Bingo! It's all in the game

JUST MARRIED

Mary Bucy And Mike Richardson

July 02, 2000|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,Special to the Sun

Minutes after they said, "I do," Mike Richardson and Mary Bucy logged onto their computers to accept the good wishes of family, friends and a few strangers who attended their wedding online.

The June 24 ceremony was a first for Lycos, the Massachusetts-based Internet company that provided live online narration of the event.

Mary, 45, and Mike, 50, met online five years ago, in a Lycos game area called the BingoZone. Mary lived in Cumberland at the time. Mike was in Virginia Beach, Va.

BingoZone had only a few dozen players then, and Mike and Mary developed an electronic friendship.

"We used to play bingo on one side of the [computer] screen and chat on the other," Mary says.

Both were raising older teen-agers on their own (Mike was widowed, Mary was divorced), and they often commiserated about living in homes brimming with adolescent angst.

After a few months of online chatting, the couple decided to meet in person, and Mike drove to Cumberland. He and Mary spent nearly four hours talking and sipping coffee at a nearby restaurant before he returned to Virginia.

That first meeting was exciting, the couple says.

"When you're physically sitting there and talking," Mike explains, "you can see the expressions in someone's face."

Though a romantic interest was sparked, the couple decided to take things slowly. They e-mailed but didn't meet again until months later. By then, Mary had retired from First Federal Savings Bank of Western Maryland and moved to Winchester, Va., to live with an aunt.

In October 1996, Mike and Mary had their official first date, an outing to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello near Charlottesville, Va.

The following spring, Mary moved in with Mike and his youngest daughter, Lindsay. (By that time, Mike's other two daughters and Mary's three children were already out on their own.)

A year later, Mike proposed. After she said yes, Mary wrote Lycos to thank the company for introducing them.

The online wedding broadcast was the company's idea. Lycos sponsored a "chat" with Mike and Mary a few days before their nuptials so they could offer their views on love in cyberspace. And a play-by-play of the actual ceremony was broadcast in one of Lycos' events auditoriums.

A spokeswoman for the company said 22 people signed on for the ceremony.

The online aspect of the wedding turned out to be a highlight for the couple. It brought them some fun media attention, and Mike's daughter Niki posted electronic photos of the bride and groom and their families.

The technology that helped bring them together also allowed some friends and family members to enjoy the ceremony from a distance. Among them was Mary's daughter, Summer, who recently had a baby and couldn't make the trip to Virginia from Cumberland.

Just before the ceremony, Summer typed a message to her mother: "My heart is with you, Mom, even though I couldn't be."

Though they support the Internet and believe they never would have met without it, Mike and Mary caution those who want to take online friendships offline.

"The worst thing I would want to come out of this whole thing is for somebody to take us as an example and go out on the Internet, meet somebody and then they're in a hotel room in six weeks," Mike says.

Mike and Mary emphasized that their love came from true friendship built over time -- the same way, they say, that all real romances do.

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