At first, when 35-year-old Jen Bulik developed a cough that she couldn't shake, doctors diagnosed it as pneumonia. But when it still didn't go away with treatment, further tests showed the fateful diagnosis: Stage IV lung cancer.
Last month, after five months of treatment, Bulik received the dreaded news from her doctors: Even with continued treatment, she had less than six months to live.
"So when I heard that, I said, 'Let's get married,'" said Bulik, who had been dating longtime boyfriend Jeff Lang for six years. "Because I wanted to focus on life."
With time running out, Bulik and Lang chose to plan a simple, small wedding with close friends and family -- barbecue food served on paper plates in Jen's parents back yard.
Instead, thanks to the help of strangers, the couple will get married on Saturday, and Bulik will get the wedding of her dreams. Thirty Bay Area wedding vendors are donating $50,000 worth of goods and services to make Bulik's wedding dreams come true.
The dream wedding is being organized by Erica Ota, a wedding planner who saw a message about Bulik and Lang on a Facebook group for wedding planners.
Their story touched her.
"I just feel that in life there are opportunities every day to do extraordinary things for other people,” Erica says. “This was an opportunity I saw to do something for somebody else. So why not?”
At first, Ota planned on helping out the day of the wedding. But as she got to know the couple, she decided she needed to do more.
“I got the impression from reading excerpts from her [Jen’s] blog that she’s the most positive, optimistic person," Ota said. "And despite this grave prognosis, she seemed like she wasn’t going to give up, it still seems that way.”
Over the last few weeks, she used Bulik's Pinterest wedding board as a guide to plan the dream wedding. She enlisted the help of more than 30 Bay Area wedding vendors to provide everything on the Pinterest board -- and the couple didn't have to pay anything.
“It was my goal for them not to pay a dime,” Erica says. “I thought to myself these people have already suffered enough, why not be able to give them a gift? A wonderful gift that they, and their families will never be able to forget.”
The couple will say their vows in a park down the street from Jen's childhood home. The dream reception will be follow in the back yard of her parents' house.
“I think it’s amazing the generosity in their heart,” Bulik said, “and they’re so touched by our story and that’s I guess it’s like people have feelings.”
If you would like to contribute to a fund set up to help the couple during this difficult time, you can donate at giveforward.com.