Emily Allen ’02 and her fiancé Mike Jiancristoforo kept their relationship quiet for the summer of 2002, maintaining their professionalism while working as coaches for the same swimming league. But there won’t be any hiding their relationship after June 16, when their love story will be broadcast to thousands of Richmond, Virginia, television viewers.
“I’d say that whole first summer was our best memory because we had so much free time together and we were able to get to know each other,” said Allen, who graduated from Mary Baldwin with a degree in Healthcare Administration. “Every memory we have together is wonderful, but the first few months were so much fun.”
Allen and Jiancristoforo were one of three couples chosen from more than a hundred applicants to compete in the “Dream Wedding Sweepstakes” hosted by the Richmond-based television station NBC12. If they win — by collecting the most online votes — a televised wedding and a honeymoon package await them. Viewers will choose the wedding rings, bridal gown, invitations, honeymoon destination, and reception theme. Having other people make the important decisions doesn’t worry Allen, at least not yet.
“Mike is a teacher, so if his students get to vote for those things they will feel more involved in the wedding than they would have otherwise,” she said about her fiancé, a health and physical education teacher at Harry F. Byrd Middle School.
Just six months have passed since Jiancristoforo knelt on a snowy bank in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to ask Allen if she would marry him. “He got me. I was so surprised,” she said, retelling the story of how he stopped her to “take pictures” while walking to a restaurant for a special dinner to celebrate her first year of full-time employment. Allen credits the “rigorous” and “professional” Healthcare Administration program at Mary Baldwin with preparing her for her position as office manager for PartnerMD in Richmond.
The couple’s back-up plan is to be married in the fall, but Allen is hoping to spare her family from the expense of even a small wedding. Her years at Mary Baldwin convinced Allen of the value of a private, liberal-arts education — one that she would like her two younger siblings to experience, too. “I would really like my parents to be able to use the money they would have spent on our wedding to pay for my brother’s and sister’s college tuition,” she said.
A segment on Allen and Jiancristoforo and the other two finalist couples airs June 16 at noon; online voting starts after the broadcast and continues until June 21.