“I married my Twitter crush”: the true story behind the viral Waterstones wedding

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Corinne Redfern
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When Victoria Carlin, 32, followed Jonathan O’Brien, 30, on Twitter, he made her laugh so hard that she sent him a marriage proposal. Two years later, and they’ve just walked down the aisle. Victoria's tweet telling the story attracted over 30,000 likes and the post went viral. Here, she tells the story of how love can be found in the most unexpected places. 

I was sitting on the train, scrolling through social media and attempting to pass the time when I saw one of my friends had retweeted something from the Waterstones account – a joke about Pokemon, of all things. 

I don’t know why, but the tweet made me guffaw so loudly that a few passengers nearby looked up. Still chuckling to myself, I replied: “Well I'm in love with whoever is manning the @WstonesOxfordSt account. Be still my actual beating heart.” “Pff, he's not that dreamy in real life,” Waterstones commented back. Figuring that I had nothing better to do, I replied once more (“booknerds > dreamboats #girlfacts”), but was met with silence. Never mind, I thought to myself. The exchange had successfully wasted ten minutes of my journey. I’d probably never hear from him again.

As a general rule, I don’t use Twitter very much. I used to work as a cabaret artist, and would spend weeks on tour all over the world, so social media was a useful tool for staying in touch with my friends. Then, once I got back to London, I’d generally ignore it for days at a time. But it felt like the Waterstones account was everywhere I looked, so I began starting up a few more conversations with Jonathan, who I’d since learned was behind the tweets.

When the bookshop dropped the apostrophe from its name, he tweeted a whole story (complete with illustrations) about the punctuation mark’s new life on the streets. I don’t really know why I found it so funny, but I loved it. So when I was in town one day and saw Jonathan tweet about wishing someone would bring him doughnuts, I decided to be a bit reckless. With a box of Krispy Kremes under one arm, I strode into the bookshop like I owned the place. “Is Jonathan working today?” I asked a sales assistant on the ground floor. “Sure, he’s just upstairs.”

Truth be told, the second I saw him, I freaked out. Half because he was so tall – I’m only five foot, and somehow his height didn’t quite come across over Twitter – and half because I hadn’t quite thought the gesture through. Thrusting the doughnuts at him over the counter, I stuttered that I’d seen his tweet. He looked confused, and before my face could turn as red as my brightly-dyed hair, I ran away, texting my friends in a state of half-horror, half euphoria at what I’d just done. A few days passed before he DM-ed me, asking if I wanted to meet him for lunch. As we walked around Oxford Street, he made me laugh ridiculously hard, and for the first time since we’d started speaking, it dawned on me that I could genuinely see myself falling for him.

I guess the funniest thing about our relationship is the fact that until I met Jonathan, I’d always raised my eyebrows at online dating. Sure, a third of all couples might meet on dating sites, but the idea always made me feel awkward. “It’s just not for me,” I’d tell my friends. “I can’t imagine meeting up with somebody who I don’t know in real life.” Even now, I kind of have to shake myself and acknowledge that technically, that’s what we both did.

But the way you meet doesn’t have to define your relationship. Jonathan is working on the social media team at Innocent these days, and we rarely have reason to tweet each other any more. Sure, it’s lovely knowing that we can go back online and see our very first point of contact, but when we got married on the 8th July, we made a conscious decision to leave the hashtags at the door. 

Of course, every relationship has its secrets, and there was one thing Jonathan didn’t tell me until we’d been together a few months. Apparently when he worked at Waterstones, he actually received marriage proposals on Twitter on a weekly basis. Most of the time, he ignored them. Sometimes, he laughed them off. This was the first time he’d ever met up with somebody who’d already professed their everlasting love over social media. My only regret is that when he proposed to me last summer – 18 months after our first message in November 2012 – I was so caught up in the moment that I forgot to mention that technically I’d already got in there first!