WHAT: A wedding ceremony that took place at the Belle Vue wedding venue in Tyler on October 20.
WHO: 24-year-old Tyler resident Kolbie Sanders, and newlyweds Halie Hipsher and Matt Jones.
WHY IT’S SO GREAT: We try to find stories that are pure, unalloyed joy for our recurring Best Thing in Texas feature, but sometimes the tales worth telling are bittersweet. Sanders was engaged to be married on October 20. On October 14, after ending her engagement, she took to Facebook to share an unusual offer: since the venue and decorations were non-refundable, she would be looking for another couple—who could agree to get married within 24 hours—to take her place. Belle Vue, a scenic, pastoral location in Tyler, had agreed to let the whims of fate and Facebook dictate who would be getting married there that day, and things went viral. Her post was shared more than 4,000 times, with couples sharing why they deserved a free wedding. Sanders wrote the names of the couples whose stories she found most compelling, put them in a hat, and pulling out the winner at random on Facebook Live.
In addition to the venue, the other details of Sanders’s dream wedding quickly came together for the eventual couple: a wedding photographer volunteered to shoot portraits; caterers offered up tamales for 150 people and two dozen decorated wedding cookies; a local florist donated a bouquet for the bride and boutonnière for the groom; a beauty shop jumped in to do the bride’s hair, and another offered to provide makeup.
It’s easy to see why the wedding gathered so much momentum—when you see someone being generous in tough circumstances, it’s hard not to want to be a part of that. In this case, everyone you’d need to pull off a lovely East Texas wedding all came together within a few days.
And it was lucky that it did. The couple that won Sanders’s impromptu raffle were Halie Hipsher and Matt Jones, who needed their ceremony to come together quickly: Hipsher’s grandfather had recently been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and his prognosis suggested that the couple’s original wedding date, in late 2019, might be too late for him to attend. Instead, he—and Sanders, who attended—got to see them married under unique circumstances that, in addition to celebrating their love, also help affirm our faith in humanity’s goodness in the face of hardship.