Was it really not even two years ago that Kaitlyn Bristowe and Jason Tartick did a conga line straight into our hearts?
Some 22 months ago, Bachelor Nation was left reeling from the news that these two fan favorites hadn't just made good on their plan to meet up for a date, but had enjoyed it so thoroughly they documented the bulk of it on Instagram, letting us in on their night out at Denver piano bar Howl at the Moon and follow-up date to see the Nuggets take on the Portland Trailblazers.
Had it been a regular relationship it may have felt far too soon to jump the gun. But in Bachelor land, where forevers are cemented in a matter of weeks, it seemed like perhaps we were all witnessing the beginning of an amazing journey.
And in the months since, our gut reaction has been thoroughly validated with the one-time Bachelorette and Becca Kufrin's sweet, Buffalo-bred suitor officially cementing their power couple status.
The 35-year-old reality personality and scrunchie purveyor and the banker, 31, are renovating their shared Nashville home, parenting not one, but two, golden retriever pups, adding a side of Pinot (rescued from a kill shelter in South Korea) to their Ramen just before Christmas and talking engagement rings. (No Neil Lane, please, and she'll skip the double halo trend, thanks.)
The current COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine that kept them largely at home for much of the summer "has kind of put a damper on plans," Bristowe recently admitted to E! News. "Jason's resourceful and I know he'll figure out a way to do something, but I just know he wants to like sit down with my parents in person and spend the time with them before he even asked me, so who knows."
It's certainly on the agenda, with Tartick telling E! News in 2019, "The next direction is getting engaged, getting married and having kids." Bristowe just needs to complete her long-awaited sweep through the ballroom first.
"I'm telling you, I'm going into Dancing With The Stars being like 'Okay this is my last hurrah,' because I'm ready to have babies," she told E! News, adding that the opportunity gave her a chance to make good on her vow to become her healthiest self pre-motherhood. "I always said like when I'm getting to that point, you know like, when I'm a year out from having a family or two years, I really want to feel like I'm in the best shape of my life, to feel strong and to go into a healthy pregnancy."
So they're serious serious.
And to think the world almost missed out on their romance.
Nashville-based Bristowe had agreed to take her Off the Vine with Kaitlyn Bristowe podcast on the road in 2018, with a scheduled stop in Seattle Oct. 23 to chat with local resident Tartick and Olivia Caridi, who had been invited along to, as Bristowe put it in a 2019 Instagram "help keep the energy up, since I was so sad."
In fact, smack dab in the middle of her split from fiancé Shawn Booth, the personal trainer who'd received her final rose on her season of the ABC love hunt in 2015, she'd been sobbing so hard in her Uber en route to the studio that she considered bailing entirely. And when Tartick (who almost canceled, himself, due to an eye infection) walked in, she was tearing up once more while on Facetime with her dad.
"We had never met, but he hugged me, and told me he had just cried too at a charity event he came from. He looked at me and said, 'let's have a soft Tuesday together,'" she shared, which they did, Tartick's infectious charm instantly providing a boost. "If you spend two seconds with Jason you realize his energy is electric and you can't help but be in a good mood. My day had changed."
She couldn't possibly know it at the time, but it was actually her entire life trajectory that shifted.
Bristowe kicked off the show dictating the reasons she felt the New York native had been robbed of the Bachelor gig—Tartick possessing the type of work ethic that led him to notch seven promotions in eight-and-a-half-years, an athleticism that saw him win a high school hockey championship and play Division III soccer in college and the confidence and pure-heartedness to unabashedly share his love of Disney movies. And even though it was Colton Underwood who'd be courting a cadre of ladies, she was curious about the type of woman Tartick would gift his final rose.
As Tartick began detailing his must-haves, "Someone that's sassy, independent, strong-willed, funny, can hold their own and just be really strong...someone who wakes up every day and says, 'I'm going to crush this day,'" it dawned on him that he just may describing Bristowe.
And though there was no inclination of what lie ahead, the chemistry was certainly there, the pair bonded from the jump over their similar backgrounds. Though Tartick's native Buffalo is technically on the southern side of the border, its placement, a literal stone's throw from the Great White North earned him honorary Canadian points from Bristowe, who grew up in the Albertan city of Leduc before moving to Vancouver as an adult.
For starters, he added an "eh" to one of his opening lines, causing Bristowe to declare, "Oh, we're going to get along just fine," then shared his decidedly Canadian view of sports.
"You know, we were born in hockey rinks, this is what we do," the varsity hockey captain told Bristowe, whose reported exes include a couple of NHL pros. "Like high school football was nothing, but high school hockey was everything."
Agreed Bristowe, "Everything. I always laugh at Americans and their football."
The twosome also saw eye-to-eye on the bolded, underlined, capitalized Important things in life, namely their connections to their families. For Bristowe it was her bond with dad Mike Bristowe, the man who brought her Canadian treats in the wake of her split from Booth. "He is the most beautiful gem of a man you've ever met," she gushed. "He honestly has raised the bar so high for me that, like, I've never been attracted to a douchebag. I've never been attracted to an a--hole. I think my dad taught me what a man should be to a woman."
Same, agreed Tartick, who revealed that seeing his parents' "50-50 relationship" helped crystalize exactly what he was looking for in his own life. And should he ever lose his way, mom Dale Tartick, who joined him for a 2018 Guys Tell All segment on The Today Show, and his dad are on hand for daily pep talks.
