Ohio Bride Takes 'Wedding to Dad' After He's Hospitalized: 'It Was Absolutely Beautiful'
Ever since Janae Hauger was a little girl, she dreamed of dancing with her father, Steve Price, on her wedding day. So, the 23-year-old bride decided she’d do all she could to make that dream come true after her father was hospitalized just weeks before her big day.
“We share an incredible bond and we have always dreamt of the day he was able to walk me down the aisle and share a father-daughter dance with me,” Hauger, of Richwood, Ohio, tells PEOPLE. “When we were told he couldn’t attend the wedding and walk me down the aisle, I knew I had to at least dance with him.”
Price, 59, was taken to an Ohio hospital on July 14 with severe stomach pains, and doctors diagnosed him with pancreatitis. He was later admitted to Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, in Columbus, where he’s remained for several weeks.
Just three days before the wedding, Hauger and Price learned that he was too ill to attend the ceremony.
“I really beat myself up about it,” Hauger tells PEOPLE. “It was really difficult for me to accept the fact that he wouldn’t be there. It hurt him a lot. There were a lot of tears between the two of us. He’s tried his hardest to stay strong for me. He kept telling me, ‘I need to get better and you’re getting married no matter what.’ ”
Price had been excited about the wedding, even restoring the family’s old barn for the ceremony. Hauger, who first shared her story with Love What Matters, knew she needed to come up with a plan, telling the site: “We decided if Dad couldn’t be at the wedding, we’d take the wedding to Dad.”
“As soon as I knew he wasn’t gonna make it, I knew I would see him at some point that day,” she tells PEOPLE. “I wasn’t going to let him not see me. I was going to somehow get down to the hospital without a doubt.
Just hours before the Aug. 11 wedding, Hauger, her siblings and her mother went to the hospital and nurses brought her unsuspecting dad down to the facility’s chapel for a special father-daughter dance. Price arrived to find Hauger in her wedding gown, along with his other children and wife dressed for the ceremony.
“He bawled his eyes out. He kept telling us how beautiful we looked. He was so happy we were there. He was excited and blessed that we took that time out of our day to come see him,” she tells PEOPLE, noting that she and Price danced to Darius Rucker’s “It Won’t Be Like This for Long.”
“It was very emotional. We didn’t say much. We just kind of cried and looked at each other the whole time. It meant a lot to me and I know it meant a lot to my dad.”
Price then sent the bride-to-be on her way with a simple, “You go get married now!”
And she did. Hauger married her now-husband Jesse at the restored barn just hours later.
Price was able to watch the ceremony via FaceTime, and photos from the wedding showed Hauger wiping tears as she spoke through her father on a screen.
“We all felt at peace that my dad was able to see us,” Hauger says of herself and her siblings. “[The wedding] was amazing. It was absolutely perfect. I would’ve rather he been there. But, given the circumstances, it was absolutely beautiful.”