It was a Monday afternoon when Mandy Moore realized she just had to get married.
Never the type to dream of a crowded church or a fluffy white ballgown—she's had plenty of that on camera—she asked her rep to phone up Pastor Steve Schulte to see if he could officiate a ceremony for two at his Whitefield Chapel at Bethesda Home for Boys on the edge of Savannah, Ga. He was the second choice (they'd already tried to find a judge to no avail) but Schulte agreed to host them on the grounds dotted with Spanish moss-covered oaks and dogwood trees if they could come close to 2:30 the next afternoon. He was already booked for another event that evening.
Wearing a lace cream-colored, tea-length dress and flats, the singer-actress joined hands with her skinny jeans- and sneakers-clad groom in front of rows of empty wooden pews. They repeated vows, slid silver rings on each other's fingers and eight minutes later were pronounced husband and wife.
The union that followed was not so much a fantasy with This Is Us star summing up her six-year marriage to singer Ryan Adams by explaining simply, "I didn't choose the right person."
But she seemed to have no qualms with her ceremony choice. After indie musician Taylor Goldsmith proposed in 2017, she told anyone inquiring about wedding planning that she wasn't envisioning a drawn out, elaborate process. "It'll happen sooner rather than later," she insisted to E! News at the time. "I'm not in any rush, but also I'm like, 'I wanna do it.' I don't need to wait, I don't need to have a long engagement. I'm not planning some giant, lavish affair. So, I might as well just do it."
But as her fiancée status stretched past the year mark and the actress enjoyed an engagement party, a bachelorette trip to New Orleans and all the other traditional bridal trappings it became clear that maybe she had shifted her view...just a little.
Because when she and the Dawes lead singer, 34, agreed to forever in November 2018 in what a source labeled an "intimate backyard wedding" at the 1950s-style Pasadena Hill, Calif. home they remodeled together, some 100 of her nearest and dearest were there to look on. (On the guest list for the sunset vows: costars Milo Ventimiglia, Chrissy Metz and Sterling K. Brown, close pal Minka Kelly and ex-boyfriend turned pal Wilmer Valderrama.)
Explaining her change of heart just days earlier, she told Us Weekly, "It will mean a lot, I think, to be surrounded by friends and family and to say certain things to each other in front of them." The true importance of the ceremony had been pulled sharply into focus for one simply reason: "Because I'm with my person. I'm with the right person."
Today, she'll celebrate 36 with the guy she's dubbed "my favorite person in the world", someone who can even make social distancing seem fun, the two making the most of things with their weekly Instagram Live concerts. "I still pinch myself over whatever magic brought us into each other's lives," she wrote in an anniversary tribute last November. "You continue to set the bar high for the rest of the world (as a partner, brother, son, bandmate, friend, etc) and I am the luckiest for knowing, loving and being loved by you."
And, oh man, does it feel like it took forever to reach this place.
Having first found fame at the age of 15 when she was the alternative to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, sweetly singing about crushes and candy, Moore has been in the public eye for the better part of two decades.
Fans have watched as she was romanced by the various types of men one might encounter moving through Hollywood circles: the athlete (Andy Roddick), the DJ (Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein), the TV star (Zach Braff), the other TV star (Valderrama) and experienced the celebrity rite of passage that is having your virginity discussed on The Howard Stern Show. And that was before she endured a six-year marriage that she has since labeled as destructive.
And she would go through it all again in triplicate if it meant landing at this very same spot with the man who makes her melt. "I view the past as a stepping-stone to get me where I am today," Glamour's cover girl declared in their November 2018 issue. "I would gladly weather all of that a million times over if it brought me to Taylor again."
Her romantic life started off easily enough.
Despite having weathered splits from Valderrama and Roddick before she exited her teens, Moore declared in a 2003 interview with PBS, "I haven't had too much trauma with love. I'm sure it's coming sometime because you can't escape it. I feel like I've come off unscathed so far."
