September 1, 2016
Love Conquers All
After receiving a call from a distressed father wanting to grant his son’s final wish, marriage celebrant Lynette Maguire’s world shifted. Eight years on, Lynette has made it her mission to bring joy to couples experiencing the worst of times through My Wedding Wish, a project drawing the Sunshine Coast community together in a show of love and solidarity.
Christina’s eyes are alight with laughter as her beauty team makes the finishing touches on her make-up and adjusts her vintage veil so it sits perfectly in her long blonde locks.
In a video documenting the special day, she chats to a friend outside of the camera frame about her everyday life, giggling nervously every now and then, just like any blushing bride would.
Seeing her like this – so vibrant and lively – it’s hard to believe the young mother was in the midst of a fight for her life, having received a terminal diagnosis for the adenocarcinoma in her bowel. But as she donned the ruched, strapless mermaid wedding dress she never thought she’d get to wear and exchanged vows with her partner Nathan in a ceremony filled with unconditional love and light-hearted laughter, she got to have a day with those dearest to her, where all sickness was forgotten.
October last year was the hardest – I had three grooms and a bride pass away in a month, and one that didn’t get to get married.”
For Lynette Maguire, this moment, which I’ve just witnessed three years later through the marvel of technology, is exactly the reason she created My Wedding Wish, only inspired by a different couple. In 2008, Lynette received a call from the father of a terminally ill young man, asking if she could help him marry his fiancee. After the father emphasised that he wouldn’t live past the week, Lynette rushed to the man’s bedside, and while waiting for the Magistrate’s Court to grant the ‘shortening of time’ order that would allow her to legally marry the couple, made some calls to her friends in the wedding industry to see if they would be willing to donate their time and services.
At 5pm that same day, Lynette witnessed what she says remains the most moving wedding she’s ever seen in her 12 years of being a celebrant. In a small, simple ceremony full of raw love and surrounded by a handful of family and friends, the 24-year-old was granted his dying wish.
“All I could think was that this poor young man is not the only person going through this,” says Lynette. “He literally lived three days after he got married. That still gets me. It’s not fair because so many of these couples are so young!”
While the concept came to her immediately after that day, Lynette found herself too busy to act on it until five years later.
“It just kept percolating in the back of my head, the idea of how on earth would I do this. So in 2013 I thought, ‘You know what, I’ve got time now,’ so I put it out there on a Sunshine Coast wedding supplier Facebook page and I was inundated by people wanting to be involved,” she says with a smile.
Three years on, My Wedding Wish has received more than $200,000 in donated services, allowing them to successfully gift 15 weddings to couples affected by terminal illness, and after achieving official charity status in June this year, the project is slowly rolling out on a national scale.
From the photography, cake, catering and venue, to the transport, the suits and that all-important dress, Lynette tells me she has more than 70 businesses on the Sunshine Coast alone, all clamouring to help – and this desire to donate services is reflected right across Australia.
“We just want to spread the love,” says Lynette. “Our first wedding outside of the Coast was for a couple in Canberra who wanted to marry on the Gold Coast, and when I put the call out on the national secret celebrant’s Facebook page I was flooded with celebrants all around Australia saying if you ever need anyone in this place, I’m your person. I basically had Australia covered in 15 minutes.
“I think at the very core is our humanity and I think this is a way for people to say, ‘I am human and I care.’ I’ve even had people say, ‘I’m not a wedding supplier, but if you need help on the day, let me know’, and they’ll just come and wipe dishes or something like that.”
While there is no doubt the work she does is incredibly rewarding, due to the unpredictable nature of these terminal conditions, not every wedding she organises is able to go ahead, and the bond Lynette forges with the couples means she’s hit with a devastating blow each time she hears of a passing.
He literally lived three days after he got married. That still gets me. It’s not fair because so many of these couples are so young.”
“October last year was the hardest – I had three grooms and a bride pass away in a month, and one that didn’t get to get married,” says Lynette, the sorrow in her eyes plain to see.
“I was a mess; it’s a very hard thing to deal with.
“Chrissy (Christina) is the one that got me most. When Chrissy died, I put it up on our secret group on Facebook to let everyone who’d worked on her wedding know that she was gone. But like everyone reminded me, we were able to give her so much joy. And that’s what got me through it – the knowledge that for that one day, she was so happy. Just the difference between how she looked beforehand, with her chemo bag strapped to her chest, so tired and so sick, and the day of her wedding when she looked so beautiful and so happy; it was just amazing to make it possible for her to forget about it for a day.”
Despite the heartache of so frequently witnessing young lives – and love – cut tragically short, Lynette says there’s no better feeling than fulfilling dreams and celebrating eternal love.
“A lot of these couples are tied to a machine, they don’t have the money, or they’re just so exhausted and terrified that a wedding is the last thing they think they’ll be able to have,” she says.
“It’s a milestone that gets taken away from them. They’re left having to wonder what’s more important. But for me the most beautiful thing is the looks of joy and raw love on their faces; in moments when they don’t think anyone’s looking.”
Operating from Sunshine Castle in Bli Bli and run by a steering committee of locals who, like Lynette, believe in the power of love, My Wedding Wish is always taking applications from businesses who want to contribute; however their new challenge since achieving charity status and going national is to find major sponsors and raise funds to ensure they can continue helping love conquer all. If you would like more information or to get involved, visit www.myweddingwish.org.