The gift of life is nothing to be taken for granted and the love story of Angela & Gary shows just how important making the most of every day can be.
This is exactly what they did to celebrate their love together with this beautiful wedding day with family, friends, and one extra special guest to walk Angela down the aisle with her step-dad.
Tell us the story behind your love and wedding.
June 2014 – Angela age 36, mother of 3 young boys, diagnosed with congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy.
December 2014 – Angela’s health was rapidly declining and it was discovered her heart was pumping at 8%. She was advised she was in need of a heart transplant.
December 26, 2014 – Medical staff performed open-heart surgery, installing a Left Ventricular Assist Device to pump the blood her heart wasn’t able to. This machine would now serve as an extension of her body, 24/7, keeping her alive until she could get a transplant. It also made Angela vulnerable to water, meaning no baths or swimming.
February 2015 – Angela decided to take the time she had left and make the most of it. She joined an online dating site and had no intention of entering a serious relationship in her condition, and her previous failed marriage. She realized she had only a certain amount of life left, and it was time to make the most of it, including spending it with her boys.
March 2015 – Gary (single parent of 3 boys – one with special needs), noticed Angela’s profile online and was very interested in meeting her. His profile indicated he was very adventurous: into international travel, scuba diving, snow skiing, water skiing, skydiving, motorcycle trips, etc. Angela didn’t respond to his many messages since adventure and/or a long-term relationship was not a consideration with her life hanging in the balance.
March 17, 2015 – Gary’s persistence paid off and they went out for their first date. Gary was thrilled that Angela was as attractive as her online profile indicated, but he was curious about the oversized fanny pack (with a cord attached), that was constantly at her side. Angela realized she hadn’t disclosed her health condition to Gary so she explained the situation and made it obvious she didn’t want her health to be the focus of the date.
After a wonderful meal, they left in separate vehicles, heading to their next destination. Unfortunately, while following Gary, Angela was distracted looking at her phone and rear-ended Gary with her SUV. He got out of his vehicle, assessed the damage, and then motioned for Angela to roll down her window. As she sheepishly apologized, he leaned in, held her face, and kissed her, with a smile. He then said, “Now, you will never forget our first kiss!”
Gary and Angela were clearly falling in love and were talking every day. With knowledge of Angela’s condition, Gary’s friends and family didn’t hold back their opinions; he was questioned on why he would enter into a relationship with a woman that may possibly die.
As a single father with a special need’s child, Gary had been to hell and back fighting to provide the best life for his children. When questioned about it, he constantly explained to people, “I am not sure what is going to happen, I just know that I am supposed to give this a chance, it is something I am supposed to do.”
Late April of 2015 – Angela was hospitalized and receiving Plasmapheresis treatments due to a high antibody count. Although they had only known each other for just a short time, Gary knew by this time he was dedicated to her and their 6 boys. He also realized that he would be committing to a relationship that may result in the loss of the woman he had grown to love.
Upon meeting Angela’s doctor and speaking with him directly, Gary realized things were worse than he had imagined and that she had very little time left, without receiving a donor’s heart. He decided he would do everything in his power to distract her from being depressed. He encouraged her to stay hopeful and to keep her focused on the many wonderful experiences she had to look forward to with her 3 boys.
And so began the bucket list of activities, that consisted of new adventures being added as completed activities were being crossed off.
- Mechanical bull riding
- Celebration of Love and Life Commitment Ceremony With Elvis at a Las Vegas Wedding Chapel
- The Keys
- Motorcycle Touring Through Europe
- Scuba Diving
- Several Road Trips with all 6 kids
October 2015 – Gary was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. He was thrown from his bike which landed on top of him. The result was eight broken bones and severe tissue damage. It was the first time in his adult life he understood what it was like to be helpless, in serious pain, and unable to go it alone. He was now renewed in his commitment to the fight for Angela’s life.
Late November 2015 – Angela’s condition was quickly deteriorating, and it was near impossible for her to do much. She’d often pass out in the middle of a conversation and it was becoming clear to Gary and her mom, Angela was dying right before their eyes.
December 19, 2015 – At 1:30 a.m., Angela received that long-awaited phone call informing them that there was a donor’s heart. Excited and scared, they rushed to the hospital (Tampa General) where Angela was prepped and in for surgery in 11 hours. Angela’s mom flew in, but arrived at the hospital minutes after they wheeled her in for surgery.
On this day, Angela was given the greatest Christmas gift of all – a new heart and with it, the gift of life. Hearing heartbeats coming from Angela’s chest for the first time, evoked overwhelming joy and love.
