Couple competes for dream wedding

Jessica Lee

As soon as Marilyn Courtney Raudry and Preston Young begin to go into the story about how they fell in love, it might come as a surprise that this is not the audio version of Nicholas Sparks novel. This true, dramatic story of two star-crossed lovers challenged by perils of distance and war raises the bar for all boyfriends.

The couple is competing in the Entwined 2012 wedding giveaway. Hundreds applied to win a wedding worth more than $75,000, but only 11 were chosen to compete.

After sharing a desk with Young in the fifth grade in El Paso, Raudry said she soon developed a doodle-his-name-on-my-notebook kind of crush on her classmate. The two shared the same classes all throughout middle school, and Young finally stepped to the plate by asking Raudry to see a movie in eighth grade. Though the exact movie the couple saw is debated, one thing is certain: They left holding hands.

But their romance was stopped short when Young and his family moved to Colorado during the summer of 2004. They kept in contact, talking on the phone for hours, wondering whether they would ever see each other again.

Then, after graduating from high school, Young joined the army. It was a decision he had no problem making.

“I had always wanted to serve my country and be a part of the army,” Young said, “I almost felt obligated to, because I felt bad just sitting around watching everything on the news.”

Raudry, who after graduation went to UT to study corporate communication, wrote to Young, who had been deployed to Afghanistan. Unbeknownst to Raudry, Young kept that letter with him in his pocket the entire time he was overseas.

“Her letters were everything to me,” Young said. “They kept me motivated.”

In January 2010, Young’s unit was hit by a bomb, leaving him wounded in action. He was later given the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for his courageous actions as well as a Purple Heart for being wounded in action.

“He is a humble and courageous soldier,” Raudry said. “He’s my hero.”

In April of the same year, Young came home for a mandatory rest and recuperation period. Raudry, who had not set eyes on Young since a brief visit he made to El Paso during high school, finally got to see her middle school crush again.

It was only a three-day weekend, but the two fell in love.

Almost a year later, at North Carolina’s famous Biltmore estate, Preston proposed.

As soon as Raudry got back to Texas, she started researching methods to get the wedding of her dreams. As a student, she understood that she was not going to be able to provide the funds necessary to make the wedding as extravagant as she wished.

When Raudry came across the Entwined 2012 contest, she knew this was what she was searching for. The couple who wins the contest will receive an all expense paid wedding on March 31 at the Studio at Fischer, located in the Texas Hill Country near Canyon Lake.

“I feel like we deserve to win because we’ve been through a lot,” Young said. “I want to give her a good wedding, because she waited for me through the entire deployment. She was always there for me.”

Though the couple hopes to win over enough people with their story to power through to first place, they know that no matter what kind of wedding they have, extravagant or simple, all that matters is that they have each other.

“In the fifth grade, Preston and I shared a desk,” Raudry said. “Now we’re sharing our lives.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 as: True story of star-crossed love can offer couple great wedding