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Wild Wedding

How do you forge a friendship in 140 characters or less? — Rosa Jurjevic

“So, how do you know Charley and Rebecca?” asked the woman in the white dress. I’d noticed her earlier, had admired the rich reddish-brown of her hair and said of her, in an observational aside to David, “Hey, look, someone took the bride’s invitation to wear white.” The bride herself, it had been announced in advance, would be wearing a lilac-hued gown.

I met the woman’s expectant stare with a lost gaze, silently chiding myself for not having prepared an answer for what was an obvious and inevitable question. A wedding is an occasion on which friends, coworkers, and distant relatives converge. Few from the divergent categories of the bride and groom’s lives are assumed to have met each other, but it is expected that all in attendance know at least one member of the featured couple.

“Um…,” I stalled. I looked to David, but he just shrugged, as if to say, Don’t ask me, this is your deal. I thought to myself that I should have improvised a lie, sparing myself the struggle to tell an unusual truth, but at this point it was too late.

“Twitter,” I said. “We’ve never actually met either of them in person before. You?”

It’s not as if I was a complete stranger. Based on a familiarity with their screen names that regularly popped up in my Twitter feed and the short, back-and-forth Twitversations in which I’d taken part, I would have defined my relationship with Charley and Rebecca as “virtual acquaintances.” The opportunity for our online relations to transcend the virtual arrived in the form of a wedding invitation via a direct message on Twitter, utilizing 139 of the allotted 140 characters.

I already knew that @sdcharley and @seubecca were an item, at least since they’d added me as a friend on Facebook. But I needed to know more about them if I were to consider attending what might be the most important event of their lives thus far. As someone who does not proffer invitations recklessly, each invite I receive is pondered in earnest. After all, this wasn’t some backyard party, this was a big to-do being held at the Wild Animal Park, which, I admit, was a major draw for me.

An older generation might find it bizarre that a couple would invite someone they’ve never met to such an intimate affair. But they’d be underestimating our ability to employ modern technology to forge friendships. An old adage tells us the path of friendship must be oft trod upon lest it become overgrown with metaphorical weeds — I can’t think of any venue more frequently trampled than Twitter. David and I eloped, but were I to now throw myself a ceremony and reception, I know a handful of Twitter tag names attached to people I haven’t yet met in person that I would prioritize on an invite list. Those who follow my tweets may know more about my day-to-day than anyone else but David, family and friends included. So, how could we be “strangers”?

David, despite having answered my online ad for a prospective love machine, has no current account on any social networking site. He was apprehensive when I told him we were going to attend a wedding for two people I only knew online, and I don’t blame him. The last wedding I brought him to (of a girl I’d met in person but hardly knew) was unpleasant on many levels, from the bride’s three-toothed, peppermint-schnapps-in-a-paper-bag-guzzling granddad to the best man’s flame-embroidered shiny shirt and gay-bashing rhetoric. I had found the whole experience fascinating from a cultural anthropology standpoint, but David had placed the day in the same category as waterboarding.

This time, I did a little research in advance. From their Facebook profiles and wedding website, I deduced that Charley and Rebecca were both performers who were really into Disney. Apparently they also dug animals, hence the whole Wild Animal Park thing. Based on what I shared with him, David acquiesced and set about finding an appropriate outfit for the occasion.

On the big day, as I sat beside my man and gazed over the backdrop of a lagoon brimming with exotic birds — a heron dipping its giant beak in the water, a white crane flitting from one branch to another — I contemplated how pivotal the internet has been for the personal relationships in my life, particularly how major a component it was for those surrounding me on this day. My presence at the event was the result of a connection made on Twitter. My date and husband had found me online almost seven years ago, and the bride and groom had found each other on MySpace. As if that wasn’t enough to sizzle my cerebellum, it turned out I also “knew” other guests in attendance from Twitter and Facebook.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time with a person to be able to relate to him or her. I wiped tears from my cheeks as the bride, in her sparkling fairy-tale gown, and the groom, miked so that no one would miss a word of his performance, exchanged vows. When Charley gave in to his emotions and wept as he declared his devotion to his bride, I could hear David sniffling beside me. I reached over and held his hand and didn’t let go until it was time for us to walk the short distance to the reception area.

During the cocktail hour, zoo attendants brought out a golden eagle, an armadillo, and a cheetah that had a black dog for a buddy (both were leashed). The newlyweds appeared as the cheetah was being shown. They were invited behind the rope to have their portrait taken with the spotted cat. When I saw Rebecca pet the cheetah, I told David I was willing to plan a belated ceremony for us so that I too might get to touch the cat, to which my man rolled his eyes.

David and I made fast friends of our tablemates and settled into dinner. It was just after the salad but prior to the entrée when we finally made our way to the dais to meet, greet, and congratulate the mister and missus. When I mentioned how generous it was of them to invite a couple of random strangers like David and me to such a spectacular and personal soiree, Charley waved his hands as if to dismiss the notion and said, “You guys aren’t strangers.” And though the Twitter-Facebook-MySpace-free David might have hesitated to agree with that statement, I knew exactly what @sdcharley meant.

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