Trying to foot the bill for a wedding can be tough, especially when money is extra tight.
If anyone knows that to be true, it’s Jerold and Mani Clay — a couple from Michigan who are battling homelessness. They’ve been together for more than a decade but just recently saved up enough to get a marriage license.
They never planned on having an extravagant ceremony — they simply wanted the paperwork to make it official.
But when their local homeless shelter discovered Jerold and Mani were getting hitched, they quickly sprung into action that same day to give them an unforgettable experience.
Last month, Mel Trotter Ministries helped make Jerold and Mani’s wedding day extra special.
“The couple’s actually been together since 2004,” Abbey Sladick, director of community relations at Mel Trotter in Grand Rapids, Michigan, told Upworthy, noting they’d been looking forward to their wedding day for quite some time. “It was just really important for them to have that day.“
Sladick explained that, as a faith-based organization, Mel Trotter makes sure compassion is at the heart of everything they do. So when they learned about the couple’s plans, they wanted to do anything they could to “enhance the memory.”
Utilizing its own thrift stores, the ministry provided many of the essentials — like Jerold’s tux and Mani’s dress and accessories — while a local salon did the bride’s hair and makeup.
And when Ken Kibby, who runs I Now Pronounce You Wedding Services, found out about the couple’s financial circumstances the day of the wedding, he decided to officiate for free.
“He needs [the money] more than I do,” Kibby told Fox 17 News. “It’s the right thing to do. These are two people trying to get their lives together, and God has blessed me with a lot. So I feel like it’s my job to return the favor.”
Many believe it’s important for folks with few resources to have the same opportunity to say, “I do” too.
Just ask Sean Cononie. He runs what’s been dubbed America’s First Homeless Resort out of what used to be a hotel in Haines City, Florida. The space provides homeless people a cheap (or even free) place to rest their head.
Cononie‘s facility also doubles as a wedding venue for its guests. With funds raised through the resort, he’s officiated more than three dozen weddings, as Fox 13 News in Tampa Bay reported last summer.
“People who have money pay, people who don’t have money don’t pay,” he told The Huffington Post in June 2015 of how his facility operates. The price of a room ranges from $0 to $24 a night.
“It was like a fairy tale,” Lynette Hudson said after getting married at the facility. “It was beautiful.”
Jerold and Mani, who are both looking for work, won’t be forgetting their big day any time soon.
“I didn’t expect this at all,” Mani said. “We just wanted to do it casual with a few friends and family, and [Mel Trotter Ministries] came to me and made this happen — the dress, makeup, hair, and everything — and it meant a lot.”
This kind of compassionate community support can provide a huge source of encouragement for folks who are all too often marginalized. How awesome it is for them to have a moment of empowerment and love — something all people deserve.
Watch Fox 17 News’ report from the couple’s wedding below: