As beautiful as weddings are, they can also be a bittersweet experience. As people experience this major life milestone surrounded by their friends and family, it’s hard not to remember those no longer with us.
That was the case for Brittany Adkins of West Virginia, who was happily engaged to her fiancee Jordon Yost. As her wedding day approached, she couldn’t help but feel something was incomplete.
She had always dreamed that her grandfather, Rev. Ronald Adkins, would officiate the ceremony. Sadly, Ronald wouldn’t make it—he died last April at the age of 89.
Little did she know, her family had a surprise in store for her big day.
Brittany had always had a close relationship with her grandfather, who she called “Pawpaw,” since she lived next door to his home as a child.
“I loved it there. But as a kid, who doesn’t love grandma and grandpa’s house?” she told the Huffington Post.
“For me that feeling never changed…He was always my go-to and one of my biggest supporters.”
When Brittany’s sister was married in 2015, the reverend officiated the wedding—and Brittany knew she wanted the same for hers.
“From the time I was little, I knew I wanted him to officiate my wedding, and he always told me he would be honored to do so,” she told ABC News. “I would’ve been honored to have him there.”
But it wasn’t meant to be.
“A part of me actually grew angry for the fact that other people had that privilege and had the honor of him there and I wouldn’t get to,” she told Inside Edition.
When Brittany’s wedding day arrived on July 22nd, as she expected, a preacher chosen by her fiancee began to officiate the ceremony.
But when the preacher asked everyone to bow their heads in prayer, a voice came over the speakers.
“I knew immediately who it was,” she told ABC News. “My heart shattered.”
It was the voice of Pawpaw.
Brittany’s family, knowing how much it would’ve meant to her, planned to bring him back in spirit—with an audio recording from her sister’s wedding. Pawpaw prayed over the couple before proclaiming them as husband and wife, then told the groom to kiss his bride.
They kept the heartwarming gesture a surprise from Brittany—and most of the other wedding guests.
“My sister, brother and husband worked together along with a few others to make this happen,” Brittany told the Huffington Post. “Besides the bridal party and those involved, no one knew.”
So needless to say, the moment got a stunned, emotional reaction from everyone in the crowd.
“Different emotions were racing through my head while trying to soak in hearing my grandpa’s voice,” Brittany told the Huffington Post about her reaction. “I was weak to my knees, chilled, but despite all the tears, I was smiling inside.”
So too, was the groom. He was emotional, not just from hearing the voice of his late grandfather-in-law speaking to them from beyond, but from seeing how much the surprise meant to his new wife.
“I had the privilege to get to know her grandfather a little bit before he passed, so it was a very heartfelt moment for me as well,” Jordan told ABC News.
“When she broke down, I tried everything that I could to support her…The emotion was very intense. We both cried like babies, as well as everyone in attendance.”
Even the wedding photographer, Sarah Irvin, was overwhelmed.
“I’ve photographed a lot of weddings and this was the most incredible moment I’ve ever had the honor to witness,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
“We’ve all lost someone,” she told Inside Edition.
“We all have someone that we’d love to hear their voice for one last time.”
It was a beautiful, heartbreaking moment for everyone in attendance. But for Brittany, it was more than that—it was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream she never thought could be a reality.
“Having him pray over our wedding was the most memorable moment and one I will cherish forever,” she told ABC News. “I could not have imagined anyone else pronouncing us husband and wife besides my Papaw,” she said.