CARIBOU, Maine — When Brian Vrieze first asked Ashley Johndro out in high school, she wasn’t allowed to date until she was 16; unfazed, Brian replied that he’d wait.
The two became best friends, then eventually boyfriend and girlfriend, and most recently they were engaged in October when Brian asked Ashley to be his bride while he was home on leave from Iraq.
Now the future Mr. and Mrs. Vrieze have entered the Real Maine Wedding of the Year Contest and are hoping that folks from Aroostook County will cast supporting votes to help them win their dream wedding.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Caribou couple had enough votes to be ranked in third place, well ahead of 8 other entries from Maine, but behind two couples from Massachusetts. Despite an impressive 9,889 votes, The County’s own contest entry was still 636 shy of the front-runner.
“Right now it seems like we’re so close,” said Cuppy Johndro, Ashley’s mom. “As we get closer to the end, it actually seems like it’s in reach.”
Brian and Ashley’s video entry can be seen at: www.realmaineweddings.com/itemlist/category/2.html.
Voting is open until Friday, and as long as Brian and Ashley stay in the top three, odds are good they’ll be selected as one of the three finalist couples; after March 12, it’s a voting sprint to the end of the month and whoever wins the vote will be given a wedding valued at $100,000.
For the Caribou couple, a wedding with a price tag that large is unimaginable.
“Last year’s contest winners made a three minute video showing clips from throughout [the bride’s] day — I’ve probably watched it every day because I can’t even fathom something like that,” Ashley said.
As Brian won’t be home for a few more months, he has only given Ashley one stipulation about wedding plans.
With a wide smile, Ashley explained what it is.
“He said ‘As long as your dress isn’t poofy,’” she said.
So while the University of Maine at Presque Isle student continues hitting the books, she’s also looking for a dress that’s more elegant than frilly while excitedly anticipating the homecoming of her future husband.
While the past few years have kept Brian and Ashley apart — half a world apart during Brian’s Iraq tour — the distance has only strengthened the couple’s bond (which makes them pretty strong, given the fact that they’ve been friends since the eighth grade).
Brian began his military service in 2009. While saying their goodbyes before Brian boarded the van for basic training, he told Ashley that he would write her. Understanding that basic training would keep him more than busy, she didn’t think much of it.
“I got a letter every day,” Ashley said.
“Every day. In the mail, I would get a letter,” she emphasized.
She would, of course, write back.
With Ashley still in high school and Brian an enlisted soldier, the young couple grew closer through the written correspondence; they started sharing more personal information, including their feelings about each other.
Still, Ashley remembers that the couple experienced a brief but slightly odd moment when Brian first came home on leave.
“I remember we were sitting in the car and it was extremely awkward,” she recalled. “I just looked at him and said ‘Are you going to hold my hand or what?’”
That was all it took for the best friends to fall back into their dynamic after so much time apart, and their reunions have been nothing but joyous ever since.
When asked what she loves the most about her future husband, Ashley says it’s his candid honesty.
“He’s 100 percent honest — if he thinks you’re doing something wrong or if he doesn’t agree, he’ll tell you straight-up and he’ll express his opinion in such a nice way,” Ashley said.
To vote for Brian and Ashley to win their dream wedding, visit www.realmaineweddings.com, click on the “2012 Contest” tab and then video entries. Click on the Ashley and Brian video to vote for the couple.