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05/11/2014

ASU student and fiancé compete for $60,000 wedding

When rhetoric and composition graduate student Brent Chappelow proposed to his boyfriend, Joshua Johnson, last summer, a year after their first date, he didn’t think same-sex marriage would become legal in Arizona anytime soon.

More than a year after their engagement, on Oct. 17, a judge struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage making Arizona the 31st state in the U.S. to establish marriage equality, which allowed many couples to perform the long-awaited ceremony.

“I got chills and goose bumps when I found out, and I thought this is so amazing for so many people,” Chappelow said. “I thought maybe it’s a possibility for us to get married in Arizona, too.”

Although the couple had decided to wait another year, until they had enough money saved to have a nice wedding, their plans changed drastically when Chappelow found out about the opportunity organized by the Wrigley Mansion for a same-sex couple to win a $60,000 wedding.

“This is a once in a lifetime experience,” Johnson said. “This wedding that we’re in this giveaway for is beyond our wildest dreams.”

A Chance for a Dream Wedding

Chappelow and Johnson, have been together for more than two years. They said “I love you” after less than two weeks of being together, and got engaged on their one-year anniversary.

Although the couple is now sharing a cozy family life in a condo filled with sweet candle scents and cats purring, they decided to hold off the wedding until they could save up enough money.

(Left to right) Barbara Doerrer-Peacock, Rich Dorrer-Peacock, Carmen Valenzuela, James Pennington and Jeffrey Dirrin volunteer as officiators to marry couples outside of the Maricopa County Clerk of Superior Court on Oct. 17, 2014.  (Photo by Emily Johnson)
picture: SheinDressAU

“In our minds, it was OK if the engagement was going to take a year, two years, however long it took us to save up and have a decent wedding,” Johnson said. “I don’t want it to be a throw-together. I want it to be nice, but it doesn’t have to be overly extravagant.”

When the couple heard about the giveaway called “I Do With a View, Same-Sex Wedding Giveaway“ offered by the Wrigley Mansion, they realized that it might be a perfect opportunity to have the wedding of their dreams much sooner than they expected.

The Wrigley Mansion is a historical landmark, constructed in 1932, that nestles on the top of a hill in Phoenix, and reveals a 360-degree picturesque view of the mountains and the city. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the building, William Wrigley Jr. organized the wedding giveaway as a present to his wife.It is a $60,000 wedding for 100 guests.

After thorough research, the couple decided to enter the contest for a chance to have the wedding of their dreams. They submitted their story, filled out some forms, and soon were invited to interview at the Wrigley Mansion.

Although they were told to arrive around 7:30 a.m., they were so anxious that they arrived at 6:55 a.m.

“The night before we felt like second-graders, laid out our clothes,” Johnson said. “When we got there we were nervous and excited.”

The participants gave a two-minute presentation about their relationship and themselves, answered judges’ questions, and chatted with media. Then the anticipation began.

A few days later, Chappelow and Johnson found out that they were selected as finalists from about 80 other couples. Along with four female couples, they were put for a voting on the Facebook Wrigley Mansion Page. The voting will last through 10 p.m. on Nov. 5, leaving it up to voters to decide the destiny of the couples.

Since then, the couple initially took the lead, then tied with the runner-ups and eventually descended to second place, but Chappelow and Johnson didn’t lose their hope. They met with the two women who are closest to them in the voting, who they said were nice and great to talk to..

“It’s not for commercialization,” Johnson said. “It’s not about being better. We just really want this wedding. For us, it’s a dream come true.”

If the couple wins the giveaway, they will get the space at the Wrigley Mansion for the wedding ceremony and the reception, an overnight stay at a local luxury hotel, tuxedos, décor, a photographer and a cake. The results will be announced on Nov. 5, leaving only eight days before the ceremony takes place on Nov.13.

“Choosing vendors for a wedding is so time-consuming and so stressful,” Chappelow said. “We don’t have to worry about that step of figuring out.”

From the first date to ‘I Do’

Sitting on a comfortable couch intimately close to each other, the couple reflected on the day they first met at Thirsty Lion, a pub and grill at Tempe Marketplace. They decided to meet for their first date at noon, but it went so well that they stayed until the place was closing.

“It was really comfortable and really easy,” Johnson said.

“We just clicked,” Chappelow added.

Although both had dated women in the past, they said they weren’t sure if they were attracted to them. It took a lot of courage to be honest with themselves and come out to their families, they said.

“A lot of my childhood and college experience I was trying to fit the mold of what I thought people expected of me,” Chappelow said. “So in that way, I wasn’t honest with myself for a very long time about the attractions I felt.”

Johnson said he was about to give up on dating after multiple failed attempts, before he went on the date with Chappelow.

“I thought to myself I’ll try for a couple more weeks,” he said. “I went into the date with incredible barriers, emotionally.”

During the first date, the couple realized how much they understood each other. After that, it took no more than a year for Chappelow to decide to propose. Keeping in mind that Johnson is an actor, he bought a silver film tin and put the ring inside.

Johnson didn’t hesitate to say “yes,” and he decided to propose himself on Christmas.

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