After getting engaged in Italy, Stephanie Gefroh and Bryan Fish eagerly began planning their wedding. The couple decided on May 27, 2018 in Minnesota because it would be equally convenient for both of their families. However, a recent call from Steph’s sister completely changed the course of their engagement.
Ten years ago, Steph’s mom, Susan, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease when she was just 48 years old. Since then, Susan’s condition has deteriorated to the point that Steph’s sister realized their mom wouldn’t be able to make it to Steph’s perfect wedding unless she drastically changed her plans.
“It was difficult to hear, but at the same time, part of me knew that it might come down to this. I guess I just needed to hear it from my sister for it to become a reality,” Steph told POPSUGAR. “I was holding onto hope that we might be able to get my mom to Detroit Lakes for the wedding. But things don’t always go your way when Alzheimer’s is involved.”
However, Steph quickly realized that ditching her original plans and instead getting married in under three weeks would guarantee Susan’s attendance, and that’s something this bride could never take for granted. “Ever since my mother’s diagnosis, I’ve thought about all the milestones she’ll miss out on and all of my major life events that I’ll have to experience without my mother. I never thought that I’d have my mother at my wedding,” she said. “My mother’s disease has progressed a lot in the last year, and my sister reminded me that in a year from now, it’s going to be even worse. I pushed the wedding up because I wanted to be certain that she’d be there for it.”
After making their decision, Steph and Bryan had just 25 days to pull everything together, but their friends and family rallied to ensure that their day was incredibly special. “The most important part was getting to marry my best friend and being able to do so in the presence of both our families and friends,” Steph said. “I knew I made the right decision when I walked down the aisle and saw my mother sitting in the front row. I know she didn’t understand what was happening, but the simple fact that she was there, at my wedding, was something I’ve dreamt about for a long time.”
Due to the short notice, the couple expected a limited turnout, but 100 guests rearranged their schedules and traveled to witness their nuptials. These loved ones donated their time and resources to create a flower-lined aisle for Steph to walk down and a delicious meal for everyone to enjoy, but it’s the company that Steph is going to remember most. “One of my favorite moments was seeing and hearing my mom burst into laughter,” she said. “It was so amazing to see how happy she was in that moment. I will forever cherish the photos and videos that captured her laughter and beaming smile.”
Steph decided to share her story to show other families struggling with this difficult disease that they aren’t alone. “I started to realize how fortunate I was to have this amazing support system, comprised of other young advocates of this disease whose parents are currently living with Alzheimer’s or who have lost a parent to Alzheimer’s,” Steph said. “I’ve found strength through these individuals and wouldn’t be able to make it through the ups and downs of this journey without them. I couldn’t imagine not having someone else to talk to who knows exactly what I’m going through so I decided to create a Facebook group, as somewhat of an outlet for those who need someone to lean on.”
Just two weeks after the wedding, Susan had to be moved into a memory care facility. Check out the details from this meaningful day ahead.