meet FINALISTS: ashlee + jeff

note (1) to readers, all ~
so you know how, up to this point, we've provided an excerpt from each finalist couple's story?
well, we just couldn't excerpt from this next couple's essay and do it what the heck, here's THE WHOLE thing as it arrived our inbox, complete with photo caption, too.

note (2) to um, primarily our MALE readership ~ but hey, correct us if we're making too many assumptions
clar·et \ˈkler-ət, ˈkla-rət\ Middle English, from Anglo-French 1578 (vin) claret clear wine, from claret clear, from cler clear : (noun) a red Bordeaux wine; also: a similar wine produced elsewhere; (adj) a dark purplish red

To: Amy and Kim
Re: Win Our Hearts/Win Your Wedding

Hearts of Claret
As told by Ashlee, in a (secret) tribute to the man who gave her heart color

Black, daffodil, navy, claret I, cinnamon, claret II, wine. Six colors for seven weddings, and seven dresses for this perpetual bridesmaid. Yes, two strapless Mori Lee dresses in claret with just a slightly different gathered waist. But that’s another story.

Always the bridesmaid and thankfully never the bride, I liked to say. College and career took precedence over marriage for this country girl with city-like dreams. The year of claret, however, marked a change in my life.

Between claret I in 2004 and claret II in 2005, I went off to grad school at the Missouri School of Journalism and met Jeff, a short, stocky guy who worked for Mizzou. Definitely not my type, but Jeff was a smart-ass and a Cardinals fan, two characteristics I greatly admired. And soon, just like a wedding dress at David’s Bridal, I was hunted.

It started with happy hour, then a dinner here and a baseball game there. He was a romantic and I was a cynic, and I told him every reason in the book why we shouldn’t be together. He ignored every one of them and slowly, surely, taught me to look inside myself. By claret II, the superficial aversions to relationships and marriage that I had clung to no longer made sense. From him, I learned that no one will judge you for loving a man two inches shorter than you; that having a partner can help you achieve more, not less; and that loving someone helps complete your individuality instead of taking it from you.

Perhaps the two dresses in claret – a deep red, the kind you imagine flows through the heart – were a sign. He gave me his heart by the first, and I was finally able to give him mine by the second. So I’m writing this for him, the man who loves weddings almost as much as he loves me. Rightfully, no wedding dress, song or color can represent what we feel for each other or how we’ve grown since the year of claret. But on that special day, we know our family and friends will recognize our true colors – by the light in our eyes, the warmth of our touch and the bright future ahead of us.

Photo Caption
Jeff gleefully caught the garter at my brother’s wedding (and threw a few elbows to do so.) The wedding was post claret II, but as a recovering wedding-phobe, I playfully shot Jeff “the look” as the photographer captured our interaction. I love the joy in his face brought forth by the slightest superstition that it might be his turn next.

hey ashlee, does jeff know yet or is this still a secret?

and that, silver lining readers, is the 5th of our 5 finalists.

we've got a tough task ahead of us. we're torn five ways. we'll keep you "posted," so to speak :'). we originally hoped to announce the winning couple tomorrow (wednesday), but it may take us a day or two longer to read through all your comments and decide (in part because amy is shooting a engagement session in san francisco over the next two days).

be well!

with love,
kim wade + amy enderle