LaDonna and Darnell, the winning couple of TODAY Throws a Wedding: Race to the Altar, exchanged their "I do's" live on Rockefeller Plaza. Following tradition, TODAY viewers planned the finalists' wedding by voting on TODAYShow.com.
With viewer participation, the couple enjoyed an “East Meets West” ceremony theme, with the bride shining in a glamorous silk strapless dress by Priscilla of Boston, the groomsmen decked out in formal navy attire by Hugo Boss, and the bridesmaids in classic, pink Simple Silhouettes dresses. Overjoyed to win America’s vote for wedding bands, Kwiat jewelry loaned the bride gorgeous 10-carat diamond stud earrings, an exquisite 50-carat diamond necklace, and a bracelet decked out in 20-carats of diamonds.
With both couples' families on the plaza, the wedding was conducted by LaDonna's pastor, Willie Butler, who has known her since she was just eight years old and who baptized her as well as presided over her father's funeral. Of the bride, Butler said LaDonna has grown into an “elegant, articulate and smart woman,” and he believes the two are the “perfect match.”
With Darnell at the altar, LaDonna walked down to “At Last” by Etta James. The couple exchanged heartfelt, emotional vows, with Darnell promising to “go to the ends of the earth” to see LaDonna smile, hear her laugh, hold her tenderly, and ease her fears. He called his bride his “best friend, confidante … the love of my life.”
Acknowledging her father's absence, LaDonna said she knew he was “smiling from above” as her grandfather gave her hand away in marriage to Darnell. LaDonna vowed to look forward to her tomorrows, “knowing [they] will walk it together side by side, hand in hand, and heart to heart.”
Following the ceremony, the wedding party proceeded to the Rainbow Room, where they were serenaded by a surprise celebrity guest — LaDonna's cousin, Melinda Doolittle from "American Idol."
After the party, the newlyweds will enjoy viewers' chosen honeymoon — Bora Bora. They will start their South Pacific honeymoon at the new St. Regis Bora Bora resort, where they will stay in a private deluxe villa with their own personal butler. During their trip, the newlyweds will enjoy deep sea fishing, fine dining at the resort's signature Jean-Georges restaurant, and a day on a private island.
For TODAY's Race to the Altar, five finalist couples competed in a series of fun, competitive challenges for the chance to tie the knot on America's No. 1 morning show. The wedding hopefuls designed gowns, went on a treasure hunt through Studio 1A, had a bake-sale battle, and they named that price — all in hopes of having a plaza ceremony and a reception at New York's famed Rainbow Room. This year, America chose LaDonna and Darnell to say their “I do's” live on TODAY.
About the bride: LaDonna is 24 years old and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. She currently works as a nuclear reactor inspector.
About the groom: Darnell is 25 years old and received a degree in computer engineering. He's currently working as a technology consultant.
Time together: Two and a half years
Engagement date: January 1, 2008
Why he’s the one: "I don't remember the exact moment that I knew Darnell was the one, but I do remember praying to God one day that if he just let me have Darnell to spend the rest of my life with, my prayers would be answered."
Why she’s the one: "She inspires me to be the best person that I can be and I find myself falling in love with her more and more every day."
Imagine the romantic setting of the Egyptian pyramids and your greatest love standing beside you taking it all in. Then imagine topping it all off with a surprise proposal. That's what happened to LaDonna when Darnell pulled off his long-awaited plan of asking his college sweetheart and best friend to marry him.
LaDonna and Darnell first met at a college career fair in Boston. Darnell said that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. They talked for only a moment and went their separate ways, but Darnell said he was constantly thinking about her and couldn't get her out of his mind.
Little did he know that fate was on his side.
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. LaDonna knew that their connection was undeniable.
Darnell always found ways to show how unconditional and pure his love was for her. To impress her, he even painted a picture of her favorite flower he titled "LaDonna Lilly" for a college internship.
In the fall of 2007, Darnell told LaDonna that he had planned a secret trip for her birthday. He wouldn't say anything about where they were going. He simply told her to get a passport.
On New Year's (which was also LaDonna's 24th birthday), Darnell handed a video camera to his tour guide, walked up to LaDonna, got down on one knee and asked her to marry him in front of dozens of strangers and the Egyptian Sphinx. LaDonna was speechless, except, of course, for answering “yes.” The two embraced in front of dozens of strangers. It was a day that neither of them will forget.
Darnell and LaDonna are now hoping to share the happiness they felt that day in a special ceremony, surrounded by their friends and family. There won't be any pyramids or tour guides this time, but LaDonna and Darnell look forward to adding more to their album of memories, beginning with their vows, and followed by a life of snapshots in love.