Already wise at 19 she was, of course, right. In 2006 she would listen in horror as Valderrama recounted their sweet, teenage love story—for their first date at Santa Monica's Ivy at the Shore, he picked her up from the W hotel where her mom informed him she'd nervously changed her shirt three times—to shock jock Stern.
Pressured to share more beyond their meet-cute (they were shooting the cover of Teen magazine) and how they "were each other's first loves," he finally relented as Robin Quivers and Artie Lange joined Stern in asking about their sex life, each demanding to know if he was her first, you know, everything. Having already ranked his previous paramours and spoken about his, er, stature, he said this about supposedly taking Moore's virginity, "Honestly, I think everyone's going to relate to this, but...I will say this: it is not like warm apple pie...Let's see, how do I put this in the most [politically correct] way possible—it's just really good."
Moore, for one, was left unimpressed, shooting back to Elle that his remark was "utterly tacky, not even true and it hurt my feelings because I like him."
But it was hardly the only time she was left crushed. That same year she ended her romance with Scrubs star Braff, exacerbating the depression she was already muddling through. "The breakup added to what I was going through, but it's not the complete reason," she told the now-defunct Jane in February 2007. "It definitely doesn't help if you're already in that place."
Writing had been "really therapeutic" she shared, the breakup inspiring much of her 2007 Wild Hope album, but she wasn't fully back in the sense that she was ready to seek out a new mate. "I've tried dating a bit, and I don't like it," she told the mag. "I know I should be putting myself out there. But I don't really think it's for me. That's not to say I'm ready to jump back into a relationship anytime soon. I'm definitely not looking. But it'd be fun to have a crush."
By the time the issue hit stands, she'd done herself one better, diving into a months-long romance with Goldstein. Something of an OG celebrity DJ, he inked a $1 million Las Vegas residency long before the likes of Calvin Harris, Diplo and David Guetta manned a turntable.
Despite their relationship's brevity, Goldstein and Moore remained close following their March 2007 split and she was on hand to provide comfort the next year when he and Travis Barker survived a plane crash that killed the other four passengers on board. When he died of an accidental drug overdose in September 2009 at just 36, his former girlfriend was among those that expressed their shock. "I am absolutely heartbroken," she shared in a statement. "For those of us lucky enough to have known him, Adam radiated a contagious exuberance for life and also personified the very definition of a true friend. To say that he will be missed beyond words is an understatement."
By then she'd entered the Ryan Adams era of her romantic history, the pair marrying in that brick Savannah church in March 2009, just one month after his proposal. From the outside their romance seemed startling, the compulsively private indie singer-songwriter an unexpected match for the pop star, by then a veteran of films such as The Princess Diaries and A Walk to Remember.
But their pairing seemed pleasantly uneventful, with Moore divulging little else other than the fact that it was a familiar love of their chosen professions that had bonded them. "There's always music playing in the house, or being written," the newlywed told EW.com that April. "It's nice to be able to share that with one another, and share new things that we discover and find. Usually it's him introducing me to something."
In hindsight, though, their fierce insistence on privacy helped shroud the problems that existed between them. "We couldn't be more different," she reflected in a June 2018 appearance on Stern's radio show (after once again taking Valderrama to task for his earlier comments), "but that's what was attractive...we should have dated."
Looking back, she shared in her Glamour interview, their rush to wed wasn't so much about burning passion as it was a reaction to learning her mom Stacy was leaving her father for a woman some 30 years into their marriage. "I couldn't control what happened to my immediate family, but I could control starting my own," she reasoned. "Not the smartest decision."
Because her six years with Adams were tougher than the star ever let on, bleeding over to her professional life as her music career went stagnant and acting gigs were largely reduced to a 13-episode stint on Red Band Society.
"I was living my life for him," Moore said on on Marc Maron's WTF podcast in February 2019. "I had no sense of self. I felt like I was drowning. It was so untenable and unsustainable and it was so lonely. I was so sad. I was lonely with him."
