Laura Begley and Matthew Bledsoe are the winners of the Dream Wedding 2013.
Laura Begley and Matthew Bledsoe’s initial plan was to exchange their wedding vows on Laura’s family farm in Gate City. “We wanted to get married somewhere free to help save on some of the wedding costs,” Laura said.
But as the winners of the Dream Wedding Contest, presented by the Kingsport Times-News and sponsored by Sophisticated Smiles by Angela Cameron, D.D.S., P.C., the couple will now say “I do” at the Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City on Sept. 14, 2013.
In addition to the venue, the Dream Wedding package — valued at $25,000 — includes the wedding ceremony, reception and hotel accommodations for the bride and bridegroom and their parents; the wedding attire for the entire bridal party including bride and bridegroom; wedding flowers; including bouquets for the bride and bridesmaids; a custom wedding cake; DJ and photography; and pampering for the bridal party.
The following vendors will help make Matthew and Laura’s dream wedding happen: Sophisticated Smiles by Angela R. Cameron, D.D.S, P.C.; Anna Hedges Photography; Austin Springs Spa & Salon; Carnegie Hotel; Dress To Impress; Night Moves Mobile DJ’s; Rainbow’s End Floral Shop; The Cake Gallery; and Tricia’s by Design.
Laura, owner of Rustic Country, an antiques and primitives shop on Broad Street, didn’t think there was anything special about the love story between her and Matthew, who is an equipment operator for Begley Coal and Construction. She had even pretty much talked herself out of entering the contest. But with Matthew’s encouragement, Laura decided to take the plunge, writing a letter that would make up their entry.
“Even though I love our love story, I honestly knew we didn’t have a shot at winning because I didn’t think our story was anything spectacular. But I entered anyway with high hopes,” Laura said.
Matthew and Laura first met five years ago in a history class at Mountain Empire Community College. Matthew remembers exactly where he sat in that class — behind Laura and to her left. The problem, though, was the guy Laura was dating at the time was also in that class.
It was two years later before anything developed between Laura and Matthew.
“After two long years and a horrible breakup, I was doing what most girls in that same situation do — cry hysterically for months and accept the fact that I was going to be alone forever! I just knew that I was destined to be single. How could I move on after something like that? My only stronghold during this most difficult time in my life was God. When I realized that, I began to pray every day for my future spouse. I would also ask for peace and comfort, but most importantly, for God’s will to be done, even if that meant being single,” Laura wrote in her letter.
What Laura didn’t know was that at the same time she was going through her own personal struggles, Matthew was dealing with the sudden loss of his mother.
Almost exactly one year to the day that Laura began praying, she and Matthew were reconnected through mutual friends.
“He had changed some, but he was still the same cute guy I remembered from history class. We would talk for hours on the phone, which led up to our very first date,” Laura continues in her letter.
And it was after this first date with Matthew that Laura says she knew he was “the one.”
“I came home and told my mom, ‘I am going to marry that Matthew Bledsoe guy,’” she said. “But it took him longer to figure it out.”
Matthew, who normally just smiles a lot and doesn’t say much, is quick to clarify Laura’s statement. “It didn’t take me too long! Maybe a month or two. I knew it was going to happen,” he said, laughing.
Laura and Matthew dated for about two and half years before they got engaged on June 10. Just prior to Matthew’s proposal, the couple had, of all things, an argument.
“We were on our way to one of my friend’s wedding showers. We’d actually gotten into a little bit of a fight on the way there because he was talking about buying a new car and I got mad and said, ‘We’re never going to get married because you’re wasting your money on other things,’” Laura said.
“He dropped me off so I could help decorate and then he was coming back to the shower. I got out of the car mad and wasn’t going to talk to him. But he came back and he was out of breath and looked like he’d been working outside or something. After the shower was over, we left and went to his house to pick up a kitten he’d gotten me. He walked me outside and in the yard he’d written with rocks, ‘Will You Marry Me?’ I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke because I had it in my mind he wasn’t going to do it any time soon.”
Laura and Matthew both attended the Tri-Cities Women’s Expo last month to find out who would win the $25,000 Dream Wedding package. Laura was still convinced it wouldn’t be them.
“When the announcer started reading a line or two from our love story that Sunday, I looked at Matthew and I said, ‘Uh, did you read our story?!’ He said, ‘Yes, of course!’ So right then I started crying because I knew that we were the couple that had won,” Laura said.
Laura and Matthew said they were both in shock for days after finding out they’d won.
“I kept asking Matthew, ‘Is this what you want? Are you sure?’” Laura said.
There’s no doubt that both the bride and bridegroom are now thrilled with their Dream Wedding package, which Laura says is going to help lift the huge financial burden of planning a wedding.
Laura, who creates hand-painted signs on barn wood, does lots of signs for other couples’ weddings and was prepared to be super crafty when it came to her own wedding.
“I actually had started a blog called ‘The Rustic Savvy Bride’ a couple of weeks prior to winning the Dream Wedding. I was going to write posts for brides on how to be a thrifty shopper when it came time for their wedding, since [Matthew and I] had planned on cutting costs in different areas. Our wedding was definitely going to be a ‘budget wedding,’” Laura said.
“I know that our farm wedding would have been beautiful, but knowing we don’t have to stress about paying for the major costs of a wedding is such a huge relief for both us and for my parents.”
And even though it will be a day of joy and celebration for Laura and Matthew, the day will be bittersweet for Matthew, who will not have his mother with him to share in his special day. Laura, however, has already figured out a way to honor her.
“I have been collecting several brooches recently from family members for my bridal bouquet. I am fortunate enough to be using several of Matthew’s mom’s brooches, also. This will give us a chance to honor her and include her in our special day,” she said.
Laura is certain that the personal struggles she and Matthew each experienced have been rewarded with the love they have now found in one another.
“I know that Matthew is a true gift from God through an answered prayer. He is my biggest supporter and I know that he would do anything for me. I am so blessed to call him my best friend, as well as my fiance, and I cannot wait to be his wife,” she said.