By: Hollie Deese
Everybody deserves to have the wedding of their dreams, even if the future they have is uncertain because of a terminal illness. At least that is the idea founder Liz Guthrie had when she founded Wish Upon a Wedding in 2010.
Wish Upon a Wedding is a non-profit organization that provides weddings and vow renewals for couples facing terminal illness and serious life-altering circumstances, regardless of sexual orientation. It was founded by Guthrie in Santa Clara, California, as a way to celebrate the courage, determination and spirit of couples where one – or both – are facing a terminal diagnosis by granting their dream-wedding wish.
Qualified wish recipients must be diagnosed with less than five years to live, be a U.S. citizen and at least eighteen-years-old. The charity also grants a limited number of special circumstance wishes for individuals who have endured serious life-altering circumstances based on current available resources.
The charity also grants “Urgent Wishes” for individuals who are imminently ill. These smaller, intimate ceremonies may take place in a couple’s home, hospital or hospice facility within a few weeks after their wish is approved by the charity.
Since its inception the charity has provided more than 100 weddings.
Weddings are completely free for the individuals and most include a wedding planner, venue, caterer, rentals, photographer, videographer, cake, officiant, florist, stationary designer, DJ/musician, transportation and hair and makeup. Other items may be included depending on available resources and couple requests.
Though there is currently no Tennessee chapter, the organization is always open to Middle Tennessee wishes, and working with local vendors to make magic happen for couples facing a terminal illness.
From first couple to 100th
In 2009 Guthrie was producing a large-scale wedding giveaway in San Francisco when she realized that there were so many couples in need, and so many business owners willing to offer their time and services to couples, she wanted to expand the idea of donating dream weddings to couples across the country.
Out of the 350 couples that entered the giveaway, one bride-to-be stood out to Guthrie. She was battling Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while her fiancé, an officer in the U.S. Air Force, was deployed overseas. The couple won their dream wedding through public voting, and it was the success of that event that caused Guthrie to launch Wish Upon a Wedding. In 2014 the charity expanded to all fifty states.
Last fall, Wish Upon a Wedding was able to help their 100th couple, Anne and Jon, get married at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago among their closest family and friends.
Anne and Jon first met online in 2008 after Anne had undergone a mastectomy to treat breast cancer. Anne was worried no one would ever want her in her post-treatment state, but Jon accepted her and her children.
Bianca Hall of Estera Events Chicago led Anne and Jon through their big day.
“Working with Anne and Jon has reminded us exactly what true love and marriage is all about,” Hall said of the experience in a release. “Hearing them recount their story thus far and recognizing their strength as a couple is simply something you don’t see every day. When things get hard, they pull each other closer, and truly, that is a lesson we could all take notes from.”
Though Anne’s cancer has returned, the couple continues to have a positive outlook that has impacted everyone who worked to make their wedding possible.
“The day of the wedding, the look on Jon’s face when he saw Anne walking down the aisle brought us to absolute tears, and watching the two of them dance with their sons at their wedding reception was the most profound thing we’ve been able to experience in our career,” Hall added. “We are truly humbled and inspired by such a lovely couple who demonstrates raw love and the strongest of bonds.”