Heather Hess

January 2010 Winner Heather Hess

Heather Hess Billboard Bride
Billboard Bride

by Laurette Veres

Heather Hess, was the Bridal Extravaganza Show’s billboard bride and was one of over five thousand women who registered to win the big prize at the George R. Brown last summer.  But her fifteen minutes of fame started with a weekend trip to New York City.

The Fourth of July is Heather’s favorite holiday and she was thrilled when her boyfriend, Paul McHugh, proposed a trip to New York City.  At a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Hudson River, they enjoyed a spectacular fireworks display.  Afterward, Paul said “I hope this makes the night even more magical.”  He lifted his hand and on his pinky finger was a ring.

The engagement weekend became surreal when Heather and Paul stood outside of the “Today Show.” Holding signs declaring “She said yes,” and “He put a ring on it,” the weather anchor interviewed them.  Heather’s phone burned with messages of congratulations. “I got to announce my engagement on national television!” she recalls.

At first, planning the wedding seemed stressful. Heather’s mom passed away two years ago.  “I was crying for the first week [of the planning process]. It’s kind of a challenge without my mom.” Her groom stepped up to the task.  “It’s becoming a more of a joyous occasion now,” she says.

Timing couldn’t have been better for her engagement. “The fact that Paul asked me two weeks before [the Extravaganza] was perfect.  I had been waiting for so long,” she says.

Set to a pallet of brown, champagne and gold, her winter wedding is planned for early 2010.  She describes her event as intimate and traditional.  The traditional aspect has surprised her.  “I don’t see myself as a traditional person, but the more planning I do, the more I realize how important traditions actually are,” she says.

Heather has saved and dried every flower Paul has given her since they started dating.  She’s going to shape them into a heart and display them in a shadow box with a poem (at the reception).

She will carry her mom’s diamond pendant on her bouquet of roses, orchids and hydrangeas created by Carmen’s Floral Design. And she’s adding a dash of bling to her three-tier cake with a Swarovski crystal monogram. Her cake is from Cakes by Gina. Her strapless gown from Bridal Depot is cathedral length with a sweetheart neckline.

When she heard the news about the billboard bride honor, she couldn’t contain her excitement. “It’s like I’ve won the lottery. It’s especially meaningful for my dad,” she says.

“Everything has been so perfect and amazing,” she gushes.  From the Fourth of July proposal to being on national television and featured on billboards all over Houston:  “It’s a dream come true.”

 

Heather will appear on billboards citywide.  She will also be on hand at the next Bridal Extravaganza Show January 9-10, 2010 at the George R. Brown Convention Center.  All brides-to-be in attendance are eligible for this honor.

 

Get this look: Gown:  Ventura’s Bridal, Photography:  Houston Photographer EVOKE Photo & Video, Jewelry:  Loida Wexler Jewelry, Hair & Makeup:  Your Make-Up Expert.com, Bouquet: Darryl & Co

 

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Hollie Padron

Hollie Padron

Girl Next Door wins Billboard Bride Competition

by Leah Faye Cooper Photography Studio Milano

Over 500 brides-to-be entered the “Billboard Bride” contest at July’s Bridal Extravaganza Show. The winner will grace billboards, posters and other promotional materials for January’s Bridal Extravaganza Show.

Judges spent weeks sifting through applications to select the final contestants. When Hollie Padron’s crossed their desks, it stood out. Funny and sincere, her entry secured her a firm spot as a finalist.

When the time came for her to stand before the judges at Ventura’s Bridal, the choice became clear. Smitten by her charming nature, the panel was equally impressed with Padron’s unabashed response to their question of how she embodies the modern Houston bride. “I’m real!” she exclaimed. After describing herself as hardworking and passionate, Padron boldly stated she is “not a size 2,” a trait she believes many brides can relate to. When she pointed out her future name, Hollie Salas, sounds like “hot sauce,” the incessant laughter from the judges’ table signified the Billboard Bride had been found.

Padron was ecstatic when they called and told her she won. The 22-year-old accounting assistant gave neighbors an earful of shrills, jumping up and down in her apartment. Donning several gowns hand-picked by Ventura’s, Padron was the epitome of a classic, blushing bride throughout the mid-day photo shoot. Traditional studio portraits and modern poses amidst the chic backdrop of Uptown Park allowed her to relish in the joy of her upcoming nuptials. With each flash of the camera, the future Mrs. Stephen Salas thought of her fiancé.

