EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 10, 2012

Saying thanks the fairy tale way

By Dustin Luca

---- — ANDOVER — Unfortunately, the call to duty for many military men and women is an impediment to having that special wedding day.

But, for one military couple that could change.

More than a dozen businesses at or near The Bridal Center in Andover’s Elm Square are joining forces for the “Military Dream Wedding” giveaway contest.

They’re looking for couples who have been denied a full wedding experience due to circumstances involving military duties to enter the contest.

“They make a commitment to our country, and they may be out on base. They don’t have the money to have a big, lavish wedding,” said Michael Edwards, owner of AllStar Entertainment & Uplighting. “With the tremendous sacrifice they have given to the country and how they’re giving their lives every day, it’s the least we can do to pay back a little bit.”

Many military couples who get married do so with “a rush wedding, where they’re being deployed, and we may not even be able to order anything,” said Steve Kalman, co-owner of Cristina’s Bridal. “We were coming up with ideas. How could we do something that could benefit the military? Suddenly, this idea came alive and everybody expanded on it, and it became what it is today.”

When asked why she was donating her services, Photography by Linda owner Linda Jennings said she started tearing up, just thinking about her experience with military weddings.

“We’ve all done some military weddings here,” she said. “It has always been a special experience, even to just see a mother-son dance, where the son is scheduled to ship off after the wedding.”

In some cases, “they find out that the military bride or the military groom is coming home just for a brief time, and they don’t have the time or know-how to put the wedding together so quickly,” Jennings said. “We can band together and put the wedding together for them.”

The prize is valued at around $15,000. It includes over a dozen pieces: a wedding gown, $500 of gown alterations, formal wear including five tuxedo rentals, wedding bands, a photographer, disc jockey, makeup for the bride and four bridesmaids, nutrition and fitness training, a Justice of the Peace to officiate the wedding and more.

“We’ll be providing every service they could possibly need, with exception to the venue,” Jennings said.

There are some rules to the contest. Among them, the event must take place within 35 miles of downtown Andover. The winning couple, however, can be from anywhere in the country.

Those seeking to enter must submit up to a one minute video telling their story and why they are entering.

“The quality of the video doesn’t have to be Stephen Spielberg quality,” Edwards said. “I can imagine a soldier, injured and sitting there with a cast, explaining why they deserve the wedding.”

“This is open to every military couple,” Jennings added. “We don’t need them to have a compelling story. Their story is compelling enough, just being in the military.”

The deadline to apply is this Saturday, Dec. 15. At that point, the businesses will review the entries and select three finalists. Their videos will be put on the Internet for the public to vote on.

Since the public determines the winner, by extension, the community itself is giving the prize to the most deserving military couple, according to Christine Cantos-Kalman, co-owner of Cristina’s Bridal.

But through that process, anybody who votes is also in store for a learning experience.

“It’s a chance to hear other people’s stories and see what we take for granted that shouldn’t be taken for granted,” Cantos-Kalman said. “We thought, let the public hear the stories. Let them decide who needs it the most.

“Everyone deserves it,” she added. “Who do they think needs it?”

For more information on the contest and to enter, visit www.thebridalcenter.com and click “Military Wedding Giveaway” at the top of the page.

How to enter Visit www.thebridalcenter.com and click "Military Wedding Giveaway" at the top of the page. Couples must submit an up to one-minute video. The deadline to apply is Saturday, Dec. 15. The businesses will review the entries and select three finalists. Their videos will be put on the Internet for the public to vote on. Service Donated by Value Wedding gown, alterations Cristina's Bridal $2,000 Photography services Photography by Linda $2,000 Disc Jockey/Emcee AllStar Entertainment $1,550 Up-lighting with designer AllStar Entertainment $1,350 Formal-wear (five tux rentals) Russo Tux & Limousine $1,000 Floral design Exquisite Linens & Florals $1,000 Specialty linen rentals Exquisite Linens & Florals $1,000 Bride, 4 bridesmaids makeup Rouge Couture $510 Wedding bands Hidden Gem $500 Wedding coordinator "The Love Affair" Wedding Planning $500 Invitation package Soiree Andover $500 Hair styling package Salon Invy $500 Nutrition/fitness training Shaperella $450 Justice of the Peace Justice Elizabeth Gemelli $425 Intimate apparel and lingerie The Ivory Corset $400 Limousine (8 passenger) Russo Tux & Limousine $400 Spray tanning services Elite Bronzing $330 Hydrafacial and salt scrub Kiki Skin & Body Spa $220