[media-credit name=”Aimee Smith” align=”alignright” width=”201″][/media-credit]On Valentine’s Day, former Weber State University student Rachel Kendell and her boyfriend Matthew Wallis won a $15,000 dream wedding through a contest established by The Castle Reception Center in Layton, Utah.  The couple’s journey to winning consisted of reaching out to family and friends on Facebook, knocking door to door at college dormitories, attending an Institute dance and walking through Walmart to increase their final vote total.

Their determination paid off by winning a large prize package, which included a combination of services and products donated by 18 different wedding vendors.  The rehearsal, ceremony and reception will be provided by The Castle.  Photography services, bridal gown and tux rental, cake and floral arrangements, DJ services, hotel accommodations, and custom invitations are among the list of free goods given to the winning couple.

“I don’t think we’ve ever worked as hard as a couple as we did in this competition,” Wallis said.  “We learned patience, better communication and how to tackle a large task and succeed at it.  We can use what we learned from this contest in many different areas of our lives.  She and I can do a lot of great things together.”

The duration of the contest lasted 28 days and was open to all couples who submitted a short video through YouTube.  The given theme of the video was “I Do,” which asked contestants to depict a romantic proposal, whether it be factual, reenacted or invented.

“Because we are not officially engaged, we didn’t have any proposal footage,” Kendell said.  “Matt came up with the script in 20 minutes, and we filmed it on a Samsung Galaxy S2 Smart phone.”

Deanne Parry, owner of The Castle Reception Center, said she was thrilled about the variety of videos submitted.

“The videos were all over the map,” Parry said.  “Some contestants were holding still pictures, some created movies, and some just talked into the camera.  It was something that we thought that anybody could do, and it didn’t require the use of great equipment.”

Parry also said that they didn’t have any specific regulations on who could enter the contest.

“I made the rules very simple,” Parry said.  “I don’t see one type of wedding being more valid than another type of wedding.  We really do a lot of wedding renewals, 50th wedding anniversaries and business dinners. The first time bride is maybe 30 to 40 percent of the business, so I didn’t want to gear it toward one group.”

The contest was launched through The Castle’s main website, www.thecastleweddings.com, and voting was linked through each person’s Facebook account.  Individuals were only allowed to vote once.  The contest ended on February 10th at 11:59 p.m.

The Castle hired an external company out of Portland, Ore., called Crowd Factory to monitor the voting and validate the votes at the conclusion of the competition.

“The company built the page, monitored everything and sent us results, which was incredible,” Parry said. “Our banquet manager went through everything as well.  It was just to look again to see if anything looked askew.  Overall, we really couldn’t find a ton of errors.  We felt really good about it, and there weren’t a lot of weird things going on.  People were more honest than we anticipated.”

Kendell and Wallis said that the hardest part of the competition was reading criticism written by the friends and family members of other contestants.

“It was hard to hear the comments that were being said about us,” Kendell said.  “They said we were cheating by bombarding the website that blocked the server so they couldn’t get votes.  There was a lot of contention, and it was not fun to hear the mean things being said.”

Kendell also said if they were to do the competition all over again, they would do it the exact same way.

“Going to the college campuses helped us out a lot, and there was no rule saying we couldn’t get votes that way,” Kendell said.  “It was nice that we did it that way because we kind of snuck up on everyone with the votes.  We were sort of the underdog at first, being in fifth place for the first week and a half.  The last four days we stepped it up and kind of shocked everyone.”

Kendell and Wallis said they will start wedding preparations in the next few months.  Each vendor has certain restrictions on the specific products and services donated to the contest, and The Castle also requires the couple to use the prize by Dec. 31, 2012.

Kendell and Wallis said that their hard work and determination to win the competition helped change their perspective on achieving goals in life.

“If you want something bad enough and you work your butt off until you get it, you can achieve anything you put your mind to,” Kendell said.  “We honestly didn’t think we were going to win until we put our minds together and thought, ‘How are we going to win this?’  You can win anything in life and achieve anything.”






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