— -- When 70,000 "Star Wars" fans come together in one place from lands far, far away, it’s bound to spark a love connection or two.
Which is exactly why the organizers of this past weekend's "Star Wars" Celebration 2017 in Orlando offered up what they called “Nerd Nite Speed Dating."
The events -- featuring sessions for women seeking men, men seeking women, women seeking women and men seeking men -- are almost always sold out.
Andrew was encouraged to sign up by a friend. (To protect any budding romances, we decided not to use any last names.)
“What better woman than a woman that you can go to dinner with? And as you’re discussing where you want to go,” Andrew said, “you can interrupt her right in the middle of a sentence and go, ‘Yeah but Han shot first.’ And she’d get it, and laugh about it.”
Participants had three minutes with each potential partner before moving on. Many conversation ice-breakers centered on favorite "Star Wars" scenes or movies, which was just fine with Andrea from Ohio.
“Where I live, all guys want is girls who like sports,” she said. “I’m thinking there’s plenty of single guys out there that like 'Star Wars' but I can’t find any.”
Every once in a while a conversation turns uncomfortable. One scruffy-looking nerf-herder awkwardly asked a potential date her age. But the rapid-fire bonding over Jedi, the Force, favorite planets and aliens can lead to serious and long-lasting relationships.
Matt Wasowski manages the speed dating nights, and said past sessions have led to at least two marriages, and the birth of two children.
“I am a 'Star Wars' cupid,” Wasowski said. “As long as Luke and Leias aren’t getting together, then we’ll feel better about that.”
Tracy Garder and Adam Ingeme didn’t meet at speed dating but during "Star Wars" Celebration 2015 in Anaheim, California. Love quickly followed their first encounter.
“We’ve got a lot in common besides just 'Star Wars,'” Ingeme said.
After a long distance courtship -- he lives in Australia, she’s in Southern California -- Ingeme proposed to Gardner last October by placing the engagement ring in a homemade thermal detonator, just like the one Princess Leia used to threaten Jabba the Hutt in “Return of the Jedi.”
“It blew me away. Every little girl dreams about their dream proposal,” Gardner said. “And 8-year-old me could not have been more happy with the fact that I had this blinding thermal detonator in my face with the prettiest ring I’ve ever seen in my life.”
The pair have been living apart but reunited in Orlando last week, with Ingime dressed as an Imperial TIE Fighter pilot and Gardner as a “pinup rebel girl.”
Gardner, a feminist scholar and "Star Wars" fan who co-hosts the Rebel Grrrrl Podcast, will soon be moving to Melbourne, where her fiancé owns a bar.
“It all happened with a film,” Ingime said.
Speed dater Andrea said she wouldn’t mind a "Star Wars" wedding, but first things first.
“If I don’t get an R2-D2 engagement ring, I just might say no,” she said.