Angela and Gary were given the opportunity to see pictures of her damaged heart once it was removed. Her heart was being cooked as a result of the heat from the pump that kept her alive for nearly a year. It was a mystery why it had lasted so long in its condition.
Angela, however, was not out of the woods yet. By February of 2016, she was once again fighting for her life as the antibodies in her blood were attacking the new heart. Unfortunately, she endured many subsequent visits to the hospital, including being medivacked.
Angela’s incredible determination and will to live life carried her through these ongoing life-threatening challenges. She’s still fighting to this day and Gary will always be by her side doing the same.
The unfortunate demise of a beautiful woman named “Laurie” saved Angela’s life. On March 25, 2016, Angela had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Laurie’s son, Doug. It was Doug that gave permission to the doctors to donate his mom’s heart to Angela. It was Doug that gave Angela a chance to live.
March 20, 2021 – Doug (the donor’s son), walked Angela down the aisle on her wedding day, along with her stepdad, as Doug gives his mom’s heart and Angela’s hand in marriage, to Gary.
Christmas in their world is so different than most. Angela has spent several Christmas’s in the hospital without her boys, although Christmas of 2015 gave her the gift of life. Christmas of 2020 resulted in both having COVID. NOTHING slows these two down – they are incredible and so devoted to one another and their families – it’s truly inspiring.
How did you meet? Tell us about the proposal.
We met off of the plenty of fish dating website! The proposal was on the 4 year anniversary of my heart transplant at our home!
Reasons for choosing your ceremony and reception venue.
Gary wanted to give Angela the wedding of her dreams without limitations and they built it from scratch to be exactly what they wanted and to be beyond anything anywhere else!
How did you both choose your wedding day look? Describe the looks in detail.
Our colors were navy blue and pink! We also wanted to incorporate hearts in our wedding! Gary made the head table with a heart on it and Precious moments and the wedding party made the napkin in a heart shape! We had a country-style wedding.
It was bbq from Mission BBQ, whiskey barrels, Mason jars with flowers! We have a lot of oak trees and we put up led lighting around the oak tree and hung up Edison lights. We wanted an outdoor wedding and Our Cabin in the Myakka is perfect for our country wedding.
How did you decorate your space for the ceremony and the reception? Was any part of the decor DIY?
We did a country-style wedding! Whiskey Barrels all around. Angela Made the centerpieces. We transformed our house into the wedding venue of our dreams! We laid pavers which became Angela’s walkway! We built and customized the stage for the band that we hired! We built a pagoda and an arbor! When this started, our backyard was just dirt so we also laid grass.
Helpful tip or advice for other engaged couples.
Figure out your budget and add 20 percent. Make time for yourself. Define and hold yourself to limited responsibilities and delegate to others and respect the other’s decisions.
What was the most anticipated or special moment of your wedding day?
Doug walked Angela down the aisle with none of the guests knowing it was going to happen! Also the mother-son and father-daughter dances and the emotional speeches.
The most important lesson you learned from wedding planning.
Have a wedding planner and it’s always bigger than you think! There are things that come up and Precious Moments Events was there to handle it all!
What were some of the personal touches you added that is a great reflection of you as a couple?
The heart on the head table and heart-shaped folded napkins. We build the venue and the head table, Arbor, Pavilion, and walkway! Our gifts to our wedding party! The Video that played prior to our wedding telling our story of the gift of life.
Any other memories or moments you’d like to share about the day with us.
Being able to see everyone’s reaction to the videographer we hired was priceless and a moment we will cherish forever!
A special thank you to the Wedding Vendor Team who helped bring this real wedding at the couple’s cabin on the Myakka to life:
Our featured Wedding Venue Map trusted vendors:
Catering: Mission BBQ @missionbbq
Special thanks to all the other vendors that participated:
Event Designer: Precious Moments Events @preciousmomentsevents_
Venue: The Couple’s Cabin on the Myakka
Photographer: Wight Zebra Photography @billwigh
Bridal Salon: Something Blue Bridal @sbb_bridal
Florist: Beneva Flowers @benevaweddings
Officiant: Weddings by Bonnie @weddingsbybonnie
Hair Stylist: Christie C Artistry @christie.c.artistry
Band: 22NRocks @22nrocks
Other: Rain Music Studio @rainmusicstudio
Cake: Publix @publix
Bar Service: My Bar Service @mybarservice
Band: Redline Band
Videography: Rod Baker Video @rodbakervideo
Rentals: Myakka Rental @myakkarental