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Chris and Jill Met in California—But Their Family Bond Began an Ocean Away

By Prachi Gupta

In 2016, when his engineering career took Chris from his home state of Missouri to Southern California, he knew he wanted to build a life there and settle down with someone. California offered more career opportunities, sunny weather, and a diverse and vibrant culture. He was also starting to feel some pressure from his family: his mother had recently tried to set him up on a date. (Chris politely declined.) Instead, he hoped that online dating might find him a long-term partner. 

While Chris had used Bumble on and off for a few years, his desire to be in a relationship pushed him to become more active over the next few months. He was looking for someone who could relate to his Vietnamese background, who prioritized family, and would be interested in exploring the outdoors together. After a few months, he matched with Jill.

Unlike Chris, Jill was not looking for anything serious. Her best friend told her about Bumble while the two were working at a sorority event and suggested she use it to meet people. “Eventually I caved in and I downloaded the app,” she says. Six months in, she matched with Chris, her interest piqued by a photo of him skydiving. They began messaging through the app about travel, but their story almost ended there. “It would take him a couple of days to respond,” Jill recalls. “I wasn’t sure if he was serious.” But Chris redeemed himself by asking Jill for her number, admitting that he wasn’t a good texter, and asking to meet for a date to get to know her better in person. 

The first date was a bit awkward: Jill suggested they meet at a sushi restaurant, but unbeknownst to her, Chris did not like seafood (in the years since, that’s changed—he loves sushi now). They spoke for a little under two hours, but Chris did most of the talking. And Chris was going out of town the next day—and almost every weekend after that, for several months, leaving little time to date. Neither put any strong expectations on what might happen next.

But they kept talking, and Chris planned dates with Jill as his schedule allowed. She communicated about her needs and expectations easily. “The more and more time I spent with her, the more and more she opened up about her family and her expectations of what she was looking for, trying to make sure that our values lined up with each other,” Chris says. 

For Jill, she knew Chris was worth pursuing after her cousins met him during a casual group hang-out, just a few weeks into dating. “Once they and my close friends got to know him, they really liked him,” she said. After three months of steady dating—usually on weeknights—Chris asked Jill to be his girlfriend. “I wanted to make sure she knew that I was committed to her and not just leaving all the time,” he says. “And then I got to meet her family.”

They introduced each other to their parents, and the fit felt seamless. A year later. they realized just how close their families were. One day, when Chris and Jill were dining at a restaurant with both of their parents, a friend of Jill’s father walked in. Chris’ mom also recognized the man: he was her brother’s former business partner. Suddenly, the two families began to connect the dots: they’d actually known each other for a generation, bonds first made in Vietnam. 

“My dad actually met Chris’ uncle through a mutual friend,” Jill says. Her parents moved to California when they were young, and it was Chris’ uncle who “took my parents around when they visited Vietnam for the first time.” After processing the surprise, the couple made sure to check that they weren’t, in fact, related. (They’re not!) 

“Her parents have actually gone to my grandparents’ house to pick stuff up or drop stuff off,” Chris says, laughing. “I think at that point I realized that it was just meant to be, because our families already liked each other and a lot of the things that she valued our family valued as well. Everything just aligned. Getting the family’s approval was always a big step and the second that happened,  there was no question about it.” After that, things moved quickly: Chris proposed with the support of both families, and Jill said yes.

Looking back, Jill laughs at the irony of Chris having rejected his mother as his matchmaker—only to match with a family friend’s daughter on Bumble. “It spread real quick throughout the family,” Jill says. “All of the friends and family were like, ‘What? Why didn’t you tell us sooner?’ Well, we didn’t know!”

They got engaged in 2019 and though they had to postpone their October 2020 wedding date due to COVID-19, they were able to have an elaborate reception just a year later in fall 2021. They invited over 500 people to a wedding that Chris describes as “hybrid American and Vietnamese,” with a traditional tea ceremony and a big party afterwards.

Jill, who was once a skeptic of online dating, now swears by it. “To this day,” she says, “it’s still pretty crazy that we met through Bumble.”