Days before Allyson Eischens was set to marry the love of her life, there was a burning question left unanswered — who would walk her down the aisle in lieu of her late father?
Little did she know, her fiancé, Garrett Eischens, already had the perfect man for the role: Chris Roose, her father’s best friend.
The moment Roose surprises the bride-to-be just days before the wedding is captured in a video posted to Garrett’s Facebook page. The footage shows Allyson waiting in a hotel room with her eyes closed, when a man’s voice is heard in the background: “Hey, I heard somebody needs to be given away!”
Allyson gasps when she recognizes that it’s Roose, who embraces his best friend’s daughter before assuring her that he wouldn’t miss the wedding for the world.
Roose and Allyson’s father, Jerry Berdan, met in Greenfield, Minnesota, when Allyson was a child. “We moved in, and we became neighbors, and then we became more than neighbors,” Roose remembers. “We watched each other’s children as they were growing up. He was just a great man, a great father.” Since Berdan’s passing 12 years ago, Roose, Allyson, and her sisters have all remained close.
Even so, this sweet surprise almost didn’t happen.
Roose originally told Allyson that he wouldn’t be able to make the wedding because his wife was bedridden after she fractured an ankle. He was also low on money and afraid of flying (a bad flight to Newfoundland had spoiled that long ago), so making the trip to Minnesota from his home in Tampa, Florida, didn’t seem like the best plan for the 57-year-old. But Garrett knew he had to try to convince Roose otherwise.
After sending a message to the family saying he couldn’t come, Roose received a text from Garrett that would change his mind. It explained that the only person Allyson wanted to walk her down the aisle was him. “That’s when my wife looks at me and says, ‘Dude, you’re going,'” Roose tells PEOPLE.
“It was something that I decided that I wanted to do as soon as their RSVP came in,” Garrett tells PEOPLE. “It was like, ‘Nah, this isn’t happening, she isn’t walking down the aisle by herself.'”
Garrett bought the plane ticket and covered Roose’s expenses. The two planned Roose’s arrival while undercover, only speaking over the phone while Garrett was at work. The secret was kept all the way until Roose’s reveal in the hotel room.
But what about facing his fears on the flight? Well, Roose believed he had someone special watching his back. “I figured Jerry’s my co-pilot,” he says. “So he was going to be there for me, too.”
“He kind of just stepped into that role without expectation, and I don’t think he realized just how important he was in my life,” Allyson says of Roose. “He has always considered us important in his life, but I don’t think he realizes how much of an impact he’s had in our lives.”
Until their marriage, Allyson and Garrett dated on and off since 2010. Garrett, who has a knack for surprise, popped the question during a family photoshoot that Allyson had scheduled. “I got ahold of the photographer before the shoot and asked her, ‘Can you plan an engagement photo shoot at the same time?’ ” Garrett says. “On that last picture, she had her eyes closed and I got down on one knee, and she said yes.”
When the time came to walk Allyson down the aisle on June 3, Roose says he realized he would need to do his best to hold back his emotions. “Believe it or not, I thought I was going to be emotional walking her down the aisle,” he says. “But she was, and I knew I had to suck it up.”
“He kinda just grabbed my hand and said, ‘We got this,'” Allyson says. “I took a deep breath, and it was okay.”
“Chris kind of told me, ‘I’m not giving you away, he’s welcoming Garrett and Natalie [Garrett’s daughter] into our crazy family,’ ” she says.
Roose kept his best friend in mind during the big moment. “I kind of gave a finger pointed up to Jerry in the sky, and said, ‘I’ll hang in there for ya.’ “