Most people go to Olive Garden for the endless soup and salad, but Padron found endless love. While working there as a waitress, a co-worker caught her eye. “We were friends for a couple of months, then I asked him out on a date,” she recalls of her forward approach. They were soon more than friends and over the next year and a half, Padron realized an ideal future would be one spent with Salas.

While she was sure she found the man she was going to marry, the engagement came as a complete surprise. After celebrating Christmas with their families, Padron and Salas spent the next day at the Museum of Natural Science and later went for an evening stroll in Hermann Park. When they found themselves alone in front of a fountain, Salas dropped to one knee and presented Padron with the ring — a princess-cut solitaire set in white gold. Floored, Padron managed to let out a tearful “I do.”

They’ll make it official March 7 with a black and white wedding at Centurion Palace in League City. She will wear the princess dress of her childhood dreams, complimenting her groom’s traditional black tuxedo. Until then, billboards across town will serve as a reminder of her special day.

Get this look: Gown: Ventura’s Bridal, Hair & Makeup: Your Makeup Expert.com, Bouquet: LZ Floral

Courtney Keith

July 2009 Winner Courtney Keith

Modern Day Bride

Courtney Keith, Houston’s newest Billboard Bride

by Robin Dupre    Photography by Studio Milano

And the winner is …

The Bridal Extravaganza Show’s Billboard Bride contest attracted hundreds of wonderful applicants for the opportunity to be featured on billboards, posters and other promotional materials for this season’s Bridal Extravaganza Show. Judges spent weeks examining photos and reading interviews as they narrowed down the field.

Judges met the 10 finalists during a preliminary photo shoot at Ventura’s Bridal. Attitude, look, walk and personality all counted, because the winner would be someone who looks great, represents BES well and revels in her accomplishment.

When Courtney Keith walked in the room, the contest was all but over; she had everything judges were looking for. There was something special about her; everything from her warm personality to her modern look set her apart from the rest. But she sealed the deal reacting to judges’ requests to let her hair down. “She laughed, unclipped her hair and smiled the whole time,” recalls Laurette Veres, owner of BES. “She didn’t balk at the idea; she just ran with it. We also knew she’d be great on TV if that opportunity comes along.”

Keith received the big news that she was the winner as she was driving around town with her mother. They both screamed and laughed like kids on Christmas morning. A couple of weeks later, Keith and her mother, Eilleene Keith, arrived at Ventura’s Bridal to pick out wedding gowns. With help from BES staff, they found several that complimented her stunning looks, charm and kind-hearted spirit — dresses that seem to be made for her.

During the course of the photo shoot Keith never complained or stopped smiling. She was a little jittery until her mother whispered, “She looks like Cinderella.” She did indeed. The long detailed wedding dress hugged her curves and showcased her hourglass figure.

As hundreds of pictures were taken of her, she told how her fiancé proposed. “God bless him,” she said. “He struggled for awhile trying to decide on the most perfect, romantic, unexpected way to propose.” To ensure it was unexpected, he waited until she was in the bathtub on a random Friday night to run out for a bottle of champagne. To ensure that it was perfect and romantic, he proposed when she was in the most comfortable, safe environment — when he returned she was snuggled on her sofa in her pajamas, hair in a ponytail, wearing no makeup. He dropped to one knee and asked her to marry him. “It was my dream proposal from my dream man,” she says.

After eight grueling hours, four different wedding dresses and two hair and makeup changes, Keith flashed her bright smile one last time and the photo shoot was over.

Dealing with tragedy
The excitement of winning the Billboard Bride competition and performing in the photo shoot helps mask recent tragedy. Courtney’s fiancé, Colin Matheny, lost his mother and two of her friends in a terrible automobile accident. “[Courtney] and her fiancé have endured so much the last couple of months; I really feel this is just what they needed before Courtney walks down the aisle,” Eilleene says.

Tragedy can impact relationships in different ways. For this couple, it brought them closer and made them stronger. Though it has been hard, they don’t focus on the negative. They know Colin’s mother is with them in spirit and will be with them on their wedding day.

Strong and caring
Keith is the perfect person to represent the Bridal Extravaganza Show because her reasons for wanting to be the Billboard Bride revolve around others. She wants to share her happiness, have future brides feel her joy and make her fiancé proud. “I am a strong woman,” she says. “I hope other women can relate to me because I am personable, proud and confident. This is an experience of a lifetime, one that I will never forget,” she says. She is sharing it with everyone she can reach, even if only through her mile-high smile on Houston billboards.

