In 1998, David Weinlick, a 28-year-old politician from Minnesota, was sick of people asking him when he was going to tie the knot. In an interview, he jokingly told the press that he was getting married on June 13, 1998. Although it was just an innocent prank at first, David actually grew to like the idea of getting married on that specific date. David’s close friend, Steven Fletcher, came up with the idea of holding a contest where the winner would become his bride.
After weeks of campaigning for the big event, the friends received hundreds of applications from potential brides. It became so well-known, that the Mall of America even offered their space as a venue for the wedding ceremony, free-of-charge. David’s close friends and family chose the final 28 contestants on June 28, 1998 and picked a winner, 28-year-old Elizabeth or “Bethy” Runze, who was at the time studying to become a pharmacist. Only an hour after she was selected, she was fitted into a wedding gown and sent down the aisle. The couple got married in front of thousands of bystanders overlooking from the multiple floors of the mall. The wedding was aired on national television and became quite the phenomenon.
While most people thought the whole wedding was nothing but a publicity stunt, the Weinlicks proved everyone wrong. They fell madly in love with one another and 19 years later, are still married and have four children. Even though arranged marriages are pretty foreign in the Western world, David and Bethy were able to show everyone that if you put enough effort into the relationship, arranged marriages can actually be a better alternative to dating.
Unfortunately, the couple’s fairytale might be coming to an end, as the couple has received some heartbreaking news. Continue reading to find out about the tragic news the Weinlicks recently heard…
David Weinlick was introduced to his wife of 19 years, Elizabeth “Bethy” Weinlick, in a very unconventional way. David was a 28-year-old politician at the time, and was under pressure to get married. David was sick of people asking him when he would find a wife, he jokingly told the press “June 13,1998.” As the date neared, Weinlick actually decided that he would indeed like to get married on that day.
Searching for a bride
Steven Fletcher, a friend of David, convinced him to hold a competition where the winner would become his wife. The two friends launched a huge campaign across the media, in search of David’s future wife. They placed advertisements in the local newspapers and even made a TV commercial. The contest’s applications came flooding in, and David and his close friends and family chose the final 28 applicants. The Mall of America operators in Bloomington, MN heard the news and offered their mall as a venue for the June ceremony.
Elizabeth, or “Bethy” Runze, a 28-year-old pharmacy student, stood out among the finalists. David’s friends and family members who held the interviews said that she was the only applicant who showed that she was really willing to put in the hard work and effort to build and work on the relationship. Bethy and David only met two times prior to their wedding, each meeting was brief, just when Bethy picked up and dropped off the application forms.
The young student never imagined she would be part of an arranged marriage. She first met David by accident, while walking along the streets. She bumped into him as he was passing out flyers that said “bride wanted” on it. She spoke to him for only a few seconds until she decided to apply. Little did she know that filling out that application would be the most life-changing decision she ever made.
Husband and wife
Only one hour after after Bethy was selected, she married David Weinlick in the Mall of America. The wedding ceremony was attended by close family and friends of both David and Bethy, but that was not all. Thousands of strangers gathered around from each level of the shopping mall to get a glimpse of this shocking arranged marriage.
After the wedding ceremony, a small reception was held at David’s friend’s house where they had a barbecue. After the reception, the newlyweds returned to Bethy’s apartment. In an interview with the Mirror, when asked what happened next, they only giggled and claimed that they “consummated the marriage within a day or two.” It is safe to say that the two hit it off right away, despite being complete strangers.
19 years later
Although many thought the couple would split shortly after, they proved everyone wrong. The start may have been difficult, but as time went on the Weinlicks fell crazy in love with one another. It has been 19 years, and the couple now has four children together. In an interview with Daily Mail, David said that the key is “working with people as they are, not insisting that people have to be the perfect person for you.” The Weinlicks were able to prove that arranged marriages can indeed work out.
