THOMASTON, Georgia — One bride traded a church for a hospital room, all so her dying father could be the one to give her away.
Candice Hammonds was set to marry the man of her dreams on Oct. 1, but her joy and excitement turned to pain last week when she learned her father Steve Hammonds — who’d been battling a rare autoimmune disease for the past two years — had been given just days to live, Today reported.
Determined to have her father present at her wedding, Hammonds and her fiancé decided to hold their wedding at Steve Hammond’s hospital bedside the very next day — giving friends, family and hospital staff just 24 hours to plan and execute the ceremony.
“Candice told me my uncle wasn’t doing well and that she wanted to get married in front of him a day later, so I said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Hammonds’ cousin, Alicia Maddox, told Today.
The staff at Upson Regional Medical Center sprang into action — clearing an outpatient room for the ceremony, devoting space in ambulatory care for Hammonds’ bridal suite and reducing Steve’s medication so he could be mentally present for the wedding. They also covered his ventilator with a sheet so it wouldn’t be a distraction to him, Today reported.
Friends arranged for a pastor, small reception and a wedding cake, and just a day after the bride declared her new wedding date, those closest to the family gathered to watch her say, “I do.”
“The room was just filled with so much emotion and love,” photographer and friend Julie Schandolph told Today. “It was bittersweet, but Candice’s dad was still able to have that special moment with her.”
Hammonds gave Schandolph permission to share some photos from the touching ceremony on her Facebook page.
“Weddings are emotional for me. I am a softy at heart. But this wedding, I am tearing up as I type this,” she wrote. “Every girl dreams of her daddy walking her down the aisle and giving her hand away. Given the circumstances, Candice’s daddy was still able to do just that!”
Steve Hammonds passed away just two days later after contracting pneumonia. The family sees the wedding ceremony as a beautiful last gathering in honor of the love they share.
“It’s just been a roller coaster of emotions,” Hammonds told Today. “I’m marrying the man of my dreams but I’m also sad about losing my father. I’m so thankful God allowed my father to be there with us and interact with us the way he did.”