Arguably one of the best parts of a romantic comedy is the “meet-cute” – a.k.a. how the central couple meet. Take Notting Hill, for instance, perhaps one of the most beloved rom-coms of all time. In the film, Julia Roberts’ and Hugh Grant’s characters would probably never have encountered each other had he not spilled his OJ down her perfectly white T-shirt. However, we tend to believe that moments like these are the preserve of the fictional world and that they surely can’t happen in real life.
Or can they? Now that online dating has become somewhat of a norm, asking out a total stranger without the protection of our phone screens can seem like a terrifying prospect. How do you know if you would match on Tinder? How do you strike up a conversation with someone without knowing what their interests are? However, sometimes going old-school is what it takes to find a romance that’s fit for a movie – as a certain couple proved.
Our story begins in Sydney, Australia, on a seemingly typical Sunday morning for Haline Ly. After waking up, the 38-year-old designer decided that she needed some groceries. So, she headed to the supermarket, but as it turned out, she would come home with a whole lot more than the items in her cart.
Incidentally, 41-year-old Richard Wheeldon had also had the same idea that Sunday morning. The high school teacher told The Sydney Morning Herald in February 2019 that he had headed to the shops to stock up on “the rudimentary items you need for survival as a bachelor.” And after grabbing what he required, Wheeldon proceeded to the checkout.
Wheeldon happened to pick the the line that Ly was already in, and it was there over the most mundane of tasks that the Australian pair’s eyes first met. Placing the divider on the belt behind her shopping, you see, Ly offered her usual polite smile to the customer behind her – who, of course, was Wheeldon. This time, though, her internal reaction was an “oh my god!”
Wheeldon remembers seeing Ly for the first time at the checkout and noticing her charming “half-smile” when she placed the divider behind her groceries. The teacher beamed back, and he immediately felt chemistry between them. And when Ly had paid for her groceries and walked away from Wheeldon, the spark between them seemingly proved impossible to ignore.
Just before she stepped out of the store, in fact, Ly quickly glanced back to where Wheeldon was standing. And to her delight, the man was still grinning at her. He finished paying for his bachelor essentials and caught up to her. And then they engaged in a brief conversation on the escalator.
Going by Wheeldon’s recollection, though, it wasn’t the most interesting exchange that he’d ever had. He ended up recommending a produce store in the neighborhood, and Ly enquired after its name. In Wheeldon’s own words, “I didn’t really dazzle her with my mighty intellect.” Mundane as the conversation had been, however, he sensed that there was a connection between them.
So much so, in fact, that after Wheeldon and Ly had said their farewells, he realized that he couldn’t just let her go. But Wheeldon knew that he only had a tiny window of opportunity if he were to act on his instincts. So, he retrieved a receipt, scribbled down a message and sprinted after the stranger. And five minutes later, he caught up to her, breathless, and pushed the receipt in her hands – a true act of spontaneity.
“I felt sheepish handing it over but figured if it failed, I’d never see this person again and wouldn’t have to admit to it to anyone,” Wheeldon explained to The Sydney Morning Herald. He had nothing to lose, then. After all, he thought that the chances of her ever replying to his note were so low that he didn’t hold out much hope. He couldn’t help but think how special she was as he walked away, though.
Now, you must be wondering what Wheeldon’s message said. Well, he had simply written down his name, number and the words “Crazy, I know.” And much to the Sydney-native’s surprise, his crush actually ended up replying – with a note of her own, no less. When Ly arrived home that day, she scribbled on some paper: “That was really cute, Richard. I say, ‘Yes.’” Then, she snapped a photo of the message and sent it to Wheeldon’s phone number.
In a similarly spontaneous style to his first gesture, Wheeldon seized the opportunity straight away and asked Ly out. He wanted to take her for a meal that very same evening, in fact, but unfortunately she was otherwise engaged. All was not lost, though, as they organized to meet up at midnight – presumably after her previous appointment. This Sunday was certainly turning out to be anything but ordinary!
