• My best friend and I knew each other for 16 years before we met in person.
  • We met online as teenagers and had lived thousands of miles away. 
  • She invited me to her wedding, and it felt like we’d always known each other. 
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Watching your best friend marry the love of their life is one of life’s greatest joys — even when their wedding day is the very first time that you meet them.

I met Miranda 16 years ago on a social networking website called Bebo; before Instagram and Tiktok, this is where many teens spent their time online. I lived in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, and Miranda lived in Virginia, US.

While we lived on different continents, our lives were very similar. We were both raised by single mothers, both lived in small towns, and both had an interest in writing, music, and pop culture, so it was easy for us to connect and build a friendship. Soon, I was staying up all night to talk to her, separated by a six-hour time difference.

We grew together, even thousands of miles apart

I was 13 years old, and Miranda was 12 years old, and we were at the crux of growing up. We thought we were so much older, wiser, and more mature than we really were and would spend hours talking about the ways no one understood us. We went through important life phases together, including Miranda’s obsession with owls and abstract photography, and when I dyed my hair black and got a nose ring.

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We endured our first heartbreaks together, toxic teenage friendships, bullying (both offline and online), family life changes (like when Miranda’s mom got married and had her youngest brother), and made important decisions — particularly where we would attend college and what we would study.

Unsurprisingly, we both chose to study journalism, our similarities becoming more prevalent the older we got. Our friendship dwindled in the years we attended college but we still liked every photograph and video the other posted on social media, encouraged to remain in contact by the friendship we had already cultivated together.

We didn’t talk every day or even every month, but our love and care for each other never diminished. Miranda was still one of my favorite people. The teenage girl I had once told all my secrets to was now in her mid-20s, navigating life after college, and I was preparing to pack up my life and move to the United States. We would finally be on the same continent, but would that change our friendship, the one that had only ever existed online?

Demi Drew and Miranda in a photo booth at Miranda's wedding.

Miranda and Demi immediately felt like they’d known each other forever.

Photo Credit: Epic Time Photo Booth



We met for the first time at her wedding

Once I moved to New York in 2017, it still took seven years for us to meet in real life. Now, the first time we were going to meet was at Miranda’s wedding.

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She had invited me to her rehearsal dinner, reserved for extended family and the bridal party, of which I was neither.

“But I want you there, I want to spend time with you!” Miranda said.

Even on a day that was supposed to be all about her, she prioritized our friendship. I was grateful but also incredibly nervous to meet her and her family, people I’d only ever seen in photographs online.

The first thing her mom said to me when we met was, “I feel like I know you already, I’ve heard so much about you!” The nerves immediately melted away as her family embraced me wholeheartedly.

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Meeting Miranda for the first time felt like reuniting with an old friend. It wasn’t weird or awkward. We talked like we had physically been in each other’s lives for 16 years, not separated by thousands of miles. It was comfortable and natural. She was even more beautiful in person and even kinder and more considerate than I could ever imagine.

Our lives had been integrated for so long that there was never any doubt that we would find our groove and learn how to be in each other’s presence, no longer separated by a computer screen.

I would watch wedding guests’ incredulous expressions every time I told them that I’d been Miranda’s internet friend for 16 years, and this was my first time meeting her. It was an incredible and unlikely story, and it was ours.