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Couple donates money for wedding dinner to Haiti relief

MAPLE GROVE , Minn. -- Guests at the Bogen-Nicholson wedding in mid-June will have an interesting tidbit when they describe the couple's big day: The bride served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

MAPLE GROVE , Minn. -- Guests at the Bogen-Nicholson wedding in mid-June will have an interesting tidbit when they describe the couple's big day: The bride served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Duluth native Leah Bogen and her fiance, Will Nicholson, were eating breakfast and chatting about wedding plans on Sunday morning in their Maple Grove, Minn., home. At the same time, Bogen was reading the newspaper and was struck by a story from Haiti that included leg amputations and rough medical conditions.

The contrast of reading about the devastation from the earthquake while planning a big party struck her. She made a decision right then to donate the money they planned to spend on the wedding dinner -- 25 percent of their entire budget -- to people in Haiti. Her fiance didn't need any convincing.

"She totally blew me away," said Nicholson, a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. "I'm still in awe. I was very impressed. How do you say anything but yes to that? It's such a selfless and thoughtful thing. It's hard to get excited about planning a wedding when other people are having such a terrible time.

"We've got friends and family who are happy and healthy and nearby and well-fed. My family doesn't need another fancy meal."

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Within four hours, they had decided on an organization -- Partners in Health -- and had sent off $2,500. Nicholson works in a health care field, and was familiar with their work.

"It's an organization that has been in Haiti for a while, and we know they'll be there forever," said Bogen, who graduated from UMD in 2007.

Leah's mother, Kathy Bogen, described the couple as humanitarians and altruistic, and said this decision is in step with the way they live their life.

"It was nice that they could look at what resources they have and realize they could change their plans to help other people," said Kathy Bogen. "They're very amazing young people. It gives me a lot of hope."

Leah Bogen and Nicholson were introduced by their parents over Thanksgiving in 2008. Their families both have cabins on Loon Lake, just outside Grand Marais. They got engaged Oct. 1 and are planning an outdoor wedding in Mahtomedi, Minn., at Nicholson's grandparents' house.

"I don't think I've ever given more than 50 bucks to anything," Nicholson said. "It's a great way to start our relationship. It's a great gesture to say: 'This is what we want to do; this is who we are for the rest of our lives.' "

As for whether they will really serve PB&J: That's just one option. The dinner isn't important, she said. Bogen is hoping that other people will follow their lead and find a creative way to give.

"Look at anything you might be able to cut, and help out a bit," she said.

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Lawler is a reporter at the Duluth News Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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