"Any wedding is a big deal, and not having my dad there was a lot harder for all of us," Kristen Mundell said

Credit: Angela Lyons Photography

When Kristen Mundell got married on Saturday, she made special arrangements to honor the memory of her father Walter Kent Mundell, a sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty in Pierce County, Washington. But she wasn’t expecting her dad’s former colleagues to show up and do the same.

Six years ago, Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Kent Mundell was shot while responding to a domestic violence call. He died seven days later at the age of 44, according to his memorial page.

Kristen was just 16 when she lost her father. Six years later, she struggled to plan the most important day of her life, her wedding, knowing that her dad wouldn’t be there.

“Any wedding is a big deal, and not having my dad there was a lot harder for all of us,” Mundell told KOMO.

She honored her father by tying her wedding gown with a blue lace, representative of the thin blue line that commemorates fallen law enforcement officers. During the ceremony, she marked a chair in the front row with his jacket and a photo.

“It’s hard realizing it’s been almost six years and he’s not going to be there and that chair,” she said. “It’s his chair and he’s there, but he’s not. It meant a lot knowing that we were able to save a spot for him and knowing that I felt him there I knew he was there.”

The fallen deputy’s presence was felt even more keenly when Detective Don Jones, who walked Mundell down the aisle, asked her to share a father-daughter dance. A line formed with her father’s former colleagues and close friends, all hoping to fill Kent’s absence.

“All of a sudden someone taps me on the shoulder and says, ‘Can I cut in?’ and I was shocked,” Mundell recalled. “I didn’t know how to react, how to respond. He said, ‘There’s a whole line of us,’ and right as he said that is when the next officer cut in and I just broke down.”

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Detective Jones said. “I mean, the photographer was crying at that point. Everybody was crying, it was very moving.”

Angela Lyons, the photographer who captured the dance in a series of photos that has now gone viral on Facebook, wrote in a comment that she was shocked she was able to capture any photos through her own tears.

“I felt as if my heart was both full of joy and soaring, and breaking into a million pieces on the floor all at once,” Lyons told ABC.

The pictures have now touched thousands – but no one more than Mundell. For her, the photo series will always serve as a reminder that her father’s memory will live on through those who loved him.

“I know they’re always there for me if I need them,” Mundell said. “I never thought they’d just show up. It was the best wedding surprise ever.”