Liz Guthrie, a wedding planner from the San Jose area, can’t help but be a romantic. When working on a large scale wedding giveaway in 2009, she noticed just how many couples deal with circumstances preventing their dream weddings. Armed with her firm belief that “two people in love should never be denied the chance to marry their soulmate”, Guthrie hatched the idea of Wish Upon a Wedding.
The new and constantly growing nonprofit organization provides weddings and vow renewals to couples facing terminal illness or other serious life-altering circumstances, regardless of sexual orientation. When couples faced with such circumstances do not have the time or resources to plan their wedding, an enthusiastic and qualified group of “Wish granters” take care of all the details—allowing the couple to enjoy the day they’d always dreamt of in the company of close family and friends. The organization was officially launched nationally on Valentine’s Day 2010, with more than 20 current chapters serving Wish applicants.
The young Wish Upon a Wedding organization has already seen great success right here in Indianapolis. Monica Richard, MBC, ofDetail+Design, a premier event planning company, is the founding president of the Indianapolis Chapter. Along with 11 board members and more than 150 “Wish granting” companies, Richard watched with pride as the chapter was born in January 2011. After a successful launch party at the D’Amore downtown, the chapter was ready to spread its self-proclaimed “box of blessings” to couples in need. So far, the team of Wish granters has created two fairy tale weddings in the Indianapolis area—certainly with more to come.
“It means a lot to have a collaborative team of planners that might not have worked together before come together for the common good,” said Richard. “It’s a profession they love anyway, and everyone’s natural talents add up for a beautiful cause.”
Indianapolis’ new born Wish Upon a Wedding Chapter was pleased to grant its first wedding wish on April 7, 2011: a wedding for young couple Cory and Janice. As the two were at the height of their young lives, Monica Richard and the wish granters believed nothing should halt their dream day.
As if straight out of every young girl’s dream romance, the pair had been going strong for five happy years. However, they could not have foreseen the drastic curveball that life would soon throw—an impending change in Cory’s health that threatened all that the two had ever known. As a result of diabetes, Cory began to suffer from Diabetic Retinopathy with Macular Edema and Chronic Pain Syndrome—a condition resulting in blindness and more pain in a single day than some people experience in a year. At the start of 2010, Cory’s vision began to worsen, and he soon learned he would eventually be blind.
A romantic through and through, Cory had no greater wish than to be able to see his glowing bride Janice walk down the aisle—but time was of the essence as his condition was steadily worsening. Indianapolis’ chapter of Wish Upon a Wedding quickly enlisted its team of Wish granters—a force of volunteers exceeding more than 150 companies and individuals—to give Cory and Janice their dream wedding before his sight was completely gone. The two, along with their family and friends, were eternally grateful.
“I was always told that God has a ‘box of blessings’ for everyone…, and he just doesn’t give them to you, you have ask for them,” Cory said when discussing the initial stages of his condition. “A couple of weeks later, we get this phone call from Wish Upon a Wedding. They gave us something so wonderful that everyone should have, but most people can’t.”
The date was set, the small, intimate guest list of less than 50 was finalized, and Janice’s stunning bridal gown was carefully selected—but the wedding’s color scheme remained the most pressing issue of all. Because of Cory’s impending blindness, extreme color saturation in the ceremony’s decor was essential to his visual intake. The granters happily obliged, and the Eiteljorg Museum was transformed in vibrant shades of purple, red and orange.
Dazzling in a pure white dress on the big day, Janice walked down a purple aisle runner surrounded by bright orange décor. Her bridesmaids’ dresses popped in a shade of purple just as shocking as the aisle, and the church’s lighting was heightened in hopes of giving Cory the clearest view of his bride. Her bouquet of purple and orange flowers matched the colorful chairs, name tags and colossal wedding cake. The wish granters had pulled out every stop to make the pair’s colorful wedding a reality.
Even better, Janice and the team of Wish granters made sure that Cory’s other senses were treated to the most unforgettable experience possible. Janice wore a striking new perfume so that Corey would forever remember her scent on their special day.
Wish Upon a Wedding’s “box of blessings” also opened up for Sally and Tom in 2011, an older pair from the Anderson area, who did not meet in the most conventional of ways. In the midst of Sally’s game of Farmville, an interactive game on Facebook, Tom asked if she needed any help. If he assumed he’d be helping Sally tend her virtual sheep and cows, he was hilariously mistaken—Sally replied that “a new boyfriend would be nice.” As fate would have it, Tom was more than happy to oblige and their relationship quickly blossomed. Described as “the nicest man you’ll ever meet,” Tom would go to any lengths to make his new girlfriend the happiest woman in the world.
An unexpected diagnosis soon struck. Shortly after the two began dating, doctors diagnosed Sally with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The condition is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease might become totally paralyzed. There is currently no cure or treatment today that halts ALS, and thus doctors told Sally she had six to 24 months left to live.
After hearing the news, Sally and Tom stood in the hospital parking lot hugging for almost three hours. The diagnosis was shocking, but they knew they had to take the situation in stride and savor what time they had left together.
“I don’t believe people are stamped with an expiration date,” Tom said. “We all have blows, but I was dealt a ‘box of blessings.’” He would do anything to ease the pain. A long haul trucker, Tom was often on the road—but kept Sally at the top of his priority list. When he couldn’t tend to her, Sally’s sisters and daughters did everything they could to bring her comfort and help her live out her days to the fullest. Soon, Tom and Sally decided to tie the knot.
Indianapolis’ chapter of Wish Upon a Wedding and its team of wish granters quickly began planning an intimate wedding for 50 guests to celebrate the love of Sally and Tom. Virtually all elements of the wedding, from photographer to videographer to décor to ring, were covered by the organization.
Glossed in shades of black, silver and red, the Oak Hill Mansion was soon transformed for the May 1 wedding. Sally had requested to hold the event on this date as it was the first day of National ALS Awareness Month. The guests themselves created the altar centerpiece by each contributing a bouquet of cornflowers, the official flower of ALS.