By Jessica Goodman
In the summer of 2021 when Justin boarded a plane from Louisville, Ky. to Las Vegas, Nev. with a few of his buddies, he had no idea that he was about to encounter the woman he’d marry. As he made his way to his seat, he saw Kelsey sitting a few rows away and was immediately smitten. “She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen in my life,” says Justin.
Kelsey was with a bunch of her girlfriends en route to a bachelorette party, and while Justin incorrectly thought she was the bride, Kelsey was secretly checking him out, too. Neither one introduced themselves, though Justin admits he took a few extra trips to the bathroom so he could see her. But as fate had it, they also sat near each other on their journey home a few days later. Still, neither one got up the courage to chat with the other. They figured that they’d never see each other again. Then, a month later, they matched on Bumble.
When Justin came across Kelsey’s profile, he thought, “She looks oddly familiar.” And then it hit him: She was the girl from the plane. They matched, but after 22 hours, she still hadn’t messaged him. So Justin decided to use Bumble’s Extend feature to give her another day to reach out. Kelsey admits she wasn’t always checking her matches, but when she realized that he hit Extend, she sent him a note, saying that she thought they’d sat near each other on that flight to Vegas. “I must have been staring at him a lot, because six weeks later I recognized him from that flight,” she laughs.
It only took a few days for them to set up their first IRL meeting, which was supposed to be at a restaurant in Evansville, Ky. But in a spur-of-the-moment decision, Justin suggested they check out a charity boxing match benefiting local cops and firefighters instead. They had great seats, but some of Justin’s buddies offered them an even better view across a few barricades. “I know this is gonna sound crazy, but at that moment, just the look on her face and how excited she was just jumping over that barricade, I knew she was it,” Justin says. “It was the biggest smile. I could just tell how excited she was by the spontaneousness of it.” He says he could barely sleep that night because it was the best date of his life.
Kelsey felt the same way. She’d been on “a lot of first dates that summer,” she says. On this one, the conversation flowed easily, there was loads of chemistry, and they hung out all night. Both also felt that their meeting had been kismet: Though they both flew out of Louisville all those weeks prior, either could have easily left from neighboring airports like Indianapolis or Nashville, which are also close by.
After their first date, Kelsey and Justin were all in. Soon, they embarked on more fun outings like a boy band concert and a movie night at Kelsey’s house. And only a few weeks after beginning to see one another, Kelsey invited Justin to be her plus-one at her sister’s wedding—and to meet her whole family at the event. “I didn’t want to put that kind of pressure on him,” Kelsey says. “But he kept hinting around that he wanted to go.” That was the night they made their relationship official.
Though they lived an hour and a half away from one another, they started getting into a routine of traveling back and forth between their homes to accommodate their busy work lives. (Justin is a delivery driver and Kelsey is a real estate appraiser.) But one of Kelsey’s favorite things that they did and still do is talk on the phone “all day, every day.” Because he’s on the road and she often works from home, she bought him wireless headphones so they can talk while they work.
And now, a year into their relationship, Justin firmly believes that Kelsey has changed him for the better. “She’s been nothing but the best influence on me,” he says. And though Justin is Kelsey’s first serious relationship, she says she’s been happier than ever since they’ve been together. “People always say we’re the boy and girl version of one another,” she says. “Usually when you’re around a person for a long time, you get annoyed by each other, but that hasn’t been the case for us.”
In late 2021, the two started talking about marriage, which was something Justin never thought he would want after being in “several toxic relationships.” But being with Kelsey, he says, “was a breath of fresh air. I wake up every morning and thank God for placing her in my life.”
In summer 2022, Justin proposed to Kelsey during a weekend away in Nashville. After she wholeheartedly said yes, they started making plans for their future, which will involve buying a house halfway between them, taking “at least two vacations a year,” and growing their family. But in the meantime, they have a wedding in the works. The plan? To say their “I dos” in Las Vegas, this time taking the flight together.