wish upon a wedding las vegas - altf photography
Photo of Nick & Robin’s wedding courtesy Altf photography

Wish Upon a Wedding has a rather powerful vision. They are the world’s first nonprofit organization dedicated to providing weddings and vow renewals to couples facing terminal illness and serious life altering circumstances, regardless of sexual orientation. Think “Make A Wish“, but for adults who have found their mate for life, and may not be in a position to dedicate the time or finances to planning a wedding of any kind, let alone the one they’ve dreamt about.

In 2009, California-based event planner Liz Guthrie was producing a luxury wedding giveaway contest in San Francisco. This national giveaway was designed to give one deserving couple who had faced illness or a hardship during their relationship a dream wedding as a prize.

Over 350 couples applied for the $100,000 wedding (as valued through vendor donations of time and materials), and as she read through the heart wrenching entries, Liz found herself wondering how she could donate dream weddings to deserving couples all across America, instead of just the one winning couple.

Although many compelling and amazing couples applied, eventually public voting determined the couple to be wed, and the bride turned out to be Vanessa Muza Teskey - a woman who had been struggling with a serious form of cancer.

Inspired by this couple’s story, Liz combined her giving nature and desire to provide dream weddings to so many others, to create Wish Upon a Wedding (WUW) in 2010. Liz decided to give back to the community and celebrate love through WUW by providing wedding services for the seriously and terminally ill by pairing up couples with those working in the wedding industry who were looking for a way to give back.

Now three years after its launch, WUW has fourteen chapters, including a Las Vegas one, which granted its first completely free wedding to Robin and Nick in 2011. 

When I first heard about WUW, I’ll admit I got a little teary-eyed. I have the great fortune to look at beautiful, love-filled weddings everyday and reading about Wish Upon a Wedding was a stark reminder that sometimes some people do not get the opportunity to marry their loved one due to a sudden and/or serious illness.

I immediately had to know more, so I interviewed the extraordinarily busy Ms. Guthrie about her organization and learned a little more about the Las Vegas chapter, which offers weddings and vow renewals, and has granted three ceremonies and receptions to couples in Las Vegas so far. (Read about them here: Tammy & Cameron, Heidi & Billy and Robin & Nick)

Tammy and Cameron’s Wedding by Lighten Films

Liz said that Las Vegas became home to a chapter on account of it being one of the United States’ premier wedding destinations. The area is home to many amazing venues and vendors who are eager to participate and grant wishes for WUW couples, she elaborated.

So far WUW Las Vegas has granted three weddings, and only two of them were for Las Vegas locals. Couples applying for a wedding may request their day be in any chapter in the United States, and as long as they are healthy enough to travel there, and WUW makes every effort to make their desire come true.

Probing Liz on the budgets for the weddings, she said there is no minimum or maximum set for a wedding budget – although the guest count must not exceed 50, even if someone wants to pay for the extra guests. The reasons for this are twofold; one,  to prevent the volunteer vendors from being overworked and two, to ensure the event is as intimate and meaningful as possible.

Speaking more on vendors, Liz explained that while the couple cannot request a specific local vendor, WUW does guarantee certain items at every wedding, including the venue an officiant, a wedding planner, catering, photography and videography, florist, cake, beauty and transportation. They never provide alcohol, that must be provided by the bride and groom if desired.

While WUW’s first mandate is to help those couples who are facing terminal illness, there are special circumstance weddings that can be used for couples as well, such as extreme physical disability or those facing life-altering situations such as when a military veteran is injured. Losing your job or economic hardship alone does not qualify you for a WUW event. That being said, there is no discrimination based on sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, disabilities, or age – as long as you’re over 18 and a US citizen.

The bride and groom must apply themselves, and it takes a minimum of six weeks to get approval, longer if you are applying for a special circumstance wedding. Wish Upon a Wedding’s national President (and famed celebrity event planner) Sasha Souza has been on board with WUW since the start, and she personally reviews every application, which is then passed onto the local board members. There are two levels of wish wedding, “boutique” wishes which are for weddings up to 25 guests and “romantic” wishes which provide wedding amenities for up to 50 guests.

I cannot thank Liz Guthrie enough for taking time out of her incredibly busy schedule to share a little about Wish Upon a Wedding and the magic that it makes happen. What WUW provides is important work and is a true celebration of life and love as well as a reminder to do today what you may not be able to to tomorrow. I’m so happy they exist!

How You Can Get Involved:

If you are a bride or groom, you could ask guests to contribute to Wish Upon a Wedding in lieu of gifts at your wedding or shower, or you could donate instead of giving favors. They have a variety of items for sale as favors for which proceeds go directly to the charity, if you prefer to still give a little something. 

You could also volunteer your time, as a fundraiser or donate to the annual auction. Brides can even donate their wedding gown and donate the proceeds to WUW. For a full list of ways you can help, please click here.

If you are a wedding industry professional in the Las Vegas area, you could become a part of the local chapter and provide your services, materials or time and become a wish granter. 

If you know someone who is deserving of a dream wedding, please encourage them to apply!

And in case you are wondering, some of the Las Vegas Wish Upon a Wedding Wish Granting All Stars are: 

Alligator Soup, Altf Photography, Amelia C Makeup Artistry, Annie’s Gourmet Catering, Aracelli Zea Cake Studio, Bella Bridesmaids, Bobbie Pin Beauty Artistry, Canyon Gate Country Club, Cravin’ Cake Bakery, DJs to You, Enchanted Florist, Good Vibrations DJ, Green Orchid Events, J and J Photography, Layers of Lovely, Lighten Films, Lori White, Memory Lane Video, Paper and Home, Peridot Sweets, The Platinum Hotel, Plush Weddings and Event Planning, Reverend Jerry Withers, Reverend Linda Venniro, Semper Fi Event Planning, Shutterbooth, Sight and Sound Events, Something New Videography, Tuxedo Junction and Vegas chapter President/local photographer Adam Frazier

These are just some of the vendors that work to grant wishes in the Vegas area! Thank you to you all for your hard work, time and generosity.