Laughter, hugs and more than a few tears were shared on Friday night as Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald – along with dozens of family and friends – got all the last details in order for their Saturday wedding.
“When I look at all the faces surrounding us tonight,” Ben, 19, told the crowd, “I don’t know how to thank all of you for investing in our lives, and in our life together. Y’all make us feel so special.”
The stars of TLC’s hit reality show 19 Kids & Counting, airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m., became engaged this August after Ben staged an elaborate scavenger hunt for his 21-year-old bride-to-be. The couple then set to work, planning their wedding in just a few months’ time.
“Jessa said, ‘You can make planning a wedding really complicated or you can make it simple, and she chose simple,’ ” her father, Jim Bob, 50, tells PEOPLE. “We’re so excited for them.”
After running through the wedding with their families and bridal party, Jessa and Ben watched video tributes from family and friends, including a special message from Christian comedian Tim Hawkins, who joked in the clip, “Want to see how a Duggar boy rebels?” and then unbuttoned the top button of his shirt.
At the rehearsal dinner, guests snacked on Frito pie and toasted the couple with iced tea before finishing off the evening with a selection of pies, including pumpkin and apple caramel streusel. Ben, who is the oldest of seven children born to Michael and Guinn Seewald, got tearful toasts from not only his parents but his siblings, who talked about what a leader he’d been as a big brother.
“Thanks to all our friends and family,” Michael, 39, told the crowd. “It’s a blessing to see Ben and Jessa’s life together, and we pray they grow closer.”
Michael and Guinn live in Hot Springs, Arkansas, with their kids – Jessica, 17; Danielle, 14; Michelle, 12; Ethan, 10; Faith, 8; and Thomas, 5 – who all have different parts to play in the wedding on Saturday.
Jessa’s sister Jinger, 20, teared up as she tried to express how close the two are, and Jill, 23 – who began her relationship with husband Derick, 25, around the time Jessa and Ben began their own courtship (with rules they put in place for themselves to save their first kiss for marriage) – shared how much she enjoyed “walking through relationships” with her sister.
“Jessa and I shared a lot with us being in relationships and us getting married, and now they are following along,” said Jill, who revealed to PEOPLE she is having a baby boy this spring,. “We have great examples in our parents that love doesn’t have to end. Spend lots of time together and remember, the honeymoon doesn’t have to end.”
“And we’re looking forward to seeing more cousins,” Jill’s husband, Derick, added.
For Jessa, who expressed her own thanks to her parents and to friends who had traveled from far away to celebrate her marriage, it was all about soaking up the happiness.
“I’m so happy to have so many friends here from so many places,” she said. “And I’m so grateful for my parents. Their influence has been so special to me. I look forward to a long, happy, marriage.”
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