FARGO — If anyone ever put the "sweet" in childhood sweethearts, it might just be Kelly Bergman and Kalyn Omlid.
Kelly, who looks much younger than his 28 years (@Babyface312 was his Twitter handle), first met the bubbly Kalyn at summer camp when she was just 12 and he was 15.
But now, 13 years later, camp songs and s'mores will give way to wedding marches and cake for 350 of their closest friends. Best of all, these former camping sweethearts will barely spend a dime on their nuptials.
Kelly and Kalyn are the winners of the 2020 Midwest Wedding Giveaway, a contest that awarded them $30,000 in products and services from North Dakota wedding vendors including formal wear, photographers, designers, venues and more. Basically, a free wedding.
The contest was created by the owner of White Lace Bridal and Formal Wear and Black Tie Optional in Bismarck, Kalyn's hometown.
"I had a high school classmate who was in it last year," Kalyn says. "I knew our engagement was coming so I thought I'd look into it. But I never thought we'd win."
To enter the contest, couples were first asked to fill out applications. Eventually, five couples were chosen to be finalists and asked to make a short video detailing their love story.
Kalyn and Kelly's love story started at Camp Sioux, an American Diabetes Association camp held in Park River, N.D. They were both diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at a very young age. Camp was a place to connect with other kids who had diabetes, have fun and learn ways to manage the disease.
Kelly, who grew up in Argusville, N.D., was always eager to go.
"I started going when I was 8 years old," Kelly says. "I loved it. I think Kalyn needed a little convincing, but in the end I think we both looked forward to it every year."
Kelly might have started to look forward to it because of a certain blond girl from Bismarck.
"He had a crush on me for years," Kalyn says.
"Yes, I did, but we didn't start dating until she was 16 and I was 19," Kelly adds.
Making it official
The summer romance became more permanent as the two grew up.
"He even came to my high school graduation party with tickets to a Carrie Underwood show. That was pretty cool," she says.
Years of dating followed as the two moved away from their hometowns and started working in Fargo-Moorhead — Kelly as a supervisor at J.C. Chumley's in Moorhead and Kalyn as a communications coordinator at The Village Family Service Center in Fargo. In December 2018, two days before Christmas, he proposed after watching a Minnesota Vikings game together.
"That was the longest game of my life," Kelly says with an exasperated sigh.
After the Vikings hit the locker room — they beat the Detroit Lions 27-9 — it was time for Kelly to take a knee and propose to Kalyn with his grandmother's diamond ring.
Going after the giveaway
When Kelly and Kalyn decided to apply for the Midwest Wedding Giveaway, they took to it like a job. Kalyn brainstormed with a few of her marketing and communications friends to come up with ways to get more people to "like" their video and help them win.
"The winning couple from last year went to high school with Carson Wentz, so he shared it for them and that helped them win. I knew we needed something like that," Kalyn says.
A few of her marketing friends noticed how vibrant and active the fast-food chain Wendy's was on social media with 8 million Facebook followers and 3 million Twitter followers. They decided to tweet to Wendy's and ask the freckle-faced, pig-tailed icon to be their flower girl.
Hey @Wendys. @Babyface312 and I have a chance to win a free wedding and the only thing that would make it dreamier is if Wendy was my flower girl. Of course, the reception will have burgers that are fresh and never frozen, just like our love. https://t.co/zi3QcQQ1N7 pic.twitter.com/6xm0tOc1ZF— Kalyn Omlid (@komlid) April 1, 2019
It worked, and Wendy's retweeted the message and composed a Facebook message encouraging people to vote for the couple.
"It was kind of weird to think all of these people that we don't even know are seeing our faces and voting for us," Kalyn says. "The comments kept saying, 'Wendy's sent me.'"
For his part, Kelly put up table tents at Chumley's. United Games, a business that provides pool tables and dartboards for bars, volunteered to put the couple's face on their dartboards.
"We did a whole marketing campaign for this," Kalyn says.
"We marketed ourselves," Kelly says, finishing Kalyn's sentence.
'A huge relief'
By the time the contest was over, close to 4,000 people had reacted to Kalyn and Kelly's video, beating the next closest couple by about 1,000 likes.
They say the real wedding planning has yet to begin, but they're not that stressed about it because the contest has provided them with a wedding coordinator to help ease the burden of planning.
"Wedding coordinators are totally worth it. You can quote me on that," Kelly says.
They do know their wedding, which is set for April 2020, will be Oktoberfest-themed.
"My family is from Germany and Kelly's first time overseas was when we went to Germany on our third anniversary of dating," Kalyn says.
They also hope to honeymoon there with the money they save on the wedding.
"It's just a huge relief," Kelly says.
"There aren't even words," Kalyn says about the incredible prize. "Our parents help us with our medical bills. Diabetes is such an expensive disease. After all of that help, it's nice that they can just relax and not worry about helping us pay for our wedding."
Kalyn and Kelly say they'll go to Bismarck in the coming weeks to look at the venue, Black Leg Ranch, and get engagement photos taken by the end of summer. They'll select the food to serve — including pretzels in keeping with their Oktoberfest theme and to show they're "tying the knot." They'll also prep and send invitations. There'll probably be a lot of them.
"Kelly has a big family and we've had so many friends who've helped us with this," Kalyn says.
"It's going to be a big production. It's going to be a circus. But it's going to be a lot of fun," Kelly says.