When Lisa Borgia saw her boyfriend Chris Hulihan get on bended knee bearing a box, she told him, "I don't need a ring," recalls Borgia. "You already gave me a kidney! That's better than a ring."
In late 2002 Borgia, a lupus sufferer, started showing signs of kidney failure brought on by the disease. Almost immediately, Borgia, 33, was forced to go on dialysis and search for a kidney donor. Friends and family, including Hulihan (who had been dating Borgia for about four years at the time), got tested to see if they were tissue matches; when the results came back, Hulihan proved the best possible donor. "I thought, 'Oh my God, what are the odds?'" says Borgia. Despite his initial fears, it didn't take long for Hulihan to decide what to do: "One of those nights when I got home and saw her lying in bed after a dialysis treatment, looking half dead, I made up my mind," says Hulihan, 28. "The transplant list would take over seven years, she wouldn't have made it on dialysis, and I couldn't imagine going on without her."
On the day of the transplant surgery in April 2003, Hulihan went under the knife first, and when Borgia followed, "I remember lying with the bright lights over me and my surgeon came in and said, 'I have Chris's kidney!'" she recalls. "He had it in a bowl. And he said, 'Do you want to see it?' And I don't know what I was thinking but I said, 'Yeah, sure!' So he lifts the kidney out of the bowl—the last vision I had was of Chris's kidney, out of his body."
After the transplant was complete, Borgia and Hulihan returned home to Brooklyn to recover. "It was kind of funny," remembers Borgia. "The doctor told us to walk around, so we'd get up and walk down the hallway, leaning on each other, crouched over, saying 'Ow! Ow!'" Since then, Borgia's kidneys have been problem-free and on Dec. 24, 2005, Borgia accepted the solitaire diamond Hulihan had chosen for her (with a little help from her sister and father). "I couldn't turn it down!" says Borgia with a laugh. "I hugged him, cried and said, 'Yes, yes, yes!'" Nearly four years after their surgeries, Borgia wed Hulihan at Oheka Castle in Huntington, N.Y., in March. "Having his kidney is an unbelievably special thing," says the new Mrs. Hulihan. "He's an amazing, special person."
SHE LIVED HER AUNT'S DREAM
McKenzie Anson did not have to pick out her wedding dress. History had made that fashion decision for her.
In 1987, when Anson was only 10 months old, her aunt Hollis Langton was preparing to marry Michael Zanger. The monogrammed napkins were ready. Langton's bridal shower had come and gone. But on Aug. 16, just two months shy of their wedding date, the couple died in the Northwest Airlines flight 255 crash that killed 156 people. Langton's wedding dress, with tags still attached, lay untouched and boxed for 20 years. "I have pretty much known all of my life that I would wear it," Anson, 20, says of her aunt's dress. "It's kind of completing her moment."
Still, the original dress needed a few modern updates before heading down the aisle. "It was '80s style all the way," Anson recalls. "But it had a long train and I loved that." Anson's mother (and Langton's sister), Carmen, sewed a sleeker, strapless top onto the dress and on Feb. 10, 2007, watched her daughter walk down the aisle in Carleton, Mich., to marry her childhood best friend, Joel Swiontoniowski, 21. "I thought about my aunt all day," says Anson. "This was something she didn't get to experience." As for the dress, says Carmen, "we wanted it to have its day."
TWO ROCKERS RECONNECTED
Grace Lee and Paul Park's romance played out more like a soap opera than a fairy tale. It began with an unrequited crush: "He was my first love, but he liked me only like a younger sister," says Lee, 53, who originally met Park, 58, in 1971 when both were part of the Seoul music scene. Eventually, a romance blossomed, but then came betrayal and heartache as Lee discovered Park was having an affair with one of his band's groupies, "I lost everything that day," says Lee.
In 1976 Lee left Korea, and eventually settled in Texas with her husband and their daughter; Park married, had two daughters and opened a karaoke bar in San Diego. But neither Lee nor Park ever stopped thinking about the other. After her husband died in 2004, "my friends and I would talk about Paul," says Lee. "I missed her," adds Park, who was divorced in 1993 and had been searching for Lee ever since. "I uploaded her picture to this Korean rock Web site and wrote, 'I'm looking for this person.'" Then, one night in June 2005, Lee's best friend called to say she'd run into Park at his karaoke bar, where her son happened to be a regular customer. "I couldn't breathe," says Lee. "One week later, Paul and I talked and I couldn't sleep all night."
