Heather Markiw owner of Green County Rentals is one of a group of businesses taking part in Wedding Saviours. The group of businesses have banded together to organize a wedding package for a couple in need.

Heather Markiw owner of Green County Rentals is one of a group of businesses taking part in Wedding Saviours. The group of businesses have banded together to organize a wedding package for a couple in need.

Contest for free wedding down to three couples

A group of local businesses are banding together to give a couple the ultimate wedding gift — a free wedding.

A group of local businesses are banding together to give a couple the ultimate wedding gift — a free wedding.

Who the couple is, however, has yet to be determined.

Tiffany Johnson and Patrick Crispin of Blackfalds, Jeannette Moore and Joseph Chambers of Olds, and Karen Lutz and Maluk Ayom Kok of Red Deer are finalists in a contest organized by Wedding Saviours. At stake is a wedding package that includes banquet facilities from Westerner Park, catering from It’s All Greek To Me, a honeymoon trip from Expedia CruiseshipCentres, planning services from Lucky Day Weddings Inc., flowers from Calyx Floral Design and crystal orchid, photographs from Ashley King Photography, and other products and services from Central Alberta businesses.

“Right now, we have a prize package that’s worth probably over $20,000 in services for the couple,” said organizer Heather Markiw, whose business Green County Rentals will provide the decor.

She said businesses continue to come on board, with the wedding not taking place until Oct. 19. The couple who will be front and centre that day will be named on May 1.

The winners will be chosen on the basis of several criteria, including their contributions to the communities they live in. Markiw explained that a key component of the Wedding Saviours concept is “paying it forward.”

Five couples who emerged as semifinalists at the beginning of April started the month performing good deeds.

“Some of them helped Meals on Wheels, some of them did a bottle drive for the women’s shelter, a couple of them did random acts of kindness in their community, some of them went to the old folks home and did some singing — that kind of thing,” said Markiw. “It was a lot of different, really neat things that they came up with.”

A panel of judges evaluated this work and interviewed each couple on April 14, and then narrowed the field to the three finalists. They’re all currently collecting donations for local food banks, with their success to be a factor in determining a winner, said Markiw.

The judges will also take into account the blogs the finalists are writing, their earlier interviews and the number of online votes each receives from members of the public.

To be eligible for the Wedding Saviours contest, entrants also had to demonstrate some emotional or financial hardship that made them worthy candidates for a free wedding. Some described economic circumstances that had prevented them from tying the knot, others talked about personal health challenges and the recent death and illness of family members.

Wedding Saviours was founded a few years ago in Ontario by Brenda Holdsworth. When Markiw inquired about getting involved, she was encouraged to launch a Wedding Saviours team in Western Canada.

Wedding Saviours is endorsed by Jane Dayus-Hinch, host of reality TV show Wedding SOS. Dayus-Hinch was in Red Deer in February to promote the initiative.

Markiw is optimistic there will be more free weddings in Central Alberta in the future.

“As of right now, most of the vendors are on board to keep it going.”

For more information about Wedding Saviours, or to vote for one of the local finalists, go online to www.weddingsaviours.ca. Details about the Central Alberta contest can be found by clicking “Red Deer” under “Current Contests.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com