Get this look: Gown: Ventura’s Bridal, Hair & Makeup: Your Makeup Expert.com, Bouquet: Fresh Blooms of Houston, Photography: Studio Milano

 

Michelle Usher

January 2008 Winner Michelle Usher

Meet the billboard bride

Hundreds of brides-to-be responded to the Bridal Extravaganza Show’s call for a woman to appear on billboards throughout Houston

by Robin Dupre

Being engaged and planning your special day is one of the most exciting times in a girl’s life. The details, the worry, the joy, the countless thoughts running through your mind can be exhausting. Bride-to-be Michelle Usher attended July’s Bridal Extravaganza Show looking for ideas and inspiration to plan her big day. While browsing through the aisles, she saw a contest for Houston’s next Billboard Bride. “I dropped my name in the box not thinking that they would actually call,” she gasps. “Next thing I know, they do.”

Usher received the congratulatory call telling her that she would be the face of the Bridal Extravaganza Show while getting ready for work. “I was in shock initially, but then it set in. I had two dreams in life — to meet my true love and to be successful at whatever I do. Both goals were met this year.”

Bridal Extravaganza Show officials decided to embark on this journey when owner and recent bride Laurette Veres graced the show’s billboards last year. She was overcome with emotion when she looked up and saw her picture on a billboard. “Getting married is such a special time in your life,” she says, “Each time you see your bridal portrait, you are reminded of your special day.”

After receiving tons of feedback from family and friends on how using a real bride on the billboards was a good idea, the wheels for the city-wide contest were set in motion. “Why not ask Houstonians to be a Billboard Bride?” Veres asks. “As soon as I saw the billboard, I knew I needed to share this feeling with other brides.”

The response was overwhelming. Hundreds of engaged ladies entered the contest and weeks were spent narrowing down the selection to eight finalists. A test photo shoot was conducted to determine who would be able to captivate Houston’s drivers as the next Billboard Bride. It was a daunting task for the panelists to choose as each woman had beauty and a great personality. Usher won over the judges with her poise and personality. As her test shoot ended, her radiance was still beaming. “We loved her confidence and beauty,” says Veres.

Usher has had a whirl-wind year. After a bad ending to a previous relationship, she decided to get out and mingle with friends. While watching television one night, her sister convinced her to try out for the reality show “The Bachelor.”

“I thought why not?” she says. “I was single and wanted a break from everything. I didn’t necessarily want to be in a relationship, I just wanted to go for the experience.” She qualified and almost made it to the final end. Out of thousands of would-be contestants, Usher was ranked No. 30; however the show allows only 25 ladies. “I am so glad I didn’t go,” she says. “If I did, I never would have met Sam.”

Usher, a law clerk, did not want to date a lawyer. However, after frequent run-ins with her groom-to-be at the courthouse she says the attraction was too much to bear. From the moment Usher’s fiancé laid eyes on her, it was love at first sight.

Sam Cammack III, an attorney in Galveston County, is the lucky guy. With a successful career, the only thing missing in his life was love. He can’t stop expressing his admiration for Usher and claims she is the most incredible woman he has ever met. “There were instant sparks,” he says. “Our attraction isn’t fake — you can’t fake what we have.” When he learned she was the contest winner, he was ecstatic. “I am glad that everyone will see [the beautiful girl] I get to see and be with everyday,” he says. “My greatest success in life is her.”

At the photo shoot, Usher donned five dresses by Houston-based designer Winnie Couture, and flashed her bright smile for six long hours. Throughout the day her enthusiasm didn’t diminish. “Because of Christ and finally accepting myself for who I am, my dreams are finally coming true.”

After prepping her hair and makeup, the fun began. The panelist agonized about which dress she should wear, then narrowed it down to two; one from the Winnie Couture selection and her own wedding dress. “Let’s just say I am getting much use out of this dress,” she laughed.

Fresh Blooms of Houston contributed two custom flower bouquets for the shoot. Hair and makeup was styled by Andrea Schutter, whose work has appeared in national magazines for 20 years. The photo shoot was a success. “I can’t believe this happened!” she exclaims. “I have had such an amazing year and this experience was icing on the cake. Can you believe my face will be all over Houston?”

Yes, we can.

Get this look: Gown: Winnie Couture, Hair & Makeup: Andrea Schutter, Photography: Debbie Porter, Bouquet: Fresh Blooms of Houston

Billboard Bride Ericka Engen

Ericka Engen Ericka Engen loves sports.  This Rice University graduate student gives private basketball lessons and is the Houston Texans’ # 1 Fan. Her competitive experience served her well as she successfully battled to be the next Billboard Bride.

She met her fiancée, Garrett Graham, at the University of Wisconsin where he was a tight end for football team; she played basketball.  Early dates included games of “HORSE” and tossing a football. Things evolved. When he was drafted into the NFL, she knew she would be moving with him.

“Garrett and I were so excited when we found out he would be playing for the Houston Texans,” she says.  They were sitting with his family in his hometown, Brick, New Jersey, when they found out.  “We were both so nervous and anxious to find out where we would be living.” They love it here in Houston.

Shortly after the conclusion of last year’s football season, Garrett popped the question at Brenner’s on the Bayou.  He uncharacteristically wanted to go for a walk on the luscious grounds.  It was there he got down on one knee and asked her to marry him.

As the new billboard bride, Ericka was surrounded by wedding professionals, each maximizing their specialty to make Erika’s photo shoot a success.  Photographer Akil Bennet’s skills were called upon to capture the perfect shot.  His casual studio in the Heights was the perfect setting to put Ericka at ease and get her used to smiling for the camera.

For many brides-to-be, it all starts with the gown.  Our billboard bride is no exception. When the team at Ventura’s Bridal saw Ericka’s blonde hair and brown eyes they knew they had to have something fabulous.  They chose two looks for the photo shoot. The first gown is Maggie Sottero from the Sottero & Midgley line. It features over-the top bling with a Swarovski Crystal encrusted bodice with full tulle skirt.  According to Jessica Bennett, bridal consultant at Ventura’s Bridal, this special gown is one of the first gowns Princess Kate chose to try on during her gown selection experience. “We chose this gown because of the heavy embellishments.  We thought it would really pop,” she says.

One quick costume change and Ericka’s look was completely different.  “We loved the idea of the black belt and black gloves on top of a romantic lace dress,” continues Bennett. This look really encompasses the hopeless romantic look.

The floral bouquet is a key element to the billboard, providing a touch of color.  “Flowers should express who the bride is,” says Sarah Cain of Sarah’s Florist. “This is the newest trend in color.  Lavenders and pinks with shades of purple are on trend for 2012,” she says. Flowers such as roses, freesia, dahlias, and assorted garden flowers bring this work of art to life.  As an added bonus, special jewels are added to enhance the stem.

The second bouquet is for the strong-minded bride.  The colors are strong and can also be quite elegant.  This bouquet features Cymbidium orchids, calla lilies, hydrangeas, gerbera daisies, roses, and cockscomb.  “The touch of Swarovski Crystal jewels ads a real pop for the bride,” says Cain.  The band featured on the stem can be worn as a bracelet after the wedding.

Robin Wormington of Airbrushed by Robin was tapped to transform Ericka’s hair and make-up.  Robin created a modern look with dramatic eyes and a softer, more natural face. To fight Houston humidity, the hair is teased and curls are intertwined.  “We believe in the perfect blend of beauty,” says Wormington.  She uses airbrush makeup with traditional cosmetics to achieve a natural, flawless look.  The airbrush spray foundation lasts 14-16 hours and is water and sweat resistant.  “I truly believe you should be comfortable with your hair and make up artist. We are there for you,” she says.

Overall, the experience of being the billboard bride was once in a lifetime for Ericka.  “This has made my wedding planning experience day even more special,” she says.

Get this look:

Ventura’s Bridal

Airbrushed by Robin

Sarah’s Florist

Akil Bennett Photography

July 2011 Winner Rachel Ballard

Bridal Bliss

Like many little girls, Rachel Ballard dreamt about meeting her Prince Charming, and knew Ryan was the one.  On Oct. 8th all of her dreams came true.  Not only did her Prince propose, he surprised her with a confirmed wedding date at The Bell Tower on 34th; he knew it was her venue of choice.  She’ll be engaged for exactly one year when she walks down the aisle.  She’s got a lot to smile about.  She has just been selected as the Bridal Extravaganza Show’s new Billboard Bride.  Look for her smiling face on billboards citywide this summer.

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Rachel’s picture will be featured on magazine covers, posters and dozens of billboards throughout the Houston area. Vendors of the Bridal Extravaganza Show worked together to make this natural beauty look her best.

The process started at Ventura’s Bridal with dress selection. “The goal was to find a gown that would really make a statement and, and this Enzoni strapless showstopper does just that,” says Taska Ventura. A perfectly placed veil completes the ensemble.

Houston’s hot, humid climate can be a bit hard on a girl’s makeup during long photo shoots, and weddings. Enter Hilda Kershman and her special talent of manually airbrushing on makeup. She created perfect balances of shades and colors that beat the Houston elements and kept Rachel looking great the entire shoot.

LZ Floral provided the flowers. Lara Zolten created three bouquets, ensuring one would be a perfect fit for the Billboard Bride. “My approach is to create an individual bouquet for each bride,” she says.

With all elements in place, the photo session was a breeze. “Rachel is a natural,” says photographer Steve Lee. “The hardest part is choosing my favorite picture.”  – Laurette M. Veres

Essentials:

Steve Lee Photography 832-380-4004

Ventura’s Bridal 713-880-2364

Hilda Kershman 281-631-9090

LZ Floral 281-813-5145

The Bell Tower on 34th 713-868-2355

January 2011 Megan McQuary Billboard Bride

Counting on Love

Meet Megan McQuary the new Billboard Bride
By Laurette M. Veres

“I’m not a model, I’m an accountant, but I’m marrying a man who makes me feel like the most beautiful bride in the world.”
Megan McQuary Megan McQuary met Jake Stephens during their internship at PriceWaterhouse Coopers in Houston. They both returned to Texas A&M for post-graduate work and started spending time together. Friendship blossomed into romance amid studies for their CPA licenses.
They spent countless weekends in Seguin, Texas at the Stephens Family’s lake house. After one perfect day: Rolando’s Super Tacos, massages at Sergio’s and margaritas at Rio Rio on the San Antonio Riverwalk, he popped the question while they were sitting in a rowboat on the lake.
Planning a wedding without a planner, Megan was overwhelmed by the to-do list. She attended the Bridal Extravaganza Show and succeeded in securing transportation, DJ, florist, and cake.
Twice each year, the Bridal Extravaganza Show selects a new face to represent the largest bridal show in the country on billboards in the greater Houston area. Megan is one of thousands of brides-to-be who applied for this honor.
The photographers at StudioCAPTURE were tapped to capture this young bride-to-be. From their studio to beautiful Buffalo Bayou, their expertise in lighting and composition provided the perfect citywide shot.
According to Taska Ventura, Billboard Bride sponsor and owner of Ventura’s Bridal, “The young ladies who apply for this honor seem to be more qualified each show.” As this promotion gains more attention, the competition becomes increasingly challenging. Megan selected her gowns for the photo shoot from the vast collection at Ventura’s Bridal.
Leah from Your Beautiful Face was on hand to create the perfect big day look. “You should look like a glamorized version of yourself on your wedding day,” she says. Leah used a blend of purples and browns to make her eyes pop.
Fantasy Florals and Sweets provided three custom bouquets for the shoot. The fall bouquet was fun and whimsical with tiny pineapples adding depth. According to Teri Butera, “a monochromatic bouquet with hints of plumb is hot this season,” she says. “We also provided a more traditional bouquet with pink roses.”

You can be the next billboard bride!

Megan will appear on billboards citywide. She will also be on hand at the next Bridal Extravaganza Show January 8-9, 2011 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. All brides-to-be in attendance are eligible for this honor.


Get this look: Gown: Ventura’s Bridal, Hair and Make-up: Your Beautiful Face, Photography: StudioCAPTURE, Bouquet: Fantasy Florals

Marisa Melancon

July 2010 Winner Marisa Melancon

Marvelous Marisa

By Laurette M. Veres

Photography by Chris Wineinger

Marisa Melancon I have just arrived at the photo shoot for this summer’s Billboard Bride:  Marisa Melancon. Her auburn hair and bright smile illuminate Chris Wineinger’s studio.  Wineinger captures the perfect shot.  “She’s a natural,” he says.  “Every smile is right on.” The quintessential “cheese cake cutie,” Marisa shares her romance with the world.

Twice per year, the Bridal Extravaganza Show selects a new face to represent the largest bridal show in the country on billboards in the greater Houston area.  All brides who attend the event are eligible. This coveted honor is a gift not available on any registry.

According to Tasca Ventura, Billboard Bride sponsor and owner of Ventura’s Bridal, “We look for a new fresh face each show.  We were impressed by the stylish and professional attitude of all the contestants.”  Marisa selected her gowns for the photo shoot from the vast collection at Ventura’s Bridal.

Heather from Hues by Heather was in charge of hair and make-up.  She created a timeless, natural look.  She recommends natural and neutral so portraits are not dated.  She always uses fake lashes for portraits and if the bride is comfortable, she recommends them for the big day.