Bethy and David have absolutely no regrets in their life, and both believe that the arranged marriage was the best choice either of them have ever made. Bethy gushed about her loving husband, “We live a charmed existence. He’s a splendid man to be married to.” She continued, “We’ve never regretted it. It sounds like a crazy thing to do but there was an instant chemistry – and we did our dating after we married.”
In an interview with Daily Mail, David spoke about the negative attention that their arranged marriage got in 1998. “It wasn’t a completely crazy and ridiculous, cocamamie idea.” Many people even think that the Weinlick’s story is what inspired the hit reality show The Bachelor. The couple were even on The Oprah Winfrey Show shortly after they got hitched. Even though the way they met was slightly untraditional, David and Bethy put their all into the marriage.
David said that in the end, it was their commitment to one another and to making the relationship work that was what led to their successful marriage. David spoke about it in the interview, “Finding a good partner for life is about working with people as they are, not insisting that… people have to be the perfect person for you.” He continues, “You’re not going to find somebody carved in a statuary that’s perfect for you.”
Advantages of arranged marriages
Not long after their wedding day, David and Bethy became a walking advertisement for arranged marriages. One thing they shared in common was their complete failure and distaste in dating in general. David said that he “didn’t see dating as the best way to find a lifelong partner.” Bethy said that she was also sick of dating and in her experience it always resulted in unfulfilling relationships.
Making tomorrow better
Another pro to arranged dating that they both agreed on is that when you are in an arranged marriage, it automatically takes away the pressure of ‘is this going to lead to marriage.’ “It allows you to focus on the things that need attention instead of am I going to get a second date and am I going to get a second phone call.” David chimed in, “If you’re focused on how can I make tomorrow better rather than will there be a tomorrow, I think that helps a lot.”
Low divorce rate
Although the arranged marriage of Elizabeth and David Weinlick shook the country, arranged marriages are actually quite common and normal practices in other parts of the world. In fact, 55% of marriages that occur all over the world today are from arranged marriages. It is especially common in India, where the divorce rate is just 1.1% as opposed to the U.S. which is 40%. Could it be because of the advantages that Bethy and David spoke about?
In many cultures
The Hindus of India are not the only ones who commonly practice arranged marriages. In the United States, the Amish culture is known for having extremely high rates of arranged marriages, yet the lowest percent of divorce rate in the country with only a 1% chance. The Ultra-Orthodox Jews also are firm believers in arranged marriages, and have a divorce rate of only 7%. Would you ever consider having an arranged marriage?
While the Weinlick’s story seems like it had a happily-ever-after ending, sadly it wasn’t the case. This last March, David and Bethy who are now both 47-years-old, received some heart-breaking news that crushed their bright future ahead of them. Dave got diagnosed with colon cancer which was already spreading to his liver. The doctors only gave Weinlick one year to live. The once happy couple, were left devastated and hopeless.
Fairytale cut short
Bethy opened up to the Star Tribune last August about the horrible news. “We’re still coming to terms with the fact that the whole life we had planned together isn’t going to happen.” She continues, “That is impossible to get your head around.” The couple’s bright dreams were shattered. “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 said that she quit her job as a nurse as soon as she found out about David.
Hard to cope
David also quit his job so that he could enjoy his last moments with his wife. Since the diagnosis, David has been spending every minute with his wife by his side at their St. Paul home. Bethy confessed what pains her the most, “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.”
Renewing their vows
Despite the bad news, the couple are trying to make one another happy and not focus on the gloomy future ahead. So they chose to plan something special. The Weinlicks chose to have their vows renewed at their original ceremony spot, the Mall of America. The event also doubled as a charity event for a local organization that provides financial support for cancer sufferers and their families.
An emotional day
The ceremony took place on August 18 this year and the couple walked arm to their original wedding song, What a Wonderful World. Bethy wore a stunning wedding gown and David wore a sharp tuxedo. As David slowly walked down the aisle with his walking cane, the large crowd of guests burst into tears. The event was definitely filled with emotion.
