With mom dying and $0 budget, couple plans beautiful wedding in 2 days
When a South Jersey woman's mother's cancer diagnosis took a turn for the worse — leaving her with little time left to live — wedding professionals from throughout Mercer County banded together to provide her a near-free wedding on just two days' notice.
The heartwarming story, as shared by Jessica from Pearl Event Planning, is shared below. The story is reprinted with permission:
It was just a normal Monday evening until 5 p.m. rolled in and we got an unexpected Facebook message from our photographer friends, Andy & Abigail from Abigail Gingerale Photography, about a close family friend in need. Erica and Darrell were engaged, but had yet to do much planning for their wedding when Erica’s mom received some sad news. The chemo was doing more damage than good and it looked like Cancer was going to win. There wasn’t much time left.
Erica and Darrell planned to go to the Justice of the Peace on Thursday at 2 p.m. so they could get married with Erica’s mom present. This broke Abigail’s heart. But she figured she would do what she could to help and asked if we could recommend anyone for hair and makeup. Not only did we know hair & makeup people, but Josh is ordained, so he offered to perform the ceremony at their home in lieu of going to the JOP. Then we all got to thinking, “If we’re available this Thursday and willing to help, I wonder if anyone else is?” We immediately got to work reaching out to our friends and colleagues.
My first call was to TC Cuthbertson, who runs The Rose Garden in Hamilton, NJ. Once we got confirmation that Erica’s mom was mobile, we secured The Rose Garden, and less than 24 hours later, Abby, Andy, Josh, and I had planned Erica & Darrell’s entire wedding. We had so many Wedding Professionals jumping at the opportunity to pitch in that we had to turn many vendors away. Everyone involved donated their time, their services, their products, all to bring this family joy before tragedy would tear them apart.
We asked Erica what her dream wedding would look like. She wanted a glamorous affair with the color scheme of black and white. She envisioned crystals and candles, but most importantly, she just wanted her family there. With a wedding budget of $0, we did the best we could by borrowing from our own rental inventory, as well as many of the other vendors involved in the day.
Erica called Abby Wednesday morning and said, “So umm, before we cancel the courthouse meeting … I just want to make sure … is this for real?” Yes, yes it really was.
The Rose Garden, in Hamilton NJ, opened their doors to us Wednesday morning so we could start to set up the space. Abby and Josh set up a lovely indoor ceremony with the venue’s chiavari chairs, and lattice trellis. We brought our own cylinder vases, pillar candles, and black lanterns. Abby found a gorgeous unity ceremony set and we decorated the table to feel more glamorous. Then Andy & his dad built an arbor for the couple to be married under. Behind that we hung our curtain of LED lights behind a white curtain, dimmed the lights, and voila! A stunning ceremony space.
All we told Erica and Darrell before the big day was what time to be ready so we got to surprise them throughout the day, and it was such a joy to see their reactions!
The day started with a pampering treatment for the girls. Erica, her daughter, and her mom got their hair and makeup done by a talented makeup artist, Tara from Underground Artistry, and her team. Erica told us she thought this was the only time her mother had ever had her makeup professionally done. It was also a first for Erica’s 15-year-old daughter. As a surprise, the women received some donated jewelry from Necessities for the Heart.
Now, they thought they’d be driving themselves to the venue and meeting her soon-to-be husband, Darrell and his son. But then we got to surprise them again. Diane from CAT Limousine pulled up to Erica’s home in a stretch white limo like something out of a movie, after already dropping off Darrell at the venue.
All of the wedding professionals arrived at the The Rose Garden around 10 a.m. and started unpacking, and preparing the venue.Thanks to our years of experience, and with Josh's meticulous logistical skills, we got it all done. We usually have three hours and a huge team of venue staff, but with our careful planning and management, we were ready in only an hour. Josh and I, Abby’s mother and 3 siblings, Andy’s dad, and one of our incredible assistant Day of Coordinators were dispatched between ceremony space and reception space, putting all the details in place.
Maureen and her staff from Quality Plus Catering set the buffet and dinner tables with their linens, our silver charger plates, our sparkly votive candles, some diamond table confetti Abby’s mom brought, floral centerpieces provided by florist Carly Totten from Carly is Inspired, and crystal globes from designer Cindy from Events to Perfection.
When Darrell arrived, Josh and I went to greet him. I had spoken to him for the first time earlier that morning, to make sure he was ready in time for the limo. He was so grateful for all we had done, he got a bit emotional when we hugged hello. I grabbed a tissue out of my emergency fanny pack, and then grabbed another for myself. But, we had little time, so getting back to business, I put his boutonniere on him and Andy stepped in to start taking some pictures.
I rushed back to help finish with all of the details before guests would begin to arrive.
At 11 a.m. we opened the doors, and Erica and Darrell’s friends and family started filing in. They grabbed a pack of tissues from the basket we put out, and walked to their seats. We got Erica out of the limo and told her she’d be walking down the aisle last, with her father at her side. She got emotional and said “I have an aisle?” This all happened so fast, she hadn’t yet fully grasped the fact that we were giving them a real, traditional wedding.
Bilingual DJ, Raul from UltraFonk, played sweet music as they walked down the candle-lit aisle and Mitch The Minister got the ball rolling on the ceremony. They laughed, and cried, and expressed their love to one another. Then Mitch led them through lighting the candles and Erica’s daughter and Darrell’s son performed the unity ceremony, truly signifying the bond of not just each of their parents, but the entire family. Rings were exchanged, big kiss, lots of cheering, and then they went off to the party!
We guided the guests next door to the reception space where we encouraged them to sit wherever they’d like, but we kept Erica, Darrell, and kids back for a brief portrait session with Andy & Abby.
After lunch and some speeches, Raul opened up the dance floor and everyone partied hard. I had to leave early, but Josh took my place on the dance floor for The Cupid Shuffle and before we knew it, the floor was packed! Josh normally stays on the sidelines during the reception until needed, but he knew I’d be pretty mad if he let that opportunity go. I’m a big fan of dancing during the reception, especially during The Cupid Shuffle. I love weddings for many reasons, and dancing is one of them!
After the reception, the amazing volunteers stayed to break down everything and pack it all up. But before the couple left, we were able to send them off with one last surprise. We gave them a “honeymoon in a basket”. We gave Abby the basket and she filled it up as her gift to the couple. It had a one night stay at a local hotel, $50 to Fridays and Outback Steakhouse, chocolate covered treats by Sweetzminis, Mr. and Mrs. Mugs from Parris Chic Boutique, and much, much more. All donated to make them feel special while her proud mom looked on.
It was such an honor and a pleasure to be a part of Erica & Darrell’s wedding! Thank you to everyone who participated and congrats again to the new Mr. & Mrs Meyers!!