The Arizona woman's fiancé was killed in a motorcycle accident just nine months before their wedding

By Joelle Goldstein
November 21, 2018 01:09 AM
Credit: Kristie Fonseca

An Arizona woman’s fiancé was tragically killed nine months before they were meant to walk down the aisle, but that did not stop the bride-to-be from having wedding photos featuring her late love.

Debbie Gerlach was looking forward to November 11 when she would wed her “best friend” Randy Zimmerman. Instead, her world was flipped upside down in February when her fiancé died in a motorcycle crash.

Wanting to keep Zimmerman’s memory alive, Gerlach decided to have a bridal photo shoot but asked photographer Kristie Fonseca to incorporate her fiancé into the shots. And Fonseca, who has had experience in the past editing loved ones into photographs, did just that.

“When I first spoke with Debbie, she told me her tragic story and asked if I was able to insert her fiancé into what should have been their special day. A special day that was carelessly stolen from her,” Fonseca told Yahoo Lifestyle. “After listening to her heartbreaking, story I just knew I had to do something very special for her.”

Debbie Gerlach and Randy Zimmerman
| Credit: Kristie Fonseca

Taking the photos in a Tucson, Arizona, desert, Gerlach dressed in her wedding gown with a locket featuring a photo of the couple and posed for the emotional photos. For each shot that the bride-to-be stood alone in, Fonseca made sure that a transparent-version of Zimmerman would perfectly fit into it.

“It was supposed to be her day. It was supposed to be the day they expressed their love for each other,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle. “My thoughts were going a mile a minute coming up with ideas, poses, and images that would mimic her special day with him.”

“I started the session as I normally would for a bridal shoot, and then I posed her for some as if he was there,” Fonseca added. “She naturally posed for the photos as if he was standing right beside her. Her smile had a warmth as if he was talking to her. Even though he wasn’t there, she moved as if he was.”

Debbie Gerlach and Randy Zimmerman
| Credit: Kristie Fonseca
Debbie Gerlach and Randy Zimmerman
| Credit: Kristie Fonseca

Some of the edited photos feature Zimmerman with his arm around Gerlach, while in others he kisses her cheeks or stares at her as she poses solo with her red bouquet of flowers.

Another shot captures Zimmerman with his back turned, walking towards the sunshine, while Gerlach holds her arm out towards him. Gerlach was also photographed lovingly staring up at her smiling fiancé.

There is even a photo where Gerlach holds the ‘Z’-engraved urn with Zimmerman’s ashes in it and kisses it. The black-and-white photo also features her fiancé sitting on his motorcycle in the background.

Debbie Gerlach and Randy Zimmerman
| Credit: Kristie Fonseca
Debbie Gerlach and Randy Zimmerman
| Credit: Kristie Fonseca

On Fonseca’s website, she recalled a story that Gerlach had shared during their photo session about the couple’s frequent, unsuccessful attempts to sync their engagement photos with the sunset.

No matter how many times they tried to nail the timing, “the sky would never participate,” Fonseca explained… until the couple’s wedding shoot.

“We shot her whole session under a big white cloud blanketed sky and with her past experiences, she wasn’t upset there wouldn’t be a sunset shot,” Fonseca said. “While she was finishing up her story, the most bright and colorful sunset appeared behind her as the clouds spread widely across the sky as if commanded.”

“As I watched her embrace his memory I could see her love is still as strong today and I told her his love is forever the same as he gave her a sunset kiss goodnight,” she added. “It was truly a magical moment.”

Debbie Gerlach and Randy Zimmerman
| Credit: Kristie Fonseca

After revealing the emotional photos with Gerlach, Fonseca said she loved the way they turned out, but decided she would wait until their planned wedding day to share them publicly.

On November 11, Gerlach finally posted the photos to Facebook and wrote a lengthy and heartbreaking tribute to her late fiancé, explaining that her world had unexpectedly changed in a matter of nine months.

“Today was supposed to be the best day of my life. Today was supposed to be the day I married my best friend,” she began the post. “I was supposed to wake up, put on my wedding dress and walk down the aisle to the man of my dreams. Today, in front of all of our family and friends Randy & I were going to express our love for each other once again, and our vows that we would hold sacred to our hearts.”

“Today was supposed to be the day I have dreamt about since I was a little girl,” she continued. “Today I was supposed to become a wife. Today I was supposed to become Mrs. Zimmerman…”

“…but today I woke up alone as I do every day. Today I woke up with my heart broken all over again. Today my daddy will not walk me down the aisle,” she wrote. “Today I will not get to see the look on Randy’s face at the end of that aisle when he gets his first look at me in my wedding dress, the dress I had to hide from him because he couldn’t wait to see it.”

“Today I will not see all of our friends and family. Today I will not marry the love of my life,” Gerlach added. “Today I will not have a husband…”

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“…and that is because a person made a choice that has forever changed my life, a choice to NOT stop at a stop sign, to NOT stop when he saw my fiance coming toward him on his motorcycle, but instead tried to hurry across the street,” she explained.

Since Gerlach shared the photos two weeks ago, the post has been shared over 163,000 times — something that the bride-to-be hoped would prompt others to drive more carefully, pay attention to the roads, and prevent another tragic motorcycle death from occurring.

“Please I beg each and every one of you that reads this post, WATCH FOR MOTORCYCLES, stop at stop signs and drive with care because you never know whose whole world is on that bike,” she finished. “Maybe if that person stopped, I’d be marrying my Randy, my best friend, the love of my life.”