The worst day of Brandi Kaufman's life was also the day she met her future husband. Firefighter Dustin Blair not only saved Brandi's life after a fatal accident, but he gave her a reason to live again. Grab some tissues because their incredible love story is sure to bring tears to your eyes.
Photo Credit: Brandi Kaufman on Instagram
On March 29, 2012, Brandi Kaufman, her 18-year old younger sister Stephanie, and her sister's friend Savanah Pierce decided to go for pizza a few miles from home. Brandi was worried that the used car that their mother had recently purchased was unsafe but Stephanie assured her it was fine and insisted on driving. Just minutes later, their car slammed into an embankment and slid 15 feet off of the road. Savanah was killed on impact and Stephanie was left unconscious and covered in blood.
When firefighter Dustin Blair arrived on the scene, he ran to rescue the girl who was still trapped in the car. Every time Dustin and the paramedics moved Brandi, she would scream and resist their rescue efforts. "It was clear she was in terrible pain — she was whimpering, Dustin told Cosmopolitan, and then when I touched her, she started cursing at me. It took time, but I finally managed to place a plastic C collar on her neck to stabilize her spine and head. I had no idea where her injuries were and knew I had to protect her spine in order to prevent further injury. Once she was secure, the other guys pried the door open. That felt like forever."
After the accident, Dustin couldn't forget about the girl he had pulled from the car and decided to go visit her in the hospital. She was still unconsious at the time but he spoke to her mom. She told him that the other girl at the scene of the accident was her sister and she had died at the hospital.
The next thing that Brandi remembered was waking up in the hospital with no recollection of the accident. "The doctors told me my body was like a bag of puzzle pieces," Brandi said. She had bleeding on her brain so the doctors had to keep her unconscious. Her right arm from her shoulder to her wrist was shattered, she fractured both hips in 13 places, and her sternum moved down five inches. Her mom couldn't tell her her younger sister had passed away for fear the news would kill her.
When Brandi finally asked where Stephanie was her mom couldn't hold back her tears. "I knew then that my baby sister was gone. My grief at that moment was bigger than the pain from my broken bones. I went back to sleep hoping I'd never wake back up. I wanted to be with Stephanie." Her grief-stricken wish almost came true. During one of the times she flatlined, she had a vivid dream of her sister and deceased grandfather telling her she had to wake up because her mom needed her.
Brandi spent a month in rehab, learning how to walk again and do everything with her left hand since her right was rendered useless after the accident. After rehab, she was still unable to walk and do things on her own so she was sent to a nursing home to continue her recovery process. Being 50 years younger than everyone there made it even harder because she had no one she could really talk to. "My survivor's guilt was more painful than any physical healing. And then there were days where my physical pain was so intense that I was thankful that Stephanie did not have to suffer. She was in a better place."
Brandi's mom came to visit often and they started talking about Dustin. She said she wanted to meet him and all the other guys who responded to the call that fateful day. Five months after the accident, her mom set up a meeting between all of them as an important part of Brandi's healing.
When Dustin saw Brandi again he said his heart stopped for a moment. He could not believe it was the same girl he had seen in the hospital months earlier. He approached Brandi, and her mom suggested they take a picture together. Dustin, who had a girlfriend at the time, said, "We posed by the fire truck and I had a feeling this was the start of something big." Brandi felt something similar and she described it as electrifying. She posted the photo on Facebook later that night and wrote, "If it were not for the man in the picture, I would not be here."
Photo Credit: Brandi Kaufman on Instagram
Four months later (less than a year after the accident), Brandi's cousin convinced her to go on a double date with her new boyfriend and his friend. To her surprise, Dustin was that date and from that day on they were inseparable. When Brandi's mom bought and planted a tree as a memorial for Stephanie, Dustin drove three hours to be there even though the couple had only been on two dates at the time. He also brought Jordynn, his four year old daughter. "I was so glad that he wanted to introduce me to her. I knew it was serious and I thought he must agree. I also knew that this man saved me in more ways than one. He made me want to live again," said Brandi.
On April Fools' Day, Brandi posted on Facebook that she and Dustin were engaged as a joke. It was only two weeks after they officially met, and she thought her mom would think she was crazy. Instead, she wrote on her wall: "I wish it were true."
A year later, after asking her mom for permission, Dustin popped the question while the pair were away for Brandi's best friend's wedding. Inside Brandi was screaming yes, but her thoughts were still on Stephanie. "How could I move forward with a happy life knowing she's not here? I thought of all the nights following the accident where I would just lose it — I'd curl up in a little ball and weep. I'd say over and over, 'Why her? Why not me?' And every time, Dustin would wrap his arms around me and say, 'There is a reason for everything.' I soon realized that the reason was him."
