Bright Lights, Big City, Bridal Belle

Photos Courtesy GetMarried.com

Ah, weddings! Months of planning, a million decisions, days of butterflies. Finally the big day arrives and the bride walks down the aisle with her friends and family watching from the audience.

Unless you’re former Fayetteville resident Bethany Phillips Dubie, that is. Her wedding was planned in fewer months than you’d believe possible, most of the decisions were made via online vote and she didn’t really have time for butterflies. Then she walked a New York block before stepping onto the hot pink aisle runner and beginning her bridal march through Times Square with friends, family, strangers and an Internet audience watching. Oh, and one other small detail: it was New Year’s Eve. Wow, really? Really.

In a romance novel, the author would say ‘It began just like any other love story…’ But that would hardly fit this bride and groom. Bethany and her husband, Geoffrey, did not meet at a bar, or at church or on the Internet or through mutual friends. They met while serving as Marine Corps reservists in Iraq.

According to her mother, Donna Phillips of Fayetteville, Bethany was never one to do things by the books. “Even when she was a girl, Bethany was Bethany,” she recalls. “She liked things different and she liked to take on anything hard to do.”

After graduating from Fayette County High School, Bethany went on to college, but she wasn’t the typical college student. Sitting behind a desk wasn’t her thing and she wasn’t enjoying the course of study she’d chosen. She wanted to be out doing something challenging and physical, something that mattered. Her grandfather had served in the Army and her younger brother is currently on active duty. Since she always preferred the biggest challenge she could find, she chose what many consider to be the toughest of the military branches: the Marines. After serving in the reserves, she volunteered for deployment to Iraq.

Bethany was nearing the end of her tour when she was transferred to a new unit and met Geoff, a lance corporal and son of two Marines. Both were interested almost immediately, but since dating a fellow soldier is strictly forbidden, the couple kept the relationship on a friends-only basis until they returned stateside. Once home, the relationship blossomed. They became engaged in August 2010 and set a May date for the wedding.

Then Bethany spotted a Facebook advertisement for an interesting contest for brides-to-be. It was sponsored by Get Married Media, an online and print company devoted to covering tips, advice, trends and resources for modern brides. The prize was a complete wedding in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, including a wedding gown and bridesmaids’ dresses by David’s Bridal, tuxedos by Jean Yves Formalwear, platinum wedding bands from Timeless Designs, a reception at New York City’s Hard Rock Café and a honeymoon from Barceló Hotels & Resorts. The package also included invitations, favors and attendant gifts from Get Married Media, a cake from Charm City Cakes and a complete china and glassware set from Waterford Crystal.

Since Bethany and Geoff love adventure, she entered the contest. So did over 2,000 other brides. Stacie Francombe, founder and Editor-in-Chief of Get Married Media, read every submission and chose three couples: one from New Orleans, one from Alexander, Virgina and Bethany and Geoff, who now live in Jacksonville.

“We ultimately fell in love with Bethany and Geoff because of their energy, passion and commitment,” says Francombe. “They’re committed to each other and to their country. They are just genuine, down-to-earth people.”

When Bethany found out she had won, she was floored.

“I really just entered for fun,” Bethany explains. “I never thought we might actually win.”

She was also in shock. Her May wedding had just been bumped up almost five months and she would not get to make the final decision on most of the critical details. Also, she had to tell her mom, who had been looking forward to planning her only daughter’s wedding.

“Bethany just wanted a small, simple wedding on the beach,” recalls her mother, “and we’d just started looking at venues. Then she won the contest and we were all kind of stunned for a few minutes and then we said ‘okay, we’re doing this instead. Let’s go!’”

And go they did, almost nonstop for three months. Although the final decisions were left up to the online audience, Bethany did get to select the three options from which the voters would choose. That meant looking at invitations, sampling cakes and trying on wedding dresses like any other bride. Well, except that she had a camera crew with her on each excursion. Once her selections were made, they were posted on getmarried.com and the voting began. Get Married Media recorded nearly 80,000 votes over the two-month process. Everyone involved agrees that the most nerve-wracking part was waiting to hear which wedding gown was chosen.

“Sure, she got to choose the top three,” explains Fayetteville resident and Matron of Honor Mari Dunn. “But if you’ve ever gotten married, you know what happens when you put on that dress and you just know that this is the one. Bethany had to come up with two other dresses that would be almost as perfect and then just hope.”

The voters didn’t let her down. A full 50 percent voted for the dress: a white charmeuse gown from Galina’s Signature collection with a v-neck halter, a ruched bodice, a godet chapel train and an embellished dropped waist. She even got a faux-fur cape to ward off the winter chill. The Internet audience also chose her invitations, bridesmaids’ dresses, tuxedos, wedding rings, reception menu, honeymoon package, tableware, cake, favors and attendant gifts.

“In a way, the planning was stressful, because I didn’t have very much control,” Bethany explains. “But at the same time, it was a relief. There were so many things I just didn’t have to deal with and it meant Geoff and I could focus on each other.”

