- Associated Press - Monday, February 14, 2011

NEW YORK | The brides carried lavender roses and the grooms looked proud as 14 contest-winning couples got married Monday at the Empire State Building.

“You are the most beautiful, the smartest and the kindest person I know,” U.S. Army Pfc. Brett Beardon said as he clasped hands with Samantha Belfon and gazed into her eyes.

“I will honor and respect you, laugh and cry with you and cherish you always,” she replied.

The 17th annual Valentine’s Day wedding event at the iconic skyscraper was sponsored by TheKnot.com, a wedding-planning website.

Air Force Capt. Jon Wu and Stephanie Hull, of Louisville, Ky., won the grand prize, which includes a honeymoon in the Bahamas.

“We can only go up from here,” Capt. Wu said after he tied the knot with Miss Hull in a sunrise ceremony on the 86th-floor observatory.

Miss Hull, who wore a strapless, creamy white gown with a long train, said she was on “cloud nine.”

Capt. Wu proposed to Miss Hull last year by spelling out “will you marry me” in Christmas lights on a lawn outside their apartment building.

The ceremonies for the other winners were held on the 61st floor in a makeshift wedding chapel festooned with lavender drapes.

Couple No. 2 was Sarah-Marie Carpino and George Callahan, two firefighters from Lindenhurst, N.Y., who met on the job.

Mr. Callahan held the couple’s 17-month-old son, Jack, during the ceremony.

The couple said afterward that because Mr. Callahan had survived testicular cancer, doctors had told him he would never have any more children.

“Jack is a blessing to us,” Mr. Callahan said. “He’s supposed to be a medical impossibility.”

Miss Belfon and Pfc. Bearden were next. The couple met through an online dating site when both were living in New York. Pfc. Bearden will be deployed to Afghanistan this spring.

“I’m happy for both of them,” said the bride’s mother, Ingrid Meah. “They are a perfect couple, made in heaven.”

One ceremony followed another with brisk efficiency. After they were wed, couples were given flutes of pink sparkling wine and cupcakes with pink icing.

Several couples said they had wanted to marry at the Empire State Building because it had played a role in their romance.

Patrick Davenport, a pharmacy student in Nashville, Tenn., chose the building as the setting for his proposal to Jennifer Herring. She said getting married there was “an amazing experience.”

Cinda Hilms choked up during her vows as she wed Frank Stygar of Elmwood Park, N.J.

“I will love you,” she said, then paused. “And support you in all that you do.” She dabbed her eyes and her gruff-voiced groom promised to honor and respect her.

The emotion was partly owing to the death of her mother in 2009, shortly after the couple became engaged, the bride said afterward.

“It’s my first marriage, and my mom’s not here,” she said. “It’s very overwhelming.”



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