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October 21, 1999

You &...
David and Elizabeth Weinlick

The real-life The Bachelor!

In case you missed the mediapalooza-- or BG's column -- last year, David and Elizabeth are the couple who got married in what seemed to be an on-the-spot-bride-pageant/stunt wedding at, of all places, Minnesota's gargantuan Mall of America. Years earlier, David had -- 100% arbitrarily and 99% jokingly -- set that date for his wedding. When he found himself girlfriendless with only months to spare, his friends masterminded a "bridal search" that grew from an obscure announcement on the Internet to an international media circus ... and ended with two virtual strangers exchanging vows.

BG has actually had the pleasure of meeting the Weinlicks (not to mention visiting the Mall, which everyone should see, and then it should be torched), and is thus delighted to report:
1) They're madly in love, totally happy. A house on the outskirts of Minneapolis, dogs, thinking about kids someday.
2) They're, um, normal.

As David has said, "People believe urban legends about people stealing your kidneys, but they can't believe a story about people who are happy." See for yourselves!

Here's what you wanted to know about how this couple -- against bizarre odds and through a truly 90s twist of fate -- got that way.

Raindrop asks, "Most selection processes automatically weed out people with different religions, habits, etc.. But I've read that David's a smoking atheist, while Elizabeth is a non-smoking Catholic. So, can you describe the search process in greater depth? How did your friends decide what was ultimately important?"

Dave: During all the media buzz, Steve (my Wedding Campaign Coordinator) and I tried to get much of that information into the public eye: we figured that people would self-select out of the process. As we discovered, however, this didn't work as well as we planned. Even posing on the nightly news with a cigarette in hand didn't convey the message clearly enough, and some women were still surprised to find out on the day of the selection process that I smoked. Honestly, on that day, I smoked a lot; the crowd was nutty. We had many discussions beforehand on what's really important, but there was no direct coordination of the questions people would be asking. Each friend approached the process from a different perspective, and that was important to me.

Bethy: Simply saying I'm a non-smoking Catholic gives about the same amount of information as "she's a twenty-nine year old redhead." I think the mistake in applying labels and then drawing conclusions from them for the purpose of weeding out potential mates is that the labels themselves may be inadequate or even downright wrong. You kind of have to look at it like there's big stuff and there's little stuff. The big stuff is what is important to you, and the little stuff is what you can leave or take; what doesn't matter. You have to be willing to shrug some of the little stuff off because no one, and I mean no one, is the perfect mate. I'm not even convinced there's such a phenomenon as being perfect for one another. I think there is a lot of truth to the idea that opposites attract, and I also think differences over time kind of balance themselves out naturally. Just tonight my mom was telling me how Dave has become less spontaneous since we've been married whereas she thinks I've become more spontaneous. The end result is the same, though. We're goofballs.

Miranda asks, "How does the fact that both of your parents divorced when you were children affect your views of marriage?"

Dave: Honestly, it seems that hordes of people are divorced these days, and our parents were just some of the many. My decision to get married in this way was shaped generally by the high rate of dissatisfaction in relationships in our society. In the contemporary dating scene, many people are selfish in relationships, and expect their "others" to be perfection-on-a-stick. It's almost as if people want a cut-to-order personality and body for their mates. Well, people are, in fact, human beings, and no one person is going to embody everything you desire. Relationships take work, and most people seem to overlook that in their quest for the perfect companion; instead, the end of a relationship is explained by, "We're just not right for each other." Sometimes that can be a viable reason to split, but remember that you need to accept your mate as a person; nobody was designed to "be right for you." As a couple, you can work together to make your relationship right for each other.

Bethy: I know a lot of people out there were all too ready to believe that the reason we did this was because we were children of divorce, but it really had very little to do with that. This may sound odd, but I think I have a very old-fashioned idea of what marriage is. Most of this comes from being close to my grandma and listening to her stories. In her generation, marriage was less about romance and love and more about work and building a life together. Not that love wasn't a part of that, but I think the word "love" more accurately described for them those feelings of pride and friendship that resulted from just daily living together. That idea of marriage and love is a far cry from what we as late twenty- and early thirty-somethings are led to believe. My grandma and grandpa had been married for over forty-eight years when he passed away. When I look at what expectations about relationships have become and, on the flipside, how individualistic and demanding people are becoming as well, I can clearly see the value and beauty in the kind of marriage my grandparents had.

Thunder22 asks, "So there you are on your wedding night. Two near-strangers. Married. Did you...and was it awkward?"

Dave: I see where you're going...yes, but no. I know that some people have sex with even more distant strangers, some married people have sex with other people, and most people have sex on their wedding nights, so I guess I didn't see the oddity. I understand that if you usually wait a significant period to have sex with someone you're dating, and you've never had a one night stand, it could seem more awkward, but I don't fall into either of those categories, so sue me.