Brandi thought back to a conversation between her and Stephanie just days before her death. She had just broken up with her then boyfriend and was very upset. Stephanie quoted Marilyn Monroe saying, "Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together." Since then those words became Brandi's mantra, "I said yes to Dustin and to living a life that would make my little sister proud."
"Brandi thinks I gave her a reason to live again, but she also gave me one. Watching her heal, seeing her resilience, made me realize the strength of the human spirit. It made me excited about the future," the heroic groom-to-be said.
The adorable couple plans to tie the knot on May 15, 2015. Best wishes to the future Mr. and Mrs Blair!
— Mary Gillen
Photo Credit: J. Wiley Photography
Tip of the Day: Searching for a creative guest book idea? "Send each guest a swatch of fabric with their invitation, asking them to write a message and return it with their RSVP. Then, have all of the swatches made into a quilt or chuppah," says Melisa Imberman, a planner for The Event Of A Lifetime, Inc.
Plus, check out 50+ Creative Ways to Personalize Your Wedding.
Monique Lhuillier fans are in luck — now you can nab one of the designer's romantic, effortlessly chic gowns at a more affordable price point! She recently debuted her BLISS Spring 2015 Collection, which consists of 14 styles starting from $2,800.
According to the official look book, this capsule collection was inspired by "a femininely elegant youthful bride" and it caters to every body shape, "from stunning trumpet-shaped gowns to ethereal sheaths to whimsical ball gowns." We love modern touches like subtly-infused colors and cascading hemlines. Detachable tulle trains, along with matching veils and belts, are available at an additional cost.
BLISS is available at select Nordstrom locations as well as the designer's flagship stores in New York and Los Angeles. Browse the entire collection here:
Show off your shape in this timeless lace trumpet gown.
A hint of blush? Check. Sweetheart neckline? Check. Full tulle skirt? Triple-check. This asymmetrically-draped dress caters to the girlie-girl at heart.
It doesn't get any more glamorous than this embellished Chantilly lace style featuring a tulle godet skirt.
Fashion-forward brides will flip over this layered horsehair and tulle skirt.
This soft and pretty strapless gown is at the top of our wish list.
The latte underlay makes this beaded lace appliqué gown such a sophisticated choice.
A draped bodice is made all the more stunning with lace appliqués.
Brides just want to have fun! It's impossible not to when you're wearing this dazzling tulle ball gown.
Take the plunge in this V-neck gown with a sexy low back.
It's all an illusion with this sheer V-neck sheath.
With its draped bodice and eye-catching crystal belt, this gown is fit for a goddess.
Live out your princess fantasies in a modified A-line gown with cascading lace appliqués.
This A-line gown flares out at the natural waist, creating a fresh and flirty look.
Bohemian brides, make a beautiful statement with this form-fitting latte sheath.
Tell us: Which dress is your favorite?
— Stefania Sainato
As much as we love interactive stations, creative photos and personalized touches galore, the "fun" factor of any wedding really boils down to just one question: Did guests break it down on the dance floor? Just ask this grandpa, who unwittingly became an Internet sensation after tossing his crutches and showing us all how it's done!
Skip to the 1:27 mark to see how he gets not one, but two ladies to join in the fun. Now that's what we call commitment.
This wedding video was originally uploaded on Facebook and is believed to have originated from Peru. The poster captioned it "eternamente joven," which translates to "forever young." We'll have whatever he's having, thanks!
It's been a star-studded summer for celebrity weddings — including Jessica Simpson, Adam Levine and Olivia Palermo, just to name a few — but we definitely didn't see this one coming! Actress Naya Rivera of Glee fame married actor Ryan Dorsey on July 19 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Photo Credit: Naya Rivera on Instagram
"We feel truly blessed to be joined as husband and wife. "Our special day was fated and everything we could have ever asked for," the newlyweds tell People in an exclusive interview.
The bride, 27, wore a long-sleeved sheath by Monique Lhuillier that was equal parts sexy and romantic; a bouquet of daisies and baby's breath completed the look. Her dark, wavy locks were styled in a half-up, half-down hairstyle that was pinned back with a pretty pearled clip. The groom wore a Dolce & Gabbana suit. The pair exchanged Neil Lane rings during their vows.
The twosome were longtime friends but their relationship didn't take a turn for the romantic until after Rivera ended her engagement with Rapper Big Sean just four months ago. The new Mr. and Mrs. added that "True love always prevails."
