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Published: Thursday, 6/26/2003

This is an `I do' for everyone to view

BY VANESSA WINANS AND TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Local lovers Seneca Bowers and Chris Janowicz are saying `I do' Sept. 3, and everyone with a television has a wedding invitation with a front-pew view.

Ms. Bowers, 33, of Erie, Mich., and Mr. Janowicz, 35, of Point Place, will tie the knot during a live Today show broadcast, beamed from Rockefeller Plaza, outside NBC's Window on the World studio in New York City.

Their nuptials will be a study in democracy, as viewers vote on Seneca's gown, Chris's tuxedo, the reception, and honeymoon sites - right down to rings and invitations.

It's all paid for by NBC, because Today viewers cast more than 300,000 votes and chose the local couple as winners of the show's annual “Today Throws A Wedding” contest.

As the Big Day draws nearer, they will appear weekly on live TV to learn what viewers decided for them. Votes will be tallied and their choices revealed each Wednesday during the show. They have no veto power, but they may choose their own officiants and attendants.

Ms. Bowers, owner of a vending business, said she doesn't mind having someone else - or everyone - make the decisions.

“We're excited about it because we're a little indecisive, and now that pressure's off,” she told Today hosts yesterday morning.

By afternoon, the bride-to-be was coming back to Earth.

“It was almost surreal,” Ms. Bowers said, driving home from the Detroit airport after the big morning in New York City.

Ms. Bowers and Mr. Janowicz were one of four couples to make the contest's final cut, NBC publicist Lauren Kapp said. The network wouldn't reveal the vote breakdowns, or how much they'll spend on the couple.

Before the announcement was made, Ms. Bowers said she was prepared to offer congratulations to the winning couple.

The Today show staff “kept telling us we had a 75 percent chance of not winning and only a 25 percent chance of winning.”

Mr. Janowicz, a tool maker at Precision Masking in Erie, said it was just starting to sink in. “It's breathtaking,” he said.

A camera crew followed the couple from the airport yesterday to film their homecoming and interview their families. No one had considered they might be planning their wedding in a fishbowl, the groom-to-be said.

Ms. Bowers is the mother of two boys, Teague, 11, and Braxton, 6. She was widowed in February, 2001, and said she never expected to find another love. She met Mr. Janowicz on a blind date - a formal dance at a local boat club. “I felt like Cinderella that day,” she said. “I never thought I'd be happy again. But after I met Chris, everything turned around.”

Eight weeks ago, Ms. Bowers was on the other side of the barrier at the Today show during her first trip to the Big Apple, helping to chaperone a class trip.

They stopped by the Today show to wave and mug for the cameras.

She'd begun filling out an application for the “Today Throws a Wedding” segment at the suggestion of her friend, Gina Jacoby of Toledo, but had left the long, unfinished form in the hands of her fianc .

“I was surprised when we got back to find it completed,” she said. It was submitted just minutes before the May 2 deadline.



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