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Love the Story

Winners Bobby Hill, an infantry officer, and Katie Durham, a military intelligence officer, in Afghanistan (left) and just after getting engaged last December

SEPTEMBER 11, 2012

Love the Story

Fall for the couple who won the $50K wedding at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

Last week, the votes for Magnolia Plantation & Gardens’ $50,000 wedding were tallied and with nearly 7,200 votes, Katie Durham, of Miramar, Florida, and Bobby Hill, of Boaz, Alabama, won. Both active duty military, the two got engaged last December, a month before they were deployed to Afghanistan. Stationed apart there, they pulled some serious strings to be able to film their entry video together. We were lucky enough to snag a moment of their time for a quick interview—they had to answer separately as they’ve yet to be able to share the good news with one another in person. If you’re hankering for a real love story, and ready to hear from two gracious, humble, and thankful winners, read on. And to the lucky couple—congrats and thanks for sharing your wonderful win with all of us!

Charleston Weddings: What do you think about winning the contest?

Katie Durham: A free wedding in Charleston with all of our closest family and friends—I think I have found myself in the Disney princess movie every girl dreams of, except one that starts in Afghanistan. Bobby and I are both feeling very blessed and thankful to God, friends, family, and the strangers who took the time out of their day to vote for something not even related to them. Being in the contest allowed us to realize how many great Americans are still out there supporting the troops and the beauty of love.

Bobby Hill: I wish I could verbalize how Katie and I feel to be so fortunate. Winning this means the world to each of us. Not only does it take a huge weight off of Katie’s shoulders—I say Katie’s because, let’s face it, guys aren’t that much help with wedding planning—but it also showed us just how many people back home were supporting us. The entire process was somewhat humbling to see how many people, many of whom we didn’t even know, were willing to not only vote, but to also go out and campaign for votes.

CW: Who found out first and how?

KD: I actually found out at Kandahar Airfield (KAF) in Afghanistan. (I am in the process of redeploying and have stopped through here.) I was sitting in the U.S.O., and when I saw my sister had posted it on Facebook I couldn’t believe it. Bobby and all my friends had redeployed a few days earlier, so I had no one to tell, but the biggest smile crossed my face and still hasn’t left.

BH: Katie was the first of us to hear the good news. If I recall correctly she saw the announcement on the Facebook. I found out the same way but seven hours later. I was actually flying out of Afghanistan into an Air Force Base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan that day and the news came out while we were in the air. A few hours after landing I got a chance to quickly check the Internet. I actually started to jump out of my seat with excitement, but luckily I realized I was surrounded by hundreds of other service members who had no idea what was going on and might have found my celebration a bit odd. So I settled for a little fist pump and a quick “Thank you” to God.

CW: Did you and your friends and family do any sort of voting campaign to score votes?

KD: Yes! I think this campaign was almost as large as the current presidential one. We are so thankful for friends reminding everyone on Facebook to vote weekly. It was all over Facebook, and in newspaper and Internet articles from Florida to Alabama (where we’re from) and everywhere in between. Our mothers told everyone they knew, and they even rallied the ladies at a local grocery store and both of their churches. Here, the Airborne Infantry paratroopers living out of mud-walled combat outposts had posted the flyer near a computer so the soldiers could vote during their downtime. A lot of the soldiers in the unit saw it as a win for all of us! It gave our loved ones back home a bit of a distraction from our current turmoil in Afghanistan.

BH: Several people stepped up to “manage” our campaign. Both Katie’s Mom, Annie, and my mom, Dana, were working all the local papers and various news agencies in our home towns. Dedication is an understatement for the work they were doing. The help didn’t only come from family, we had a few friends who went above and beyond on the campaign trail. In particular, Garrett Berntsen, the senior Logistics Officer with my unit (2-508th Parachute Infantry Regiment), was quickly given the “Campaign Manager” title for his tireless devotion to spreading the word about the contest. It would take me days to summarize everything and everyone that he reached out to. The man belongs in politics.

CW: Have you seen each other since you found out?

KD: Unfortunately we have not. We both stopped through KAF for a few days and though I saw Bobby briefly, we had not yet heard the contest results. I found out the day after he left Afghanistan, but all the excitement is still there and I am awaiting the biggest hug/kiss ever upon my return to the U.S.!

BH: Sadly, no. With any luck I should have her back in my arms in less than a week. At first I thought that hearing the good news would help, but now I think it’s just made me miss her even more.

CW: What are you most looking forward to about the wedding?

KH: Many girls see their wedding as stressful, and think that everything has to be perfect. I am looking forward to having all of our friends and family in one place to celebrate our love and the beginning of a new journey as Mr. and Mrs. Hill. I will be praising God for bringing my fiancé home safe from the war and for protecting him from harm this past year. I look forward to looking into the eyes of the love of my life and letting him know that I will be there for him for better or for worse as long as we both shall live, and that together we can make it through anything. This past year and all of our separations have been anything but easy, but Magnolia Plantation in Charleston has allowed us to relax and enjoy the wedding of our dreams!

BH: It’s tough to pick exactly what is the highlight from a list that includes an incredible venue in the Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, support from a group of vendors that are world-class, and an opportunity to be together with both our families. Living so far apart, the wedding will be the first chance that many of our extended family members will get to meet one another. However, if I had to pick the one thing I was looking forward to most, it’s marrying my best friend. She understands me and loves me unconditionally and I’m sure that isn’t always an easy thing to do. I’m a very lucky man.

Tue, 09/11/2012