There are the classic wedding snapshots: the nervous bride, the back-slapping groomsmen, the fussy wedding planner. There are the million last minute details: the flowers, the cake, the seating plan.
It's a typical wedding, except for the fact that the bride and groom have never laid eyes on each other.
Six weeks before this unique wedding, Laura O'Connor was another single woman in Chicago, listening to a morning radio show that happened to be running what they called a "social experiment." WTMX's Eric and Kathy Show set out to find potential brides and grooms to participate in the experiment they called "Two Strangers and a Wedding: Is Love Blind?"
They wanted to see if two people could fall in love, sight unseen, and actually get married after six weeks. The winning couple would get to know each other only over radio waves and monitored telephone conversations.
Since 1998, this contest has been held 21 times around the globe. The unusual concept is packaged for radio stations by a company called Absolute & Dowse.
So far, every single couple got married and went off on a honeymoon paid for by sponsors (all of the competitions have included some heavy duty incentives courtesy of sponsors), but 16 of the 20 couples have since split up.
A friend encouraged O'Connor, a 31-year-old trade show account manager, to dash off an application.
"It just really was on a whim, and I just thought it was a neat idea," said O'Connor. But she took the challenge seriously and said she was "in this to find the guy of my dreams."
Applicants subjected themselves to personality tests, background checks and even a lie detector test, and the radio station brought in a panel of experts to help narrow down the candidates.
Sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman said that the bride hopefuls shared a "what the heck?" attitude. "The one thing they had in common is that they felt like they had tried everything else," she said.
O'Connor, designated "Monday's Bride," was one of five finalists to be featured on the radio on a particular day of the week. Her charming girl-next-door personality helped her win the radio listeners' hearts, and votes.
O'Connor didn't think she would win.
"I literally woke up thinking, there's no way!," she said. "Those other brides blew me out of the water."
But, to her delight, the DJs announced live on the air that O'Connor would be the bride. Over the next week, listeners got to know O'Connor, her hobbies, her daily routine… and some very intimate details.
"At one point they had asked me, ideally, how much I would enjoy to have sex in a week?" O'Connor recalled. "And I said four to five times a week … And I will never live that down for the rest of my life."
The experts met again to narrow the pool of grooms. But this time, O'Connor would make the final selection. She listened to five potential grooms on the radio, and at night she was allowed a phone call with that day's groom, monitored and recorded by WTMX. They were allowed to talk about almost anything, as long as they avoided questions that would reveal their identities or appearance.
On the final day, O'Connor was expected to choose her potential groom, but when she got on the air, she asked for more time to think. Eric and Kathy granted her the weekend if she would narrow down to two. Her picks? "Wednesday's Groom" and "Thursday's Groom."