The Very Best

Since nothing’s sacred on TV, NBC’s Today Show has been airing a summerlong segment in which one couple has their marriage planned entirely by viewers. Businesses compete on-air to provide the mandatory goods and services — the ring, reception, dress, cake, bride’s hairstyle, and honeymoon — with the winner chosen by Internet voting.

Allyson Smith, a striking 29-year-old brunette, watches the show every morning before work. An art director for a Kansas City ad agency by day, Smith has moonlighted as a designer for wedding invitations, birth announcements, parties and corporate events since May 2000. She works late nights, running the operation from home and advertising by word of mouth.

This year, she networked with a friend who networked with the network. In July, Smith got word that her one-woman company, How Inviting, Inc., would be facing off on the Today Show against three national paper barons, including William Arthur, a Hallmark design division.

Not to be too deep, wedding invitations do hold telltale signs about the future.

The invites are “a statement about the bride and groom’s personality,” Smith says.

Bride-to-be Seneca was a widow, so Smith had to work around the hyphen-based surname/designer’s eyesore common to American remarriages. She crafted a simple, elegant, gold-seal monogram entwining the couple’s first initials.

On July 30, just before the winner was announced, groom-to-be Chris seemed fired up. “I never thought I’d have an opinion on invitations, but I do,” he said.

Personality statement #1: Chris wanted a bland, formal, thrill-is-gone-style invite by Crane’s Paper Co. Personality statement #2: Seneca wanted a cartoon-cake graphic with comic book-style print.

Thankfully, the couple had no decision-making power whatsoever.

Roughly 378,000 buttinskies logged on to vote. When the digital dust settled, Matt Lauer announced that Smith’s design had won by a little more than 2,000 votes.

Since the show aired, requests for How Inviting, Inc., samples have jumped from one or two a week to around seventy. Smith’s apartment is now a meticulous stockpile of papers, ribbon and design pencils. She lives just off the Plaza, less than a five-minute victory walk from the Hallmark shop at Hall’s.

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