Kaisha Sutton had just about had it with wedding planning. All she and fiancé Quinton Huguley had any real opinion about was the venue.
Everything else was up in the air. How much money did they really want to spend? How many people did they really want to invite? Was this big wedding really going to be worth it in the end?
Then, in late August last year, Kaisha found a way around it. She was skimming Facebook and saw an ad for an $80,000 wedding giveaway through Arena Stage. If she and Quinton won this, they wouldn’t have to worry about a thing.
The contest deadline was the end of the month, so they had to move quickly.
Kaisha set up her laptop in their Upper Marlboro townhouse and prepared to answer the question “What makes you the perfect match?”
Arena Stage’s inspiration for the contest was its production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” so the couple’s first challenge was a nod to one of the most memorable musical moments in the show, “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.”
Kaisha and Quinton had to sell their story to the show’s main character, Tevye (played by Tony Award nominee Jonathan Hadary), film it and upload it to YouTube.
In their quirky and rightly theatrical video, Quinton and Kaisha introduce themselves as proud college sweethearts.
They met in August 2008 on the first day of freshman year at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md.; survived an 8 a.m. introductory algebra class together; and became the couple everyone thought were a couple before they were really a couple.
“Administrators even started assuming that we were in a relationship before we really were,” says Kaisha, a program coordinator at the State Department.
The two spent extended periods at the campus cafe feasting on freshman-15-inducing fare such as buffalo chicken tenders and at class parties before deeming themselves an official couple that Christmas.
Their next year together involved the blending of friends as Quinton drifted toward the track team and Kaisha the school’s church group. They took their relationship seriously from the start but, after a year of dating, thought it best to give one another space so they could experience being single in college.
The two remained in touch, but it wasn’t until Kaisha left for a semester abroad in Ecuador the next year that Quinton made his true feelings known.
“The second I land in Quito, I get a message from Q asking if I can Skype later,” Kaisha says. “It was like we were starting all over again, and basically that night, we considered ourselves a couple for the second time.”
The Skype dates continued, and once Kaisha returned from Ecuador, they started building the supportive, caring relationship they had before.
“Just when I thought I had given up, she walked me right to the career center on campus, and I met someone who changed my life, basically,” says Quinton, a police officer at the Defense Department. “She wanted me to do well and cares about me doing well, and that’s when I definitely knew that this was for the long haul.”
Quinton and Kaisha wanted the best for one another, and through a good deal of hard work and humor to get through the tough parts, they both got just what they wanted. The pair landed in grad school after graduation in May 2012 and full-time employment soon after.
“Without him, I don’t think I could have done it. He didn’t just give me support through school, but he supported me through my life,” Kaisha says. “We met when we were just 18, and I don’t feel like I’ve ever stopped laughing around him.”
Last March, Quinton took Kaisha to “Michael Jackson: The Immortal Cirque du Soleil” at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, and after the show, he proposed.
Fun, trust and encouragement are big themes in the couple’s Arena Stage application video, which must have been just what the judges were looking for.
Three days after they hit “submit,” Quinton and Kaisha were notified that they had made it to the top three, edging out more than 100 applicants.
But they weren’t quite done: It was on to the second part of the contest. In a nod to “Fiddler’s” trademark song, “Tradition,” the three couples had to create a video explaining what tradition meant to them and what new tradition they’d like to start as a married couple.
It forced Kaisha and Quinton to think back on their own childhoods, their relationship thus far and, most important, their future life as a married couple.
They were stumped at first, but then recalled how their university had celebrated their class’s graduation.
“We buried a time capsule at the end of our time there, so then we started thinking about what fun things we could put in ours as a couple,” Quinton says. “There were so many ticket stubs and restaurant receipts that bring back our best memories that we knew that that was the best tradition we could start together.”
They posted their final video in late September, and then all they could do was wait. The winning couple — selected by Hadary and artistic director Molly Smith — was to be announced at an awards ceremony Sept. 30. The final three couples gathered at Arena Stage with the “Fiddler” cast, crew and director in attendance.
When it was announced that Kaisha and Quinton would receive a wedding estimated at $80,000, Kaisha cried, Quinton nearly blacked out (he was quite ill at the time) and all they could think about were the people who helped them get there.
On Jan. 2, Kaisha Sutton, 24, and Quinton Huguley, 25, took their places in the Molly Smith Study at Arena Stage and were married in front of 175 guests.
The room was designed to look like a winter wonderland and decorated in their college colors — navy blue and gold — to celebrate where it all began.
“I have to thank this contest for not only the prize, but also for making us realize how lucky we are to have one another,” Kaisha said before the wedding. “Those videos are silly, but they gave us an opportunity to talk about what we’d been through and showed us how appreciative we should be of one another. There’s nothing more valuable than that.”