A bride-to-be who called off her engagement a week before the big day has donated her dream wedding to a couple she has never met.
Kolbie Sanders, 24, turned heartbreak into generosity by offering up her $3,500 venue to strangers after she split with her fiance Skylar Cotton.
The University of Texas at Tyler student told friends on Facebook that she had just 24 hours to find a couple prepared to get married at Belle Vue wedding venue in a week.
She was inundated with messages from hundreds of husbands and brides-to-be desperate to win her big day.
After whittling down the applicants to a shortlist of 45, Kolbie, from Lindale, Texas, plucked lucky winner Halie Hipsher, 22, out of a hat.
Insurance worker Halie’s story stood out because her grandfather Edwin Truett Hipsher, 81, is suffering from pancreatic cancer and doesn’t have long to live.
Halie said: “As he is nearing the closing of his chapter this donation will put us a year ahead of schedule and he will be able to attend.”
The mother of seven-month-old Riley will wed Matthew Jones, 24, an oil field worker, at the venue in Tyler, Texas, USA, this Saturday – and Kolbie will be guest of honor.
Kolbie called off her own wedding to Skylar, 25, a derrickhand at an oil well, when she realized the passion had left their relationship.
She said: “There was no scandal. We fell out of love and it didn’t feel right to get married.
“We were together for four years and engaged for one and a half years but we grew apart.
“I woke up one day and realized I didn’t want to marry him. We had both lost passion for one another.
“It was short notice but you can’t get married if you feel it won’t work out in the long run.
“The venue told me that I could still get married there at some point in the future and keep my booking but by that point I thought, ‘I’d like another couple to enjoy it’.
“Skylar and I are still really good friends and he was on board with me donating the venue.”
She took to social media to find a betrothed couple to take the booking on October 20.
The elementary education major wrote on Facebook on Sunday: “With my engagement ending, I’ve come to find tremendous peace knowing that I did the right thing for both of us.
“With that being said, now I want to do the right thing by others and let some good come out of this decision.
“This is a long shot but since my wedding venue has been paid for in full already, I have decided to donate my venue valued at $3,500 to a couple to use for their wedding day!
“The catch: I have 24 hours to find the couple and they would need to be ready to get married on the date that my venue is booked for – this Saturday, October 20th!
“I have partnered with the venue and we are both excited to see if we can help a couple in need of making their wedding that much more beautiful with a free venue.
“This is for couples who can’t afford a fancy venue or who are spending too much money on their kids to be able to afford a nice wedding. This is for couples who love each other and will continue to choose each other for the rest of their lives.”
Kolbie asked husbands and brides-to-be to send her details of their relationship and was followed with heartfelt messages from couples eager to tie the knot.
Her generosity was soon matched by a local photographer, caterer, florist, hair stylist and makeup artist who offered their services to the winning couple.
She said: “I couldn’t even count the messages, I got hundreds and hundreds. I stayed up until 5am reading them all.
“I didn’t think I’d have to choose from so many people. It was difficult to compare their stories. I knew I’d never be able to decide so I picked the ones that stood out and wrote them down.
“I reached out to them all to make sure they were 110 per cent sure that they could get married in a week.”
She compiled a shortlist of 45 couples and placed their names in a bowl before plucking Halie’s name out of the bowl on Monday.
The new bride-to-be, who has a seven-month-old son with fiance Matthew, said: “Thank you. I can’t say that enough. I’ll probably be saying it 20,000 times.
“I am beyond excited and thrilled but I have to be honest, I’m a little nervous. We were planning for next fall so it was all kind of planned in one week.”
She is of course delighted that her ailing grandfather will be in the congregation watching his granddaughter marry Matthew.
She said: “This is more than a love story between two love birds, but also a love story between a girl and her pawpaw.”
There will be another guest of honor at the wedding: the original bride-to-be.
Kolbie said: “She invited me and I am going to the wedding. I wanted to see it followed through. I want to see her get married, it will make me feel complete.
“I’m really glad I gave it away and another couple got to benefit.”