Jen Bulik thought she had all the time in the world to plan her dream wedding. Then the 35-year-old Mountain View woman was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and was told she only had months to live.
The diagnosis, which came in January after she had been feeling sick for months, was not enough to derail the hair stylist's plans.
As her chemotherapy treatments began and her health declined, Bulik decided to follow through with the wedding to her love of six years, Jeff Lang, a yoga instructor.
The couple anticipated a low-key family barbecue until San Francisco-based wedding planner Erica Ota got word of the couple's story.
Ota had seen a Facebook post about Bulik on a wedding group page. A friend of the bride's was inquiring about catering, flower and photography donations.
Ota offered to coordinate basic plans, but nearly three weeks ago when she met with Bulik's family she said she was touched and decided, "Why should she settle for a barbecue when she can have so much more?"
That started a whirlwind of wedding planning, with Ota working to bring Bulik's ideal Pinterest ideas to life.
Ota was able to get 40 Bay Area vendors to donate more than $50,000 worth of goods and services to put the event together.
"I feel more gratitude than I have ever felt in my entire life," Bulik said, while choking back tears on the phone this afternoon. "I had no idea that people were ... so giving. It's really flipped my idea of what I thought human nature was about."
The ceremony this Saturday at a San Jose park followed by a reception at Bulik's childhood home a few blocks away will incorporate the "rustic-chic" theme the bride-to-be had dreamed of.
Ota described succulent floral arrangements, colorful bouquets, a taco station, chalk board signs, mason jars, a floral arch, a guest book quilt and even a canoe filled with ice as some of the many details Bulik had hoped would be part of her big day.
A New Orleans jazz marching band will keep things lively, along with a photo booth, and more than 120 guests celebrating in the backyard.
"I am in this place where I feel super open to possibility and allowing all that is happening to happen, and to stay in the center of it all and remain grounded in myself," Bulik said.
To accommodate the bride, who has been losing weight and energy in the past few weeks, there will be opportunities throughout the wedding day for her to nap, stay hydrated and nourished, Ota said.
A custom wig was made for the bride who has lost her hair during chemo treatments, which began in February.
Ota said Bulik and Lang are "the most humble, deserving couple you'll ever meet" and that "their outlook on life is incredibly positive."
In a online post about her cancer, Bulik wrote, "I am coming into acceptance that this is my path bringing me a great transformation that will benefit the highest good for all those concerned."
In a post last month in an online journal about her treatment and health, she wrote, "I need to continue to generate meaning and pay attention to what brings me vitality and life."
According to Ota, Bulik is treating her wedding day as a celebration of life, especially since before her diagnosis she had thought she had an endless amount of time to plan for the ceremony.
Ota said Bulik says she looks forward to getting emails from the planner daily, as it gives her something to focus on instead of being sick.
Ota said working on this wedding has taught her to "focus on life and love."
Emily LeDeau, one of the bride's friends, said they have been busy today with her bridal shower and rehearsal.
"Jen is very high-energy and almost giddy like any bride would be. She and Jeff are overwhelmed with the outpouring of attention and love and that everyone has given them. They're both very special people without even knowing them, everyone can see that," LeDeau said.
"This morning, Jen received a call from the 'Today' show offering her three options to appear on the show so she's very excited about that. Her latest dream that we're trying to make a reality and she would like to appear on 'The Ellen (DeGeneres) Show' so that she and Jeff can dance with Ellen."
The couple is "ecstatic to share their story with the world," Ota said, and added that they are in awe of the generosity of family, friends and strangers.
Donations to Bulik and her family for a post-wedding vacation and to cover her increasing medical expenses can be made at: http://gfwd.at/13h65KP.
As of late this afternoon, more than 200 donors had given about $12,450 to the couple.
"What I think is so fascinating is that they are touched by my story, and that is just shocking, and I feel in awe about it," Bulik said.
The bride has expressed a dream of a vacation to Hawaii, but instead of a honeymoon the bride-to-be wants to take her family on a vacation with her.
"This is not about her at all," Ota said. "She wants to do so much for other people."
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