This past year, we profiled extraordinary couples who triumphed over many challenges and overcame the odds to get married, as well as those who opened their hearts and helped others in need. Their kindness, resilience and unwavering courage serves as a reminder of what's truly important on the wedding day.
12. Couple honors late son in their wedding photos in the most amazing way
This couple's eight-year-old son, Lake, lost his battle with leukemia five months before their wedding day. The bride, Anna Bozman, wanted a way to represent that he was still with them every step of the way, so after the wedding, her photographer, Brandy Angel, incorporated a faded picture of Lake into a photo with the rest of the family. "Although I felt [Lake]'s presence that day and I was actually happy, it was almost unbearable to take family pictures without him," Bozman wrote in a Facebook post. "I could feel my emotions taking over after the ceremony when it was time to take pictures... I needed this picture more than [Angel] or anyone could ever know. THIS is my family. And we will be together again."
Photo Credit: Brandy Angel Photography
11. This couple re-created their wedding photos for their 40th anniversary
How do you celebrate 40 years of wedded bliss? This couple decided to take their wedding-day attire out of storage and re-create some of their favorite photos from their wedding day! “They met in a bar called The Lower Level and his first words to here were ‘You wanna boogie?’” their son, Jay Johnson, shared on Reddit. “If that isn’t the start of a great love story, I don’t know what is.”
Photos courtesy of Jay Johnson via Reddit
10. Flower girl and ring bearer marry 20 years after first walking down the aisle together
Briggs Fussy and Brittney Husbyn met when they were just three years old, serving as the ring bearer and flower girl, respectively, at Fussy's godmother's wedding in Minnesota. Decades later, the pair made a second trip down the aisle together — this time as husband and wife! The newlyweds, both 22 years old, revealed to ABC News that their paths didn't cross again until their freshman year of high school. "We were in class, and she had a picture with her from the wedding," Fussy said. "I started to laugh because it was the same one we had hanging in the hallway at home, but I never knew who she was. That wedding was the only time I ever saw her." Their relationship took a romantic turn in their junior year of high school. Fussy went on to attend the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse while Husbyn studied at Minnesota State University, Mankato. CNN reports that a few years into the long-distance relationship, Fussy switched to Minnesota State to be with his future wife. "I knew I was going to marry her," he says.
Photo courtesy of Briggs Fussy
Photo Credit: Alix Rae Photography
9. Act of kindness: Stranger anonymously purchases bride's wedding gown
Elizabeth Jensen went shopping for her wedding gown on February 20th but once she found "The One," something remarkable happened; she discovered that a complete stranger had already bought it for her! Carrie Ling, the co-owner of Elizabeth Cooper Design (the store where Jensen got her gown), reveals that the do-gooder shared her intention to pay for a fellow patron's gown but wished to remain anonymous. Deseret News reports that had it not been for this mystery woman's generosity, Jensen might not have been able to afford the $480 dress. The seventh of eight children, money was tight in her family, and she was worried about paying for her upcoming college tuition bill (she attends Brigham Young University). She and her fiancé Jimmy Gillespie plan to pay it forward at their May 1st wedding by having a station where guests can pledge to be kind and do a service for someone else. "You don't necessarily have to go buy a person's wedding dress to help someone. It is in the little things that hearts will be touched and softened. This experience has changed my lifelong perspective," Jensen tells The Daily Mail.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Jensen on Facebook
8. Mom saved letter for 20 years to give to daughter on her wedding day
When Brooke Zugg was just 18 months old, her adoptive mother Sherry wrote her a sentimental letter that she saved until her wedding day. More than 20 years later, on March 7, 2015, her daughter was finally able to read the words that she had written when she was a newborn. The mother of the bride even had the letter printed onto a piece of her own wedding dress as a special memento. Watch the video:
7. The sweet story behind Marine's viral wedding photo
A moving photo of a Marine and his wife praying at their wedding went viral over Memorial Day Weekend, serving as a reminder of what the holiday is truly about: honoring the service men and women who sacrifice their lives for our freedom. Corporal Caleb Earwood, 21, and his bride Maggie, 22, said "I do" on May 23rd in Asheville, North Carolina. Just moments before their ceremony, they took a few minutes to be alone in private, holding each other's hands as Caleb recited a special prayer for their new life together. Not wanting to break tradition, they stood in a doorway of their church, facing opposite directions so they wouldn't see one another. "As soon as their hands touched he started getting emotional," their photographer, Dwayne Schmidt, tells ABC News. "I tried not to cry and focus on what I was doing." To the couple's shock and amazement, they received an outpouring of support from veterans who thanked them for sharing their story.
Photo Credit: Dwayne Schmidt Photography
6. These wedding-day surprises stole our hearts this year
It's not uncommon to shed a tear or two during the bride's dance with her husband or father. However, at leukemia survivor Greta Perske's wedding on October 10th, guests were overcome with emotion when she dedicated a song to Danny Daniels, the bone marrow donor who saved her life. The pair danced to "Angels Among Us" by Alabama for their special moment; a perfect song because not only did he save her life but also the lives of countless others as a former member of the Air Force National Guard. "To me, it was nothing short of a miracle,” Joe Perske, the father of the bride, tells The St. Cloud Times. “It was a day we didn’t know if it would happen.”