Faster than anyone could believe, it was time to leave for the wedding. The only problem was the weather, which had decided not to cooperate. In fact, New York City had been covered by a blizzard. Most of the wedding party ended up driving the 6-state, 18-hour trip from Atlanta to New York because flights were grounded. The bride’s parents caught the only flight from Atlanta to New York that day, but sat for almost three hours on the New York side and then had to descend an outdoor staircase onto an icy tarmac.

The delays meant cramming even more events into an already busy schedule. Between last-minute details, rehearsals and press interviews, the principals were booked from morning to night. However, there was plenty of fun packed in. The couple enjoyed a snowball fight outside the courthouse after obtaining their wedding license. A crystal inscribed with their names was placed in the official Times Square ball.

“When most brides get ready for the big day, they’re seeing the organist tune up or somebody making sure the candles work,” explains Bethany. “I was watching Ryan Seacrest do sound checks. It was surreal. It was incredible.”

The wedding day was no less hectic or incredible.

“We spent something like nine hours in the hotel suite on the day of the wedding,” says mom Donna. “They brought in hair and makeup artists and then the cameras. I’ve never seen so many pictures taken in my life!”

Finally, it was time. The wedding party gathered together for the walk to Times Square.

“It was amazing,” says Dunn. “We’re walking down 43rd Street, all dressed up, under police escort, carrying credentials. People are watching and waving and hollering Bethany’s name. It was like she was a celebrity and we were her entourage. Then we rounded the corner onto Broadway and there it all was: the stage, the crowds, everything. I just thought ‘This is crazy! I can’t believe this!’”

Times Square on New Year’s Eve is not known for calm and restraint. When Bethany began her march up the aisle, the crowds cheered. Yet when the wedding began, a hush fell and the quiet lasted throughout the ceremony.

“The people were so respectful,” says Dunn. “Here we are in Times Square on New Year’s Eve and you could hear a pin drop. Everyone was quiet, everyone was watching.”

There were indeed crowds of people watching, both on the streets and via the live Internet broadcast. Cameras flashed. The wedding party entered to a rock-and-roll rendition of The Wedding March, complete with electric guitar. In the background, neon lights flashed, massive LCD monitors shone and two-story advertisements for Broadway shows loomed.

“I was just sitting there,” recalls Donna, “looking at the lights and the crowds of people and the confetti and the cameras. I was completely awestruck. It was a long way from the quiet beach wedding we’d started to plan, but it was still so Bethany. It was different and energetic. No one gets married in Times Square in New Year’s Eve. No one. But Bethany did.”

Despite all the craziness and attention, all the pomp and celebration, it was still an ‘I do,’ with all the emotion and solemnity that the phrase brings to mind. Bethany’s father walked her down the aisle and her big brother, a youth minister, conducted the ceremony. The couple wrote their own vows. In the moment, it was all about Bethany and Geoff and the cameras no longer mattered.

Yet once the marriage was pronounced and the first kiss begun, the crowd let loose again, cheering and blowing noisemakers as the minister fist-pumped the air and shouted a rocker-worthy “Yeah!” Fireworks went off. Streamers flew. But there was one more emotional moment: the design director of Waterford Crystal offered a traditional toast to the new couple in a lilting Irish brogue: “May these two hearts find eternal happiness in love and loyalty. And may you travel the road together in peace and prosperity.”

Then the champagne was sipped and the party began as the new couple boogied off stage to James Brown’s “I Feel Good.” After pictures, everyone adjourned to the Hard Rock for a blow-out reception. Dinner included the voter’s choice (filet mignon) and was followed by a stunning six-layer cake iced in white, hot pink and black and a night of dancing. Guests received snowflake ornament favors to commemorate the event. Still, the couple had more interviews and more pictures to pose for.

“We got to dance and cut the cake and toss the bouquet, but we missed Taio Cruz’s performance. But we got to enjoy all the parts that really mattered and we’re so blessed to have been chosen for such an amazing opportunity,” says Bethany.

Just a couple of days later, it was time to go home. That’s about the time reality sunk in for Bethany’s mom.

“We were on the way home and there was nothing left to do and it hit me that my little girl was married. It was a very emotional trip,” she says, laughing.

The newlyweds are back in Jacksonville, attending college and anticipating their upcoming honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. Bethany’s exposure to the New York winter netted her a nasty cold and a bout of laryngitis, but she says it was worth it.

“Did we know what we were getting into? Absolutely not,” she admits. “I don’t think you could know unless you did it. There were little glitches here and there, like with any wedding. But it was great fun and it was something no one else has gotten to do. We’re very grateful. And we’re married!”

Bethany’s brother may have expressed it best during the ceremony:

“When all the lights are gone, when all the cameras are gone, when all these millions of people are gone, this marriage is what is left. This is what matters. This is where the adventure starts, not where it ends.”

If you’d like to see Bethany and Geoff’s Times Square wedding, visit www.getmarried.com/times-square.

Maggie Worth

Maggie Worth is a freelance writer and consultant with a PoliSci degree and 15 years in project management and marketing. An avid mystery reader, co-founder of the Southside Scribes writer's group and member of BWFC, Maggie lives in Fayetteville with her husband, Shane, and their "kid," Rowdy.

March 10, 2011

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