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Alex Koepsel has visited Marco Island every summer since he was seven years old, which means there's a lot of locations around the island that hold a special place in his heart: Caxambas Park, where he and his brother would go fishing; Mackle Park, where he played games with his family; and now, the J.W. Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, where he proposed to his girlfriend Saturday.
Koepsel, 28, and his family have traveled from Winter Park, Fla. to Marco Island every Fourth of July for the past 20-some years.
"It's just our tradition that we've been doing forever," Kim, Koepsel's mother, said. "It's a very special place for him, which is why he wanted to share it with his girlfriend."
Koepsel and his now-fiancée, Annie Siguenza, met two years ago when they were both working in Orlando.
"She's from a small town in Pennsylvania and went to school at Penn State, so when she graduated she wanted to get out and explore someplace different," Koepsel said. "She's always loved Florida and has family in Orlando, so she started looking for a job there and moved in August 2015."
Koepsel and Siguenza met two months later through Bumble, a dating app similar to Tinder.
"We both swiped right and said, 'Yes, we're interested in talking to each other'," he said, "so we had a date three weeks later and the rest is history."
But just a few months into their blossoming relationship, Koepsel got a job offer from an engineering firm in Austin. Siguenza decided to move with him, ultimately landing her own job as a fourth grade teacher.
"Neither of us knew anyone in Austin, so we were truly each other's best friends," Koepsel said. "I think that helped move the relationship forward because until then were taking things slow."
As time went on, they realized how much they liked each other, Koepsel said, and about six months ago he realized he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.
"In our first year of dating we faced lot of tough challenges, like moving to a new city and finding new jobs," he said, "and I figured if we could get through those difficult things together, we could get through anything."
So he started brainstorming proposal ideas and it occurred to him that Marco Island was the perfect place to pop the question.
"I wanted to plan a special way to propose, and Marco Island is special to me, but more importantly, it's special to Annie because she loves the beach," he said.
She also loves mimosas, Koepsel said, which is why the day began with brunch at the Marriott. Then, under the guise of showing her around the hotel, he took her to the front entrance where he got down on one knee and asked her to be his wife.
She said yes.
"I thought I was just getting flowers," Siguenza said. "We had talked about it and how maybe it could happen on Marco, but I wasn't really expecting it."
The two then took a limo tour of the island, stopping at all of Koepsel's special places. The final stop was Dolphin Tiki Bar & Grill where Siguenza called her family and told them the good news, making the restaurant a special place of her own.