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Let’s not call it dating: How Marco Polo paved the way for romance

Carol Tran was really not interested in going out with Estian Reynolds.

“She doesn’t even remember the first time we met,” Estian says with a wink.

“Of course I remember,” Carol clarifies. “I mean, yes, I sort of forgot meeting you when you were my son’s scout leader, but I remember when we started working together. And that’s where our story really begins, right?”

The pair scooches together in the front seat of Carol’s car so that they can share the camera and the story of how Marco Polo transformed their friendship into something much more.

Marco Polo contacts

Carol and Estian had been colleagues for more than a year when he finally got up the nerve to say, “Hey Carol, I’m wondering if we have something here. Would you be interested…”

“No thanks,” Carol told him.

“Yep, okay, no thanks,” he said.

But she liked him. They remained friendly. And one day, they discovered that they’d both been invited by mutual friends to download Marco Polo.

When Carol saw Estian in her list of suggested contacts, she sent him a Polo just to say “Hey! You’re here too!”

“We started talking,” Estian says. “And before I realized it, two or three weeks had gone by, and we were Poloing every day.”

Carol and Estian as just friends

Easy to be casual

Carol found that using Marco Polo was as convenient as texting, but more expressive and meaningful. She and Estian felt increasingly comfortable as they shared their lives with each other.

“We were getting along so well on Marco Polo that when Estian again brought up the idea of dating, I was more open to exploring what our relationship might look like,” Carol says.

Except that after three or four dates in person, she wasn’t feeling the same chemistry she felt on Marco Polo. She couldn’t figure out what was going on.

“In hindsight, I can see that Marco Polo provided a safe, private space that was intimate but non-threatening. We felt closeness but no pressure,” Carol says. “Whereas real dating can be so awkward in the early stages. I actually felt a little stifled.”

“So she dumped me,” Estian says.

The two took a break from seeing each other, and then after asking Carol one more time if she’d like to give it a try (“Nope, I’m sure!”), he embraced the friendship and gave Carol plenty of space.

Sometimes a little distance is all it takes. At a work retreat they both attended later that year, Carol sat back and watched Estian and finally let the reality dawn on her: she really, truly did like this guy. Like, like-like.

“But we’re still not going to call it dating,” she told him. “Okay?’”

Carol and Estian engagement picture

Happily ever after, with Marco Polo

Six months later, the two were engaged. After paving the way for romance, Marco Polo remains a major part of their daily lives.

Carol, a master party planner, used the app to help orchestrate their January 2020 wedding.

“Three of my six bridesmaids live out of state. They met over Marco Polo, built a relationship with each other, and formed groups to plan the bridal shower and bachelorette party,” Carol says. “Best of all, when they met in person at the wedding, no one was a stranger.”

Carol and Estian wedding

In lieu of a traditional guest book at the reception, Carol and Estian even set up a Marco Polo station where people could record well-wishes.

“Marco Polo brought out the sweetness and the fun in our relationship,” Estian says. “It got us started on our amazing journey together.”

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