Scott Doucette didn’t know what was happening when his fiancée, Taryn Vanderhout, phoned him screaming and then suddenly disconnected the line.
But he knew it was good.
“She called me and I couldn’t understand her,” he said. “She couldn’t even tell me.”
What Vanderhout was trying to say was that the couple had just won a $10,000 dream wedding.
“They phoned me and told me I won, I didn’t believe them,” Vanderhout said. “My boss pinched me, I was screaming and ecstatic. I said, ‘you’ve got to be joking me.’”
Vanderhout’s was the lucky ballot drawn from the Head Over Heels Wedding Fair at the Langley Golf and Banquet Centre last May. The prize ensured that a venue, decor, entertainment and much more would be financially covered when the couple tied the knot — a far cry from the City Hall wedding she and Doucette had been planning. The penniless couple were still working on rebuilding their lives after years of drug addiction and living homeless on the streets of Surrey and Langley.
“It’s like it’s meant to be,” Vanderhout said.
The couple first met as neighbours 11 years ago. Both addicted to drugs, their relationship had “a rocky start.”
“I call it the road of hell,” Vanderhout said.
“Everybody has their downturns in life, and it actually makes you a strong person in my eyes,” she said.
“It gives you a lot more strength and a lot more courage because these are the things most people don’t battle. Living on the streets really prepares you for the worst. Each day you just look at a different way of surviving.”
Vanderhout eventually received help from a women’s recovery centre. She kept in contact with Doucette the entire six months she was in therapy through letters and phone calls. By the end of the program she was allowed to see him once every two weeks for 15 minutes.
But their relationship was frowned upon by the treatment centre. Doucette, who was trying to quit drugs on his own, was viewed by the centre as direct connection back into addiction.
“We had stopped trying to do drugs for a year of failure, but we never quit trying to quit,” Doucette said.
That was six years ago. Neither has touched drugs since.
Cutting the connections with all of their old friends, the couple started their lives over. Vanderhout got a job at Dynamic Paint Products in Delta and Doucette at the warehouse next door. They moved into a bachelor suite with no kitchen where “we would make grilled cheese on a hot plate,” Doucette remembered.
“It was like meeting a whole new person when we got back together,” he said. “We didn’t know each other clean.”
In hindsight they wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Living marginally taught them that money doesn’t equal happiness, Vanderhout said.
“It’s a very humbling experience in my eyes, because it taught me to live very broke and to be happy still,” she said.
“We don’t panic about money anymore. Most people’s fears in life are money and money woes. Living (on the street) has taught us that you don’t always have to have money to be happy.”
The couple were engaged on Vanderhout’s birthday in November two years ago. They finally told her father last New Year’s Eve.
He gave them one year to get married. He wanted to walk his daughter down the aisle before he turns 60 in January, 2013.
They began to plan a small civil ceremony for Sept. 15, with a reception at Murrayville Hall.
Vanderhout started going to wedding shows to get ideas for decorations, which she was going to make herself.
At the Eaglequest Wedding Fair she won a draw for a dinner-for-two. She also won their wedding bands.
Then at the Head Over Heels Wedding Fair, she reluctantly entered a draw for a dream wedding.
“My girlfriend said to me, ‘put your name in there, put your name in there.’
“I said ‘forget it, I never win anything,’” Vanderhout said.
She was very wrong.
When the couple finally said ‘I do’ on Oct. 27, nearly everything had been covered: The Langley Golf and Banquet centre had provided the venue, service and champagne; Western Tux donated the groom’s outfit; Lisa Gregory Special Events took care of the planning, cake, decorations and photography; Spin Doctor DJ Services provided music; and Cascades Casino donated a spa package with a one-night stay.
Coincidently, also in the package was a gift certificate for $1,500 to Anca’s Bridal, the same place Vanderhout bought her wedding dress during the Head Over Heals Wedding Fair. She was able to use the money to buy matching bridesmaid dresses and shoes.
The gifts didn’t stop there.
Once the couple’s story was shared, the centre added in an engagement photography package from Erica Hiebert, and surprised them on their wedding day with a special Vancouver package for dinner, shopping, a hotel stay and limousine services.
Overwhelmed by the gifts, the best part for the couple was giving their family a chance to relax. In their original wedding plans, everyone was going to help out. Even Doucette’s parents were going to do the cooking at the reception.
Instead, the two families were able to celebrate together for the first time. Many of their relatives Doucette and Vanderhout hadn’t seen for years. During their addiction they lost touch with much of their family, and the wedding brought them back together, Doucette said.
“I was never shunned from my family, they were always there for me, but I didn’t want to burden them with my problems,” he said.
“I was ashamed those times when I would ask my mom to borrow $20 for food, when it wasn’t really for food. That really bothered me. I never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings, I still don’t.”
Among their 53 wedding guests, Doucette had his best friend of 30 years stand beside him as best man. His friend went through addiction with them and left drugs behind two years after they did.
Doucette’s aunt came all the way from Texas, his brother from Alberta, and his youngest brother, who was six years old the last time Doucette saw him and is now married with two kids, also attended.
“That’s what gives you a sense of accomplishment for getting over your bad karma,” he said of his family.
“They’re proud of me.
“It’s something I never thought I’d feel again.”