Wedding For A Cause
June 16, 2017
WEDDING FOR A CAUSE
As we began to plan our wedding, there was a long list of exciting decisions to be made. However, there was one decision that we made early on that has shaped our big day. We are very excited to share the idea that we've been developing and why it is so close to our hearts. Please continue reading to learn more about our story and how our passion to help others inspired our "Wedding For A Cause!"
On August 14th of 2014, I was visiting Chicago for a girl's weekend. We were out in Old Town at a bar called Benchmark and "one more drink" turned into bottles of Champagne and endless rounds of Fireball shots. As we were sipping away, I noticed an extremely handsome man across the bar. I began staring pretty noticeably. So much so, that he could feel it and eventually he turned his head and we locked eyes. I began walking towards him, not breaking eye contact, and feeling this pull as I got closer. I walked right up to him, put my hand on his heart, and started kissing him! I think everyone's jaws dropped as they watched our chance encounter, and while they stared in bewilderment, AJ and I got lost in a kiss. No handshakes, no names, no introductions ... just an incredible kiss. My friends let this go on for about 10 seconds, and then they promptly grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the bar.
The next day, AJ and I could not stop thinking about what had happened the night before. But with no names, phone numbers, or ways to reach each other, we each thought that the kiss would be all we’d ever know of each other. That night, on a completely different side of town on the streets of River North, in a city filled with nearly 3 million people, the world brought us back together. AJ was sitting with friends at a patio table at the incredible country bar, Bub City, and my friends and I were headed there for drinks and dancing. He was telling the story of what had happened the night before as I went walking by. He interrupted his story to catch our attention and as soon as I turned around and caught his eye, everything from the night before came rushing back to me. We shared a laugh or two, followed by an official introduction and handshake, and we proceeded to spend the rest of the night out with friends getting to know each other. We believe that serendipity brought us back together and that we were meant to meet for a reason. A short six months later, we found out why …
We started texting and having hours of long-distance phone calls, and then we made a few trips back and forth to see each other. In February of 2015, after spending only 10 days together in person, we received life-altering news. AJ was diagnosed with non-Hodkin’s B-cell lymphoma and our world stopped turning. Suddenly the distance between us seemed trivial and as soon as AJ told me the news, I knew I was in love with him and that I had to be there for him. In the weeks to come, we were thankful to learn that AJ had caught the cancer early and was in Stage 1 with a positive recovery expected after 18 weeks of chemotherapy. I quickly made the decision to move to Chicago and help him through his four months of treatment and we decided to fight this together. The silver lining to all of this was that AJ and I were able to spend every day together and grow our relationship to heights we couldn’t have imagined at the time. We learned so much about each other and we became an incredible team. The friendship, support, and love that blossomed during this time brought so much happiness to our lives and ultimately led us to where we are today. AJ faced cancer with the strongest and most positive attitude that I have ever seen and it was truly inspiring to be by his side through it all.
In July of 2015, he completed his treatment and his doctors announced that he was on his way towards remission! Two months after this incredible news, AJ packed up his bags, sold almost everything he owned, said goodbye to friends and family in Chicago, and headed west with me to start a new chapter in Newport Beach, CA. Shortly thereafter, on December 12, 2015, he made me the happiest girl in the world when he got down on one knee and asked me to spend forever with him!
Since cancer played a large role in our relationship, we wanted to honor that with our wedding and have our special day be more than just a celebration of our love story. We wanted to be able to give back and help others facing cancer be able to fight it and beat it. So, we came up with the idea to host a “Wedding for a Cause” and we found an incredible partner in the Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF). AJ’s oncologist connected us with the organization and they have helped us develop a platform to raise money and donate through our wedding. We are so thankful for the entire team at LRF and all of their support in helping us build our idea into something so much larger than we could have imagined!
We will be raising funds in two different ways: through our wonderful wedding vendors and through all of our supportive friends and family. Every vendor that is involved in our wedding has been generous enough to make a donation to LRF. They have all made in-kind donations by discounting their normal services, and we have directly donated these savings to LRF. Additionally, we are asking that all of our guests attending the wedding donate to LRF in lieu of purchasing wedding gifts. The only item on our registry will be donation requests to LRF and we want to thank everyone in advance for their generosity. It is our hope that we will be able to raise over $30,000 through our wedding and make a sizable donation to this incredible cause!
Our wedding will celebrate our love story and the commitment we are making to each other while also helping others around the world. Our dream is to build a day that is everything and more to us while still raising awareness and a significant amount of funds to donate to lymphoma research. These donations will be able to help so many continue their lives and their love stories just as AJ and I have been fortunate enough to continue ours!