Photo Credit: Phodot Photography
Another dance we'll never forget is the father-daughter tribute dance of a fallen police officer. Four officers came together to support Kirsten, the daughter of Piece County Deputy Sheriff Kent Mundell, who was killed in the line of duty in 2009 while responding to a domestic dispute. Kirsten started off the dance with Jones before being surprised by her father's close friends and fellow members of the law enforcement community. "All of a sudden, someone taps me on the shoulder and says, 'Can I cut in?' and I was shocked. I didn't know how to react, how to respond," she told KOMO News. "He said, 'There's a whole line of us,' and right as he said that is when the next officer cut in, and I just broke down."
Photo Credit: Angela Lyons
Jim Mickunas hit a home run with his unconventional wedding "dance" with his daughter. The duo started off dancing to Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World," but about 20 seconds into the song, the DJ switched it to John Fogerty's "Centerfield" — and handed baseball gloves to the father and daughter! They indulged in a little friendly competition as they whipped the ball to each other, before Jim's last surprise — he passed off his glove to his new son-in-law to continue the game of catch. Watch the video:
5. Forever and ever: A bride's heartbreaking account of what it was like to lose her husband at 24
“If it turns out that this is incurable, would you marry me?” is not your traditional marriage proposal, but then again, Andy and Sarah McBride haven’t lived traditional lives. They met after literally running into each other at a White House reception honoring the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, and quickly found that they had far more in common than their transgender history. They both had a passion for law and politics, a love of “trash television” as he would call it, a desire to travel, and incessant need to be right. In no time, they became partners and best friends. But their relationship took on a whole new dimension when Andy was diagnosed with oral cancer in his tongue, which later spread to his lungs. They chose to cherish whatever time he had left by getting married. "So many medical professionals said, given your state, you shouldn't have made it to the wedding. But you did. I don't know if you held on for me or for you. But, in the end, you gave me the best gift anyone could ever ask for," Sarah writes. Read more ►
Photo courtesy of Sarah McBride
4. Groom's wedding vows to stepdaughter moved millions
Brian Scott, a NASCAR driver, married his wife, Whitney Kay, in McCall, Idaho, on a snowy day in January. Proclaiming marriage vows is an emotional experience for many couples, but what made their wedding ceremony strike a chord with millions of people online is that the groom recited a separate set of vows to his stepdaughter, Brielle. He got down on bended knee and promised always to tuck her in at night, to love and protect her, and to show her how a man should treat a woman through his relationship with her mom. The couple's cinematographer, PenWeddings, writes on YouTube, "Brian came into Whitney and Breezy's lives a couple of years ago, and his love for both of them is almost tangible. There were many amazing moments over their wedding weekend, but nothing touched us more than their sweet notes and vows to one another...except perhaps for Brian's vows to Brielle. If that doesn't bring you to tears, I don't know what will." Watch the video:
3. This father's beautiful gesture toward his daughter's stepfather made us cry
How do you thank a stepparent who's helped raise your child all these years? Father of the bride Todd Bachman decided to honor stepfather Todd Cendrosky by pausing the procession and asking if he would help escort their daughter, Brittany, down the aisle. "[Brittany's biological father] said, 'You worked as hard as I have. You'll help us walk our daughter down the aisle,'" Cendrosky told USA Today. "I got weak in the knees and lost it. Nothing better in my life, the most impactful moment in my life." Bachman's touching surprise made national headlines, and many were amazed to discover that the two men haven't always gotten along, which is what made the symbolic gesture even more special, because they put their child's needs first.
2. The Internet hailed this as "the best wedding toast of all time"
Sing it, sister! Kelsey and Maddie Hallerman performed a speech at their sister Caitlin's wedding that not only earned a standing ovation from guests but was so epically awesome that it went viral. The sassy co-maids of honor sang the story of how their sister and John (the groom) came to be husband and wife. We learn about the bride's childhood and how she didn't want boys around (to the tune of "I Want You Back" by Jackson 5). That all changed when she met John at USC, and they went on a movie date (to the tune of "Everybody" by Backstreet Boys). Watch the video:
1. This woman's canceled wedding turned into a celebration of life
Amber Jones experienced every bride's worst nightmare when her fiancé called off their wedding just a few days before it was supposed to take place. But instead of allowing her sorrow to consume her, she and her photographer documented the grieving that she (and her family) were going through to help the healing process. "I realized something truly beautiful happened out of all the ugliness...In the armor of my family's strength and support, I could face the battle of heartbreak without fear or humiliation. I cried. I laughed. I sang. I danced. And somehow, in an indescribable way, I won. Did I get married? No. Do I still have a lot grieving and healing yet to do? Yes. But all of that will be okay in time because, in the end, I got so much more than a wedding," Amber says.
Photo Credit: Leah Dorr
— Stefania Sainato