By Diane Forden for Bridal Guide
Last December, San Jose, CA hairstylist Jen Bulik received the worst news possible and was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. She and her boyfriend of six years, Jeff Lang, a yoga instructor, decided to marry as soon as possible. Due to time constraints, her illness and limited finances, they planned to have a very low-key backyard barbecue.
That is, until Jen's friend, Emily LeDeau, posted Jen's story on a Facebook group page for wedding professionals. Enter wedding planner Erica Ota, who spotted the post and immediately responded. She offered her services, met with the couple and was so moved by their story that she decided to give them a wedding they could only dream about. "As a former social worker, I met countless people with terminal illnesses but was only able to offer emotional support. However, as a wedding planner, I now had the ability and resources to do a lot more for them," says Erica.
With only two weeks to plan, Erica started to pull together all the details. She looked at Jen's Pinterest board to get an idea of the "rustic chic" wedding Jen truly wished for and, with the help of Jen's friend, Emily, and Erica's intern, Elizabeth Tarantino, secured over 65 vendors to donate everything from decorative items like chalkboards, wands, and wood signs, to a guest book quilt, succulent favors and mason jars. Several wig companies also provided custom-made wigs that Jen loved wearing on her wedding day. It was a Herculean task, but Erica worked 'round the clock to secure place settings, furniture, rustic wood tables and chairs and more.
It all came together, and on July 27, 2013, under the Redwood trees of Saratoga Creek Park in San Jose, Jen and Jeff walked down the aisle surrounded by 120 family and friends, who had received e-mailed invitations just two weeks in advance. The couple selected their own readings, picked their own rituals and asked their friend, Anne, who had introduced them, to be their officiant. They were in awe of Erica's efforts and by everything she had accomplished for them, calling her their very own "Olivia Pope" (the main character on TVs "Scandal") who had made the impossible happen.
Needless to say, Jen and Jeff were amazed at the outpouring of love and support they received not only from Erica and their friends and family but also from complete strangers -- all of the vendors who offered donations so they could have a wedding they never thought possible. "I had no idea that people were so giving," said Jen. "I feel more gratitude than I have ever felt in my entire life."
Here a few scenes from this happy day!
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Photos by Sly Vegas, Captiv8Imagery