Please follow the link below to visit our donation platform on the LRF website and if you have friends and family that would be interested in joining the cause, we would so appreciate you sharing our story. Every dollar helps! Please visit ...
Jeff and his beautiful wife Kim were the first of Michelle's friends to meet AJ. The four of them took a Duffy boat ride during AJ's first trip to California and they've been doing double dates ever since! Jeff got to know AJ's true character right off the bat and they shared so many laughs on that first outing. He has watched their relationship grow from the very beginning and he's been there for so many special moments along the way. He's known Michelle for years #FHS and he caught up very quickly with AJ. They are so excited for Jeff to tell their story on the wedding day and lead everyone through an incredible ceremony with the perfect recipe of laughs, joyous tears, and everything else Jeff deems necessary to sprinkle in along the way! #preachpreacher
Matron of Honor
WE MET IN 2005 when my freshman year roomie at CU introduced us (they were high school friends). We immediately bonded ... she made a trip out to CA that summer even though we didn't really know each other well ... and the rest is history! In addition to being my best friend, she is also my Kappa sister #KKG! She is beautiful on the inside and out and has the biggest heart! I am beyond lucky to have her in my life!! 5 RANDOM FACTS you should know about Jordan: 1. She was the one that literally pulled me off of AJ and out of the bar the night I kissed (and met) him #truefriend 2. She has some of the best dance moves - keep an eye out for her on the dance floor! 3. She has early on-set hot flashes! 4. She has incredible strength when she drinks ... watch out! 5. She's allergic to Mango - random but true!
WE MET IN 2011 when my brother brought her to a party I was having. I knew from the second we met that she was the one for him and now she is the sister I always wanted and never had!! She may be pint size, but she has a huge heart and a smile that lights up the room. I'm so lucky to have her as my "sister-in-love." 5 RANDOM FACTS you should know about Joey: 1. She used to be Matt's boss! 2. She is a fellow Buff #GoCU 3. She is a beer connoisseur and she has a pretty big beer belly right now (JK - she's prego - yay!) 4. She hates cilantro ... despises it! 5. She's got jokes!
WE MET IN 2014 when I did my first trip back to Chicago to see AJ. We met at The Fishers' annual Christmas party (shout out!) and she was so sweet and welcoming. She is a no nonsense kind of girl, which I love, and she is an incredible mom to my little nephews! I am so lucky to have her as my future "sister-in-love!" 5 RANDOM FACTS you should know about Allison: 1. She's allergic to shellfish ... Don't tempt her! 2. She loves a good monogram! 3. She recently moved to Charlotte so she's a Southern girl now! 4. She's a Theta ... but I still love her! 5. She studied Midwifery in London.
WE MET IN 1998 when I moved to Tustin and transferred to Hewes Middle School in 6th grade. Our friendship has grown over the last 19 years (wow - we are old) and it's gotten stronger every year! She has a heart of gold and a quick wit that always keep a smile on my face! I love our coffee dates #Alta, and every moment we spend together singing Celine Dion and dancing like butterflies. 5 RANDOM FACTS you should know about Kim: 1. She's a card shark! 2. She loves a good "treat yo'self" day 3. She started her own company called SHE - ask her about it! #girlboss 4. She loves dark chocolate ... like ... loves it! 5. We were born one day apart!
WE MET IN 2003 in our photography class Junior year, but got really close after we both graduated from college and moved back home #TTown. As some of the only high school friends back in Orange County, we became thick as thieves! Our friendship knows no boundaries #NewZealand and continues to evolve:) She is incredibly loyal and always has my back no matter what. So lucky to have her as my true friend. 5 RANDOM FACTS you should know about Kari: 1. She thinks she can do different accents really well (but they all sound English) #yousoundlikeyou'refromLondon 2. She pretty much only wears black. 3. She hates bangs - but for some reason - decides to have them about twice a year (it's a vicious cycle)! 4. She and I share an affinity for a good photo booth session! 5. When she drinks, she thinks she's a professional gymnast, singer, dancer, etc. #icandothat
WE MET IN 2006 when Mere came through differed recruitment. I was one of the first girls to meet her and I knew she was Kappa material from the second we met! She quickly became my "sister" and one of my best friends! Even though she's been living in Australia for awhile, FaceTime keeps us close. She has the biggest heart and an incredibly contagious laugh! She is one-of-a-kind and a beautiful spirit inside and out. 5 RANDOM FACTS you should know about Mere: 1. She loves Cinnamon Bears ... LOVES them! 2. She is currently living down under! #missyou 3. She makes your face hurt from smiling so much when you are around her! 4. She loves the ocean and helping to protect all of it's beauty! 5. She is all about a good theme party. Ask her about that one time she dressed up as a "scary toothbrush."
