By Phyl Newbeck
Ric Volp and Sienna Fontaine want to get married.
A wedding can be expensive, but the couple is hoping to get a little bit of help. The pair is one of three finalists in a “Salute to our Soldiers” contest sponsored by Vermont Weddings, an online compendium of wedding planners, venues, caterers and more based in the Mad River Valley.
In 2012, Jackie Watson of Vermont Enchanted Events decided to sponsor a contest for a free wedding for a Vermont military couple. She enlisted the aid of Lorin Holmes, the owner of Vermont Weddings.
“There are so many people in the Guard who give up so much to defend our freedom and our country,” said Holmes. “We need to give them more than just a hug and a thank you for their support.”
In 2013, Vermont Weddings took over the contest, asking their vendors if they would be willing to help out. “Ninety-nine point nine percent said ‘absolutely,’” said Holmes. “The response we got was incredible.”
In 2013, judges sifted through the online submissions and awarded one lucky couple a wedding at the Mountain Top Inn and Resort in Chittenden. This year, Holmes made some changes to the contest. Although judges winnowed down the 50-plus submissions to three finalists, the winner will be chosen through online voting. The second and third place finishers will also receive prizes. The grand prize winner gets a wedding at the Barn at Boyden Farms in Cambridge with catering from the Essex Resort and Spa while the second and third place winners will receive weekends at the Mountain Top Inn and Jay Peak, respectively.
“These are all stories of love and sacrifice,” said Holmes, noting that applications have been sent from as far as Texas, California and Florida. “It was hard to winnow it down to three.”
Fontaine was born in Williston and grew up on a dairy farm. A graduate of Champlain Valley Union High School, University of Vermont and Goddard College, she and Volp recently moved to Milton, though most of her family still lives in Williston. The couple met in the summer of 2012 when Volp returned from a tour in Afghanistan. He currently serves as a captain in the Vermont Army National Guard while working as a police officer in Burlington. The couple shares custody of Volp’s children from his previous marriage.
Fontaine is also a member of the Guard, having enlisted in 2013. An artist by training, she is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in social work at UVM so she can work with veterans. “I had always entertained the notion of joining the military since high school,” she said. “My parents wanted me to get an education first but I always returned to that option and it got to a point where I realized it was important to me and it was time to do it.”
She spent the summer of 2013 in South Carolina at Officer Candidate School.
Fontaine accepted Volp’s marriage proposal in November of 2013 at the conclusion of a four-hour drive, during which they stopped at all the places that had been meaningful to their relationship. The couple learned about the contest in a Guard newsletter and immediately applied. “It was definitely a joint project,” said Fontaine. “We’re very determined to always have each other’s input no matter what we’re doing.”
Volp found the application to be a good exercise in showing how much the couple has influenced each other. “My being in the military helped her decision to join,” he said “and her being in the military has given me a different perspective and allowed us to connect on a deeper level.”
Fontaine is impressed that so many local businesses have donated their time and services to the competition. “It’s an incredible showing of community support,” she said. She sees the contest as a gift to Volp for his service and the time he has spent away from his family.
Volp said he was amazed by the reactions to their application. “It’s hard for people to realize what an impact the military has on families,” he said “so it’s a good feeling to get that ‘thank you’ back. It’s been incredible to see what kind of support we have from family and friends and people we haven’t even met who read our story and were moved by it.”
Voting is online at vermontweddings.com/contests/2014-salute-to-our-soldiers. The winners will be notified on March 15.