Single this Valentine's Day? Maybe it's time to browse around on Instagram.
Alex Ekkelenkamp (@oakfield) and Beulah Polito (@goldmorning) weren't looking for love on the app, but when Ekkelenkamp stumbled across Polito's account during a photo contest and started following her last January, Polito was immediately intrigued. When she saw that Ekkelenkamp, like herself, was a photographer, she sent him an email to ask him about his work and soon, they were emailing each other nonstop. Emails became texting and FaceTiming to keep each other company over the distance between Melbourne, Fla., where Polito lives, and Banff, Edmonton, where Ekkelenkamp lives.
Less than one year later, on Dec. 19, Ekkelenkamp proposed to Polito, and the two plan to marry in November. Ekkelenkamp will move to Florida and the two of them hope to open a photography business together. Sounds like #love to us.
We talked to Ekkelenkamp, 27, and Polito, 25, about their InstaRomance.
When did you start having romantic feelings toward each other?
Polito: You tell me — when did you start having the hots for me?
Ekkelenkamp: There was probably always some level of admiration for her, whether it was personal or artistic. I loved her photos so much. I was attracted to her from the beginning. I don't know if there was an actual moment that it became romantic.
P: I remember there was one time we were texting and I really wanted to FaceTime him and it was bothering me. Emailing for a while was interesting and when we started texting is when it became a love interest, I guess.
What did your friends say when you told them you were interested in someone you "met" on Instagram?
P: I told them about it lightly and the way I would introduce it was that I wasn’t extremely interested, so I just said, "I’m talking to this guy," and they said, "Is he cute?" And I sent them a photo and they said, "Oh my gosh, he's so cute!"
E: I was kind of surprised by reactions from people. I expected there to be some level of you’re an idiot and this is crazy — there were definitely moments where I was like, "Holy s— this is wild." But the support from friends was really good.
P: We had a lot of support because he was coming back home and my friend who has a big home said he could stay there. I hadn’t met him in real life and I didn’t want to say, "Hey come here — just stay in my place." This friend was literally saying "I think he’s the one." I don’t date a lot and she knows that and she’s watched this story and she said, "This is the one."
Did you know you wanted to start a relationship when you first started talking on Instagram?
P: Probably more than I’d like to admit at the time. I was liking a bunch of his photos in a row. I was trying to get noticed and maybe make the connection subconsciously.
E: I’d say I wasn’t looking for anything when we started talking but it evolved very quickly.
How quickly? When did you start texting?
E: Two weeks after emailing. At first it was like an email a day but then after a few passing comments it turned out we had similar interests and values and then all of a sudden we were emailing like 12 times, 30 times, 40 times and we said, "OK this is stupid let’s just text."
Were you nervous about meeting each other in real life?
P: I wasn’t. I had a strange peace about it. I felt really good. Some of my friends said, "I know you — you’ll get turned off in a second. What if you get turned off and he's here for 11 or 12 more days?" but I just knew. Maybe because we FaceTimed so I felt like I had a good sense of who he was and his character.
E: I wasn’t worried, necessarily, but I definitely went in with the attitude it’s either going to be really good or really bad. It was pretty amazing right off the bat.
When did make it official after your first correspondence in January?
E: April 3. I went down to visit her at the end of March and near the end of the trip we were like, "Are we actually going to do this?"
P: It was casual. He was like, "Do you want to be my girlfriend?" I guess he had to say it.
Do you think it's crazy that you met on Instagram, of all places?
P: I forget we met on Instagram, but when I remind myself it’s just really, really crazy. We were on the beach laughing about it. I think it was the first trip and at that point it was a little more intense how surprised I was but now that it’s settled in it feels more just kind of normal to me.
E: It’s not quite as crazy because we are photographers and we’re not on Instagram just for the heck of it but it’s pretty cool. I used to actually really dislike Instagram and not use much so it’s kind of ironic actually.
Tell me about the proposal.
E: When we first started talking, Beulah sent me a picture of Lake Louise. It’s an amazing blue lake up in the mountains and she sent me a picture because she saw it on "The Bachelor" and she was like, "Holy crap — is it real?" and I said, "Yeah, it’s just a few hours from my house," so once I made up in my mind I was going to propose to her I was confident I’d do it in the mountains. That’s where we went the first time she was here. I had a hard time trying to figure out how we’d do an engagement shoot immediately after we got engaged so I just told her to fly into Calgary and told her I was there for another shoot. We took a gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain and took some photos. It was very cold and I proposed to her up there.
P: He got down on one knee and was like, "I have your Christmas present," and I was like, "Oh, he’s going to propose," because he seemed nervous and what Christmas present would he whip out at the top of the mountain? And I said, "Oh, what is it?" and he got down on one knee and I said "oh my gosh" 20 times and let my hand freeze and said yes.
You two started speaking in January of last year and got engaged in December — it seems like quite the whirlwind romance.
P: I didn’t really date but I could tell in date one or two if it didn't feel right. The fact we got to communicate so much from a distance — I could tell he genuinely wanted to get to know me and I felt comfortable. I guess when they say you know, you know. I didn’t know that was a true statement but I guess it is.
E: I don’t think we were really down for wasting time. It was really good from the get-go and long distance really sucks. And neither of us were looking for something casual. It was fast but it doesn’t feel that way.
And you two want to open a photography business together after you get married? Do your styles jibe well?
P: Alex captures a lot of details. He’s really good at landscape and he’s really good at music. I would say my stuff is more feminine and romantic.
E: They’re not exactly the same. We did shoot one wedding together and we worked together really well. I think we’re close enough that we can work well together and bring different things to the table. I’m really excited about that. I’ve shot a bunch of weddings myself but there are only so many moments you can get. It’s a different vision when it’s a woman doing it. I’m pretty excited for the different work we can put together into one project.