Picture getting married in the public glare to someone you have only just met and barely know anything about. Now imagine that – against the odds – the pair of you go on to build a successful marriage. Your union brings four children into the world and you remain happily in love. This is the story of one Midwest couple, but sadly there will be no happy-ever-after for them. They have received some heartbreaking news that will change everything.
David and Elizabeth “Bethy” Weinlick are a middle-aged married couple from Minnesota with a fascinating life story. The pair met in their late 20s, but the manner in which they were introduced was by no means conventional. Some 19 years ago, David was aged 28, working in local politics, and coming under increasing pressure to marry. But it was to be a humorous quip that got him into a serious relationship.
Tiring of people asking him when he would tie the knot, David prepared a flippant response. Whenever anyone would ask him when he would get married, David would joke, “June 13, 1998.” But as the date crept closer in the calendar for 1998, the young man began to think. Perhaps he would like to get married in June of that year.
Then one of David’s friends, Steven Fletcher, had a brainwave from way out in leftfield. Fletcher encouraged his buddy to find a wife by staging a competition to win an arranged marriage. The pals then launched an extensive media campaign, with the sole purpose of finding an appropriate woman to marry David.
They submitted an advert to the Minnesota Daily newspaper, distributed press releases, and even filmed a video commercial. The duo pulled out all the stops in their efforts to find David the perfect life partner. They were rewarded when media outlets gave their novel quest extensive coverage.
As a result, the applications for the contest for David’s hand in marriage came flying in by the hundreds. The potential groom and his family and friends whittled down the hopefuls to a final 28. Then the operators of the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN, heard of the fun. They offered the venue as a location for the final and the resulting ceremony for that fateful summer date.
So on June 13, 1998, the lucky candidate proved to be 28-year-old local pharmacy student Elizabeth Runze. And just one hour after she was selected, the girl known as Bethy got married to David in the Mall of America. A congregation of friends, family and well-wishing strangers watched the ceremony from all levels of the mall’s rotunda. At the start, the couple were strangers to each other too – but against all odds, the Weinlicks made it work and fell madly in love.
Now, almost two decades on, the happy couple have four children together and have shown the naysayers that arranged marriages really can work. In August 2017 David told U.K. tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail that the key is “working with people as they are, not insisting that people have to be the perfect person for you.”
It all seemed like something out of a fairytale, but sadly it wasn’t to be a fairytale ending. In March 2017. the now 47-year-old David and Bethy received some shattering news that would leave their lives in pieces. The devastating discovery would see the Weinlicks renew their vows in the same place they originally married as total strangers.
In a heartbreaking twist in their inspirational love story, David was diagnosed with cancer. In fact, it was advanced colon cancer which had unfortunately spread to his liver already. The Weinlicks were told the cancer was inoperable and terminal. Doctors gave him a year. As can be imagined, the news was very difficult for the couple to take.
“We’re still coming to terms with the fact that the whole life we had planned together isn’t going to happen,” Bethy told Minnesotan newspaper the Star Tribune in August 2017. “That is impossible to get your head around,” she continued. The Weinlicks struggled to come to terms with the fact that David was unlikely to be around much longer.
“Basically, our fairy tale romance is being cut short by decades. We’re hoping that we get Dave for another year. We’ll be lucky if we get that,” Bethy told the Daily Mail. As soon as David was diagnosed with cancer, Bethy handed in her notice for her job as a nurse.
David also quit his job to focus on the more important things in life. Since then, the Weinlicks have been spending as much time as possible together at their home in St. Paul. They try to make each other laugh, despite their tragic circumstances. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Bethy opened up about her biggest fears.
“When our first grandchild is born, he’s not going to be there. What would have been our 25th wedding anniversary, he probably won’t be there,” she said. But, not willing to be totally defeated by the disease, the Weinlicks decided to be proactive and organize something special.
In conjunction with the Mall of America’s 25th anniversary, the Weinlicks renewed their wedding vows back where it all started for them. Not only that, but the event doubled up as a fundraiser for the Angel Foundation, a local charity that financially supports cancer sufferers and their families.
On August 18, 2017, the Weinlicks entered the mall’s rotunda to their original wedding song, “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. Bethy wore a white dress and David sported a smart tuxedo, supporting himself with a walking stick. Understandably, most of the crowd gathered there were in tears throughout the emotional ceremony.
Bethy told her terminally ill husband, “What may come, I will always be there,” echoing the vows they made to each other back in 1998 when they barely knew each other. The Weinlicks even had David’s minister friend, Tomkin Coleman, officiating, just as he had at their original wedding 19 years ago.
Coleman told the audience that although the couple might not have much time left, they had “managed to fit a lifetime of love into the time they’ve had together.” Some observers may have been skeptical about their union at the start, but the Weinlicks have since proved to the world that their love was real.
“It was a spectacle wedding, but not a spectacle marriage,” David told the Daily Mail, adding that, “It wasn’t a completely crazy and ridiculous, cockamamie idea.” Some people believe the couple’s story was the inspiration for modern reality shows such as The Bachelor. The Weinlicks were even invited on to The Oprah Winfrey Show as newlyweds.
Despite the unusual manner in which they met, David and Bethy put real effort into their relationship and made a true success of it. Heartbreakingly, their fairytale is now coming to an end, sending a reminder to us all to cherish the time we have with our nearest and dearest.