Malvern, PA: JUNE 2021: New Wedding Date June 18, 2021
It seems a lifetime ago, that we chose our winner for the Military Wedding Giveaway (2019). As expected, like so many others, our winning couple had to postpone their chosen wedding day in the summer of 2020. But we are happy to report… the Wedding is ON! And it’s coming up quickly! Diana and Andres are excited to finally have their dream wedding come true for their vow renewal and reception at The Desmond.
An essay contest began in the Spring of 2019 open to all military couples (active or inactive) who wanted to try to win their dream wedding. Many heart-warming love stories were submitted but only three would make it to the final round of voting. The Desmond CARE committee from the hotel (A DoubleTree brand standard committee) voted and wittled down the final 3 essays to submit for public voting.
The Desmond advertised the essay voting through social media to begin the voting for everyone’s favorite essay for a period of 2 weeks. The essays gathered over 12,000 votes!
The winning essay was written by Diana who spent 4 years in the Army. Her husband Andres is retired now from the Army and they reside in Florida with their 3 children. Yes, they are married already, but never had their dream wedding. But now, they will finally be having that dream come true wedding with a vow renewal ceremony at The Desmond.
Here is their love story (the winning essay):
Diana & Andres
WHEN LOVE IS GREATER
We met our freshman year in high school. I was in Physical Education class when this six- foot, three hundred pound, fifteen year old approached me and introduced himself as Andres. We were instantly friends. He was such a sweet boy, always showering me with gifts and helping my single mother in all her endeavors to provide for my sister and I. These attributes slowly made me start having feelings for him and by the end of the year we were dating. We graduated at seventeen and two months later my “love-bug” left for Army boot camp and by August I was heading for boot camp too. With both of us in basic training, we could not talk to each other. Our communication was solely by mailed letters.
One day, as I was standing in formation, waiting for the drill sergeant to call names for letter dispersement, I received mine, but little did I know this one letter would change my life. In it, my boyfriend asked if I would marry him! So without hesitation, I responded with a “Yes!” and sent the letter. A couple of months later, everything had been arranged for the wedding by my boyfriend and my mother-in-law. We had not seen each other for five months and we were meeting again the Friday night before our wedding. The next morning we were at the old, brick building, musty court house. There were only ten of us in there including the judge. The only friends I had with me were my two battle buddies who were currently in training with me. The wedding was done on less than my husband’s E-3 pay check of $1049 a month. His aunt gifted us the cake and his brother bought the Chinese food for the party.
My wedding dress was my thirty dollar Quinceanera dress my mom had bought years prior on her house keeping salary, which I had worn for a mass in my honor since I couldn’t have a Quinceanera either. The hotel room to spend our first night as a couple, was gifted by a family friend who worked there. My father could not walk me down the aisle since he resided in Colombia, thus neither the anticipated Latino culture Quinceanera nor the wedding were what I ever dreamed of. The “reception” was held at my brother-in-law’s living room were a few more family friends were able to attend and by the following day, my husband dropped me back in training and headed to California to his first duty assignment.
Getting married young was not easy and by our first year anniversary, we had endured the tragic loss of our first and only daughter. I vividly remember the Chaplin at our daughter’s bedside trying to comfort us, but also warning us that this tragedy we were facing could either make or break us. Since we were always so far away from family during our military life, we didn’t get the chance to have an official wedding. Then I decided that my dream would be to wait until our twenty year anniversary and combine his retirement ceremony and our wedding at the same time. However, life threw a huge curve ball and that did not happen at all.
In 2015, while stationed in Kentucky, my husband was diagnosed with a brain AVM (arteriovenous malformation). A "perfectly" healthy soldier was now facing a life altering diagnosis to include the need for brain surgery. Our third boy was born and five weeks into our new parenting adventure, my husband had to be medevac’d due to severe brain swelling and hemorrhage.
My husband is not the same person he was. We now choose to embrace the new him, the new normal and adjusting to a life that’s very different from what we had.
Remember the dream that I had mentioned earlier about having my wedding and my husband’s retirement all at the same time? Well, that dream was crushed. It will be 22 years of marriage this November and I have yet to have a wedding. I keep putting it off and saying, “Well, maybe for our 25th year anniversary, maybe our 50th and so on, but what if that day never comes?” And just today, as I was writing this essay, my husband was diagnosed with dementia.
It doesn’t matter how our story began, but how it will end. We have each other and our three beautiful boys to be thankful for. Our love story is a story of commitment, endurance, and perseverance despite all odds and that to me is a love story, an unfiltered love story. We deserve this wedding because my husband deserves to be able to actually SEE me walk down the aisle, the way it’s always meant to be. I want our children to have that memory before they leave home.
Our family needs moments of joy and a promising culmination of all that we have faced. I want to be able to show how much I love this man and how we are forever meant to be.
