CHITTENDEN — Military weddings are often low key, done on a tight budget, and sometimes far from home.
But next December one lucky couple will be treated to a wedding reception at the Mountain Top Inn & Resort for up to 200 guests — a value of more than $70,000 — and it won’t cost the bride and groom one penny.
More than 20 Vermont businesses are participating in this year’s “A Salute to Our Soldiers with a Vermont Winter Wedding” contest, offering their services as a way of saying thanks to the men and women in uniform.
Last week, The Mountain Top Inn held a “thank you” reception for supporting businesses at The Barn – the inn’s new 4,500-square-foot, post-and-beam conference center overlooking Chittenden reservoir.
Diane Dickerman, the inn’s director of marketing, said the idea was to celebrate the opening of The Barn by giving back to the community in some way and they hit upon the idea of a military wedding. That led Dickerman to two wedding planners, Vermont Enchanted Events and VermontWeddings.com, which were already in the midst of arranging a second military wedding giveaway.
“So I emailed them right off and said we’d love to be the location if you don’t have a location yet,” Dickerman said.
From there, Dickerman said the planning process just took off with more than 20 businesses signing up to donate their products and services.
“We have photographers, florists, a couple of companies doing little amenities for the guests that come to the wedding … a couple of local salons are doing the hair and the nails,” she said. “Just really anything a bride and groom would need for a wedding.”
Not included in the package is the wardrobe for the bride and groom.
Jackie Watson of Vermont Enchanted Events in Jeffersonville organized the first military wedding giveaway, which was held last year in Stowe.
Watson said getting married while serving in the military isn’t easy and more times than not it’s a no-frills affair.
“I asked myself the question, how can I give back to my community as a whole, and how can I give back to the military,” she said. “And the answer I came up with was a wedding.”
Watson said the next step was to enlist the help of her wedding vendors to donate their services.
One sponsor who is again donating her services is Colleen Kuerth of Truly Noted in Jericho. Kuerth will work with the winning couple to design their invitations.
“I jumped on board immediately because it sounded like such a great cause,” Kuerth said.
Megan Smith, commissioner of the Department of Tourism and Marketing, was on hand last week to thank the participating businesses.
“For our little wedding industry in Vermont to so selflessly do this, I’m just so proud of them,” said Smith, a former Mendon innkeeper.
The contest is open to all active, reserve and former members of the U.S. armed forces anywhere. Only the bride or groom needs to be a member of the military to enter the online essay contest. Dickerman said the couple is asked to tell their “love story,” and why they want their military wedding in Vermont.
More information and an entry form can be found at vermontweddings.com/contests/salute-to-our-soldiers.
The contest has already received more than a dozen entries. The contest is open until April 1 with the winning couple announced May 1. The wedding at the Mountain Top Inn is set for Sunday, Dec. 15.
Last year’s winning couple was Kelly and Shawn Lane of Wolcott. Shawn Lane serves in the Army with the rank of E-4.
The package includes all the essentials, including a reception for up to 200 guests, photographer, music, linens, flowers, invitations and salon services.
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