However, the bride had a more blunt message for her Instagram fans, posting the following snapshot with the caption, "Hey haters!!!" Well, that's definitely one way to send a message!
Photo Credit: Naya Rivera on Instagram
Thoughts on their surprise wedding?
— Stefania Sainato
Photo Credit: Will Pursell Photography
Tip of the Day: "It is definitely the year of floral glamour. Oversized bridal cascades, ceremony arches, fresh flower walls...these are all making flowers once again the spotlight of weddings," says Heidi Werner, a wedding guru for The Carolina Inn.
Plus, check out 125+ Ideas for Flowers by Type.
The biggest wedding-planning challenge that my fiancé Jesse and I have encountered is choosing a location. We're currently debating between getting married in the central coast of California (which is our home), or Ireland (which was the first trip we took together).
First, we threw around the idea of tying the knot in Ireland and making a vacation out of it. In addition to the beautiful scenery that you simply cannot get here in California, it's a special place for Jesse as he has traveled there a number of times to learn more about his family ancestry. Celebrating his family roots and introducing my loved ones to this amazing country would make for a memorable event.
Check out some photos from our trip:
However, after talking to our relatives and friends, we realized that logistically, it would be a lot more involved to plan. Planning a wedding can be stressful enough for any bride, but when you throw the word "destination" into the mix, most couples can become very overwhelmed. In addition to coordinating the day-of details, your guests will be asking you for activity recommendations, restaurant suggestions and everything in between.
The best approach is to create an extremely detailed website that outlines everything you can possibly think of: what type of shoes and clothing to pack, which airport to fly into, where to rent a car and where to grab a quick cup of coffee and a bite to eat. Step into your guests' shoes and remember why you want to bring them with you to such a special place; plan from there.
Acknowledging all of the challenges involved with hosting an event overseas, we moved on to venue hunting here in California. After all, this is where the majority of our friends and family members live and we want them to celebrate our special day for us. We also know that most people wouldn't be able to afford to travel to a foreign country so it makes more sense to do something close to home. We've looked at so many beautiful properties but I couldn't find one that stood out as both a ceremony location and a reception venue.
Amidst all of this location hunting, Jesse and I also started to discuss the flow of the wedding day and how we want guests to feel. The words that immediately came to mind were "comfortable," "fun" and "relaxed." We want a wedding that is a little more unconventional and true to us.
We also came to the realization that we want a more intimate ceremony. Although I can't wait for my dad to walk me down the aisle (I know it is a memory I will always hold close to my heart), the thought of 200 people being glued to my every move makes me a little nervous. (As a professional event planner, it's probably not too surprising that I'm a behind-the-scenes kind of girl while my fiancé Jesse is the life of any party!)
So, how do we balance the two out? That is where we are at now. We thought about building a façade to a tented reception area that would mimic an Irish castle. However, despite our attempts at compromise, I found myself being drawn back to Ireland itself. We are thinking of inviting a small group of people to join us in Ireland for a small ceremony followed by a stateside reception to celebrate with loved ones near and far.
A destination bride has a very different outlook on her wedding than that of a hometown bride. She's looking to make her big day more of an experience and introduce those closest to her to a place that she and her groom love. She wants to spend more time celebrating with her guests while sightseeing than worrying about final wedding details. A destination wedding might also be ideal for a couple who has a large number of combined family members and friends, and they simply cannot afford to invite them all.
In my opinion, you shouldn't feel as if you have to follow any rules when selecting your wedding venues or location. Just stay true to yourself and remember to weigh the pros and cons of each choice. You will end up exactly where you were meant to be with a beautiful celebration amongst those closest to the both of you. Give yourself enough time to make this important decision and don't feel pressured to book right away.
We haven't definitively decided yet either way at this point where we'll be hosting our wedding, but as soon as we do, the real fun starts!
Tell us: How did you choose your wedding location? What factors did you consider?
— Davia Lee
P.S. Have an interesting wedding planning story to share? Apply to become a real bride blogger here ►
Davia Lee is a real bride, entrepreneur, lead designer and wedding planner for Davia Lee Events. She loves all things sparkly, fashionable and girly. In contrast, her fiancé, Jesse, is a "man's man" — beard and all! They are the poster couple for "opposites attract" and prove that true love knows no boundaries. Their greatest wedding-planning challenge will be finding a middle ground where all of their wants, needs and dreams will meet. We can tell you this, though — when everything aligns, their big day will be fabulous!