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Alaska women become first to say 'I do' in New York

  • Author: Jill Burke
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published February 14, 2012

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Jan. 30.

When Stephanie Figarelle proposed to her fiance in September, the couple envisioned a simple East Coast wedding. She wanted to take the apple of her eye -- Lela McArthur -- to the Big Apple for their big day. A courthouse ceremony and a nice vacation to New York City is all they had planned and would have suited them just fine.

Yet somehow, four months later, they've become celebrity brides preparing to be featured in a televised wedding ceremony on top of the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day.

The personal trainers and college sweethearts got to this point through some unusual luck and nose-to-the-grindstone determination.

Sometime early in their planning process, Stephanie ran across an article that suggested marriages that start in a courthouse end in a courthouse. "I want to be with Lela for the rest of my life," Figarelle said when explaining how the courthouse marriage plans fell by the wayside.

She then began looking for ideas about where to get married, and ran across the Empire State Building, learning that weddings are only allowed one day a year -- Valentine's Day -- and it's competitive to get in.

The 2012 Valentine's Day Wedding Event at Empire State Building is being produced by Colin Cowie Weddings, named after the celebrity style and entertainment planner. The Facebook-run contest required interested couples to submit a two and a half minute video and hope they made the cut. Our Alaska brides did, first becoming one of the 16 finalists, and then, after waging a successful campaign with friends and family to get votes, winning a spot among the final four couples who will be married under Cowie's guidance and polish Feb. 14.

"We really wanted this," Fiagerelle said in an interview Friday.

They shot their video in November at Point Woronzof in Anchorage, on a chilly day just after big winds blew away the city's snow and any late-clinging leaves off of the trees. More difficult than withstanding the chilly weather was trying to declare their love for each other in less than three minutes.

"I felt like we left so much out," Figarelle said.

The words they got out worked. Suffice it to say what was once planned as a small wedding has become a rather big deal. The couple flies to New York Feb. 5, where two days later they will shop for a tux for Figarelle and a dress for McArthur, a pre-wedding task that they've now learned will be featured in the season premier of the cable show Say Yes to the Dress.

Cowie's production is picking up the tab for the clothing, hotel stay, wedding bands and catering. One drawback to letting a reality-show type planner take over your big day? You end up with a breakfast wedding. The couple's ceremony is scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m., Figarelle said.

The women met about 18 months ago as college classmates when the magic struck. "We certainly weren't looking for a deep relationship. We just wanted to have some fun and we literally have just been inseparable since then," Figarelle said.

Now they're headed from a city that's wrestling with whether to expand its anti-discrimination code to include gays and lesbians, to one in the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage.

"This is pretty incredible -- just the opportunity itself to get married. I just applied for a marriage license yesterday. That was a big deal, something I thought I would never do," Figarelle said.

Cowie's contest doesn't end with the wedding day. Follow-up competitions will put the couple in reach of a $100,000 prize, a honeymoon getaway, and more.

As for any pre-wedding jitters, Figarelle says she's staying grounded by staying focused on what really matters. "What's most important is that I'm getting married to the person that I want to be married to forever," she said.

Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)

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