Wheeldon and Ly got together in Glebe, a bohemian neighborhood in Sydney, with no plans to speak of. After all, it was late on a Sunday evening, and there weren’t many places still open. But they didn’t need to be in a glitzy bar or a fancy restaurant to enjoy each other’s company. All they knew was that they wanted to be together. And the pair ended up simply strolling around the area, chatting for hours on end.
But while they had only known each other for a few hours, Wheeldon had a strong inkling that meeting Ly was a significant moment. “You never want to skip ahead to the point of being crazy,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald. “But there was a genuine sense [that] this person was pretty special. Haline captured the imagination in all sorts of wonderful ways.”
And fortunately, Ly felt that same unique connection, too. While she’d previously never dated a person without having been friends with them for at least 12 months first, with Wheeldon it was different. She had only met him a matter of hours earlier, but it nonetheless felt as though she had known him forever.
Ly and Wheeldon hooked up again shortly afterwards, and the spark was still there. Wheeldon explained, “The next time we met, it was just as lovely, and there were all sorts of connections, laughter and silliness.” The pair began spending every spare second together, and their bond only grew stronger and stronger.
It was a whirlwind romance if ever there was one. Only a couple of weeks after their first encounter, in fact, Wheeldon began to realize that Ly might be “The One,” and he told her so in so many words. The speed at which their relationship developed isn’t lost on Wheeldon, though, who admitted that “it all happened quickly.”
In fact, after just three weeks, Ly and Wheeldon took a giant leap and moved in together. And while they hadn’t known each other very long, they knew instinctively that it was the right step to take. It’s worth noting, too, that this new romance had been totally unexpected; Ly hadn’t been on the lookout for a partner at all when she had met Wheeldon.
That’s because Ly was actually just coming out of a serious relationship that had lasted more than half a decade when she stumbled upon her Prince Charming at the grocery store. And to make matters even more complicated for Ly, she and her ex had also been business partners. However, Wheeldon became Ly’s rock during this tough time.
And as the months passed, Ly and Wheeldon grew even closer. The pair welcomed a furry addition to their household, a cat called Leo, and for Ly, it was wonderful to see Wheeldon’s caring, paternal side. “Richard would hold him and have deep-and-meaningful [conversations] with him,” she said. “There was something really sweet about it.”
So, emboldened by the way they had bonded over caring for Leo, Ly and Wheeldon decided to make room for another member of their little clan. After knowing Wheeldon for less than a year, then, Ly fell pregnant, and she subsequently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl called Amelia. Then, a couple of years after that, they welcomed their second child together, James. Within hardly any time at all, then, Ly and Wheeldon had a wonderful family unit: one cat and two children.
What’s more, Wheeldon was a huge hit with Ly’s family and pals. “My sister and her best friend call Richard a dreamboat,” she revealed. “Everyone says he’s a real gentleman, which he is.” And so, the couple seemed to have the full support of the people around them.
With Ly and Wheeldon having crossed a lot of milestones together, talk began to circulate about whether or not they were going to get married. For Ly, however, putting their relationship on paper hadn’t ever really been a concern. “I was never interested in getting married – never dreamt of having a big Cinderella wedding,” she said. “The idea of planning one was my worst nightmare.”
However, when Wheeldon caught wind that Ly was secretly organizing a party for his 40th birthday, he decided that he would come up with a covert scheme of his own. “I thought I’d out-surprise the girl who was trying to surprise me,” he revealed. And so, Wheeldon set his plans in motion.
With the help of their daughter, Amelia, Wheeldon marked out the letters that spell “Marry Me” on separate bits of paper and handed them to his pals before the party. They kept the letters concealed throughout the lunch and waited for their cue. And when the meal ended, it was time to beat Ly at her own game!
After the lunch, Wheeldon proceeded to make a speech. While thanking Ly for the wonderful celebration, he digressed and began talking about what an impact she had made on his life and how she enriched his existence every day. And it was at this point that the guests revealed the letters that they had been hiding, which of course spelled out that all important question.
