KC Koch and Gina Ward of Winsted have been dating for 10 years.
The self-described best friends enjoy spending time together, love their two dogs, and can talk to each other about anything. Although they’ve talked about getting married, they haven’t taken the plunge because they haven’t been able to afford it — until now, that is, thanks to Freshwater Community Church in St. Bonifacius.
In conjunction with its three-part Happily Ever After marriage sermon series, Freshwater is holding a special wedding weekend Feb. 8-10 designed to eliminate the roadblocks that are preventing couples like KC and Gina from getting married. Freshwater is providing a complete wedding — with everything from the premarital counseling and marriage license to the facility, officiant and photographer — for five couples at no cost.
It’s a generous offer by Freshwater, considering that some of the couples aren’t even members.
“The impetus of this is that we recognize that a lot of people want to get married but because of whatever economic situation they’re facing, it hasn’t been feasible,” explained Pastor John Braland of Freshwater.
“We believe family provides stability for people, especially for kids,” Braland continued. “Our goal is to build healthy families and so, recognizing that we have this issue in our society, rather than be a hindrance, we want to help. How do we provide stability for kids? How do we provide mom and dad with an opportunity to get started on this journey together? We want mom and dad to be in it to win it.”
Braland talked about how marriage is a commitment and when people commit to something, they are more likely to stick with it, whereas cohabitation doesn’t provide security for either person (or children, if they are involved) because there’s no commitment.
“So we said, how can we help couples who want to get married but can’t afford it or never made the time to getting around to it for whatever reason,” he said. “We decided this is how we can help. Remove any financial barriers to getting married. We’ll buy the marriage license. We’ll let them use our facilities for free. We’ll bring in a professional photographer for free. We’ll have cake and coffee and provide all the services at no cost.”
And just like that, the idea for the wedding weekend was born. Freshwater promoted the opportunity on Facebook last November. The end result is that five couples will be married during the weekend — one on Friday and four on Saturday, each ceremony occurring about two hours apart.
“These are going to be full blown weddings,” Braland noted. “People are bringing in hundreds of guests. It will be pretty formal for some of the couples. It’s a pretty special deal.”
On Sunday, Freshwater will hold regular services at 9:30 and 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. and the wedding theme will continue with at least nine couples participating in a marriage recommitment ceremony.
At least three other couples expressed interest in being a part of the wedding weekend but for various reasons were unable to participate. Although these couples will still be getting married sometime in the future, they joined the wedding weekend couples for premarital counseling at Freshwater.
“We did premarital counseling with every couple so they can get off on the right foot,” Braland said. “We know that if couples get premarital counseling, they have a 75 percent success rate and we want to set people up for success. Again, it’s not just about getting married but helping people have healthy families.”
Vanessa Martinson, the office manager at Freshwater, is serving as the wedding coordinator for the weekend.
“We are very excited to help people in this part of their life’s journey,” she said, noting there is a whole team of enthusiastic volunteers that spend all day Saturday at the church handling everything from decorations to cleaning the church between ceremonies. “We believe in the power and strength of marriage and honoring God with your life in that way as a couple.”
Martinson said caution is being taken to ensure that each wedding is a special affair for each couple.
“We want to make sure we honor every couple,” she said. “It’s not a mass wedding like you see in Vegas. It’s just several weddings that happen on the same day. It has been a lot of fun getting to know them and investing in their future together.”
Each of the weddings will have its own unique look or theme, complete with sanctuary changes. Some of the couples will have a reception at Freshwater while others will have one off-site. Braland estimated that each couple would be receiving at least $1,500 in free services by taking advantage of the offer.
“At Freshwater, we want to meet the needs of the community,” he said. “We want to be a church that is relevant to our members. We don’t want to focus on the past. We want to focus on the future.”
Although it will be busy, Braland is looking forward to the wedding weekend.
“I’m looking forward to helping develop healthy families in our community,” he said. “Our community is made up of families and families are made up of people. If we can help people and families, ultimately we are helping the community. Events like these for people are pivotal, life-changing events.”
As for KC and Gina, they can hardly wait for their wedding day. Gina said the couple isn’t nervous — yet — and they’re expecting about 100 guests to watch them tie the knot. She added that the premarital counseling served to reassure them that they were made for each other and they are excited to take part in the special weekend.
• As the wedding weekend event at Freshwater is basically a “one-time offer,” Braland said the opportunity to hold a big wedding with all of the free services has passed. However, if a couple is looking for a small ceremony, it’s possible that it could be added into the schedule on Saturday. For more information, contact Freshwater Community Church (4319 Steiner St., St. Bonifacius) at (952) 446-9090 or freshwaterchurch.org.
Contact Todd Moen at [email protected]