Free for those who need it most

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – While a wedding may be the happiest day of a person’s life, signing the bills afterward might not be as fun.

Thanks to several local businesses, however, one lucky regional couple stands to win a completely free special day next year.

After a successful pilot event at the Jonesborough Storytelling Center, JC Chamber of Commerce member and owner of Pretty Flowers LLC Stephanie Thiel told News Channel 11 that local vendors are happy to give it another go.

“It went really well, it was really successful, people really liked it,” Thiel said. “It just felt so good to be able to give this to a lucky couple and as entries came in we just saw more and more couples than we ever would have expected to have missed out.”

Many ceremonies and gatherings were put on hold due to economic pressures and COVID over the last two years, and Thiel said the hardest part wasn’t finding the labor, it was finding the time.

Biggest wedding year since 1984

“This is actually set to the biggest wedding year since 1984, which is kind of crazy,” Thiel said. “I guess it’s because of COVID.”

Thiel said that since 2022 is shaping up to be a record year in terms of ceremonies, they’ve needed to schedule the event on Wednesday, March 9.

While a typical wedding might avoid a weekday like the plague, Thiel said this isn’t your typical wedding.

The event offered is a micro-wedding, which Thiel said typically clocks in at around 25 guests max.

The limited size of the ceremony makes sure that associated vendors are prepared to handle the crowd and have the resources to pull it off pro-bono.

“We would love to give away a 1000-person wedding,” Thiel said. “But that takes a lot more than just a get-together with some vendors and to do things locally. So, realistically we want to be able to give the best experience so we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.”

The event is planned to focus on the couple’s closest friends and family for a more intimate setting.

“How can we help?”

This year the event will be held at The Side Porch in Gray, Tennessee and features a long list of involved vendors:

While the team has everything they need to run the ceremony and reception, Theil said they’re still looking for the perfect dress provider.

“The first and most important step is finding all of our really gracious vendors, we were able to reach out to many different people,” Thiel said. “And getting them to agree to do this pro-bono was a lot easier than you’d expect actually, because people are so kind, especially around here.

“People jumped on right away and said ‘I would love to do this for someone, how can we help?'”

For those who arrive at the event, organizers only ask that they bring a canned good donation to give back to the community. In addition to the work put in by vendors, Thiel said Kaly Emberton, the bride of last year’s wedding, will make a return visit to help out.

“For this particular event we are going to be asking people to bring a canned good, anyone who comes to the event, to donate to a local food bank,” Thiel said. “So, we’re always encouraging people to do that as well, anyone who would want to donate something that’s great, we’re going to do it just to help our local community of Johnson City as much as we can.”

The couple will be selected from a random drawing, and Theil said there are only a few requirements to throw a name in the ring.

Couples who are entered into the drawing must have already been legally wed, and were unable to have their own ceremony due to hardship, COVID-19 precautions, deployment or other curveballs life may have thrown their way.

“We want to give them that experience,” Thiel said. “That they actually get to wear the dress, they get the photos, they have the experience, they have their people there with them.”

To enter yourself or others into the drawing, you can submit a name and story to Thiel’s Instagram @prettyflowersbystephanie, or email at prettyflowers@mail.com.

The winning couple will be announced one week before Valentine’s Day as a form of present for the season of love, and Thiel hopes the lucky duo will enjoy the holiday reminiscing and looking forward to a brand new step in their relationship.