Erika, the recipient of The Wedding Pink 2014 (photo by Van Buren Photography & M Photography)
It’s early July and I am still floating on air from our wedding that took place on May 15 of this year. As I sit here, I reflect on memories of the day and events surrounding it with an ear-to-ear grin. In one word, it was “perfection”.
To think that a year ago I had no idea what The Wedding Pink was or who any of the beautiful people that swept so gallantly into my life to give it to me were. I was engaged to a wonderful man, and I had short hair and a new outlook on life thanks to my cancer battle that had taken place the year before. My fiancé Mike, who is from New Zealand, and I did not have the slightest clue as to how to pull off our dream wedding in the wake of my illness and the tumult that accompanies it. We were shelling out almost $800 a month for my health insurance and just trying to get our feet on the ground after a big move from NYC to the Midwest.
We knew that above all, we wanted to bring our families together. Between the both of us, we have family members on three continents, spanning multiple countries. How many opportunities, we asked ourselves, would there be to bring everyone together like this over our lifetimes? Not many. But when it came down to it, we could not piece together a proper celebration with the budget we had and the energy we lacked. It became a source of stress and difficulty for us. We were so excited to get married, but completely lacked the resources to accomplish the task.
Enter: The Wedding Pink. I was at camp with First Descents (another brilliant cancer organization that does adventure trips for young adult survivors) when one of my camp-mates asked me about my engagement and if I had plans for a wedding yet. “Don’t ask!” I said jokingly, explaining the situation. She asked me if I had ever heard of The Wedding Pink and told me a fellow breast cancer survivor friend of hers had won it last year. We jumped on the computer to check the submission date for the next wedding and it happened to be the week after we returned from camp.
From that moment on, everything felt serendipitous. I submitted our story, with its twists and turns and genuine hope that we would be called for an interview. And we were. When we were told that we had won the wedding, I distinctly recall Mike and I hanging up the phone, looking at each other with the widest eyes, falling and laughing on the couch for about 20 minutes straight. “WHAT!! THIS IS AMAZING!!” we could not stop saying. It was.
Meeting Cheryl Ungar, the survivor that founded The Wedding Pink, was like meeting an old friend. Cheryl’s heart and soul soar with her work on this wedding giveaway and she does it out of the absolute kindness of her own heart. There is no reward for her except in bringing joy to others and it is a very special person that can offer that to others so selflessly.
Her entire team of vendors is of that same ilk. People often assumed when I told them I won a wedding that I had to just fall in line with whatever was decided for me. This could not be farther from the truth. When I met with Ann Marlin of Cloud 9 Weddings and her fabulous team, we were immediately assured that everyone participating in this wanted to give us OUR dream wedding – not a cookie-cutter version of things they decided for us. They asked us our style, got a sense of our personalities, figured out what our likes and dislikes were and did nothing without asking us twice before making decisions.
The day was, as I said, perfect. We were married at Crooked Willow Farms, an absolutely stunning location south of Denver. I described it to people as a country chic, which was just excellent for Mike and myself: a little bit rustic, but absolutely upscale and gorgeous.
When I walked down the aisle to see my future husband standing there and looked around the room at all of the people that had made the journey to Colorado from literally all over the world, my heart swelled. This was not just about our union, but it was so much more. It was a celebration of life, of love, of family and friends. It was an excuse to have a full day of utter bliss and happiness with no worries. For a cancer survivor, that is the greatest gift.
The Wedding Pink is the most remarkable cancer organization I have known, in the sense that it offers something truly unique – it has been said to be a silver lining after a dark cloud and that could not be truer. Winning the wedding in my post-cancer haze could not have offered a better point of focus for me, a point of happy distraction and an opportunity to look FORWARD to something wonderful, rather than dwelling consistently on what had passed.
We will always look back on the day with fondness and full hearts. There has been no greater gift to us, besides our health and happiness, that has come our way. The Wedding Pink and the team of vendors behind it are truly, truly special.