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The Short Version: Wish Upon a Wedding is a charitable organization that grants the wedding wishes of couples who are battling life-altering or life-threatening illnesses. Thanks to a generous network of wedding planners, vendors, and businesses, Wish Upon a Wedding has been able to plan and pay for hundreds of wedding and vow renewal ceremonies across the country. In December 2019, Wish Upon a Wedding threw its 150th wedding for Amanda DiMarzio and Sean Woodard, a Nashville couple in their 30s. Sean met Amanda two years after her cancer diagnosis and chose to stay by her side in sickness and in health.
In the fall of 2017, single mother Amanda DiMarzio sent a playful message to a carpenter on Bumble. “Death row meal choice?” she asked.
“Anything with Reese’s,” Sean Woodard replied. And their love story began.
After chatting for a week, Amanda and Sean met in person. Their first date turned into a three-part adventure: They went to dinner, played laser tag, and got drinks at a local bar.
The Nashville couple found out they had a lot in common. They were both divorced and had children who were about the same age. Amanda lived in the same neighborhood where Sean had grown. Everything seemed to fall into place. Within two weeks, they’d moved in together.
Sadly, two months after that, Amanda was in the hospital for a chemotherapy clinical trial. Since 2015, she has battled Metastatic Neuroendocrine/Carcinoid Syndrome, a rare form of cancer that has a 10% survival rate after five years.
Amanda didn’t expect Sean to stay with her as she got sicker. “I kept telling him to run,” she said. “He’d just kiss my forehead and say, ‘I love you. I’m not going anywhere.’”
As Amanda fought for her life, Sean not only stayed by her side — he got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. With medical bills piling up, the couple couldn’t afford to pay for a wedding on their own. So, they told their story to Wish Upon a Wedding, a national nonprofit dedicated to throwing pro bono weddings, and they hoped for the best.
On Dec. 4, 2019, Amanda and Sean became the 150th couple to be granted a wedding courtesy of Wish Upon a Wedding.
Since 2011, Wish Upon a Wedding has thrown weddings and vow renewal ceremonies on behalf of couples facing life-altering or life-threatening illnesses. The charitable organization relies on a national network of Wish Granters to create a once-in-a-lifetime celebration of love and hope.
“Granting our 150th Wish was a deeply fulfilling experience for the entire team,” said Lacey Wicksall, Wish Upon a Wedding’s Program Coordinator. “We were touched by our sweet couple’s moving story and were blown away by the incredible generosity of the Wish Granters who came on board to help us.”
Each year, Wish Upon a Wedding receives and reviews over 250 applications, and the Ohio-based team grants weddings to about 20 couples who meet its requirements. Many couples, like Amanda and Sean, apply to Wish Upon a Wedding as a last resort because they know they either can’t afford a wedding or don’t have the time or energy to plan a wedding while facing a serious illness.
“We work to ensure we are helping those who are the sickest and give them nothing shy of a day full of pure joy,” said Keri Durkin, President of Wish Upon a Wedding. “It gives them hope to survive yet one more day.”
Amanda and Sean are a perfect example of the courage, compassion, and hope shown by loving couples and families in incredibly difficult times.
Amanda undergoes chemotherapy every 28 days and takes 35-40 pills and three daily injections as the cancer spreads from her liver to her lymph nodes and her bones. Sean has been Amanda’s emotional rock throughout everything, and she says he is one of the most selfless men she’s ever known.
The Wish Upon a Wedding team was honored to give this deserving couple a fairy-tale wedding last December. On the big day, 50 of the bride and groom’s closest friends and family members came to celebrate with them at 1212 Germantown in Nashville. The wedding planners surprised Amanda and Sean with decorations inspired by Captain America and Deadpool, the couple’s favorite Marvel superheroes. The Wish Granters also brought a photo booth and cotton candy station to the delight of everyone.
Amanda walked down the aisle with her son Elijah, who is 7 years old, and the couple’s three other children, Izzy (9 years old), Miles (8 years old), and Carson (8 years old) were part of the bridal party. Amanda and Sean wrote their own vows, and many tears were shed during the heartfelt ceremony.
Wish Upon a Wedding is proud of how its 150th wedding ceremony turned out, and they are already planning for another heartwarming year of making dreams come true.
“This was a huge milestone for our organization,” said Nicole Maitland, Vice President at Wish Upon a Wedding. “It is incredible that we could give 150 couples a day away from their illness to celebrate their love and not worry about anything except being together.”
A Wish Upon a Wedding ceremony comes with all the works free of charge. The chosen couple don’t have to worry about booking a venue or buying flowers. The nonprofit has built a national network of 1,500 wedding vendors, including photographers, DJs, bakers, and florists, who are willing to help out and become a Wish Granter.
Event planner Laurie Hardman of Lauri D’Anne Events has worked with Wish Upon a Wedding for two prior events, and she gave her time and talent once again for Sean and Amanda’s big day. Laurie was heavily involved in the wedding planning process. She secured the venue, arranged the seating chart, and created the centerpieces.
It took a lot of goodhearted people to make Sean and Amanda’s wedding dreams a reality, but the Wish Upon a Wedding team is fortunate to have many friends in the Nashville area.
On Sean and Amanda’s wedding day, Clean Plate Club took care of the catering services, Uptown Live Band provided the music and entertainment, and Pandy Cotton Candy offered sweet treats for the reception. Two well-known florists, Branching Out Floral & Event Design and Fifty Flowers, donated the flowers for the decorations and the bride’s bouquet, and The Sweetest Day bakery made the wedding cake.
Inspired by the Wish Upon a Wedding mission, these Wish Granters came together to create a day that Amanda, Sean, and all their guests will never forget.
“It was humbling to see all of the hard work our donors put in to make this wish really special for our couple,” said Lindsay Mackey, the Secretary of Wish Upon a Wedding. “All of our couples are special, but to be present and witness the village that it takes, was pretty spectacular.”
As single parents, Amanda and Sean weren’t expecting to fall in love — especially not with someone they met on a dating app — but their connection was undeniably strong from the moment they had dinner and played laser tag.
Over the last two years, Amanda and Sean have shared many laughs and faced many challenges, but they have stayed together throughout it all. In 2019, the Wish Upon a Wedding team was overjoyed to give this couple a cost-free and worry-free wedding ceremony, and it was a fitting choice for the 150th wedding thrown by the nonprofit.
Despite her illness, Amanda remains optimistic for the future and grateful for every day she has spent with Sean and their children.
“Amanda has helped me come out of my shell,” Sean said. “She is energetic, caring, loving, and selfless. No matter how tired she is, she keeps going for us.”