Carmen’s Floral Designs provided a custom bouquet for the shoot.  Although some brides opt for a traditional monochromatic bouquet, Carmen opted for color.  “The bouquet will really pop on a billboard,” says Carmen.

A graduate of Texas A&M University, Marisa says, “College Station is the city of love.”  She met Kole Puckett through mutual friends their freshman year.  Later they discovered, there were actually born in the same hospital six days apart.

You may be familiar with Texas A&M folklore (how many Aggies does it take to change a light bulb), but unless you are a former student, you may not know about the Century Tree.  Tradition dictates if you walk under it with your significant other, you will marry someday.

Kole lured Marisa there a few days before graduation.  When she arrived, he was standing in the center of a huge heart.  A heart created with candles.  This is where he got down on one knee and proposed.  After dinner at Messina Hof Winery, they went on to a friend’s house – for a surprise engagement party.  All of this happened just three weeks before the Bridal Extravaganza Show.  Needless to say, Marisa and her mom were giddy as they attended the famed Houston event.

“I can’t believe I will appear on billboards all over town,” she says.  “This has made my already wonderful experience even more meaningful.” Marisa and Kole are planning a fall wedding at Spring Chateau.

Get this look: Gown:  Ventura’s Bridal, Hair and Make-up:  Hues by Heather, Photography:  Chris Wineinger, Bouquet: Carmen’s Floral Designs

 

Are You the Next Billboard Bride?

Heather Hess

You can be the next billboard bride!

Each show, the Bridal Extravaganza selects a Houston area bride to represent the show on billboards citywide.  To be eligible, attend the show and stop by the BE THE BILLBOARD BRIDE booth.  Simply sign in and you will receive an e-mail inviting you to enter the competition.  It’s that simple.

 

Emelie Jester

Emelie Jester

July 2009 Winner Emelie Jester

      Please Welcome Houston’s New Billboard Bride

By Shyla Batliwalla

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”—Nora Ephron, “When Harry Met Sally”

Emelie Jester wanted the rest of her life to start on a fall day in Central Park. She took her first trip to New York this past November. Her boyfriend, Tray Black, woke her up early on Saturday morning to show her the sights of the big city: the “Tray-Nickel tour” he called it. À la Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big, the two hopped a carriage ride through the park. The leaves were bright shades of ochre and the air was crisp; it was a picturesque day. After the carriage ride, Tray found the perfect bench facing a waterfall and he and Emelie took a seat. Everything seemed normal until . . . he got down on one knee. Overcome with emotion, Emelie immediately shrieked, “Yes!”

Two months later, when her cell phone rang and she experienced a similar rush of emotion; Emelie Jester would be Houston’s newest Billboard Bride. Her sweet smile, distinctive beauty, and the unconditional love she radiated for her groom led her to be chosen out of the 350 applicants. She was enjoying a quiet afternoon at home when she received the news. After a loud round of shrieking, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” She immediately called Tray who ran around the office boasting to all of his coworkers, “My bride-to-be’s face is going to be on a billboard!” Since that fateful afternoon, everytime Emelie drives on the highway and glances up at a billboard she giggles secretly to herself and thinks that’s going to be me up there . . .

Being Houston’s Billboard Bride holds a deep emotional poignancy for Emelie. Soon after she and Tray started dating, her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and his brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Allied in grief, Tray and Emelie united together. They taught one another how to cope. Together, they found the inner strength to rise above these tough times. Emelie’s mother lost her battle to pancreatic cancer this past December, just a month after she got engaged. So, Emelie is dedicating her win to the memory of her mom; “I know my mom would be so proud of me right now.”

She wants the wedding of her dreams to be an intimate affair—nothing too ostentatious. Crimson and cream, the colors of Tray’s Alma Mater are their chosen colors. Her advice to other brides is to, “cherish this time; it’s the happiest day of your life, make it your own.” Though they are yet to set a date (they’re planning on the first week of March, 2010) or choose a venue, one thing they know for sure is that Tray’s groom’s cake will be in the shape of an oilrig in honor of his job as the CFO of an oil and gas company.

Bigger than the fancy photo shoot, bigger than the flowing white gown, even bigger than the big day itself is the memory of Emelie’s mother. In Emelie’s words, “She has a better view from heaven if I’m up on a billboard.”

Get this look:  Gown: Ventura’s Bridal, Hair & Makeup: Your Makeup Expert.com, Photography: Laurie Perez, Bouquet: Events In Bloom