Love conquers all at emotional hospice wedding

By Rosie Manins

Benjamin Paulo sleeps on a guest's shoulder during the marriage ceremony of his parents, Jesse and Lafoaluga Paulo, at the Otago Community Hospice. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery
Benjamin Paulo sleeps on a guest's shoulder during the marriage ceremony of his parents, Jesse and Lafoaluga Paulo, at the Otago Community Hospice. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery

A special ceremony at the Otago Community Hospice in Dunedin has proved that love truly can conquer all. Lafoaluga Paese, 21, married her sweetheart Jesse Paulo, 28, who has terminal cancer and just days to live.

Yesterday the couple decided to exchange vows before it was too late.

The evening ceremony in the hospice gardens was attended by their 13-month-old son, Benjamin, dressed in a suit, and witnessed by about 30 relatives, friends and hospice staff.

It was an emotional celebration of Mr and Mrs Paulo's love for each other, and was made possible through the generosity and support of many individuals, businesses and organisations.

While Mrs Paulo shopped for wedding rings in the morning, an envelope was passed around hospice staff to raise money for a marriage licence, which was obtained just in time.

Elite Bridal Wear loaned a wedding gown and a bridesmaid's dress for Mr Paulo's sister, Emma. Ace Suit Hire took care of the men's attire.

Photographer Samantha Hobson volunteered her services, and Simply Flowers by Donna gave bouquets and provided a floral archway. Money donated to the hospice by the late Keivi Samuel paid for a chocolate wedding cake, on top of which were two teddy bears hand-made by a Dunedin woman.

Pesamino-Solomona Tili, of White Doves Dunedin, supplied three white doves which were released by the best man and bridesmaid at the end of the ceremony, which was conducted by hospice spiritual care worker the Rev Russell Thew.

Lonestar supplied food, as did hospice staff and guests.

Mrs Paulo thanked all involved, particularly those from the hospice.

"I'm just really grateful for everything everyone's done to make this day possible. We've been thinking about it [getting married] for a while, but things didn't pan out the way we planned," she said.

Mrs Paulo met her future husband in Melbourne about two years ago. He became sick soon afterwards. They lived in Australia until October when Mr Paulo returned to Dunedin, where his family lives, followed by Mrs Paulo and Benjamin last month.

Mr Paulo went into the hospice on Friday. He asked that photos of the ceremony be kept private.

- Otago Daily Times

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