Since getting engaged more than two years ago, Amanda Stage and William Kitchens had been saving for their wedding when they got the good news. Their wedding — including the honeymoon — will be free.

Jackson residents Stage and Kitchens are the winners of the Jackson United Methodist Church wedding giveaway. The couple was selected by the JUMC Radical Hospitality Committee out of eight entries, said JUMC Senior Minister John Brantley.

“It was very close. They were all qualified [entries]. It was hard to decide,” Brantley said. “It just worked out that they were the best fit.”

The wedding giveaway contest — complete with whatever is needed for a rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony and honeymoon — was open to couples who live in Butts County, have a financial need and are not members of JUMC.

The JUMC Radical Hospitality Committee made the announcement of the winning couple on Valentine’s Day.

When Brantley contacted Stage to tell her the good news the night before Valentine’s Day, she thought he was just calling to get more information for the giveaway.

After hearing they had won the free wedding, Stage said she shed tears of joy during the telephone call. And when she first told Kitchens they were the winning couple, he thought she was kidding.

“We’re just excited to finally have a wedding. We were talking about going to the courthouse,” Stage said, later adding, “We feel truly blessed.”

Stage is from Orange County, N.Y., and moved to Jackson several years ago. She works as a pre-kindergarten teacher in Conyers and teaches ballet, pointe and modern dance classes at T&K Studios in Jackson.

Kitchens lives in and has family in Jackson. He works for R&B Metal Structures, also in Jackson.

The couple met less than a month after Stage moved to the area. They were friends for six months before they started dating. For their first date, they went to see the laser show at Stone Mountain Park.

They got engaged on Dec. 23, 2011. Weeks later, Stage bought a wedding dress, but the couple has been saving for more than two years to buy the other things needed for their wedding.

Now, the JUMC wedding giveaway will take care of everything else. A number of details have not been determined, including the wedding date, but, so far, the couple has chosen to hold the wedding ceremony at Jackson United Methodist Church.

A JUMC church member, who wishes to be anonymous, has provided the couple with a place to stay in Orlando and tickets to Disney World for their honeymoon.

Stage and her mother, Wendy Pazdur, have joined creative forces before to plan a wedding and can make the name cards, centerpieces and invitations needed.

Six couples from the church with a variety of marriage experience have volunteered to take Stage and Kitchens out to eat before the wedding to share their personal insight and wisdom about how to make a marriage work.

The JUMC wedding giveaway will depend on other donations and volunteers from the church and, if needed, the community to provide the other items that will be needed, including flowers and food for the rehearsal dinner and reception.

Church members are getting excited about planning the big day, Brantley said. The JUMC Radical Hospitality Committee will meet with Stage and Kitchens sometime this week to work out other details about the wedding, including the date, Brantley said.

The couple planned to attend services at JUMC the Sunday after Valentine’s Day to show their appreciation, Stage said. They have attended service at the church once before and are considering becoming members there, she said.

“We’re looking for a place closer to go to church,” said Stage, who is a member of Eastridge Community Church in Covington. Kitchens is a member of Rock Springs Church in Milner, were the couple currently attend services.

Their long wait is over and now the couple can start to make final plans for their wedding day and honeymoon.

“We’re very thankful. We feel very blessed,” Stage said. “It just feels like it’s coming at a great time in our lives.”

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