Bethy: You're only about the 5,643rd person to ask this question. We've always marveled at people's fascination with what happened on our wedding night. People meet people in bars all the time, go home, sleep together, maybe they know each other's last names, and don't give it a second thought. We were married. What did you do, or what will you do, on your wedding night?

SusieQsie asks, "The best part of long-term relationships is the comfort in knowing that your partner knows and understands you like no other. What was it like having to do all that work after the wedding? How long did it take?"

Dave: I'm sure that some people would pick out other aspects of long-term relationships that are even more valuable to them, but comfort is definitely a perk. I have found, though, that often that level of knowledge and understanding can be deceptive. Many couples assume that they understand each other so well but never communicate what may be subtle differences. Because open and honest communication are paramount to understanding, I believe it is actually more important to communicate one's current feelings than to "know" from experience what another is feeling. People change over time, and if we assume that we know another, we may actually be deceiving ourselves. The advantage of coming together from scratch is that the importance of communication becomes even more salient, and Elizabeth and I have developed our skills at communicating with each other. This ability will strengthen our relationship in the long run and is, perhaps, even more helpful than a long history together.

Bethy: After I accepted Dave's proposal (he did propose to me in private), we hugged for what seemed like minutes. At that point, I knew that he was intelligent and that he smoked, snored, flirted, and had the confidence enough to stand up to criticism on national television…that was about it. We were giddy, I think, over having succeeded at what Dave set out to do: to find a wife by democratic selection. Plain and simple, it worked. The actual moment we were married was very emotionally charged and, in effect, bonded us together very, very quickly. The rush of standing at the altar holding Dave's hand was something that will stay with me forever. Here we were, total strangers, yet this total stranger in front of me was the only person in the world who had absolutely any idea what I was feeling at that very moment. That feeling was pretty powerful. Dave said he loved me just a little over twenty-four hours after that. Really, that's about how long it took. Sure, we still had yet to discover things like Dave's trunk wardrobe habit and my abhorrence for clapping movie audiences, but that feeling of security and comfort that you're talking about happened very, very soon after we were married. There were people who met us just a month after our wedding who couldn't believe that we had known each other for only a month. They said we acted as though we'd been together for ten years.

CCDavey asks, "Did either of you ever doubt whether or not your marriage would work?"

Dave: Well, if a marriage were a simple machine, one could ask, "Does it work?" As relationships are more complex than that and require two people who are committed to strengthening them, the more important question is, "Do we both work at it?" The answer is yes.

Bethy: Amazingly, no. A lot of people say, "Yeah right…no way," but it's the truth.

Judes asks, What was going through your head as you walked down (or watched the walk down, in David's case) the aisle?"

Dave: Man, I'm about to kiss my wife for the first time…does anyone have a mint?

Bethy: I wish Grandma were here…I wish Andy and Matt were here…Gosh, he looks good in a tux…I could really go for a grilled cheese right now…I'm getting married!...This is cool…

Mike asks, "Did any of your exes come to the wedding? Have any resurfaced to call you nutty?"

Dave: Some of my exes called me nutty while we were dating, so it wouldn't be anything new, but one did surface anonymously to egg on a local radio station. Of course, this is a woman who declared that she was the perfect woman for me, even though at the time she had already been married. In general, I tend to be on good terms with my exes, and some were involved in the wedding day process. In some ways, that's a very good thing, as they certainly have in-depth insight; who else knows what it's like to be in a relationship with me?

Bethy: Mine wasn't invited. I did hear from him a few months after the wedding and apparently it "had been hard on him." Whether that was because just days before the wedding he confessed to still having some very strong feelings for me or because he had become some kind of joke because he had once dated the "Mega Mall Bride," I'll never know. Don't care, either.

Rebecca asks, "What did your parents think then? What do they think now?"

Dave: My parents weren't very keen on the idea, and my father chose not to be there on the day of the wedding. He thought that I was making light of marriage, which he considers a very solemn subject. He did say, however, that he admired my individuality and respected my decision despite his disagreement. At this point, he is very happy with the outcome, and it has, in fact, brought us closer together. He really enjoys Elizabeth and is glad to see the life we are building together.

Bethy: My mom and dad gave me away with open hearts and accepting minds. My dad said it best when he said, "Beth, I tend to give you a fifteen-minute answer to a yes or no question. This time I'm just going to say good luck." My dad could not have dreamed of a more perfect son-in-law. They could sit and talk about computers for hours, and mom, well, let's just say that the sun rises and sets with Dave as far as she's concerned. My mom always tells me how she couldn't have picked a better man for me if she had picked him herself. And she's right.

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