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Scottish couple tracks down Iceland engagement photo with social media help

This Internet romance begins with a Scottish couple whose engagement, unbeknownst to them, was captured on camera by a stranger.

After a misspelled email address led both sides to panic they would never find each other, a series of social media callouts resulted in a modern-day tale as heartwarming as the photo that started it all.

Jessica Bowe, a Wisconsin native who has lived in Iceland for the last seven years, had just left a Reykjavík pub shortly before midnight one night last week and was walking home. She stopped to take pictures of the snow falling on an empty street in front of her that was lit up by street lamps and holiday lights when a couple walked into view. After wandering into the middle of the street, the man got down on one knee and proposed.

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“I can’t say I was more excited than them, but I was pretty excited,” Bowe told TODAY.com. “I was just standing there in shock, thinking, 'Is this happening? Is this what I think it is?' It was a surreal. It was like a scene from a movie.”

After giving them a few minutes to absorb the moment, Bowe headed over to the happy couple to share her picture. She handed over her phone to the man and had him enter his email address with visibly trembling hands.

But once Bowe got home, she realized the photo never made it through.

“I kind of panicked, thinking, oh God, they were so excited to have this photo and now they’re not going to get it,” she said.

Somewhere in Iceland, the couple thought the same thing.

Michael Kent, who had just proposed to his girlfriend, Fiona Newlands, realized that he never took down the contact information of the woman he had just met. And he had a sinking feeling he had given her the wrong email address.

“We went back to our apartment; I checked and there was just no email, so I went, ‘Oh, I wonder if I put it in wrong,’ so I worried, and the next day, it still wasn’t there,” said Kent, 28.

So he decided to use the reach of social media to track Bowe down.

“The thing is, it still would have been an amazing moment without the picture, but the fact we knew the picture existed made it feel almost devastating that we didn’t have it,” he said.

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He first took his appeal to Facebook, writing about what happened and posting a picture of the “scene of the crime” and asking for help in finding the original picture.

Kent then posted his Facebook note on Twitter, calling out the attention of the Reykjavík visitor's center and the local English-language newspaper, Reykjavík Grapevine.

That same day, Bowe had asked a friend who worked for the Grapevine to post the photograph that she took on the paper's Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Later that day, the two sides were back in touch.

A few days later, an Icelandic news outlet connected Bowe with the couple, who were still in town, for a joint interview.

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“This was the first time I got to meet them and properly talk to them,” Bowe said. “They’re really great people. It couldn’t have happened to nicer people.”

Reunited with @jrbowe, the photographer of the now infamous picture.

A post shared by Michael John Kent (@themichaelkent) on

Kent said he had been planning to propose to Newlands, 34, since May, when they first decided to take a vacation in Iceland. He originally planned to pop the question under the Northern Lights, but was forced to postpone the proposal for a night because a snowstorm had put a damper on their Northern Lights tour.

He proposed using the engagement ring that once belonged to Newland's grandmother.

"I went and got it off her mother beforehand," he said.

She said yes.

A post shared by Michael John Kent (@themichaelkent) on

Although Bowe works with social media for a travel agency, she said she was surprised at just how far the Internet can reach. She said she often posts "silly pictures or slice-of-life photos" on her Instagram page, but never imagined the power one of her photos could hold.

But Bowe also thinks timing played a big part in the tale.

"Amidst everything that’s happening in the world right now, it’s just nice to see a little humanity happening, and I think that’s a big part of why it’s been picked up and spread as widely as it has."

Kent said he and his fiancee haven't set a wedding date yet, but laughed when asked whether Bowe would be included on the guest list.

"Honestly, we don’t know what we’re going to do, but of course, she’s more than welcome if she can make it."

Follow TODAY.com writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.

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