By Andrea Vu
Aboard “The Pilgrim”, a full size replica of a two-masted vessel originally built in 1825, amongst friends and family Kerry Coryell and Kurt Vanderlinde were married on October 10th, 2009. Kerry and Kurt each held a white dove and released them simultaneously into the light sea breeze of Dana Point Harbor. Like a many high-profile events, camera-crews and reporters were there to document the proceedings.
Kerry Coryell and Kurt Vanderlinde, however, are not celebrities but rather a deserving couple that made their wedding happen, despite lacking the financial means. Kerry was not going to let anything stand in the way of her fairytale wedding, and it all began when she posted an ad on Craigslist willing to barter her way toward a wedding. Erin Taylor, the owner of Events TaylorMade, was at the time searching for properties in Michigan; “Things were getting too expensive here [in California]” she explains. Erin decided to take a break and look in the barter section. There she found the three-page listing Kerry posted listing the services she could provide in return for wedding services. As Erin read through the lengthy ad she was touched by Kerry’s story. Kerry and her two kids moved down the street from her mother, who got meningitis and was left paralyzed, to care for her. Kurt came into Kerry’s life but they never had the chance in the ten years they had been together to get married. Then, Kerry’s mother passed away. Then, the couple was blessed with two more children. Kerry stayed at home to care for her four children and went to school at night in the hopes of becoming a nurse. On top of all of that, Kerry donated blood as often as she could and sewed dog beds for an animal shelter. Erin decided to shoot Kerry an e-mail and a few e-mail exchanges later she was given a list of services and goods Kerry needed for her wedding. “Once I had the list, I just started working. I contacted vendors and sent out e-mails. The response was phenomenal.” Erin shares.
Erin Taylor is a mother of five girls and works a full time job, as a facilities manager at an architecture firm. Her event planning company Events TaylorMade is another full time job but probably more of a passion. “My full time job pays the bills and allows me to do what I love.” Erin says. Events TaylorMade like any event planning company plans events on a budget, but what sets it apart is Erin’s ability to plan events on very tight budgets. “Anyone can plan a platinum wedding [a wedding with a budget of $100,000 or more]” says Erin “but planning a wedding with a budget of only a couple thousand dollars and making it look close to a platinum wedding takes a lot more dedication.”
Kerry’s wedding was just the beginning of the Angel Brides. Erin was inspired by her experience with Kerry to give brides-to-be’s a wedding they could not have otherwise. An Angel Bride “looks no different than any other bride - she's newly engaged and excited about starting her life with the man she loves - except for one thing... life has just not been kind to them. This could be for a plethora of reasons beyond their control - she's not looking for 'something for nothing' or for a 'handout' - she just wants to get married and has pretty much given up on the idea of the Wedding of her dreams because there literally IS no budget.” Planning a wedding is already a lot of work; imagine doing it without any money.
When planning a wedding, meeting the couple and their family is just the first step. “l like meeting the couples in person. It helps us to all get to know each other,” says Erin. From that point, planning goes in an array of directions depending on the type of wedding. “Some weddings we just show up on the day of and ensure all the vendors show up, do what they are paid to do, and the day goes by smoothly,”says Aleksa. Aleksa is Erin’s third eldest daughter and works for her mother’s business on the weekends, after her studies and job. For any wedding, catering to the bride and goom’s likes is an important aspect of planning. But as the budgets get smaller or even become non-existent, finding vendors that not only suit the bride and groom and fit the budget is hard work. Negotiating is a difficult task, even when there is money involved. Most vendors are not as receptive to the idea of donating their time and services, especially during these difficult times. People promise their services but sometimes do not follow through because they feel no obligations. Planning a wedding goes beyond giving the bride and groom a day to remember. There is long list of services that are needed for a wedding. Having a venue is just one of the most important steps in planning a wedding. Once the venue is set in stone there are many other details that are tended to such as: seating, tables, linens, glassware, silverware, plates, flowers, decorations, lighting, music, DJ, catering, photographers, favors, bartenders, the list is endless. Each detail then has to be meticulously planned to suit the couple’s style and remain in the budget. Once all the planning is done the next step is the rehearsal dinner, where details are finalized before the big day. Finally, the most stressful of days is the wedding day.
When asked which was her most memorable (Angel Bride) wedding, Aleksa recalled one of the couples, who were not actual Angel Brides, but rather benefited from the program as being some of the sweetest people she has ever met. “We actually met Erica and Ben at Kerry’s wedding. Erica, Ben, and Erica’s mom Kathy lent Kerry some items for the wedding and were there to volunteer.” What makes this couple even more endearing is the fact Erica has Down syndrome and her fiancée, Ben, is developmentally delayed. Erin, “wanting to repay [Kathy’s] kindness towards Kerry, offered Day of Coordination services to them.” Erin and her entire family (daughters, husband, and parents) participated in the setup and break down of the wedding. They celebrated they newly married couple and ended the night with a performance from OC Elvis.
Erin’s most emotional wedding took place at the Puddingstone Resort in San Dimas. The bride, Rebecca, and the groom, Phil, won a Platinum Planning & Coordination at a Bridal Show. Once Erin contacted the couple, she discovered that Rebecca actually wrote a letter in response to a contest in Orange County Register for military couples. Rebecca wrote in about her brother, Phil, going into active duty and his longing to marry Daisy, so she and their son would be taken care should anything happen to him. Phil and Daisy’s wedding was Erin’s sixth Angel Bride wedding. Erin wrote on her Angel Bride blog, “…This wonderful sister who penned such a heartfelt letter on behalf of her brother although she really needed the help herself, had just won the very same thing she'd enabled her brother to have. (K-A-R-M-A).” May 9th was the wedding date, which happened to be Mother’s Day AND the groom’s birthday. It was a wedding that overflowing with emotion. Erin remembers the hand-off as being exceptionally emotional for the father-of-the-bride. He was so emotional that they all paused to give him a moment. Emotions did not run dry; the father-daughter dance was very affectionate and really showed how much joy this family was experiencing. The emotions extended beyond the wedding party, Erin was just as joyful that day. “I had my mom, my girls, and my man with me. It was a really special day,” she said.
