Rebekah Gregory and Pete DiMartino are going to get their fairy-tale wedding – but their love story hasn’t always been so magical.
The two – who met in March 2012 and began a long-distance relationship a few months later – were at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last April, cheering on DiMartino’s mom. When the bombs went off, Gregory, 26, was thrown on top of her young son, saving his life but breaking just about every bone in her foot, leg and ankle in the process. (Fifteen surgeries later, she’s still in a wheelchair.) DiMartino, 29, was injured too, losing 90 percent of his right Achilles tendon, suffering broken ankle bones and a ruptured eardrum as well.
In the aftermath, the couple were taken to separate hospitals, and “it was really hard,” Gregory tells PEOPLE. “I was in and out of surgery every single day. He was moved from his hospital to a rehab center. Neither one of us wanted to hear how badly the other was hurt – seeing the person you love more than anyone in the world hurting, it’s a horrible feeling. So it was a struggle at first to figure out our new normal – we didn’t know how we were going to cope with it by ourselves, much less together.”
“[In] the end, we decided our relationship was worth more,” Gregory says. “We realized that we didn’t have to survive that day – we could’ve lost one another – and for me, I knew I didn’t want to spend another day without this guy. For whatever time I have left on Earth I want to be with him.”
In October, DiMartino surprised Gregory near their new home in Richmond, Texas, dropping down on one knee and proposing. Though the two were considering a small family wedding – “maybe on a boat or something spontaneous,” Gregory says – TheKnot.com got wind of their story and offered them this year’s The Knot Dream Wedding, which readers will help plan by voting on everything from the flowers, the dress to the cake each week. The big day will be this spring in a yet-to-be-determined city, and the reception will be planned by Marcy Blum, who’s done the weddings of LeBron James and Savannah Brinson, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, Billy Joel and Katie Lee, and more.
“It’s neat because I’ve never really known what I wanted,” Gregory says of letting the public help plan her wedding. “I’m really indecisive anyway, so the fact that everyone gets to make the decisions for me is perfect. Now I’m just really excited – I look on Pinterest every day!”
Throughout the process, Gregory will be blogging exclusively for PEOPLE.com, talking about the wedding planning and her recovery (check back for her first blog around Valentine’s Day!). Readers will be invited to vote on plans for the couple’s nuptials, too, at theknot.com/dreamwedding. (Visit the site today to help decide which city they’ll be married in.)
Though DiMartino and Gregory are definitely looking forward to their wedding, which will be live-streamed online, it’s the future that’s most exciting to them now. DiMartino isn’t just gaining a wife, but a son, too: Gregory’s 6-year-old Noah. “It’s exciting,” he says of becoming a parent. “It’s a new challenge. I love him, he’s a great kid. We banter back and forth Rebekah jokes that she has two children now.”
The family is also putting the finishing touches on a new home this week, just about one-eighth of a mile away from the Gregory family home in Richmond, Texas. “Rebekah’s been at her parents’ house since she got back from the bombing, and I’ve been living there for the past two months – in separate rooms,” DiMartino says. “So I’ll be living in our new house until the wedding, and Rebekah will come over during the days. I’ve got some plans for cool things that Noah and I can do for the house to make it more like home.”
Getting back to work is on the to-do list, too – the couple hope to collaborate on creating and running rental properties when they’re both able to work again, and Gregory is embarking on a public-speaking career – but until spring, marriage will be top of mind.
“This really is the coolest thing ever,” Gregory says of the wedding. “We’re just so humbled by the opportunity. And at the end of the day, the best part is that we’re marrying each other. We just can’t wait.”