Though his career has always kept him at a physical distance from his folks (in the past decade the "closest I've ever lived to my parents is 764 miles away," he said, though he's edged ever so slightly closer being in Nashville), he still calls them up for chats every single day. "You can chase titles, you could chase money, you can chase any of that," he opined, "nothing will ever, for me personally, put a smile on my face like my friends and family."
But as for anyone else who might keep him grinning, there had been a dearth of options since Kufrin sent him home from Thailand. There had been that brief period where he thought he'd be the one handing out the roses on ABC's love hunt, followed by his decision to forgo a stint on 2018's Bachelor in Paradise. Since then, "I've gone out with friends and met girls out," he shared, "but I haven't gone on an actual, formal, I want to take you out...it's pretty sad, actually."
That all changed when Bristowe was informed of his growing infatuation, taking charge when he called into her PodcastOne show in January 2019.
"Jason, are you finally going to ask me on a date?" she posed after getting through the obligatory show chitchat, the post-game analysis notably including her mention that she was glad he wasn't picked as lead.
"You're making me blush over here, Kaitlyn," he admitted, before diving in: "I mean, if we're both going to be in the same city at the same time I see no reason why we shouldn't go to dinner or grab drinks. What do you think?"
Her response—"I'm all in"—left Tartick a touch flustered. "My heart is racing over here, my beats per minute are off the chain," he said, before recovering, "It sounds like you're in, so let's do it."
And so they did, their first date taking place weeks later in Denver, a place they were both scheduled to be in at the same time. "We killed it, we crushed it, we were on fire," Bristowe later shared on her podcast of the weekend-long date, which included the aforementioned trip to Howl at the Moon. "We had so much fun at that bar."
The fact that Tartick was willing to sing along to Carly Rae Jepsen's impossibly catchy hit "Call Me Maybe" and participate in a full-on conga line with the rest of the bar patrons earned him major points. "Kaitlyn loves that Jason is on the same page as her in terms of having a lot of fun and they both don't take themselves too seriously," the insider told E! News at the time. "They are both funny and share the same humor."
Sure, Bristowe never expected she'd be dipping her toe back into the Bachelor well. "It's not like I feel above that, it was more just like, okay, I've been there, I've done that. It was really, like, challenging and ups and downs and you go forward and you're like, what's next for me," she rationalized on her show. "I was like, you know what, I'll just be a little bit more private, more low-key. But you can't help who you like."
And with Tartick there was just instant chemistry. "I think the first thing that attracted me to him is that he seemed like a dying breed. They don't make them like him anymore." As she learned more about his close-knit ties to his family and how much he, like her, enjoys having a good time, she realized that maybe, once again, ABC's winning franchise was leading her to a perfect match.
"He has the same morals and values as me. And we want the same things. And I think at this point in your life, like, he's 30, I'm 33, we both feel like we're established and where we want to be in our lives and we have the self-love and respect to actually, like, be in a mature, healthy relationship," she shared.
And though it felt a bit odd to go from being an engaged woman "to thinking of somebody as your boyfriend," there she was. "I would be upset if he was dating anyone else and I think he would be upset if I was dating anyone else."
Fortunately, she didn't have to find out, the two cementing their couple status soon after that early 2019 date when Bristowe turned up in Seattle as a surprise, referring to herself as Tartick's "sweet girlfriend."
In Tartick, she told E! News, she found "an absolute rock", the supportive partner she wasn't expecting to stumble upon. "I don't even know how to put it into words of the kind of person he is," she continued. "He's just the kind of person that your dad would hope you would marry, like, that's the way I describe him. He's everything. He's hilarious, he's so driven, he's smart, he's well-spoken, he loves his family, he's so close with his family, he's romantic, like, he's everything."
By springtime they were sharing Bristowe's Nashville pad and Tartick was predicting their future. "Waking up together, having coffee every morning, cooking together, like having our schedules on the same page," he told E! News, "both of us agree, we've never felt more like a uniformed team than we do now."
When his gal joked on an April 2019 podcast that they were still in the blissed out honeymoon phase—"Talk to me in two years," she quipped—he responded, "Talk to me in two years and we'll be married with a kid. Two dogs too."
So far, they've taken care of part of the latter half of the equation. The rest, well, they're working on it.
"I don't have an expectation," Bristowe told E! News, responding to Tartick's claim that she's hoping for a ring ASAP. "I don't expect anything. I just think on the path that we're on, it would make sense that this is the next step. And moving in, we have the confidence in our relationship. We just rescued a dog together so that just feels like the next step in our relationship."
Tartick certainly seems up to the task of delivering a proposal to rival Bristowe's previous betrothal in the backyard of the Bachelor mansion. "We're on the same page. We know what we want out of this relationship," he told E! News, acknowledging that they're moving at a speedy clip, albeit one that is lightyears slower than the Bachelor track. "All the stars are aligning for sooner rather than later."
And if Bristowe could go back and tell her 2018 self what transpires, well, fair to say it'd be a bit hard to believe.
"I just feel like I'm a new person. I feel like I'm a whole different person in a really good way," she told E! News, acknowledging the growth of her Dew scrunchie line and Spade & Sparrows wine brand and, of course, the boon to her personal life.
"I feel more confident in myself and my relationship," she said. "I just feel like I'm in a much different place, and I always say that to girls. I have a lot of young girls who listen to the podcast and think that they're going through a hard time, that life's over, and they get really down on themselves. And I think that it's interesting to see how much can change in a short amount of time, and you never know what's around the corner."
(Originally published Nov. 2, 2019, at 3 a.m. PT)