Lee moved to San Diego in January 2006. Last October the couple made it official. "At the wedding party, we sang the song 'Reunited,'" says Park. "That and 'I Got You Babe.'"
HER BRIDESMAIDS WERE HER CRUTCH
Three weeks before her wedding, Amber Osborne was driving home from her bridal shower when a car suddenly pulled out in front of her, leaving no time for her to brake. "I hit him on his driver's side like a T," says Amber, 24. "My dashboard fell off and crushed my right foot, and I broke my ankle and tore some ligaments. I was in shock." A passerby who saw the accident grabbed Amber's cell phone and dialed her fiancé, Jeffie Davis. "I got there after driving about 90 miles an hour," says Jeffie, 23."All I could think about was her and if she was okay. Everything was such a blur." As her wedding day neared, Amber was in and out of the hospital for surgery and checkups. "My doctor said there was no way I was going to be able to walk down the aisle by then," she recalls, but "I thought, 'It's not fair to Jeffie to have to wait.'" Although Amber was indeed still sporting an ankle cast on the big day—which took place Sept. 10, 2006, at Anthony's Chapel in Hot Springs, Ark.—her bridesmaids helped her make the best of it. "They decorated my cast with white satin and jewels," says Amber. And for the reception, "one of them came up with a dance, and they came into the hall with cut-off white tube socks and crutches and sunglasses. They hiked their dresses up and danced to Footloose. It was hilarious." So despite the bad break, Amber has nothing but good memories of her nuptials. "I could have died in that car wreck," she says. "All I did was break an ankle. That wedding day was a gift from God."
THEY REUNITED AFTER 30 YEARS
When Mark Gerstle attended his 39th college fraternity reunion in 2004, the first person he spotted was an old pal, Jay Miller. And the first person he asked about was Miller's sister Anne, whom he hadn't seen since a summer at the beach 30 years prior. "She was always a fantasy," recalls Gerstle, who had been widowed seven months earlier after 17 years of marriage. "She looked great and she knew it." Miller could have talked up his sister's successful career as a sales consultant and author, but instead he blurted, "She's still single." Ten days later, Gerstle, 64, and Anne Miller, 62, went on their first date. As soon as they saw each other again, "he knew and I knew," says Miller. "There was such energy and warmth in his eyes, and you could tell he liked what he was seeing." Eighteen months later they wed on a yacht off Manhattan, with Gerstle's daughters Morgan, 10 (who served as a junior bridesmaid), and Cara, 18. "All of a sudden these three wonderful people came into my life," says Miller. "I'm part of something. Life is much fuller; it has more meaning."
A MATCHMAKER FOUND HER MATCH
"People told me I was washed up," says Nina Friedman, a professional matchmaker who never could find a Mr. Right for herself. "When I turned 40, I was having anxiety attacks thinking, 'I can't miss the boat of being a parent.'" So she adopted a baby girl she named Fayth. That's when friends said, "Who's going to date a 42-year-old with an infant?" recalls Friedman. Paging Dr. Steven Neish. Last summer the divorced pediatric cardiologist, 49, read Friedman's musings on love on her matchmaking site www.yentagirl.com. "It spoke to me," says Neish, who sent Friedman a thank-you note for inspiring him. Although Friedman initially viewed Neish as a potential match for a client, he made it clear it was the matchmaker he was interested in. "She was different than anyone else I'd ever been out with," says Neish, who proposed just four weeks after their first date. "My whole life I knew that when I found the right person, I would know without any doubt," says Friedman, 43. "I never gave up on finding love."
HE DREAMT HER NUMBER
Michelle Kitson was riding in the car with her parents near their Cambridge, England, home when she received an odd text message on her cell phone.
"I'm Dave Brown from Harefield. Did I meet you last night?"
