WATERFORD, CT (WFSB) - A local wedding photographer put together a wedding giveaway for a deserving couple.

The giveaway totals $30,000!

The bride-to-be says she wasn’t even planning on ever spending that much on a wedding.

Joanna Eldridge was selected out of nearly 200 entries, and her story is a testament to the fact that with hardship in life, comes ease.

“When you kind of go through things or when bad things are happening you always have to look for the helpers,” said Krista Smith, wedding photographer, Harlow & Stone Studios.

So, when people rallied around Krista Smith during a tough time, she knew she had it pay it forward.

She decided to organize a $30,000 wedding giveaway.

“I kind of was just thinking crazy one night and I was like I wonder if I can pull it together,” Smith said.

And she did, the giveaway includes everything from the wedding venue, to the photography, and hair and makeup.

Channel 3 was there as Smith surprised Eldridge with the news.

“You guys were exactly who we were looking for you were exactly what we wanted to do this for. We couldn’t be happier to do this for you truly,” Smith told Eldridge.

In 2013, Eldridge lost her husband to suicide. He was a disabled, retired marine. Her children were home at the time it happened.

“I’ve seen the worst that life can throw at you and if I can survive that and come through it on the other side. There’s nothing that I can’t do and get through with my kids,” Eldridge said

Eldridge and her fiancé AJ met shortly afterwards and got engaged.

They’ve been wanting to get married, but with five kids it’s a huge financial responsibility.

“We’ve always got baseball and we’ve got computers to buy. And we’ve got clothes to get and school supplies,” Eldridge said.

The Quaker Hill couple knew some day they would get married but didn’t know exactly when.

“I didn’t really like have too many second thoughts of is this like really what I should be doing. Just when you feel that call in your heart it’s pretty powerful and it’s hard to ignore,” AJ Lecce said.

The couple has used the obstacles in their lives as a learning lesson for their children.

“Things happen for a reason. That while you may not understand what’s going on right now, there’s probably a reason for it,” Eldridge said.

And Eldridge says you can have that fairy tale ending, no matter the hardships.

“There’s no words. It doesn’t feel real. No, it does not. Wow,” said Eldridge.

The wedding will take place September 26 at The Inn at Mount Pleasant’ in Torrington.

The vendors are handpicked but the bride and groom get to pick out the dresses, tuxes and hair and makeup.

To find all of the vendors who are contributing to the wedding, click here

Copyright 2019 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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