97-Year-Old Woman Serves as Great-Granddaughter's Matron of Honor in Christmas Eve Ceremony
When their initial plans to have a Walt Disney World wedding had to be pushed back, Ashley and Josh Stewart decided to make lemonade out of lemons.
"I got to thinking, and talked to my grandmother and said, 'I hate that Nanny can't go (to the Disney wedding), so what if we just did a marriage license ceremony with her?'" she told Today.
The couple used the opportunity to have a Christmas Eve marriage license ceremony at The Pointe at Lifespring, the senior living community where Ashley's 97-year-old great-grandmother, Juanita Courtney, lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Christmas Eve marked the 16th anniversary of the last time Ashley's entire family was together, at Juanita's house in 2005. Ashley's Papaw Paul died just a few days later, and Juanita became too sad to continue hosting, causing the tradition to fall apart.
It was the perfect date not just for the ceremony, but for Ashley to surprise her beloved Nanny with a long-overdue family reunion. And the matriarch would be her matron of honor.
The Pointe at Lifespring has a "Living the Dream" program in which the staff selects one resident every quarter to fulfill a bucket-list item or special wish.
"Miss Courtney said she wanted all of her family to be together on Christmas Eve because they hadn't been together on that day in 16 years," Julie Sharp, director of sales and marketing at The Pointe, told Today.
So, the staff got to work on making her dream come true. They bought Juanita a new dress, had her hair and makeup done, and gifted her a replica of her bouquet from her wedding day back in 1947.
"She just wept, she was so excited," Sharp recalled to Today.
A total of 34 family members gathered at The Pointe on the afternoon of Christmas Eve for the ceremony.
"To get her to be part of something that's such a milestone in my life, it was an honor to have her there," Ashley, who plans to have a bigger wedding next year, told the outlet.
"The fact that we have five generations alive who are active in each other's lives is just something that's unheard of," she continued. "It's a blessing to get to have that. Nanny and Papaw, they set such a great example for all of us in the family and have always been active participants in our lives."
We're not crying, you are!