Like many grooms, Jason Schnitzer wants to give his bride-to-be the wedding of her dreams.
Unlike many grooms, the Los Alamitos High School graduate has a one in three chance of netting a lavish walk down the aisle for free.
Schnitzer and fiancée Briana Hainley are one of three finalist couples in a national contest to win the Brides Live Wedding contest — an all-expenses-paid wedding at St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, complete with a free tux, free dress, free wedding rings and a free Cayman Islands honeymoon.
Hundreds of couples entered the contest, sponsored by Brides Magazine, and Schnitzer and Hainley made the final three. From Feb. 10 to Feb. 17, editors from Brides asked people to vote on Facebook for the winning couple.
Contest organizers will announce the winners Friday.
The winners will also receive a $5,000 donation to the charity of their choice. Schnitzer said he and Hainley plan to give to the money to the American Cancer Society.
A former Rossmoor resident, 26-year-old Schnitzer said he’s “feeling pretty good” about their chances.
“I’m staying optimistic,” he said.
At the same time, Schnitzer said he’d be disappointed if he lost, given how much effort he’s put into getting people to vote.
“This whole last week has been really stressful,” he said. “Seven days is a long time to make all your friends and family and total strangers make sure to go on and vote.”
Both Hainley and Schnitzer have lived in Long Beach. Schnitzer also lived in Rossmoor for a few years and graduated from Los Alamitos High School.
He'd never met Hainley before, but one of Hainley’s former aides, who happened to be Schnitzer’s assistant at the time, said Schnitzer should meet the schoolteacher and ask her to go out for coffee.
And that, as they say, was that.
“I do believe that she is my soul mate,” Schnitzer said. “You know, honestly, she is the most genuine, hardest working person I know.”
Schnitzer thanked everyone who voted for him and Hainley, especially since weddings are so expensive, he said.
“Our families just don’t have that kind of money laying around, and weddings nowadays are a cool $20,000 at any place you want to go," Schnitzer said.
And if he wins, he said, he'll be able to give his true love "the special day that she’s been wanting.”
After the contest winners are announced, from Feb. 25 through March 26, Facebook users will get to vote for what type of gown, shoes, tux, rings and registry items the winning couple should have at their wedding.
The winning couple will get a wedding cake baked and decorated by Buddy “The Cake Boss” Valastro of the world-renowned Carlo’s Bakery. Event designers Mayra Castillo and Xochitl Gonzalez of AaB Creates will orchestrate the big day.
Locals can tune in 7 p.m. April 7 Eastern Standard Time to see the entire wedding streamed live on at facebook.com/brideslivewedding.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Hainley as working at Cerritos Elementary School in Cerritos. Hainley works as a kindergarten teacher at Cerritos School in Anaheim.