MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - Twenty-four years ago, when Troy Billings held his oldest daughter Mandy Kay for the first time, he knew one day he would have to walk his daughter down the aisle.
Emergency surgery on the Randolph County man's neck almost changed their long-held plans, especially when Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Hospital staff informed the family Troy would need to stay in the hospital for the foreseeable future, including through her wedding scheduled for Saturday.
This family wouldn't give up that easy.
"I was up here from Tennessee with my dad and I was crying and I just didn't know what to do. My dad had to be there. He had to walk me down the aisle," Mandy Kay Billings told The Star Press . "Then we thought about having the wedding here, at the hospital chapel and the hospital said OK."
Friday evening - instead of the wedding planned six months ago for the Saturday before Easter at a small family church in Randolph County - Mandy Kay and her future husband Alex Huber said their vows without the flower girl and the ring bearer, without the fresh flowers decorating the church pews and without all of the friends and family who planned to see the couple wed.
But the bride's father was there, even if he was unable to literally walk his daughter down the aisle. With the help of his father and Mandy Kay's grandfather Olen Billings, Troy held his daughter's hand as he was pushed in his wheelchair into the chapel.
"It shows me how much she really cares about me, that she would make all these changes at the last minute just so I can be there," Billings said. "This will certainly be a memorable wedding, I can say that."
Before the family made their way to the chapel, Mandy Kay and her maid of honor, her sister Lindsey, prepared for the ceremony in her father's room.
Mandy Kay wore her mother's wedding dress Friday evening, with a shiny tiara holding back her dark brown curled locks.
As she had throughout the day_- and really throughout the week - Diana Billings, the bride's mother and Troy's wife, held back tears as she saw her little girl and her husband in the same room before the ceremony.
"I was surprised when she asked me for my dress. I had kept it and it had been in the attic for 20 years or so, but I didn't know she's want it," she said. "She looks beautiful. She really does."
The IU Health BMH chapel was large enough to hold 20 people, the exact number of guests available to attend the ceremony on such short notice.
During what has been one of the more stressful weeks of her family's life, Mandy Kay worked hard to ensure the people closest to her would see her declare her love for Huber.
All those years ago, when Huber saw his future bride at Mooreland Free Fair, the groom knew this was a special girl who would take away his heart.
They're best friends, he said. She's there to help him grow and he's there to be amazed by Mandy Kay.
The Billings think they have a great son-in-law in Huber, especially since the couple reminds them of themselves in their younger days.
After 28 years of marriage, Troy, who returned to his hospital room after the ceremony, hoped to pass along a few words of advice to the couple in hopes their marriage will be as successful as he and his wife's.
"Always put God first," he said. "We grew together as we got older because we always put God first."
And with that, he hugged his daughter and went to sleep.
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