Wedding bells will be be ringing on Rockefeller Plaza — again. TODAY's 9th annual "TODAY Throws a Wedding" series has a reality show theme of "Race to the Altar."
Five finalist couples will compete in a series of fun, competitive challenges and it will be up to TODAY viewers to vote for the winning couple. The lucky couples will to duke it out for the grand prize — the chance to win the hearts of viewers across the country and tie the knot on America's #1 morning show. Following tradition, TODAY viewers will plan the winning finalists' wedding by voting on TODAYShow.com for the couple's rings, the wedding gown, the tux, the attendants' attire, the cake, and the honeymoon.
The winning couple's nuptials will then be swiftly planned by viewers for a June 25th wedding event live on TODAY.
Meet the five competing couples:
1. Melissa and Ryan
Some people believe in love at first sight, but Melissa and Ryan believe in love at first type. The two first started out as pen pals after they met through Ryan's sister, who suggested that Melissa meet her very handsome and athletic brother. The only obstacle was that Ryan, acombat Army engineer, was deployed in Iraq.
But they typed. They talked. They fell in love.
Ryan recently finished his stint in the military and is starting a new career as a financial adviser. Not only are they planning a wedding, they are also planning their next move together, to sunny Naples, Florida.
2. Buddi and Matt
A mutual friend introduced Buddi and Matt after the sudden deaths of both of their spouses. Though they were both in mourning, it was through grief that Buddi and Matt were able to build a friendship together and comfort one another. Two years later, their friendship blossomed into romance and the two found a second chance at love.
Matt proposed to Buddi on Christmas Eve in front of both of their entire families. Under the tree was a little black box with a diamond ring inside and Matt proposed to Buddi the formal way, on bended knee and with Buddi’s mother's and daughter's approval.
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3. Cara and Dominic
Cara and Dominic spent their childhoods growing up in each other's South Carolina backyards without ever knowing they would one day fall in love. The neighbors were acquaintances in high school but reunited after graduating college, spending an entire night talking about everything from frat parties to their future plans.
Last Christmas, Dominic proposed with a DVD filled with photos commemorating his relationship with Cara, along with songs that explained his love for her. Now, only months after their engagement, Cara and Dominic are looking forward to traveling together and eventually raising a family.
4. LaDonna and Darnell
LaDonna and Darnell first met at a college career fair in Boston. They talked for only a moment and went their separate ways, but Darnell was thinking about her constantly. The two bumped into each other several times over the next five days, and by the end of the week, Darnell had asked her on a date.
Two years later, on LaDonna’s birthday, Darnell surprised his college sweetheart with a proposal at the Egyptian pyramids. LaDonna was speechless, except, of course, for answering "yes." Darnell and LaDonna are now hoping to share the happiness they felt that day in a special ceremony, surrounded by friends and family.
5. Annie and Tom
Annie and Tom met on a college hiking trip and immediately felt a strong attraction. The first night of their trip, they talked until the sun rose the next morning. Annie was impressed with Tom's height, his chiseled good looks, and that he had grown up on an actual farm, while Tom admired Annie’s inner strength — though she was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disorder, it only fueled her drive to succeed.
After five years, Tom proposed at a company conference — in a room filled with 3,000 people. As for their lives together, the loving couple plans on a life filled with yoga, tofu, and traveling.