In his search for a soul mate, Lincoln Farnum didn't frequent traditional singles hangouts like coffee shops, bars and bookstores. Instead, he turned to the territory he knows best: cyberspace.
A self-professed Internet addict, Lincoln posted a personal ad on a dating Web site called Love.com. To post the ad, he had to provide some basic information. Age? 50. Hometown? Bethesda. Occupation? Com-puter programmer at the National Institutes of Health. It was easy going until he reached the final question: What celebrity do you most resemble? Lincoln took a moment to think. He then typed in "a young Elizabeth Taylor" and hit "send." Within a few days, at least 75 women had responded.
One of them was Andrea Walls, 43, of Baltimore.
"Her message was really nice, but she lived too far away for me to consider seeing her," Lincoln said.
But after disappointing dates with about 20 of the respondents, Lincoln decided to expand his boundaries. At the same time, he received a second e-mail from Andrea.
"I know that I'm geographically undesirable," she wrote. "But please don't forget about me." A few days later, Lincoln called to ask her out.
"From the minute she picked up the phone, it felt like we were old friends," he said.
On their first date in December 2000, Lincoln treated Andrea to dinner at Helen's Garden in Baltimore. In return, she took him on a tour of the city, including a stop at West 34th Street in Hampden to see the area Christmas lights. It was there that they discovered their mutual passion for all things quirky and kitschy.
"We both love to ride scooters," said Lincoln. "That's not something you usually hear of couples doing."
After several successful dates, Andrea and Lincoln decided it was time to seek the most important endorsement of their relationship: their daughters from previous marriages. (Lincoln's daughter, Samantha, is 11, and Andrea's daughter, Veronica, is 12.)
"They're both only children and have always wanted a sibling," said Lincoln. "They were thrilled that Andrea and I started dating. Now, they call each other 'sis' and love each other."
A year after his first date with Andrea, Lincoln heeded the advice of his female friends and proposed. "They told me not to wait more than a year to do it if I loved her," he said. "So I went for it." Although he hadn't picked out a ring, Lincoln asked Andrea to marry him over a dinner of oysters and champagne in January 2002.
"It wasn't really planned for that night," Lincoln said. "But the moment was just so magical and right that I did it."
Andrea said yes, and Lincoln immediately suggested ring shopping. Their first stop? The Internet. After endlessly surfing the online-auction site eBay, the couple found an antique gold ring surrounded with small diamonds on a jeweler's Web site.
When it came time to organize their nuptials, the couple didn't start out small -- particularly Andrea, who works as a caterer and wedding planner at Gertrude's restaurant in Baltimore. But no sooner did they start planning than Andrea was taken by a whim.
"I called Lincoln and asked him if he wanted to get married in Vegas," she said. "We'd been there on vacation and kind of had a fascination with wedding chapels. At the time, we wondered why anyone would want to get married that way. But our wedding plans were starting to spiral out of control and I thought it would be fun."
Lincoln didn't hesitate. "Right on, let's do it," he said.
On Aug. 30, Lincoln and Andrea drove through a roadside chapel in Las Vegas in a rented convertible. There were married there, with their two daughters watching with delight.
For Andrea and Lincoln, the event had all the elements of their ideal wedding: spontaneity, quirkiness and -- of course -- plenty of kitsch.