Suburban couple's race to the altar

  • Annie Colbert and Tom Krieglstein are among the three final couples in the Today Show's Race to the Alter contest. If they receive the most votes, they'll win an all-expenses paid wedding. They met at College of DuPage.

    Annie Colbert and Tom Krieglstein are among the three final couples in the Today Show's Race to the Alter contest. If they receive the most votes, they'll win an all-expenses paid wedding. They met at College of DuPage. Courtesy Annie Colbert

  • Annie Colbert's competitive spirit and Tom Krieglestein's business ideas have earned them a chance to compete for a dream wedding from the Today Show.

    Annie Colbert's competitive spirit and Tom Krieglestein's business ideas have earned them a chance to compete for a dream wedding from the Today Show. Courtesy Annie Colbert

 
 
Published5/31/2008 12:03 AM

Annie Colbert and Thomas Krieglstein are possibly the hottest draw on morning television for suburbanites.

If the names aren't familiar, then you haven't been paying attention to the marketing effort they hope eventually will net them more local votes than anyone running for president.

 

Every Wednesday on the "Today Show," the couple provides snippets of insight about why they deserve the free, live wedding designed completely by viewers.

That's the price the final three couples are competing for in the Today Throws a Wedding: Race to the Altar contest.

"Out attitude going into the show is always to have fun," Annie Colbert said Friday.

Viewers know the orange shirts they wear on the show, their capacity to sell hundreds of dollars of cupcakes in just a few minutes, and their odd fashion sense when it comes to homemade wedding gowns.

What most probably don't know is the stressful nature of live television is possibly the last place Colbert's body would choose to be. Yet her fierce competitive spirit wouldn't have it any other way.

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In contrast, the entrepreneurial nature of some of the show's contests is exactly the type of place where Krieglstein has always shined.

Together, it's pure chemistry. Like Rocky and Adrian, they fill each other's gaps.

Colbert's gap comes in the form of lupus, a chronic autoimmune condition that can leave her bedridden for days at a time. In fact, she's spent each Sunday sick every week since the couple's run on the show began. Stress, it seems, is one of the major triggers that activates one of her "bad days."

But she's been dealing with those ever since she was 13 years old.

"Until she was 13, she hadn't ever really been sick," said Joy Colbert, Annie's mom. "She never even had to take anything stronger than Children's Tylenol."

But then a fateful tug-of-war game over a pair of socks with an older sister led to Annie cracking her head. The blow hurt the plates of her skull and damaged a nerve that runs through her body.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Overnight she became a semi-invalid," Joy Colbert said. "It was basically the end of life as she knew it."

The active girl who was rarely home was suddenly practically confined to a back bedroom at her Wheaton home. It wasn't until Colbert was 17 that she was diagnosed with lupus. The years up to then were a series of tests and drugs to treat symptoms, like her massive headaches. It was so bad, she couldn't even tolerate the noise at school and needed a private tutor to graduate.

"She never gave up, though," Joy Colbert said. "She found her own ways to be strong. Her tutor and I cried over the phone when we found out she got a 31 out of 36 on her ACT."

Indeed, it was scores like that that brought her to her current fiance.

Colbert became an honor student at College of DuPage. Krieglstein was already there. A year ahead, he, too, was an honors student, paying his own way through school with a work ethic that began on a small, organic farm in southwest Michigan.

The second youngest of five boys, he was always trying to catch up to his older brothers. In the effort, he often surpassed them. In Scouts, he sold more popcorn. In catch, he'd never quit until after his older brothers. Even in delivering newspapers, Krieglstein took over routes his older brothers had abandoned.

The family moved to Glen Ellyn, a path that would take him to College of DuPage. Krieglstein soon figured out he could make excellent money by selling his text books on Amazon.com rather than back to the campus bookstore. He made even better money when he started buying other student's textbooks from them and selling those on Amazon.com as well. And he reached business status when he began buying books by the pound from local bookstores looking to shed titles that wouldn't sell. Krieglstein also sold those on Amazon.com.

The businessman and the girl who wouldn't quit met while on an honors retreat. They stayed up all night in Geneva talking by a dock.

The two would go on to backpack through Europe together and spend difficult moments apart while in school only to unite into an unbreakable pair with an adventurous spirit. They now live together in Chicago.

"Every time we were apart and I'd see her again it was just another confirmation that she was the one for me," Krieglstein said.

The rest is developing into television history each Wednesday morning. They are now among the final three competing for the wedding prize.

And Krieglstein is putting his business innovations to practice again. They are using social-networking sites, e-mail blasts and old-fashioned fliers to solicit votes.

A win is probably the only way the couple will be able to afford a wedding that all their family and friends can attend.

"That's the dream part for me," Krieglstein said. "The show aspect is just how we've chosen to live our lives -- to always have the next chapter of adventure going."

How to vote

There are two ways to vote for Annie and Tom. Fans may vote twice each week by using both methods.

To vote for Annie and Tom by phone, text "3" to 46833 on your cell phone.

To vote through the Internet, go the "Weddings" section on the Today Show Web site: today.msnbc.msn.com/id/24596237/. Select couple No. 3, Annie and Tom (with the orange shirts).

Votes are reset each week. Couples with the highest vote totals move on to the next week.

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