WE MET IN 2011 when he was courting my sister while we all lived in Chicago. Now they are married with 2 adorable boys and living in Charlotte, NC. Dave has always shared words of wisdom, acted as a mentor, been there to discuss worldly issues over bourbons and cigars, and now he's going to be my best man while I marry the women of my dreams. Cheers to you my brother!! 5 RANDOM FACTS you should know about Dave: 1. He loves Cool Ranch Doritos! 2. He writes the best Facebook posts - you should follow him! 3. He's an Eagle Scout #lonesurvivor 4. He's great in the kitchen, but even better on the grill #greenegg 5. He never turns down a good Bourbon!
WE MET IN 2007 while on senior year spring break in Acapulco. Lets just say our friendship grew as we both matured. Picture something like...from bottle service in the club... to bottles of wine at our houses. Justin and I enjoy golf, country music, fine dining, discussing our career goals over a great manhattan, and just about everything else two gentlemen in their retirement ages fancy!! 5 RANDOM FACTS you should know about Justin: 1. Sometimes he's referred to as "Big Bird"; he's 6' 8'' with an incredible hairdo. 2. He has an extensive collection of jean shorts aka "jorts" 3. Conversely, he has a wardrobe with every suite accessory you can fathom (ie tie clips, suspenders, pocket squares, cuff links and an impressive sock game). 4. He's one of THOSE people that takes pictures of his food and post of Instagram. 5. He drives a pretty sweet Harley.
WE MET IN 2003 on our first day living in the dorms at Marquette University. Michael was a fellow Chicagoan and was down to party. From that day on, he's lived life to the fullest and I've been fortunate to share many great experiences with him. We've attended countless Chicago sporting events, shared a passion for the Colorado slopes, and have always enjoyed the gratification of finding a "deal." 5 RANDOM FACTS you should know about Michael: 1. He was with me the 2nd night I ran into Michelle after she kissed me and ran out. We were having dinner at a country bar in Chicago (Bub City). 2. He was a ski bum in Colorado for a short stint in his 20's. 3. He's an annual participant in the Chicago Polar Plunge (Full body plunge into frigid Lake Michigan to support athletes of Special Olympics). 4. He is the oldest of 6 brothers and sisters 5. He broke his rib while attempting to bare foot at his parent's lake home #amateur
WE MET IN 2005 during my junior year at Marquette University. Ben is a Wisconsin native and he was kind enough to befriend a fellow Illinoian. We both studied Commercial Real Estate and have enjoyed talking shop ever since. Ben has always provided great advice to me over the years on my professional life, personal life, and how to have a work-life balance. 5 RANDOM FACTS you should know about Ben: 1. He's the father of a beautiful daughter (Claire) and has another on the way. 2. He's a middle child. 3. Prior to married life, he used to be referred to as "Bottle Service Ben." #BSB 4. He enjoys an occasional bourbon Old Fashion while catching up with his social circle. 5. He was born with exceptional athletic abilities, and despite the fact that his work out routine has gone dormant, he'll outperform people half his age.
WE MET IN 2013 while we were both living in Chicago. Jake and I became fast friends as we both shared a strong love of family, all things food and wine, and deep discussions while savoring a bottle (or two) of vino. Jake's selfless nature and his ability to charm others through his quick witted persona, are just a few reasons why I'm excited to have him as one of my groomsmen. 5 RANDOM FACTS you should know about Jake: 1. His alma mater is "The Ohio State University," so this Buckeye has an affinity for college football. 2. Last year he completed the famous El Camino de Sanitago, a 500 mile walk from southern France to the northern Spanish coastline. 3. He is the youngest of 5 siblings. 4. He has a passion for water sports, as he spent almost every summer of the past 32 years at his family lake home in Green Lake, WI. 5. He was a ski bum in Park City Utah in 2012.
WE MET IN 2015 when I attended his Ketubah signing ceremony, officially marrying his wife Joelle. It was a fun filled weekend in San Diego and I quickly realized I was going to gain another great brother-in-law. Matt is a craft beer connoisseur, he's active in the tech start-up community in San Diego, and he enjoys all outdoor activities with his dog (Kahlua). He will soon be "dad" to a baby boy and I'm excited to meet my new nephew. 5 RANDOM FACTS you should know about Matt: 1. He has an odd obsession with eggs. 2. Ask him to do his Russian accent - it's killer! 3. He has an incredible falsetto voice and loves to sing "I Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly! 4. He's a wiz on computers. I'd tell you more but I don't really understand. 5. Olives are the way to his heart ... Black olives to be precise!
Santa Ynez, CA