However, Wheeldon suspects that his romantic gesture irked Ly somewhat – perhaps because he stole her thunder. “She was a bit embarrassed and a little annoyed I’d out-surprised the surprise birthday she’d organized,” he said. But nevertheless, she said, “Yes.” Wheeldon added, “I’d like to think she was a bit moved.”
And while Ly and Wheeldon were both unsure about the prospect of tying the knot, they nevertheless decided to make the jump. You see, they figured that it may be one of the only opportunities to have all their loved ones in the same room. As Wheeldon noted, after all, “The only other time that happens is at your funeral.” And the couple at least wanted to be at the party with the assembled guests!
And after getting engaged, Ly and Wheeldon continued to discover more about each other – especially since their relationship had such formed at such eye-watering speed. Ly, for instance, noticed two distinctive sides to her fiancé. “When he’s at school, he’s ‘on,’ but when he’s not, he can be quite introspective,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“He’s quite private, whereas I want to know everything,” Ly continued. “It took me a while to accept that.” She also found it intriguing to learn about the ways in which she and Wheeldon are similar and the ways in which they clash. They share the same view on marriage, for example. But there were of course differences of opinion, too, as there are in most relationships.
For one, Ly and Wheeldon’s takes on life are somewhat contrasted. “Richard is quite black and white and has little patience for nonsense, whereas I like the grays, the nuances [and] the melancholy,” Ly observed. “He does have his quirks and wears odd socks all the time. It used to drive me up the wall.”
But as well as Wheeldon’s irksome footwear habits – we all know someone like that – he and Ly differ in other areas, too. While Wheeldon has a long-term view on most subjects, Ly has a track record of not following through on projects and isn’t a talented organizer, either. “He’s planned our lives for the next 100 years!” Ly said. So, one might say that they balance each other out perfectly.
And despite these differences, Ly and Wheeldon certainly have enough similarities that make them click as a couple. Both have tendencies to shy away from confrontations, for instance, which means that they rarely argue. And while Wheeldon eventually airs troubles that have been on his mind, for the most part, they are “two really repressed, pent-up individuals!” as Wheeldon jokingly put it.
But most importantly, Ly and Wheeldon share the same type of humor. Wheeldon explained that the couple “both have a sense of the ridiculous – especially Haline. She’s clever and thoughtful. And she does impromptu dances in the middle of things and talks to random people at random times – like in supermarket queues.”
And of course, the wonderful thing about meet-cutes like Ly and Wheeldon’s is that they can happen anywhere and at any time. Another couple, meanwhile, had their movie-like meeting in one of the busiest cities in the world: New York. And thanks to those iconic yellow cabs, their first encounter was certainly memorable, and they’ve been together ever since.
Stephanie Shulman was trying to get home after a late night at the famous Studio 54 nightclub. And at the same time, Mark Calem had just left a party thrown by Gloria Vanderbilt. Both stood on the same sidewalk and hailed the same cab, but neither of them was going to be gracious and let the other go first.
All gentlemanly instincts went out of the window for Calem, in fact. “I tried to cut in front of her to get a cab,” he told the New York Post in February 2015. Shulman wouldn’t accept that, however, and in the end the pair decided that they would get in the same cab and split the fare. And they both resided in Queens, so the plan worked out perfectly.
By the end of the ride, though, Shulman and Calem had started to develop feelings for each other. Since Calem was employed in the cosmetics field, he asked for Shulman’s business card under the guise of getting her some complimentary accessories – a very smooth move indeed!
The pair can’t recall who contacted whom first after that night, but clearly the romance was meant to be. Over 30 years of marriage and two kids later, in fact, they now live happily in Long Island, NY. “You never know what’s around the next corner,” Shulman told the New York Post before adding, “Look both ways the next time you catch a cab!”
Besides Hollywood-worthy first encounters, though, these couples actually have another thing in common. That is, they both prove that following your gut can lead you to places that you could never have imagined ending up in. For Ly and Wheeldon, a gamble on a whirlwind romance paid off, and now they share a connection that they had never expected to find. Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald about her now-hubby, Ly revealed, “[Wheeldon] makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room, which is quite rare. He’s the best person I know.”