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A Marriage Made in Cyberspace

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A Marriage Made in Cyberspace

Melanie Nelson and Peter Ginsberg at Rockefeller Center

When the TC Community found out that doctoral student and former Administrative Assistant to the Dean Melanie Nelson was planning to get married, there was a slight twist to the news. Melanie and her fiancé Peter Ginsberg, a lawyer, had, on a whim, entered a contest for an all-expense-paid wedding through NBC's Today show. Out of nearly 1,000 couples who had sent in written applications, Nelson and Ginsberg were chosen as one of the four finalist couples who appeared on Today to begin the "Today Ties the Knot" audience participation wedding plans.

The premise of the contest was that Today viewers would log on to the show's Web site to cast their votes for the winning couple and then, each week, vote for everything from hairstyles to the honeymoon. TheKnot.com, an uber-wedding Web site, coordinated the choices that viewers made. Many in the TC community helped in the decision-making process.

As the winning couple, Nelson and Ginsberg appeared weekly on the show to see what viewers had picked for them and would be choosing the following week. As the weeks went on, the audience selected a Carolina Herrera gown, wedding rings from Tiffany and an exquisitely decorated cake by Sylvia Weinstock. Occasionally, Melanie would send a subliminal message to the audience by holding up as many fingers to her face as corresponded with her favorite choice. "I got in trouble for that," she said.

Nelson and Ginsberg met at Hobart College in Geneva, New York, when Nelson sprained her ankle outside of Ginsberg's fraternity house. When she knocked on the door to get help, Ginsberg answered. They realized then that they had met once before, in passing, when he saw her walking by and at the same time saw a ring on the ground. He picked up the ring and handed it to her saying, "Put this on and don't ever take it off." And they went their separate ways, neither one knowing who the other was. When Ginsberg answered the door that day, Nelson was still wearing the ring he had handed her a year earlier.

By September 6, all the decisions for the wedding had been made, and, 200 guests and hundreds of spectators gathered in the Rockefeller Center Plaza outside the NBC studios to see the couple wed in a traditional Jewish ceremony. Those who couldn't attend the actual ceremony joined approximately 6 million viewers who saw the nuptials on television. "Peter and I were so glad to have won something we could share with so many people," Nelson said. "It was a blessing, too, since Peter's father had recently passed away, and planning a wedding ourselves would have been difficult."

"The day of the event was so beautiful," she said. "What made it so real and special was that they hid the cameras in the flowers. You didn't feel like you were on camera. We blocked out the fact that we were on television and enjoyed the moment."

A few familiar faces could be seen among the guests, including Katie Embree, former Associate Director of the Center for Educational Outreach and Innovation, who was the maid of honor. Susan Mescavage, a former employee of CEO & I and a doctoral student in Higher Educational Administration was one of the six bridesmaids who attended the couple with nine groomsmen. Former Dean Karen Zumwalt and her husband joined other TC students as guests.

During the 15-minute ceremony, the couple exchanged vows they had personally written. Melanie cried as the couple made their way down the aisle together. Today hosts Katie Couric and Matt Lauer gave the couple a champagne toast and announced that viewers had chosen Hawaii for their honeymoon. A salmon and challah French toast brunch, a menu also chosen by viewers, awaited them and their guests at The Sea Grill Restaurant in the outdoor ice rink area of Rockefeller Center.

While they did cut the cake, the couple did not have the chance to have a taste. "By the time we were done having photos taken, we were only at the reception for a half hour," Nelson explained. "All our guests were excited about celebrating with the Today celebrities."

A private reception on a yacht, The Jewel, was planned by their families, but the pair could only spend an hour with guests before leaving that afternoon for their week-long honeymoon at the Halekulani Hotel on Waikiki Beach and the Ritz Carlton in Maui, Hawaii.

Their "15 minutes of fame" as NBC's bride and groom of the year ended in early October when they appeared on the Today show with camcorder footage of their honeymoon. Now it's back to being a student in the School Psychology Program for the new Mrs. Ginsberg and a new position as research assistant for Professor Edmund W. Gordon.

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