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Brian Udelhofen and Erin Hanrahan compete on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

Brian Udelhofen and Erin Hanrahan compete on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

Were their final answers good enough?

U students plan to use 'Millionaire' winnings to finance wedding

By Rick Moore

Feb. 2, 2007; updated Feb. 5

Editor's note: The drama is over for friends and acquaintances of Erin Hanrahan and Brian Udelhofen, two University of Minnesota students who appeared on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" on Feb. 5. Now that the show has aired, we can tell you that they won $25,000. Ultimately, they were stumped on the $50,000 question: "Which of these is not the title of a book in the popular "For Dummies" reference series? A) Breastfeeding for Dummies, B) Origami for Dummies, C) Ferrets for Dummies, D) Robot Building for Dummies?" They guessed the answer to be "C;" unfortunately, the correct answer was "B."

There's little doubt that this young couple is ambitious. Bride-to-be Erin Hanrahan is a law student at the University of Minnesota, and her fianc?, Brian Udelhofen, is a graduate student at the U in Geographic Information Science. Both are on track to graduate this spring.

But it's their ambitious decision to get up in the middle of the night and drive to Chicago for an audition that wound up paying unexpected dividends.

The audition was for the popular TV show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" for its special "Play to Pay for Your Wedding" week. Udelhofen and Hanrahan, who are scheduled to marry on Aug. 11, were one of the chosen couples, and their quest for the big money aired on Monday, Feb. 5, at 4 p.m. on KARE-11.

"This one time, at band camp..."

How wholesome is this? Udelhofen and Hanrahan did indeed first meet this one time at band camp when both were teenagers. They remained just acquaintances until Brian asked Erin out for an ice cream date. One thing led to another and soon they were going out for (gasp) coffee! Then finally, two years later, it was dinner on Valentine's Day.

"Is that your final answer?"

Their engagement story is a little more "Seinfeld" than "Mayberry R.F.D." Udelhofen disguised his intentions by saying they were going to Chicago for a concert by the underground hip-hop artist Lyrics Born. After a limousine took them to a hotel and Hanrahan figured out what was going on, she didn't respond with tears or a kiss. Her first reaction was to tackle Brian and scream at him, "Are you for real?"

They wound up going to the show, and the artist publicly dedicated a song he wrote for his wife to Udelhofen and Hanrahan.

The saga of their TV appearance began last summer, when they started looking at their finances. "We were crunching the numbers for our wedding," Udelhofen says, and figured "We had absolutely no way of paying for it." Then he says the thought occurred to them: "How cool would it be to be on 'Millionaire' to pay for our wedding?"

Hanrahan looked up information for the show online and discovered the special "Play to Pay for Your Wedding" week. "It was pretty much her idea. I was kind of reluctant," Udelhofen says. "She convinced me."

Audition day in Chicago was a story by itself. Although the mass auditions (for couples and regular contestants) didn't start until 9 a.m., Udelhofen and Hanrahan were told it would be best to arrive at about 5 a.m. when the parking lot opened. So they set the alarm for 3 a.m. at Hanrahan's parents' house in Racine, Wis., packed up some turkey sandwiches and hit the road.

After a chilly four-hour wait, Udelhofen and Hanrahan finally made it into the building with a group of 200-300 other candidates, where they individually took a 30-question trivia test. Both were among the 20 or so people from their group who passed that step. Then came a big questionnaire to fill out before they made it into a final pool of possible contestants. And finally, a call for the pair to travel to Manhattan on Nov. 16 for their show's taping.

At the studio, the couple went over details such as how to properly get into and out of the contestant chairs--all the while trying to contain their nerves. Unfortunately, breakfast and lunch buffets provided for the contestants didn't help. "It was pretty nerve-wracking," Udelhofen says. "We could barely stomach anything."

But, he adds, "I think it helped that we were there as a couple. I think we helped calm each other down."

They were also coached to be themselves, but if they got excited, to go ahead and show it. So how did they present themselves--as polite, restrained Midwesterners or screaming fools caught up in the moment? Says Udelhofen: "To be honest, I'm going to have to watch, myself, to see how we came off."

The couple had been sworn to secrecy prior to Monday's airing. But they've said that--in addition to wedding expenses--they would use their winnings to pay off student loans, and maybe splurge for a honeymoon to Greece.