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Four Sandy-area couples compete for 'Ultimate' dream wedding

Winners to receive array of nuptial services for free

Thanks to an online competition sponsored by numerous Sandy-area wedding vendors, four local couples have a chance at winning a dream wedding. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: BECKY NERPEL, STUDIO 623 PHOTOGRAPHY - Crystal Garcia and Mike Pierce

Held in connection with A Country Bridal Affair, the Ultimate Wedding Giveaway aims to offer an array of complimentary wedding services to a worthy would-be bride and groom, explained Becky Nerpel, owner of Studio 623 Photography and an organizer of the giveaway. The fifth-annual bridal show was held in January at the Boring-Damascus Grange Hall.

Initially, Nerpel and Corinne Konell, owner of Sandy bakery Cowgirl Cupcakes, partnered on the giveaway.

They envisioned a smaller competition, possibly based on a drawing. But once other vendors began to hear of the idea, they also wanted to join in, and the competition began to grow.

“Pretty soon, we had a conglomeration of different wedding services,” Nerpel said, including make-up artists, stationers and florists. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: BECKY NERPEL, STUDIO 623 PHOTOGRAPHY - Shauna Blakeney and Cody Rider

As plans for the giveaway expanded, so too did the scope of the contestants.

In her experience as a wedding photographer, Nerpel said she has often encountered couples hoping to achieve a dream wedding on a shoestring budget. Sometimes, these couples are working two jobs to support a family member in need, are putting themselves through school or are recovering from a costly illness.

Whatever the reason, a tight budget can often lead a couple to make hard choices with their wedding plans.

For Nerpel, it’s disappointing to see a bride’s crestfallen face when she realizes her special day is not what she’d wished. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: BECKY NERPEL, STUDIO 623 PHOTOGRAPHY - Emilie Turner and Ryan Austin

“They sacrifice something they really want, a beautiful wedding cake or flowers, because there just isn’t money for it,” Nerpel said. “It’s not that magical moment for her because of the budget.”

Nerpel and Konell agreed that being able to provide some of those expensive services to a deserving couple was a meaningful way to help their community.

“We’re just doing it privately to give back,” Nerpel said.

Local couples were invited to use Cowgirl Cupcake’s Facebook page to share their stories of love, with four finalists chosen from the couples who received the most likes and shares.

These finalists received a complimentary engagement photo shoot with Nerpel.

The finalists are: Rillie Sturgill and Charley Penuel; Emilie Turner and Ryan Austin; Shauna Blakeney and Cody Rider; and Crystal Garcia and Mike Pierce.

Sturgill and Penuel have been dating for eight years and engaged for two. Together, they share six children and a grandson, and are hoping to marry this year as a way to celebrate their 20 years of friendship. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: BECKY NERPEL, STUDIO 623 PHOTOGRAPHY - Rillie Sturgill and Charley Penuel

Turner and Austin met in 2011, and Austin proposed to Turner in 2014. They are both students. Turner is a full-time nursing student, and Austin is working full-time while earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science. They have one son.

Blakeney and Rider met on Rider’s 18th birthday and soon became teen parents. Still a couple, they would like their 9-year-old son to see them married. The duo credit their love and prayer with helping them overcome life’s obstacles.

Garcia and Pierce met in 2006 at a Mixed Martial Arts event where Pierce was a contestant. They began dating two years later. They have a daughter together, as well as three children from Garcia’s previous relationship.

Garcia owns a photography business, and Pierce operates a martial arts gym. A job loss and injury have derailed previous wedding plans.

The public is invited to vote on the finalists on the A Country Bridal Affair Facebook Page

Voting ends at midnight on Saturday, Feb. 13.

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