Rebecca Green and Jason Whiting share an experience that few couples have in common.
The personable couple, winners of the Dream Wedding at the Society Room of Hartford, met in a gastric bypass support group in August, 2008. Jason, a Bolton native, had already undergone his surgery in January, while Rebecca was preparing for her operation scheduled for November of that year.
“We’ve been through thick and thin,” Green says, taking a quote from a FOX CT story on the couple when they became the Dream Wedding winners. The pair will be married April 15 at The Society Room in downtown Hartford.
The couple decided to enter the contest after meeting Mar Jennings, a lifestyle expert for FOX CT, at a wedding expo in January. “Jason and I had a date set, so [the Dream Wedding] was not something we were aspiring to get,” says Rebecca, who grew up in Visalia, Calif., and moved to Connecticut as a young adult. “But I thought we should apply. We’re fun people who like to have new experiences, even if it’s just rafting down the river.”
Rebecca and Jason, who live in New Britain, share an active lifestyle. They enjoy snowboarding, bicycling, working out at the gym and walking their two dogs, activities that were difficult - and sometimes impossible - when their weight was an issue. Jason, chief marketing officer at the telecommunications company Aeon, Inc. in Wallingford, shed 200 pounds. Green, an assistant nurse manager of Surgery 7 at the John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, lost 100 pounds.
Both have maintained their weight loss and continue to attend support group meetings. “They’ve been voting for us,” Green says. “They’ve seen our relationship grow because that’s where we met. That’s been fun for us.”
For Jason, continuing to attend meetings helps him from “falling back into the old patterns.” The support group “has become a big part of my life because I enjoy helping others,” he says.
While the Dream Wedding, like every wedding, puts the spotlight on the engaged couple, the pair also hopes that their special day will have another purpose. “We’d like to get the word out” about the positive aspects of gastric bypass surgery, says Jason who used his retirement savings to pay for the operation when his insurance would not cover it.
“With weight loss surgery, society sees it as an easy way out,” Green says. “But it’s a lifelong commitment. I want to show that surgery is not something to be ashamed of. Surgery is not the answer; it’s a tool.”
Jason was smitten at that first group meeting, although the two didn’t begin dating until December of 2008. “I saw her and thought she was cute,” he says. “We just talked at the support group, but I was definitely interested.”
At a meeting shortly before her surgery, Rebecca asked the group members to exchange e-mail addresses. “I jumped at the opportunity to have hers,” he says. Later, when they began dating, Rebecca confessed that asking for all of the addresses was a cover for obtaining Jason’s address. “We were pretty shy about talking to each other,” he says, but “we were in the same mindset.”
The surgeries and their chance meeting changed their lives – or rather, they changed their lives, Rebecca is quick to point out. She describes going through a year of counseling and education with a dietitian and therapist before her surgery. “I learned about my addiction,” she says. Whiting, who enjoys cooking and baking, has adapted his recipes to fit their more healthful diet. “Part of the fun of cooking is tweaking recipes here and there,” he says. “I like that challenge.”
The couple has come to the end of a whirlwind of choices, tastings, fittings and voting deadlines. “All the sponsors have been really nice,” Jason says. “They understand that as much as this is a promotional opportunity, it’s our wedding and they’re working hard to make sure we’re happy.”
Rebecca says that, as a young girl, she fantasized about her wedding day, but when she and Jason decided to pay for their wedding themselves, they scaled back on some of their ideas. Winning the contest changed everything.
“When you’re planning a do-it-yourself, low-budget wedding, you don’t expect to dream,” she says. “This really is a dream wedding, a dream come true.”