Places to get married – a church, a judge’s office, at thebeach, a resort.
The winner’s circle at a horseracing track?
That’s where a local couple, Bruce and Michele Testerman, exchangedvows last summer.
Bruce Testerman and Michele Dionisio got engaged at Christmas 2010.They were planning a wedding, thinking about maybe going to thebeach or Las Vegas.
Then, one Sunday last February or March, Dionisio was looking atthe Richmond Times-Dispatch and saw a promotion called “It’s a Raceto the Altar!” To enter the contest for an all-expense-paidwedding, participants had to write an essay about why they shouldget married at Colonial Downs racetrack in New Kent County, nearRichmond.
Dionisio wrote the essay.
“You never think you’re going to win something like that,” she saidrecently.
In her essay, she wrote about working with horses in her native NewYork and that Testerman grew up on a farm in rural Virginia. Shewrote they were trying to decide about their wedding so theirfamilies could be a part of it.
“Colonial Downs would make the perfect backdrop for the start ofour forever lives together,” she wrote. “It would take our familyand friends to a place that gives us happiness andexcitement!”
Last April, Dionisio and Testerman went to the Times-Dispatchoffice and met with representatives from the newspaper and ColonialDowns and nine other couples.
On June 25, the 10 couples, most from the Richmond area, went toColonial Downs for the decision on which one would get the weddingpackage. It would be determined by the winner of the seventhrace.
Twelve horses were in the race. The 10 couples picked horse numbersout of a box. Dionosio and Testerman picked horse number one, a3-year-old named Rockaby Bay.
“Our horse was smoking them,” she said about how the race wasgoing.
Rockaby Bay ended up finishing second, but remember there were 12horses for 10 couples. None of the couples had picked the horsethat actually won the race, meaning Testerman and Dionisio were thereal winners. They got the wedding package.
Colonial Downs had picked the wedding date, July 30, a monthaway.
“That month was a total blur, trying to get everything together,”she said. She made seven trips to Richmond that month working oninvitations, photography, trying on a wedding gown and much more.Testerman said he went three times.
The package included wedding planning, invitations, wedding dressand tuxedo, dance lessons, hair styling for Dionisio, a cake,flowers, photography, favors, limousine service and a honeymoon tothe Outer Banks in North Carolina. It also included the weddingreception at the track’s Turf Club. The package was estimated at$25,000.
Dionisio and Testerman got married in the winner’s circle after theday’s first race. Dionisio and her uncle,William Latham, rode tothe winner’s circle in a horse-drawn carriage.
The wedding was performed by New Kent County Sheriff Wakie HowardJr. and was shown on the track’s big screen for the 10,000 racingspectators to watch.
The ceremony lasted about five minutes, which was OK since it wasnearly 100 degrees with high humidity. The inside reception wentfor a few hours.
About 80 family members and friends attended, representing ninestates, including California, Texas, Florida, New York andothers.
The Testermans, who live in Long Island, said the best part wasthat so many family and friends were able to attend. Some drovefrom New York, while others took a redeye flight from Las Vegas toWashington, D.C., and then drove to the track. A cousin coming fromTexas had to change air carriers and airports because of atornado.
“It was a blast. We had so much fun,” Michele Testerman said.