Kitson, 22, was sure it was a joke. The previous night had been a quiet one at home with her mother. It took her 30 minutes to answer back, first with "Dave who?" and then with the more suspicious "Where did you get my number?"
Initially, Brown, 24, wasn't sure how to respond. He'd gone out drinking with friends the night before and "ended up having a few too many," he recalls. "And I woke up the next morning with the number in my head. So I texted."
When Kitson learned how the message had come about, "I was hooked," she says. "I wanted to know more."
The text messages grew flirtatious. The couple began talking on the phone, and soon after Brown's numerical dream, they met for a date. "I thought he was lovely," says Kitson. "He wanted to travel, and so did I. He just had a great personality."
Three months later, the pair moved in together, and five years later they married. "It was love at first sight," says Kitson. Brown agrees: "I see it as fate."
THEY MET IN DAY CARE
Danielle Link and Glen Zilly felt like their first date really didn't go so well. "We didn't think we had any chemistry," says Link. What they didn't know was that they'd actually been on numerous very successful "dates" before—as toddlers, under the care of the same Hampton, Va., babysitter, Louise Hughes. "I started looking after Glen as a newborn, and I got Danielle when she was about 8 months old," recalls Hughes. "They were together five days a week for years."
Link, 29, and Zilly, 28, who both ended up living in Phoenix and randomly met on eHarmony, didn't piece things together until almost six months into their relationship. "I was shocked," says Zilly, whose mother made the connection during a phone chat with Hughes. Adds Link: "I was in love before this happened, but after finding this out, I realized our relationship was meant to be." Even though Hughes couldn't make it to the couple's October 2006 wedding, they visited her soon after. "They're a wonderful couple," she says. "It's so special that they met again."
HER WHEELCHAIR DIDN'T SLOW HIM DOWN
Dating wasn't always easy for Angie Rullo, who was born with a rare condition that reduces bone strength and who mostly uses a wheelchair. "As soon as they saw the wheelchair, some guys would act sheepish," says Rullo. Not Ed Colaiezzi, who met Rullo in November 2001 while hanging out with friends at a neighborhood bar in Edgemont, Pa. "I challenged her to a game of pool, so I could show off a little," says Colaiezzi, 37. Adds Rullo, 30: "Ed always said, 'Your personality and million-dollar smile were the only things in my mind.'"
Two and a half years after they met, Colaiezzi, a postman, proposed to Rullo, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Immaculata University in Pennsylvania, during a Sunday-afternoon sail in Baltimore Harbor. "A crew member came by with a camera and said, 'Are you ready for your picture?'" remembers Rullo, who has a 12-year-old son, Jake, from a previous relationship. "I turned to see Ed on one knee with a ring." In October 2006 the couple wed at Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge National Historical Park. "My goal was to walk down that aisle," says Rullo. "My main concern was falling on my face in front of everyone, but there was no backup plan for stopping halfway down; I was making it all the way or bust!" Rullo pulled it off and has the photos to prove it. "It's funny," she says. "In the pictures, my dad is crying, Ed is crying, and I am smiling like Miss America!"
HE ENTERED HER WORLD OF DEAFNESS
When Fred Licht found himself falling in love with his former high school classmate Trina Abbott, who was born deaf, "I realized I should be deaf for a day to put myself in her shoes," says Licht, 31. So he got some earplugs and a pair of sound-blocking earmuffs used at shooting ranges and spent an entire day not talking. Says Licht: "By the end I was starting to get headaches because I had to think so hard." Licht, who also learned American Sign Language to better communicate with Abbott, proposed to her using only his hands. "She and I were actually having a heated argument—our hands were just flailing—and finally I signed, 'Do you realize that I want to marry you?'" recalls Licht. "Her eyes lit up like candles." For the wedding, the couple hired two interpreters to sign for their guests, about one-third of whom were deaf. Still, the key moment was done in silence. "Words cannot express the emotions I felt watching my husband sign the vows to me," says Abbott, 30. The couple also tweaked one tried-and-true tradition at the reception. "The deaf can't hear the tapping on a glass," says Licht, "So we used a different tradition where you swing your napkin around until the married couple kisses. If you look at all the pictures, Trina and I had the biggest smiles in the world."
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