Our Wedding Story: Facebook crossword game brought us together

Dubliner and South African met in person after year of chatting online and the rest was history

Jonathan Tennant and Camilla Smith

“We were a product of the Lexulous craze that swept Facebook about seven years ago.”

That’s how Jonny in Dublin and Camilla in South Africa found each other. Through a “Scrabble-like” online crossword game.

Until then, the musician and artist had only played the game with friends.

"I really felt like playing a game but none of my friends were taking their go," remembers Jonny, a former contestant on TG4 talent show, Glas Vegas.

“So I tried playing with one stranger and they didn’t take their go, tried again with another and the same thing happened so I decided to try one last time.”

“Camilla, sick in bed with the flu, was playing with her godmother in Johannesburg who also wasn’t taking her go. Camilla looked to see if any strangers were playing, started playing with me and that was that.”

Chats began on Lexulous and continued on Facebook Messenger for more than a year until they took things offline and met in person for the first time at Camden Town Tube station in London where Camilla was then living.

Nerve-wracking

Was the prospect of meeting in real life slightly scary?

“It was a bit nerve-wracking and exciting,” says Jonny. “But I think we both knew that when you’re chatting with someone for six hours at a time, something’s up.”

“Over the weekend, we met up twice . . . and just walked all over London. I said in my wedding speech that I first fell in love with Camilla when I heard her laugh – it’s a beautiful laugh.”

A few weeks later, the new couple moved to Prague – "neutral ground" where Jonny had previously lived playing in various bands and writing for The Prague Post about music – before going back to Dublin where they quickly discovered that Camilla was pregnant with their son Tadhg, who was born in 2015.

Jonny proposed to Camilla at Tadhg’s Christening in front of their loved ones and they were married in a civil ceremony in Co Wexford in December 2016.

Wedding cake

That January, more than 70 guests travelled to Onrus on South Africa’s Western Cape for the wedding officiated by Camilla’s godfather Maarten Turkstra in the garden of her parents’ home.

The wedding cake, made by Jonny’s mum Sylvia Tennant, was decorated by Camilla using Scrabble tiles that spelt out the names of the newlyweds.

After his speech, Johnny – whose father was the late Richard (Dick) Tennant – serenaded his new wife with the sean-nós song An Draighnean Donn.

The couple, who are restoring a cottage near Inch, Co Wexford, are planning a ceili this summer for Irish family and friends and Jonny’s band Traditional Arts Collective will provide the music.

“You would wonder if someone or something upstairs is playing a hand in things as I was so lucky to meet her,” he says. You sure would.

Photograph: Bevil Templeton-Smith