On January 2 of this year, Neil Parris created an Instagram account called @thestoryofjennaandneil as a way to propose to his girlfriend, Jenna Caine. The effort was a success and Parris, a 35-year-old digital-media executive, and Caine, a 32-year-old recruiter who moonlights as a wedding singer, will marry on September 20 of this year, after a couple years of dating.
The account unfolds like a slideshow of their relationship, ending with a note to look up as Parris proposed verbally, in person. Just as Diddy used Instagram to ask his long-time girlfriend if she liked a picture of an enormous diamond ring that he posted to his 3 million followers, couples are increasingly using social media as part of their marriage proposals. If Instagram and Facebook are the backbone of their social lives, it's fitting that couples turn to these networks as a way to realize important life milestones.
For @thestoryofjennaandneil Parris posted 42 pictures — from their introduction at Coachella to moving into a new place together in Los Angeles. There are sweet shout-outs to their grandparents, several couple selfies, and an abundance of the sun-kissed Hefe filter. The account seems like a storyboard for a romantic comedy. The benefits of editing and flattering filters, afforded by access to any Instagram account, make it particularly easy to achieve the impression of a grand, Hollywood romance. There is even the candied vocabulary of the final over-the-moon, World Series–kind-of-love monologue: "You make rainy days bright for me. You make me whole." And like watching a romantic comedy — willingly or not — it is an effort not to become verklempt at the dramatic moments.
So what is it like to be on the receiving end of an Instagram proposal? Jenna Caine talks us through the proposal:
What was your initial reaction to this account?
I came home on a Friday night from work, and I walked into my bedroom. There were rose petals and candles everywhere and two GoPros set up, so I knew what about to happen. He said, "Sit down, I have something on Instagram to show you. Look up the account 'thestoryofjennaandneil' and put it in scroll mode." He positioned me in front of the cameras. He was waiting patiently, standing in front of me. He was just waiting, smiling, giddy and probably very nervous. I started reading everything, and I was in shock, literally, in complete shock. I was so blown away, and I could hardly read anything because I was so excited.
Did you go back and re-read it?
I read it over again a million times, because the first time I read it I couldn’t think because I wanted to get to the end. I felt like I was in la-la land, or a dream world.
Did you wait until the final photo to answer?
I waited until the very end, the last slide, which said, "Will you ..." and said to look up. And Neil was down on one knee.
How did you tell your friends and family?
I basically called and emailed all my friends at once, and I said search "thestoryofjennaandneil" and you’ll figure this out in two seconds. I shared with everyone on social media and Facebook. My friends started to like and comment. And strangers started commenting on it, too, because we were on the news a couple times.
What do you think of strangers commenting on your proposal?
It’s awesome. It’s such a new way of being proposed to. It’s so 2014.
You guys have a hashtag — tell me about how that happened.
Everyone makes fun of me because I’m an Instagram dork. We had a housewarming party and one of our friends brought a cake that said "#jeneil" as a joke, we were always joking about hashtags ... Ever since then everyone calls us "jeneil." And now everyone has hashtags for their wedding, so we’re going to use this, but add 2014 at the end.
So social media is a big part of your life?
My friends call me the Queen of Instagram, and I’m not ashamed of it. And look what happened — I got proposed to on Instagram.
Do you think Neil proposed to you on Instagram because you love Instagram?
He’s always thinking creatively, and he always wants to do something different. A mix between me loving it and loving social me — and he does too, he’s all over Instagram, not as much as me, but we are both definitely out there on social media.
Do you have a favorite picture or moment he posted?
The split-screen of him and me at Coachella. I’m walking and he’s walking, it’s just hours before we had met.
Is communicating through social media a big part of your relationship?
We met at Coachella through a mutual friend. I was living in New York at the time, and I was about to move back home to Los Angeles. I actually Facebooked him because he worked in digital media and I needed a job. I Facebook-messaged him and instead of talking about jobs we started flirting via Facebook. We went from Facebook chat to text message to a phone call to our first date when I moved home. It blossomed via social-media chat.
Do you know of any other proposals on Instagram?
We have looked and haven’t seen anyone else proposed to. Someone left clues via Instagram, but I haven't seen someone else actually get proposed to on Instagram. I know people have met on Instagram and then have gotten married.
Do you find this similar to YouTube marriage proposals — the ones with a bunch of people dancing that go viral?
I don’t think it’s that similar. It’s more simple; it wasn’t meant to go viral. It hasn’t, but it should, because Neil’s so amazing. It’s his intimate thoughts on a social-media platform that he knows I love.
Will you use this Instagram for couple-y posts — will you put up your wedding photos, for example?
I thought about that — possibly. All the wedding photos, maybe, to follow up. Why not? It’s the story of Jenna and Neil, so it could be wedding and kids, who knows ...