For many women, the wedding is one of the most significant days of her life, with the traditional walk down the aisle with her father holding a special place in her heart as a reminder of the love and care that her parents have given her. 11-year-old Josie Zetz was given the surprise of a lifetime when California-based photographer Lindsey Villatoro (of Lovesong Photography) arranged a ceremony that gave Josie’s terminally ill father the chance to walk his daughter down the aisle in a staged wedding, an event that he likely will not be present for when the real time comes.
Villatoro, who spends her free time giving the gift of photography to terminally ill patients and their families, met the Zetz family when they scheduled a photo shoot with her. Jim Zetz, 62, was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer last year, a discovery that has been extremely hard on himself, his wife Grace, and their young daughter Josie. When Villatoro found out that Josie would turn 11 years old on March 14, she offered to arrange a surprise celebration. Instead of a birthday party, however, the photographer pulled out all the stops and put together the event of a lifetime, acquiring a cake, presents, flowers, catering, and even an L.A. Fashion Week wedding dress all through the donations of local vendors.
For Josie, the ceremony was a complete surprise, but she later confided in her mom that it was “the best day of my life.” It was an incredibly emotional time for the Zetz family, as both father and daughter shed tears and hugged each other tightly. Looking at the touching photos, it’s clear that the ceremony was a poignant commemoration of the close father-daughter bond, as well as a beautiful way to reconcile joy and grief. Most importantly, Villatoro was able to give Josie the lasting memory of this special moment between herself and her dad, a reminder that he will always be by her side even when after he has passed on.