Nineteen years ago, David and Elizabeth "Bethy" Weinlick stood at the altar in the Mall of America rotunda, and said "I do" after knowing each other for just five minutes.
It appeared to many to be a made-for-TV social experiment, but when the strangers vowed to love each other through sickness and health and for better or worse, they meant it.
Two decades and four children later, the couple is putting those promises to the test. In March, Dave was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. His doctor told him he has a year to live.
"We're still coming to terms with the fact that the whole life we had planned together isn't going to happen," Elizabeth said. "That is impossible to get your head around."
To some, it was a marriage made in a mall, but to the Weinlicks, it was the start of their great love story.
"I've learned it wasn't a completely crazy and ridiculous, cockamamie idea," David said. "I got the relationship I was looking for with someone who's ready to roll with the ups and downs, for better or worse."
On Friday, Aug. 18, the couple will renew their vows where it all began — at the Mall of America.
David's idea to find a wife in an unconventional way began years earlier with a joke. Tired of being asked when he was going to get married, he'd reply jokingly, "June 13, 1998."
With the date nearing and no bride in sight, one of David's friends who'd just returned from a political convention suggested structuring the wedding like a convention.
With his friend's counsel, a pony-tailed, 28-year-old David embarked on a journey to find his soulmate through the arranged marriage process. They wrote press releases, filmed a commercial, and placed an ad in the Minnesota Daily.
Media outlets began calling, including the Star Tribune, and hundreds of women began applying for a chance to become David's wife.
The Mall hosted a bridal campaign mixer for the final 28 candidates, and David’s family and friends overwhelmingly chose Elizabeth. An hour later, they were married.
The newly married couple appeared on NBC's "Today" show and "Oprah." A few years later, "The Bachelor" asked the Weinlicks to be consultants for the new reality dating dating game show.
"We inspired those shows, but they missed the mark," Elizabeth said. "We didn't want to attach our name to something where people sit around in hot tubs and kiss another person every night."
"It's not about finding the perfect person and then your life will be happy," David said. "Nothing is perfect, but you can make the best of whatever life brings you. That's the recipe for happiness together."
'I do' again
On Friday at 11:30 a.m., the Weinlicks will recommit their love to one another in a public ceremony in the rotunda. The celebration is part of the Mall of America's 25th anniversary.
The couple has asked that the vow renewal double as a charitable event benefitting the Angel Foundation, which provides financial assistance and a free camp for children of cancer patients.
"There won't be a dollar dance, but if guests have a dollar that's burning a hole in their pocket, they can give it to the Angel Foundation," Elizabeth said.
Elizabeth will wear a white dress. David will wear the same tuxedo he wore 19 years ago. The same officiant who married them in 1998 will perform the ceremony and many of the friends and family who chose Elizabeth as the winning bride will be in attendance. Their four children will stand beside them.
The song they danced to at their first wedding will be played again: "What a Wonderful World."
"I'm more nervous this time than I was the first time," Elizabeth said, laughing through tears. "The words of that song have even more special meaning now."