Onnell and Donica Derring Jr. have seen a lot in their 12 years together.
Five months ago they got engaged and Donica knew what she wanted at her wedding.
“I was hoping that I had family here. I was hoping that God would show up to help me with my jitters, my dreams and my future,” said Donica Derring Jr.
But weddings aren't cheap.
On Saturday a dream the Derrings hadn't even imagined came true.
“We thought it wasn't real. We thought it was fake. We thought it was a scam,” Derring Jr. said.
But there was nothing fake about it.
The Derrings received a free wedding ceremony.
The idea started four years ago when Bethlehem Church in Gastonia started holding free weddings for families who couldn't afford their own ceremony.
Families apply online and the volunteers provide everything they need.
“Our couples are so thankful and so grateful. I've already received a hundred hugs this morning,” said Dream Center of Gaston County Director Amy Hudson.
The couple not only get a ceremony but also marriage counseling.
“50 percent of marriages today in and out of the church are ending in divorce,” said Bethlehem Church West Campus Pastor Ricky Collins. “If we have an opportunity to get with people before they start off on that marriage opportunity, and give them some great tools, that's what gets me excited about it.”
87 percent of the couples who have gone through the weddings are still together, according to Collins.
Three couples were married at the church Saturday but the organizers said one year the church married as many as nine couples in one day.