Welcome to Wedding Guest Wednesday, an occasional feature in which Solo-ish explores the joys and woes of attending other people’s weddings. Because it’s not all about the happy couple — it’s a big day for guests as well.
Minsoo C. Lee: Four days before my friend Amanda’s brother’s wedding in Pittsburgh in September, my plus-one bailed on me. Her name had already been printed on her place card. Her meal choice (prime rib!) already selected.
Should I show up solo or roll the dice? I thought about changing my Tinder settings from Los Angeles (where I live) to Pittsburgh, but that seemed inappropriate. No, in order to find the right wedding date, I’d have to channel my inner Mike and Dave Stangle, the real-life brothers who posted on Craigslist in 2013 to find wedding dates for their sister’s wedding and later turned their escapades into a book deal and then a movie.
Instead of Craigslist, I would try Reddit. With help from my buddy Eric, we selected several images designed to show off my true nature: a healthy mix of humor and majesty. I typed up an eloquently worded cry for help, describing myself as a 30-year-old Korean American man who’s an outgoing paralegal and a Knicks fan. I wrote that I was looking for someone easygoing who’s not easily offended, is experienced in espionage and/or improv, and is able to strike up conversation and build rapport with a room full of strangers. I offered to have a pre-date interview with whomever was interested. After posting it to the r/pittsburgh subreddit, I drank a Jameson and soda and went to sleep.
I woke up to a flurry of positive comments and up-votes on my post. People seemed to respect that I had the guts to put myself out there, for the entire Internet to judge. Tons of people commented that they wanted to know who I ended up going with and how it went. The most surprising part was that about a dozen women messaged me and told me that they’d accompany me as my wedding date. Megan was one of them.
Megan McLachlan: My friend sent me a text message, saying: “This guy on Reddit is coming to Pittsburgh for a wedding and needs a wedding date. You should respond.” I thought: What the heck? Sounds like fun.
Minsoo: To get a feel for my prospective plus-one’s personality, I compiled a questionnaire with queries silly and serious. Such as: What kind of cheese are you? Are your chakras aligned? Are you okay with prime rib or chicken? On a scale of 1 to 10, how well can you hold your liquor? I spoke with all the potential wedding dates over at least one form of communication: text, Reddit messages, Facebook messenger, email or over the phone. The whole process felt much more organic than online dating usually does, because my Reddit post encompassed my personality much more so than a picture or two on Tinder ever could.
Megan: I sent Minsoo some pictures of myself and noted that I wasn’t sure about my chakras, but my music choice is certainly aligned with Chaka Khan. We agreed to meet at Kelly’s Bar & Lounge in Pittsburgh, which had become my destination for crazy decisions. Years prior, in one of its 1950s diner-style booths, I decided on a whim to be filmed walking on Little Debbie’s cakes for a local director. Now, I was getting ready to meet a stranger from Reddit, who was flying in from Los Angeles and needed a date to a friend’s wedding in two days.
“Here’s where I’m meeting him,” I texted my friend who had encouraged me to respond to his Reddit post. “Just in case I’m killed.” This was crazier than walking on Zebra Cakes. The Internet can be a cesspool of evil, and I was taking a risk by meeting a stranger. But his Reddit post seemed sincere. And as a single woman, I knew what it was like to scramble for a date to big events. I thought I could extend my singleness (and lack of weekend plans) to help.
Minsoo: Within five minutes of meeting Megan at the bar, I had already decided that she’d be the perfect wedding date. She laughed at all my bad jokes, and I could immediately tell she was a kindhearted soul.
Megan: We chatted about his L.A. celebrity run-ins (he accidentally flirted with Amy Adams!), my most embarrassing moments (losing my car for a month) and how much this whole situation was like a real-life “Bachelor” episode. When I asked when the rose ceremony would be, he joked that it would happen soon.
Before I left, I wished him well. “I hope you have a great time at the wedding,” I said, giving him a hug. “And you’ll always have a friend in Pittsburgh.”
“But I want to take you to the wedding,” he said.
“Right,” I said. “Meet with the other women first, then get back to me.”
I figured I would not be getting a rose, because he was meeting other women in the city who had responded to his Reddit post, and I just assumed as a mid-30s single woman, the younger buds would be more ripe for the picking.
We said our goodbyes, but both of us inadvertently ended up at the same bar later that night, where he was meeting up with friends and another possible date candidate.
As I was leaving, he caught up to me. “I choose you,” he said, presenting me with a flower stolen from a nearby street garden.
It really was “The Bachelor.”
“I’ll see you on Saturday,” I said.
Minsoo: At the wedding, word spread quickly about my Reddit date. Luckily for me, Amanda’s family is fantastic and was delighted to meet Megan. While we mingled with the guests, enjoyed the open bar and took in the general festivities, there wasn’t a single moment where I felt out of place or uncomfortable. Knowing that Megan and I were in the “talk to strangers at a wedding” ride together gave me a sense of solidarity that put me at ease.
Megan: Going to a wedding of strangers with a stranger isn’t too different from going to a wedding of people you know, except you don’t have to bring a gift, which I suppose makes it better. I had a place card with his previous date’s name on it, which of course we took silly pictures with. Word had quickly spread that I was Minsoo’s “Internet date,” as one uncle put it, which made me feel like I had arrived in a crate, and people came up to us like we were celebrities. “I just wanted to introduce myself,” said two relatives at the main table. “She’s great, Minsoo!” said an aunt. “You guys even match!” (We had color-coordinated our outfits at the last minute.) I cut a rug on the dance floor with complete strangers, slow-danced with the drunk uncle jokester (“We’re dancing belly button to belly button!”) and stood in line to get my caricature drawn with the family matriarch.
Minsoo: I’ve become accustomed to taking a leap of faith. However, as an Asian American male in the online dating world (where research shows that Asian men get few matches), jumping off a 60-foot waterfall sounds much more appealing than Internet strangers rejecting me. And yet, as I sat outside the reception hall with a glass of single malt scotch and a cigar, it occurred to me that even those with no stake in this epic wedding data saga were cheering me on from behind their screens. Everyone loves an underdog story, and in these divisive times, I think people were happy to see glimmers of romanticism, hope and adventure.
Megan: I knew that I was doing a favor for a stranger (now friend!), just so he wouldn’t be alone at a wedding, but the wedding also did wonders for my confidence. It gave me a spark back and reminded me that adventure doesn’t end in youth. As we get older, we tend to close off our circle of friends, but we might be missing out on new adventures by isolating ourselves, whether we’re single or married. For one night, I felt a bit like Cinderella, at a ball filled with strangers who all wondered, “Who’s that girl?” At the end of the night, they would go back to their lives, and I would go back to mine.