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A Marriage Made In A Mall

David Weinlick had known for years that he wanted to get married Saturday. He knew where the wedding would be held and who the guests would be. He just hadn't picked out a bride.

A couple of dozen adventurous women from several states showed up Saturday at a "bridal candidate mixer" to brave questioning by Weinlick's friends and relatives, whose votes determined who would become Mrs. Weinlick.

And part of the deal was an on-the-spot wedding at the Mall of America. Stores at the huge shopping center pitched in with donations of everything from monogrammed towels - "Dave and Hers" - to a reception.

"This is almost exactly what I could have hoped for," Weinlick, 28, said of the festivities. He said he was "elated" and called the event "an enormous success."

By midafternoon, his pals and relatives had chosen 28-year-old Elizabeth Runze, a pharmacy student at the University of Minnesota. They exchanged vows soon afterward as a crowd of around 2,000 shoppers lined the rails to watch from the three upper levels of the mall's rotunda.

Runze wore a short-sleved white dress with a full skirt and a fitted bodice embroidered with flowers, a short veil and elbow-length gloves. Her father walked her down the aisle and her parents, who are divorced, gave her away.

A friend of Weinlick's who is a minister conducted the brief ceremony. Balloons dropped from the ceiling and the crowd cheered as the couple kissed.

The four finalists, two from Minnesota, one from Florida and one who refused to give her hometown, were among the five bridesmaids.

"I can hardly stand much less talk," the slender redhead said soon after she was selected. "This is the most incredible day of my life."

Weinlick's friend and campaign manager, Steven Fletcher, said the two had similar interests and senses of humor and were a good fit intellectually.

"You can see the chemistry between these two," he said. "Those two just look right together."

Annette Runze said her daughter talked to Weinlick, a tall thin blond who sports a ponytail, for the first time Monday when she dropped off her application. She said she and her ex-husband, Elizabeth's father, support the marriage.

"She's very serious about it. She's very committed to the idea and so is he. They'll probably be married 67 years."

Weinlick is a graduate student in anthropology, and his marriage plan played out like some sort of weird social experiment.

Four years ago, Weinlick said, he grew tired of being asked when he was going to get married, so he came up with a stock answer: June 13, 1998.

With the deadline upon him Saturday, friends and relatives interviewed the candidates.

Weinlick's sister, Wenonah Wilms of Minneapolis, said all of the candidates were nice but she was looking for something more.

"I'm picking a sister-in-law," Wilms said. "I have to pick someone who is going to be there at Christmas."

Unsuccessful candidate Jody Facey liked the selection process and thought Weinlick was "very down to earth."

The suggestion that Weinlick try love democratic style and let his pals pick the bride came from his friend, Fletcher. When Weinlick accepted the challenge, Fletcher became his wedding campaign manager, touting his man's education, good credit and cleanliness.

Weinlick's own parents divorced when he was 5. His father, who criticized the event, did not attend. His mother, Sylvia Lambert, watched from the front row and issued a statement saying she supported her son's decision.

Despite the wedding, the match wasn't exactly binding. Minnesota requires a three-day waiting period for a marriage to become official.

Written by Rochelle Olson

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