Their wedding vow renewal ceremony and reception at The Desmond will include the standard Saturday evening wedding package and overnight accommodations and also include the gracious donation of vendor services to complete their special day to include the photography, DJ, flowers, cake, video, tuxedo, wedding dress, officiant and bridal hairstyle & make up.
The Desmond Malvern, a DoubleTree by Hilton would like to thank all of our vendor partners for graciously donating their services for this very special day:
Blue Moon Florist Banquet – Centerpieces www.bluemoonflorist.com.
David’s Bridal – Wedding Gown www.davidsbridal.com
Journey’s of the Heart – Officiant www.journeysoftheheart.org
Duca Studio – Reception Photography www.ducastudio.com
Spencer Studios – Ceremony & Portraits www.spencerstudios.biz
La Sposa Styles – Bridal Hairstyle www.lasposastyles.com
Mark Sheppard Productions – DJ www.markshepperddj.com
Master’s Baker – Wedding Cake www.themastersbaker.com
Sagets Formal Wear –Tuxedo www.sagets.com
Valley Creek Productions – Video www.valleycreekproductions.com
Katharine Winter Make Up – Katharinewinter@aol.com
A Letter of Gratitude from Diana and Her Family:
First of all I want to start by thanking each and every person that has and will be involved in making this dream a reality. We are deeply grateful and humbled for your generosity, kindness, time and service. As you probably know from reading the contest essay, we are high school sweethearts who joined the Army at the age of seventeen. Both of our single mothers had to give written consent for us to join since we were minors. We married while we were in boot camp and had a drive-thru wedding at our local court house.
In the past four years my husband underwent brain surgery (which came with complications,) we had our third boy, we moved four times, and my husband was medically retired from the Army due to his disabilities.
Joining the Army was a door to new opportunities, but once in, we fell in love with serving others and serving our country. I did four years as a combat medic and my husband served twenty years and four months as Infantry, communications and in the recruiting command. Through all the challenges and hardships the military brought, we served selflessly and we did it with pleasure. We have the most amazing and resilient boys who have moved eight times in their short life span.
When the active duty member serves, the whole family serves. Military life is challenging, but extremely rewarding. It is a life like no other. You make the most amazing friendships, but then you have to move and leave behind the life you built every two to three years. Our children must learn to say goodbye and adapt to new schools, new neighborhoods, new friends and even new climates. Then they must also learn to say goodbye, and start all over, while making sure they don’t become apathetic and discouraged about making new friendships for the fear of the pain they will inevitably endure. Starting from scratch every two years is challenging, but we choose to focus on the fact that we make new friends wherever we go and that we grow where we are planted even if that is only for a little while. Neighbors become family and we are there for each other at any given moment. And then, when it’s time to say goodbye to the life that made us fear a phone call, that separated us from friends and family, that made us grieve over lost friends, that made us be single parents from the demands of the job, that may have left our spouses crippled, without hesitation, we would do it all over again and we maintain in our hearts that burning torch of helping others, that self-less sacrifice that will not go away.
Despite the heartaches, the tears, the goodbyes, the distance, we wouldn’t have it any other way. It doesn't matter when, and where that military member served, or what they did, they all deserve our gratitude.
We are the imperfect couple who has stuck together through everything that was meant to tear us apart. We are the couple that has persevered despite the hardships because we strongly believe that our marriage is a covenant not to be broken. We are the couple that is learning together how to live a life very different of what we had. We are the couple that is learning how to find joy in the midst of adversity. We are the couple who clings to hope and believe dreams can come true.
It doesn’t matter how our story began, but how it will end and we have become better by the testing of our faith. When I saw my children’s face as they heard the announcement that we won, I realized this dream wasn’t just about me, but about all of us. It means more than having the wedding that every girl dreams of. To our children, it means that their parents have persevered under trial, that they have not given up on each other, that it is for better or worse, that they still love each other, that they have survived, that dreams do come true and that there are people who care enough about others to make their wishes a reality and each one of you are part of this beautiful story.
To our veterans, I hope it means that you will find a new meaning in life despite the adversity you have faced as long as you continue to persevere under trial. That hope is worth clinging to even if it takes longer than expected and that your sacrifices and service are not forgotten. My desire is that our story encourages and gives hope to those who need it and to honor those who are serving and have served along with the families that sacrifice so much. Soldiers for life!
Our deepest gratitude to the Desmond Hotel, every vendor, every employee, every voter and every other person who has and will be part of this wonderful gift.
With utmost gratitude,
Andres, Diana, Javier, Daniel, and Emmanuel Villa
THE DESMOND MALVERN, A DOUBLETREE BY HILTON |ONE LIBERTY BOULEVARD, MALVERN, PA | 610-296-9800 | INFO@DESMONDGV.COM