UI alum has chance to win free dream wedding

BY KATIE SIMS | JUNE 11, 2009 7:33 AM

The average cost of a wedding today is roughly $21,000. But for one UI alum and his fiancée, the walk down the aisle might just cost nothing at all.

UI graduate Brian Froelich and fiancée Kellee Zavala are competing against nine other couples to win a wedding presented by WeddingChannel.com and US Weekly magazine.

If they garner the most online votes, the couple will take the cake. Last year’s winners hired Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ wedding photographer and Katherine Heigl’s invitation designer.

Froelich popped the question while the couple was decorating their “cheap, fake” Christmas tree in Phoenix last November. Claiming there “wasn’t enough sparkle,” he got down on one knee and grabbed the wrong hand.

After correcting him, Zavala said yes.

The two met at a job fair almost four years ago in Phoenix, where they now own a home. They have stuck together despite numerous obstacles. The first was distance.

At the time, Froelich was studying in Miami and Zavala lived in Phoenix, so the decision to start dating was a tough one. But they made it work “with lots of phone calls.” A year and a half later, Froelich moved to Phoenix, and soon after, the couple got engaged.

“We struck up a conversation, and I said, ‘Hey, I’m only in town for a couple of weeks,’ so we hung out, and three years later we got engaged,” Froelich said.

But the wedding planning couldn’t proceed immediately. Froelich was laid off in March, and Zavala’s twin sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor in May 2008.

“My sister lives in England, and as long as she’s at my wedding — and well — and Brian, too, that is the most important thing,” Zavala said.

Zavala discovered the “Dream Wedding” contest on the US Weekly homepage while surfing the Internet. Without telling her fiancé, she wrote a short story about their relationship and submitted it to the magazine.

Ten minutes before local reporters arrived at their door June 6, Zavala told Froelich to get ready to be interviewed for being a top 10 finalist.

“I was overjoyed; it was very exciting,” Froelich said.

If the couple wins the dream wedding, Zavala says, she will be an “easy bride” and leave everything — from the dress to the cake — to the experts. And the experts at WeddingChannel.com are prepared to give the winner A-list treatment.

More than anything, the couple just want to be surrounded by family and friends on their special day. Their ideal destination is only a few hours away: Chicago, where Froelich’s family live.

This is the “Dream Wedding” contest’s second year. Last year, more than 4,000 couples competed, and the public cast more than 1 million votes. Voting will close on June 18, and the winners will be announced the following week.

The wedding for the winners is scheduled for September. If Froelich and Zavala don’t win, they will push the date back to May 2010.

Whatever the outcome, these two are happy to have found one another.

“We’ve stayed true to each other — love conquers all,” Froelich said.

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