In summer 2008, Shelby Leigh Streimer and Mike Albo found themselves on a group chat with a mutual friend through BlackBerry Messenger.
Mike was traveling through Europe and Shelby was preparing to do the same. As they chatted over the next few months, Mike suggested hostels and museums. The chats became more playful. Shelby was in Italy and looked Mike up on Facebook. She “liked what she saw.”
At summer’s end, they met in New York, along with their mutual friend.
“The moment I saw him, my heart skipped a beat,” said Shelby, 28.
The following night, they dined alone at a Mexican restaurant. Over the next six weeks, they traveled back and forth from her native Baltimore and his Marlboro, N.J. They met each other’s parents and enjoyed their time together.
In September, Shelby moved to Australia to pursue a dance career. Before she departed, Mike professed his love. Shelby held back, not wanting to make it harder to leave.
“I felt it but didn’t say it,” she admitted.
They spoke through Skype daily. Mike suggested meeting over the winter holidays, and they chose Fiji.
There, Shelby told Mike she loved him.
A continent apart, they tried to remain realistic, not speaking about the future and not discussing other people in their lives.
“It was hard,” noted Mike, 28, now in ad sales for Amazon. “It wasn’t 100 percent that she was coming home. I didn’t want to put myself through the mental roller coaster if she wasn’t staying.”
They concentrated on what they could look forward to, like Mike’s spring visit to Australia.
In June, Shelby returned home to renew her visa. Her parents were at the airport and so was Mike.
“It was then that I realized this was real, something stronger than love and something worth trying,” she said.
Shelby moved back and took a job in New York with a teen tour company. (She’s now a South Pacific travel specialist.) Mike was working for Ralph Lauren. They lived 20 blocks apart and for the first time pursued a traditional relationship.
They enjoyed shows, dinners, football and hockey, no longer needing to Skype.
In September 2013, after a morning spin class, they met at a rooftop park across the street. Alongside a set table with sunflowers, their favorite bagel sandwiches and a bottle of champagne, Mike knelt down and asked Shelby to marry him. They called their parents, all of whom seemed surprised. When they returned home, all were waiting to celebrate.
They were married at Temple Oheb Shalom on Oct. 25, 2014 in a ceremony officiated by Rabbi Steven Fink. About 230 guests witnessed their personally written vows and enjoyed special touches like a live painter and a cookie truck.
For the night’s last song, “Love Runs Out,” Mike and Shelby hopped onstage, belted out the lyrics and took in the sight of those closest to them dancing in celebration.
They reflect on their meeting by BlackBerry.
“It was love at first ping,” said Shelby.