Two North Carolina lovebirds lucked out and won their "dream wedding" at half the cost, but the prize came with a twist: they had only 48 hours to plan the big day.
The Bella Collina Mansion, a lakeside event venue in Stokesdale, posted the offer of a lifetime to Facebook on June 20, explaining that the venue had freed up after another couple decided to cancel.
"Our couple for Saturday just decided to call it quits!!!! They want YOU to take over the wedding! Over $15,000.00 paid for in full!!!!" the post read.
For $7,000, "flowers, catering, DJ, photography, coordination" and more were up for grabs from the annonymus couple who called off their own June 23 nuptials.
Meanwhile, engaged high-school sweethearts Nicole Atkinson and Wesley Bodenheimer had previously written off Bella Collina — which bills itself as “Tuscany's version of Cinderella's Castle” — as being too pricey.
“It was a little bit out of budget, but it's a beautiful venue,” Atkinson told WFMY News 2. “Anyone would want their wedding there — their dream wedding there.”
Though Atkinson and Bodenheimier had another venue booked for a Nov. 1 wedding, they quickly jumped on the opportunity. The two, who have known each other other since middle school, began dating before Bodenheimier was deployed to serve in Afghanistan with the Air Force, and felt they should give their dream venue another shot.
“Really it was me pushing,” Bodenheimer told Yahoo Lifestyle. “‘It would end up being perfect,’” is what I kept saying, and it did end up being perfect.”
The management of Bella Collina immediately responded to the couple’s message, as they were the first to inquire.
“Usually when people cancel — it's six months out, eight months out, whatever the case may be. I've never had one this close to the wedding day,” Bella Collina owner Joe Destafino told WFMY. “At the time I thought it was a crazy idea [to post online]. I mean, we were three days out from the wedding day. What would happen? But, social media is powerful.”
Atkinson and Bodenheimier soon said “I do” to the June 23 wedding date, and quickly laid out plans for the big day with Destafino’s aid.
“We did about a year of wedding planning in an hour and 15 minutes with Joe,” Atkinson recalled.
With many of the elements of the wedding already in place – from the color scheme to the cake — Atkinson and Bodenheimier were tasked with gathering guests, obtaining a marriage license, and coordinating their attire. Serendipitously, everything unfolded in their favor.
“When we went to go get all the clothes for our groomsmen, they had the exact number of shirts, the exact number of pants, the exact everything. Her dress was almost seven sizes too large for her when she found it, and it was altered in four hours,” Bodenheimer said. “We had the exact number of bridesmaids dresses that fit everyone perfectly. Everything literally fell in line to the point of it was perfect… We didn’t have to compromise a single second.”
According to WFMY, even an “initial forecast of rain disappeared,” and the wedding was able to take place outdoors as planned. Forty friends and family gathered at the June 23 celebrations, which happened to be a week before the couple’s seventh anniversary of dating.
Ahead of the festivities, which arrived as somewhat of a surprise, Bodenheimer mused that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I am more than excited that she's going to be my wife. I'll be honest with you, I'm so in love with that woman it's not even funny,” he said of his bride.