Angel Brides weddings are a lot to take on but “I love seeing all the hard work everyone puts in turn into an amazing event” Aleksa shares “It just makes your heart warm to see smiles on peoples face, too.” Angel Bride weddings are no different from any other wedding besides the fact services are donated. Well, there is one big difference and that is the bride and groom deserve to be celebrated and honored for their good deeds and big hearts.
To celebrate and honor more couples like Kerry & Kurt and Erica & Ben Events TaylorMade and BenefitAll have teamed up give ten deserving couples the weddings they could not give themselves. Entries were sent via e-mail and seventy-five non-military entries were received. “We as a company decided that we would honor every military couple with a wedding. They we will be receiving their own private ceremonies at a later date,” Erin states. She read every single entry that was submitted and reveals, “I have never cried so much in my life”.
Out of the seventy-five entries ten couples have been chosen and were either notified by phone, e-mail, or in person. The deserving couples are:
Nicole Parks & Scott Krochmalny
Nicole and Scott were notified, actually surprised, at Irvine Spectrum by their family and Erin. Missi, Nicole’s sister, actually sent in the nomination and, along with her dad, arranged for a family meeting to give the couple the good news. Erin walked up the group, explained who she was, then gave the couple a sample of their wedding invitations. The family, consisting of about 20 people celebrated as the good news sunk in.
Amber Gulla & Wesley Christy
Erin and Aleksa arrived at Amber and Wesley’s town home and are greeted by Patti, Amber’s mother, in the street. Patti, who nominated the couple, concocted a story about her boyfriend intending to propose that night. Once Patti walked into the house she was overcome with tears. Erin stepped in and introduced herself. Patti then excitedly exclaims that they were selected for an Angel Bride wedding. The room went quite and the home was filled with joy.
Colleen Kelly & Terry Saurwein
Christine Ramirez & Edwin Carranza
Erin called Eileen, who nominated her sister Christine for an Angel Bride wedding, on 11/21/2010 at 4:57pm. Eileen did not pick up so Erin left a message urging her to call back as soon as possible. At 5:02 pm, Erin’s cell phone ringed and it was Eileen, who was ecstatic. Erin asked if the couple knew about their nomination and Eileen confirmed. She would be the one to surprise her sister with the good news.
LaShawn & Todd Barnett
Erin called on 11/21/2010 at 4:35pm and left message. At 7:19pm LaShawn called back and Erin introduced herself, since LaShawn did not recognize the number. LaShawn was with her family at the time and put Erin on the speakerphone. Erin said “Are you ready to get married on the 18th? LaShawns response was, “Oh my god,yes! Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god!” and cries. She realizes her voice has become inaudible and hands the phone to her fiancé Todd.
Jeremy Hayes & Judith
Sara Gonzales & Alfredo Saldana
Erin called Sara and Alfredo on 11/21/2010 at 5:01pm but they did not pick up. After hearing Erin’s urgent message they called back about twenty-seven minutes later. The couple gathered with family for Sunday night dinner, received news that they would be getting married in less than a month. As soon as Erin paused, the family cheered “Whoo!” in somewhat synchronized manner. The couple was more than thrilled.
Susan Armitt & David Riha
Erin called Susan on 11/21/2010 at 5:07pm. Susan picked up the phone call coming from an unfamiliar number. Erin introduced herself and reminded Susan of the letter she submitted. Not wanting to prolong the anticipation, Erin excitedly informed Susan that she and her fiancé David have been chosen to be one of the ten Angel Brides. “Oh my god…Oh my god…Oh wow! Wow!” is all that is heard on the other end of the line.
Trinidad McGee III & Josephine Felaca
At 5:18 on 11/21/2010 Erin called Trinidad to give him the good news. Trinidad did not pick up so Erin left a message explaining who she is and why she was calling, since she was unsure whether he knew about the nominating. Trinidad’s cousin Apple nominated him and his fiancée Josephine but would not be in the country to get the good news or attend the wedding.
USMC - Camp Pendleton
Erin Boucher & Brandon
After surprising each couple, Erin broke down the details of the event. She told them that all ten couples would be walking down the aisle simultaneously. Even though it will be a mass wedding, Erin reassured the couples that it would still feel intimate. Each couple would be allowed 100 wedding guests including the wedding party that could not exceed ten, counting the bride and groom. Invitations would be provided so all the couples need to do is decide whom they want to invite. She also informed the ten couples that photographers, catering, officiants, flowers, decorations, gowns, tuxedos, hair & make-up for the bride, videographers, a DJ, and assigned coordinator would all be provided, at no cost to them and with no catches.
December 18th will be a day full of events and generosity. During the daytime there will be plenty of entertainment such as: storytelling, face painting, musical performances, craft demonstrations, and international holiday celebrations. Christmas trees along with decorations and gifts will be given to those who are struggling financially and cannot afford to celebrate the holidays. To end the event, ten deserving couples will walk down the aisle to say their “I Do’s” bringing Erin Taylor’s total to thirty Angel Brides.
Two-hour interview with Aleksa Foreman
One day of shadowing Aleksa at a wedding
Two-hour interview with Erin Taylor
Six hours of observation at the Taylor’s
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