Because while each time she was asked about a collaboration she vowed it was on the way, he instead served as a blockade, she revealed in a 2019 article in The New York Times. Though he said he'd work with her on a follow-up to 2009's Amanda Leigh, he simply didn't, whilst also discouraging other producers or managers from stepping in. (Through his attorney, he's denied Moore's claim.)
"When I think back to that particular time period that we're talking about...It was heavy. It was dark. It was confusing. It was lonely," she shared with Bustle in 2018. "There was no room for me. There was no room for me to have anything else in my life."
Pals told People about his tendency to belittle her, a point he, perhaps inadvertently, drove home when he went on a rambling now-deleted Twitter rant in response to Moore's chat with Glamour. "She didn't like the Melvins or BladeRunner. Doomed from the start..." he wrote before insinuating he didn't exactly go into their union with a clear head. "When someone told me we got married I thought they were joking. Then I realized how many painkillers I was taking. Honestly there weren't enough to numb the shock."
He later apologized for his comments, which also included comparing their marriage to being "stuck to the spiritual equivalent of a soggy piece of cardboard," but he'd already provided a glimpse into why Moore had precisely zero regrets about getting out, saying she felt "spiritually and fundamentally stuck" before their split, a feeling that affected her work and friendships. "I don't feel guilty for it. I don't fault myself for it," she said of the divorce. "When people said, 'I'm sorry,' I was like, 'No. Sorry would have been had I stayed in a very unhealthy situation.' I didn't. I found my way out. And when I did, things opened back up again."
Among those things: her role playing various incarnations of Pearson family matriarch Rebecca on This Is Us and that other life-defining part she's scored as Goldsmith's bride.
Her introduction to the frontman of the folk-rock group is a meet-cute for the digital age: She posted a photo of the band's album to Instagram. Though, as she told E! News, "I didn't know the rules of social media. I didn't tag him, you know, as you do in a photograph now," he still spied the post and sent her a note. "We started emailing back and forth," she shared with People, "then we went on a date and the rest is history."
The early part of their courtship in 2015 was largely long distance as he was on tour and her NBC show kept her tied to L.A. Spending hours talking through FaceTime, "I started to absolutely fall in love with him just by communicating," she shared with Stern."
His list of attributes is lengthy. "I think he is the most refreshingly kind, honest and soulfully good person I've ever met," she gushed to Us Weekly, but it was his unwavering ability to have her back that clinched things. "I was still dealing with the trauma of my divorce when we started dating," she revealed to Glamour. "Taylor was steadfast in his support—that was a huge sign for me."
Having already made a home together ("We saw the potential of this house and brought it back to life," she told Architectural Digest of the $2.6 million spread they share with dogs Joni and Jackson), building a family is on the agenda next, with Moore noting adoption "will be a part of our lives."
Whatever else comes, she feels confident they've got it. "I feel incredibly understood and supported," she told People. "I feel incredibly lucky to have somebody who is like, 'I got your back.' I found the right person and I feel like we can handle anything together."
In large part, she notes, she has her admittedly rocky past to thank for bringing her to this incredibly bright future. "I'm better equipped to appreciate everything because of what I've gone through," she explained. "I cannot believe my life and good fortune."
Because now she is truly living the dream. Aside from a career-making role on This Is Us—and a potential drama in the works—she released her first original song in a decade, dropping "When I Wasn't Watching" last September. And after everything she experienced with Adams, it couldn't be more fitting that her current musically minded husband has proved to be a partner in every since. At her side when she walked the Emmys carpet as a first-time nominee ("If you have ever found yourself wondering who the luckiest guy in the world could possible be, consider your question answered," he wrote on Instagram), he also played a part behind the scenes with her seventh disc, Silver Landings, the March release her first in 11 years.
"We've written the whole record together," she told Jimmy Kimmel last year. "He's playing all on the album. We're gonna go on tour together. It's pretty cute!"
Considering all that she went through to reach this point she certainly deserves a shot of sugar to her heart.
(Originally published Nov. 18, 2018, at 7 a.m. PT)