The Big Day is five days away.
That’s when Bontavia “Bonnie” Ramsey and J.R. Anderson will tie the knot by the Chattahoochee River. It’s the premiere wedding co-sponsored by Right from the Start, a nonprofit organization that seeks to strengthen marriages before they get started; and WTVM-9.
Everything is free for the couple, who applied with more than 50 other couples to win.
“I’m really excited,” Ramsey said earlier this week.
“So often we think a happy marriage is the luck of the draw but the reality is, a happy marriage has a whole lot more to do with our ability to communicate well and manage our conflict in a healthy way,” said Fran Magoni, Right from the Start’s director. “I often tell young couples that happiness is not the absence of problems but how well we deal with our problems.”
Though the 22-year-olds shouldered no cost for the wedding or honeymoon, they had to be flexible with the timing of it; meeting with vendors; and that the viewing audience of WTVM could choose everything from their flowers to attire to reception food. The winning couple was announced Feb. 26.
The ceremony will be in a grassy spot next to the Eagle & Phenix Mills lofts on Front Avenue. The couple’s pastor, the Rev. Prathan Powell of World Changes Tabernacle, will officiate.
A section will be reserved for 100 family and friends; and there will be another section for the general public.
The TV station will air the wedding live at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. A reception will follow just north of downtown at the RiverMill Event Centre.
At a lunch banquet last year, Right from the Start announced plans for the wedding giveaway — the couple of which was unknown at the time. Magoni said six couples were then chosen to be interviewed by a local panel. Anderson proposed to Ramsey at New Year’s. Later, a co-worker of Ramsey’s sent her an e-mail about the contest.
Ramsey is an assistant branch manager at a local CB&T. A Columbus State University graduate, she’s taking master’s classes at Troy University. Anderson, an Iraq War veteran, is studying criminal justice at CSU. Both are graduates of Hardaway High School, where they were classmates. They met in 2005, their senior year.
Being young and trying to establish themselves, Ramsey said before the announcement that it would be “a blessing to have that assistance” with a paid-for wedding.
“Our love story really demonstrates how two people can last during it all,” she wrote in an essay posted on the TV station’s Web site. “We have faced challenges in our relationship which have strengthened us in the last five years. Bearing all obstacles placed in our paths and overcoming them shaped us into the righteous couple we are today.”
Part of the requirement for the wedding from Right from the Start was six pre-marital counseling sessions — in this case, with Fran Magoni and her pastor husband, the Rev. Mark Magoni of Midland United Methodist Church.
The organization would want people to devote at least as much time preparing for their marriage as they might for the wedding. Magoni cited the following statistics: Couples average 250 hours planning the ceremony and $20,000 in expenses.
Ramsey said she and Anderson won’t know until Thursday about their honeymoon destination — only to pack for warm weather.
Right from the Start is affiliated with the Georgia Family Council.