I love him so much, he's the best!' I'm like, 'I'm here, I exist you know."
They'd had quite a bit to celebrate at the bash, because just four days later, the couple were announcing their latest project. "Guess what guys! @matthewkoma and I made a little princess of our own and we couldn't be more excited!!!!!!" she shared on Instagram, while he boasted, "We made a baby girl! She will be as beautiful and sweet as her mother...@hilaryduff another incredible chapter begins."
Their love story has since become quite the read.
Seven months after Banks came into their life, bringing three months of colic-filled sleepless nights, but also endless, unexplainable joy—"You are spirited and funny and brave and edible and we are so lucky that on this day one year ago you made your arrival and made our family the four pack that we are!" Duff wrote in a first birthday tribute—Koma made a move to fully solidify their foursome.
A proposal hadn't been necessary for Duff, who knew she'd found her forever in Koma with or without the cushion-cut diamond ring he selected. "They already feel married and don't feel they need a signed document to seal the deal," an insider told E! News. But it sure was special.
"I came home from work on a random Tuesday, and he's like 'Let's go for a walk. Let's go check out this park,'" she shared on The Talk one month after his May proposal. Initially resistant ("I just wanted to eat dinner in bed and watch Game of Thrones,") she agreed to leave their Brooklyn apartment if she were allowed to do so in sweatpants.
"So we go, we find this gorgeous park and he presents me with this book that he said he's been working on for a while," she shared of the May evening. "He's like 'It's our story' and he had this amazing guy, Shane, do all of these illustrations. And he was like 'We are going to forget things along the way so we need to constantly fill this out so our kids can know our story.'"
It came with a surprise ending for Duff, who found a compartment hiding her square-cut engagement ring on the final page. "He got down on one knee and he's like, 'I forget everything I'm supposed to say, but you're my best friend," she summed up. "It was so sweet."
Precisely as he had planned. Other than wanting the engagement to be "a complete surprise," a source told E! News, "Matthew wanted it to be meaningful, but casual." More than anything, though, the source said, "He wanted to propose to signify them being a family unit."
They're quite the strong one at that, with Koma seamlessly stepping into his role as step-father and then biological father and Luca eagerly awaiting the arrival of his baby sister. As one insider told E! News, "Everyone gets along great and it has been a smooth transition."
Duff "has always known she would be with Matthew forever," said the first source (credit his chill personality and quick wit), "and having Banks sealed the deal." Because there's nothing quite like watching the man you love be an excellent father to the tiny humans you adore and seeing how naturally Koma adapted to his new role made the duo even stronger.
"Babe. You are the most natural papa bear I've seen," she wrote to mark his first Father's Day with Banks this past June. "You always put us first. You know exactly what to say. Affectionate beyond. Calm and strong. The kids don't even know how lucky they are that it's you.... but they will. It's a gift I get to witness everyday. We love you more than words."
Like we said, this is what dreeeaammsss are made of.
(Originally published October 29, 2019, at 7:30 a.m. PT)