What may come
Bethy said the same vows to her husband that she did the day they got married, “What may come, I will always be there.” They even had the same minister, Tomkin Coleman, who is also a good friend of David. Coleman gave a very thoughtful and emotional speech and told the guests that the couple may not have a lot of time left to spend together but that they “managed to fit a lifetime of love into the time they’ve had together.”
More adventures ahead
“We don’t have that same sense of adventure, that same sense of hopefulness. So today was more meaningful.” Bethy said about the ceremony. David slightly disagreed and said, “Well, I think there is still some sense of adventure. We still hope to get some adventures in. So hopefully it is not too much different.” However, he admitted, “There is certainly something less mysterious.”
Steve Fletcher, David’s best friend and the one who organized the arranged marriage competition, spoke about the unfairness David’s diagnosis, “I think we had all kinds of thought in the back of our heads that we’d probably do something like this for the 20th anniversary. Knowing he might not be there when they get to 20 just feels terribly unfair and it’s something we’re all trying to come to grips with.”
Now that the ceremony is over, David and Bethy are planning on writing their final chapter together by living their lives together as they normally would. They are planning get togethers with family members and high school friends. They are also planning to just spend time together reading their favorite books and binge-watching their favorite show, The West Wing. The couple just wants to enjoy one another’s company for every last minute possible.
Laughter is the best medicine
Although it isn’t easy, David and Bethy are still able to maintain a happy household filled with laughs. They both agreed that laughter is indeed the best medicine. Despite the tragedy that has struck the couple, they still make jokes to one another. David recalls his wife telling their children, two sons and two daughters who are aged 8 to 16, that “Daddy’s friends picked mommy because she was the prettiest that day.”
A future without David
However, as much as Bethy tries to be strong and keep a smile on her face for her husband and her children, she still cries when she pictures a future without David. She said, “The hardest part for me is knowing that there are going to be things that I’m going to miss about Dave in the future and knowing that there’s nothing I can do right now to make up for that.”
A well-known politician
David Weinlick may have made headlines with his arranged marriage contest in 1998, but well before that he was already a famous politician, at least in the Minnesota area. Until he quit his job, he was the Vice Chair of the 4th Congressional District for the Minnesota Democratic party. He was well-known for his political activism and his significant position in the DFL, or Democratic-Farmer-Labor party.
Raising money for David
A Go Fund Me page has been set up for David, in order to raise money towards more treatments. Even though the family has decent health insurance, they are still finding it hard to afford the very costly treatments. On the page, it is written, “Untreated, we’d be measuring his remaining time in months. With chemo, we hope to have three or four years left, and we hope that for a couple of those, he’ll be healthy enough to enjoy them and have a few new adventures.” The page has already raised over $17,000.
On the Go Fund Me page, It speaks about David’s incredible optimism from the first moment he was diagnosed. “When Dave came out of the meeting where he learned this news, he shrugged and said ‘We’ll make the best of it.’ It’s very much Dave’s style to find optimism even in a moment like that. Dave’s always been someone who cares a lot about his family and friends, and the extended communities of which he’s been a part.
Cost of treatment
Funding cancer treatments can cause a huge amount of additional stress to any grieving family. In a recent survey, it was reported that since diagnosis 20% of patients have to spend more than $10,000 out of pocket for cancer treatment (even with insurance) and 4% spend more than $50,000. Overall, 39% of patients reported that the financial costs of treating the cancer caused a “large amount of distress.”
19 years of fabulous
David and Bethy are trying to look on the bright side of the situation, as difficult as it may be. David said, “Certainly there is I guess darkness on the horizon if you put it somehow. But ultimately it’s still about trying to make the best of the time we have. It’s still a positive thing in that way. That’s what I would focus on.” Bethy agreed with her husband, “We’ve had 19 years of fabulous – really, really fabulous. I mean I would take 19 more years of fabulous.”