BEL AIR -- Jim Sloat and Laura Musser started out as friends but will end up as family today thanks in part to the telephone.
The couple, to be wed at the First Presbyterian Church in Bel Air at 4 p.m., relied on long-distance telephone calls to keep their romance alive while he was living in in Durham, N.C., and she in Lexington, Va.
Mr. Sloat and Miss Musser were so enthused about the role the phone played in their courtship that they wanted to thank the man at the top -- Bert Roberts, president and CEO of MCI.
So they wrote to Mr. Roberts, inviting him their wedding.
Much to their surprise, he accepted.
"I thought maybe they'd send a gift certificate or something," said Miss Musser, a Street resident.
Then came the call that turned the two into media darlings: Would they mind if MCI used their invitation and wedding in a commercial, company officials asked?
They accepted, and found themselves launched on a media tour that included a stint on ABC's "Good Morning, America," and, of course, lots of telephone interviews.
In addition, Mr. Roberts is presenting them with a wedding present: 100 shares of MCI stock, now valued at $32 to $33 a share.
Mr. Sloat said the two are being paid for their appearance in the commercial, but said even though they have strong Christian beliefs they don't think having MCI film the wedding will detract from the ceremony.
"The Christian commitment we're making to each other is the most important thing," said Mr. Sloat.
MCI, which has already aired a commercial about the couple called "The Invitation," plans a follow-up campaign featuring scenes from the couple's wedding.
Miss Musser and Mr. Sloat met more than three years ago at $ $TC Christian fellowship group at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va.
The two had been dating six months when Mr. Sloat moved to Durham, N.C., to pursue his Ph.D. at Duke University.
Miss Musser continued her studies at Washington & Lee, and the long-distance romance was born, using MCI's "Friends and Family" long-distance discount plan.
"We could have existed without daily conversations, I suppose, but it wouldn't have been pleasant," said Miss Musser, who graduated from Washington & Lee a week ago.
They became engaged last May, and began planning their wedding -- over the telephone of course.