PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) – Reagan Hodgkinson was saving the tips she earned at her job as a waitress for her wedding. Now that won’t be necessary because a Plano church has agreed to pay for the majority of the wedding expenses.
During a Sunday church service in April, Pastor Jeff Jones of Chase Oaks Church in Plano offered to help any couple that was living together but not married.
“He said ‘If there’s something holding you back that we can help with, let us know’,” recalled Associate Pastor Jason Williams.
Hodgkinson, 23, is a waitress at a Dallas restaurant. Her fiancé, Joel Ulrich, 32, works for a debt collection company. They have lived together for a year and got engaged last October.
Although there had been a proposal, the couple didn’t expect to be able to afford a wedding for several years. “We’ve been wanting to get married for a while, just couldn’t afford it,” Hodgkinson said. “We just knew that we loved each other and we wanted to get engaged and be married someday.”
Hodgkinson learned about the offer made by Pastor Jones from her boss, who attends Chase Oaks Church.
On April 17 the couple will say their vows at the church, with a reception to follow.
“What I think is really cool is a lot of churches will judge you and tell you what you need to do differently,” Hodgkinson said of her past experience. “What Chase Oaks is doing is not judging, is not telling us how to live our lives, but helping us to live the right way.”
Ulrich says at first he didn’t believe the offer to help pick up the wedding tab. “I was thinking there was some strings attached,” he said.
There were no strings attached, but the couple did participate in pre-marital counseling with Associate Pastor Williams who will also be officiating at the wedding.
The church is also donating the hall where the ceremony and the reception will be held and the music equipment. One of the Life Groups at the church is supplying decorations, flowers, the wedding planner, catering and counseling.
Ulrich, Hodgkinson and their families paid for the wedding dress, tuxedos and the rings.
“Just seeing the outpouring of support, from the church, the people within the church, I think their life has a different trajectory than it had eight, nine months ago,” said Williams.
“I feel like it’s just naturally brought me closer to God,” Ulrich said. “I can definitely see myself growing old with Reagan. This is forever and I’m happy about that.”