Shortly before they said their "I dos," Jennifer Jones received a special necklace from her fiancé, Rob Ronnenberg. The necklace included three birthstones: his, hers and that of Lacey, a woman they had never met.
That might seem like a strange gift for a bride-to-be. But Lacey, an organ donor whose lungs made Jennifer's walk down the aisle possible, is as essential to Jennifer as the air she can now breathe. The necklace, Rob wrote to Jennifer in a note accompanying the gift, would serve as a beautiful reminder of their connection to each other, an acknowledgement that "Lacey will always be an important part of our lives and I will cherish every day and every breath we have together."
It was a heartfelt, tearful scene made for the movies. Or, for TV. Which is exactly where it played out on Feb. 26, in a ceremony that aired live on "My Great Big Live Wedding with David Tutera." The couple we introduced you to last year caught the attention of the reality show's producers when a video of Jennifer's first breath after her lung transplant went viral. "When they first contacted us, we thought it was a joke," Rob tells us.
But email messages led to Skype interviews, and in October, Jennifer and Rob got the news that they were one of eight "inspirational couples" chosen to be part of the show. Though they're "not really big attention people," Rob tells the Rochester Post-Bulletin that they were eager to sign on. "It's given us a platform for our cause — cystic fibrosis awareness and the need for organ donation," Rob tells the publication. "We do appreciate it from that angle."
The show's host, celebrity wedding and event planner Tutera, met with the couple to learn their story and get a sense of their style and wedding wishes. But the details, from the location to Jennifer's wedding dress, were kept a secret. "That is what is so fun about it, it is exciting they get to do all the planning and make all of our dreams come true," Jennifer told KARE-11 before the wedding. And that meant all of the planning — right down to the wedding gown Tutera designed for her, which even the bride didn't see before the big day. "I tried it on, but I was blindfolded so I have no idea what it looks like." (Spoiler alert: she loved it. We did, too.)
Other surprises that delighted the bride (and groom): a wedding aisle lined with baby's breath and 6,500 purple roses adorning the Union Depot in St. Paul, where the wedding was held. Vicki Dean, a Mayo Clinic cystic fibrosis nurse who has cared for Jennifer since she was diagnosed with the disease, was on hand to explain the significance of the flowers, telling wedding guests (and the TV audience) that "65 roses" is how some children diagnosed with cystic fibrosis pronounce the disease.
Just as beautiful to the couple as the flowers were the faces of the guests that surrounded them, including Dean, respiratory therapist Rose Felten, and transplant physician Mark Wylam, M.D. "The people at Mayo aren't just staff," Jennifer tells us. "They become your family. It meant the world to us to have them there."
To see what in the world Jennifer and Rob have been up to since her transplant — including designing a purple rose-patterned respiration mask to raise awareness for cystic fibrosis — visit their Facebook page or YouTube channel. Then stop to smell the roses (or leave a comment) below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.