FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Most brides plan their wedding over a span of months, crafting every detail with precision and care — down to the last flower petal.
But for Jaqueline Diaz-Sua, 23, of Florida, the perfect wedding required no pomp and circumstance — only the people she loves and the blessing of her 63-year-old mother-in-law, Geri Kidawski.
Diaz-Sua and her fiance, Chris Kidawski, 34, began planning the makeshift ceremony three days before saying "I do," flying to Colorado on Friday night to give the family one more memory together before the end of Geri's two-year battle with cancer. She's expected to die in coming weeks.
"That's what weddings are all about — to have the people around you who you love there to witness your love," Diaz-Sua said minutes before walking down a makeshift aisle in the garden of Turnberry Place Assisted Living, where Geri recently.
"That's the most important thing in this world."
The couple, who got engaged July 22, originally had planned a larger February ceremony in Diaz-Sua's Florida home. When it became apparent that Geri likely wouldn't survive long enough to be there, the young bride and her mother began drafting a plan to include her "second mom" in their special day — a gift to her husband-to-be and the woman who raised him.
The February ceremony will feature a slide show from their fly-by wedding in Colorado, she said. Last Sunday's ceremony was as "perfect" as any wedding could be.
She donned "something new" — a princess-like white dress purchased from David's Bridal the night before. Her hair was swept into a simple, romantic side ponytail by a local stylist at Arabella Salon.
She slipped "something blue" — graceful royal blue sandals — on her feet.
"Something borrowed" came in the multiple donations from the Fort Collins community — a donated cake from Baby Cakes bakery, donated photography services from Natalie Beck Photography, donated decorations from Fort Collins Nursery and a donated arch and chairs from Front Range Event Rental — that put the finishing touches on what started out as a small, private ceremony.
"We have everything," said Chris Kidawski, looking on as flower girl Hailey Meurer, 6, twirled around the property in her turquoise dress. "This is indescribable."
"The people of Fort Collins have been very good to us," Diaz-Sua said. "There are a lot of good, beautiful people in the world — and I now know that there's a higher majority of those people here. ... They made miracles happen."
As the blushing bride and her mother, Astrith Sua, shared precious moments together before the ceremony, Geri quietly prepared herself in another room, adjusting her wig and smoothing the green flowered dress that hung gracefully from her shoulders.
Linda Bennett, Geri's nurse from Pathways Hospice, grabbed a few tissues from the bedside table and tucked them in the side of Geri's wheelchair.
"You better just take the whole box," Geri said, laughing. "I'm going to be crying today."
The tears started early as she began talking about the young couple and the "love that surrounded her" on their wedding day.
"I called Jackie my daughter from the very first time she called me," she said. "She is such a sweetheart and I love her so dearly. ... My boys have also just been amazing through all of this. They love me so much. I know they'd do anything for me."
Chris said the wedding is a "bittersweet" gift to the ever-giving mother of three boys who always hoped for a daughter — battling miscarriages, stillbirths and "so many bad things."
The woman's strength and inspiration through trials, culminating in her fight with cancer, is a "constant inspiration" to the three boys, he said.
"Describing my mom is like writing a book or trying to do a Crib Notes version of the Iliad," he said. "She's a lover of life ... even though she's been hurt her entire life — she's been controlled, she's been manipulated, she's gone through indescribable things — you'd never know it. Even in this situation, she's smiling and she's happy. There's never any animosity towards anything that's happened to her. She's very selfless."
Qualities she passed on to her son, added his mother-in-law, Astrith.
"My daughter found someone who will love her and trust her and take care of her for all her life, thanks to Geri," Astrith said. "She did an excellent job."