As the 2018 news cycle begins to wrap up for the year, political turmoil, intolerance, and other dismal themes have dominated the headlines throughout most of the year. Yet in the rust belt town of Muncie, Indiana, one woman showed that not all hope is lost for humankind going into 2019.
While 2018 was the year of epic weddings, from Prince Harry’s royal celebration to Isha Ambani’s star-studded soiree featuring Beyonce and other celebs, one of the most epic “weddings” took place when Carla Gick threw the ultimate “wedding” for her sister Sherry Woodard- complete with family, friends, flowers, a cake, and most importantly…the perfect dress.
It Started With the Dress
As Sherry twirled around in the bridal shop mirror, her nieces ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the white flowing gown she had just tried on. An avid fan of the popular television show “Say Yes to the Dress,” Sherry had dreamt about her special day for years.
It might sound like the ordinary bridal preparation efforts of two sisters who had no living parents. After all, Carla had made arrangements to make sure that Sherry’s day would be special- coordinating the food and floral arrangements, booking the DJ and church gymnasium.
Except Sherry isn’t a 20-something-year-old bride-to-be.
Sherry is a 70-year old special needs woman who, despite her love of all things bridal, never got a wedding of her own.
A Different Kind of Bride
Sherry was diagnosed with a disability upon entering kindergarten in 1953. Her birth defect, doctors said, would mentally limit her to 8-10 years old. Back then, few schools had programs for disabled students, so Sherry’s family moved to Muncie in order for Sherry to attend a special school.
In the past seven decades, Sherry and Carla have developed an unbreakable bond that few will ever know. Carla has been Sherry’s primary support system for 50 years as both navigated a lifetime filled with ups and downs- from the birth of Carla’s children and grandchildren (who have a contest at Christmas to see who can get Aunt Sherry the best present) to losing both parents and one sister to cancer. Additionally, both sisters battled cancer, neither leaving the other’s side as they underwent surgery- and eventually, celebrated remission together.
The idea for the “wedding” all started when Carla was trying to plan Sherry’s 70th birthday.
“I got this idea for a ‘Sweet 70’ party- like ‘Sweet 16’ parties,” Carla explained. “They have the big fancy dresses and the parties. Sherry loves the TV show ‘Say Yes to the Dress,’ so we decided to have a sort of wedding for her birthday. I mean, why not?”
Carla’s plan to find Sherry’s perfect dress led her to a discount bridal shop where she found one within her budget. However, she wanted Sherry to have the full bridal experience of picking out not just any dress, but the perfect dress.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Carla made arrangements with the store so that Sherry could try on some other dresses to get the full bridal experience. Naturally, her family all gently guided Sherry to the dress that Carla had already purchased and there, in a strip mall discount bridal store, Sherry said yes to the dress.
What Sherry didn’t know was that the perfect dress was just the start of a perfect night.
“Things just started snowballing,” Carla said. “We wanted to have a little party, but then the church offered us the space and things just sort of went from there.”
While Carla remains modest about the wedding, the truth is that friends and family as well as their church, Tabernacle of Praise, had heard about the idea and began chipping in with donations, decorations, and more. Carla’s sons helped cook the food (much of which was donated), Reni Lawhead of Reni’s Heaven Scent, a local florist, provided the flowers.
“Her cake looked just like a wedding cake,” Carla said, describing the intricate piped icing in mouth-watering detail.
As the DJ played “Sherry Baby” for Sherry’s entrance, she was joined by her family, fellow parishioners, and her coworkers at Hillcroft Services, where she and her peers (also disabled adults) do
piece work in their sheltered workshop. Many of her coworkers had never been to a wedding, yet they danced to traditional wedding hits such as the YMCA and Electric Slide until the night ended.
“She got to feel what it was like to be a bride,” Carla said.
Yet there was one more surprise.
Sherry was getting a honeymoon.
Like all brides, Sherry received her fair share of cards- and the cards’ contents allowed Carla to take Sherry on her first plane ride to Florida.
“She was in awe,” Carla said. “She had her face to the window the whole trip.”
By the time most women are marriage age, reality shows have replaced fairytales, but not for Sherry, who at seventy years old, became the princess we all wish we could be this holiday season.