Kurt Boomer Photography
July 15, 2015 02:10 PM

Many couples spend the final weeks before their weddings worrying about guest lists and floral arrangements, but that was far from the case for journalists Josh Elliott and Liz Cho.

Just three weeks ahead of their July 11 nuptials, Elliott, 44, found out some of the worst news of his life: his mother Toni had suddenly died after going into septic shock.

“It was a massive, brutal moment. My immediate reaction was, ‘How am I going to make it to [tomorrow]?’ ” the NBC Sports anchor tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “The wedding was very far from my thoughts.”

But thanks to Cho, 44, he had the support he needed. “Josh and I have been through a lot,” says Cho, anchor of ABC News’ New York City affiliate. “I was just trying to be there and be that sweet, soothing and peaceful presence in his life, just allowing for that mourning to happen.”

Josh and Liz went through with their wedding even in the face of tragedy for them
Kurt Boomer Photography

As for their impending wedding, a close friend of Elliott’s was the one who encouraged them to proceed. “He said, ‘I hope that you and Liz aren’t going to cancel or postpone. I hope you will allow us to be there for you and that you won’t let the horror of life win out over the beauty,’ ” Elliott recalls. “It made me feel less awful.”

And with that, the couple pushed forward towards their happy day.

Seventy guests, all close family and friends, fêted the couple as planned at their intimate garden ceremony in Montecito, California. “It was wonderfully romantic,” says Cho. Josh’s vows were the most beautiful words I had ever heard.”

Their young daughters (Elliott has Sarina, 6, and Cho has Louisa, 8, both from their previous marriages), who served as Cho’s maids of honor, placed flowers on an empty chair to honor Elliott’s mom. And at the reception, guests kept her memory alive in their toasts.

“The tears totally flowed,” says Elliott, “but they were happy tears.” Adds Cho, “We chose happiness and joy.”

RELATED VIDEO: More Celebrity Weddings!

For more pictures and stories from Josh Elliott and Liz Cho’s wedding, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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