Growing up with two dads can be tough on any little girl. But when it came to this woman’s wedding day, she had to choose which one would give her away. Would she pick her biological father or her stepdad? Both had been of equal importance in her life, and picking one over the other broke her heart. And though they didn’t get along, the men agreed to whatever would make their daughter happy. On the big day, however, things would take quite an unexpected turn.
The story begins when Brittany Peck was just six years old and in kindergarten. It was then that her parents separated and she, along with her sister, ended up getting caught in the middle of a bitter custody battle between warring families. In fact, after the then 11-year-old Brittany’s mom remarried, her dad, Todd Bachman, refused to give up his daughter to her stepfather, Todd Cendrosky.
In October 2015 truck driver Bachman said to CBS Sunday Morning of the dispute, “It was riddled with lawyers and courtrooms.” And the custody battle left wounds on both sides that never really healed. It was a situation, moreover, that would still cause upset leading up to 21-year-old Peck’s wedding day.
Speaking to People magazine in October 2015, Peck explained, “Less than ten years ago, my dad and stepdad wouldn’t even look at each other. There was a long custody battle and it was bad. Really bad. It really hurt my sister and I.” Furthermore, the contempt her dad felt for her stepfather was mutual.
“We did not get along,” Cendrosky told CBS Sunday Morning. “We tolerated each other, that’s probably the best way to describe it.” And although it was a relationship that had mellowed a little over the years, tensions would start to simmer once again when Peck had a tough choice to make for her wedding day.
After all, Peck and Cendrosky had grown close over the years, and she valued their relationship in the same way she valued the relationship with her biological father. Indeed, the groom even asked both men for permission to marry Peck. So the decision as to who would walk the bride-to-be down the aisle would prove to be a very tough one.
“I knew I wanted both of them to walk me down the aisle,” Peck told People. “But I also knew how my dad felt. I mean, we’ve all been through so much together, like with the custody battle, it just didn’t seem possible.” She knew the family’s history and ill-feeling would make everyone feel uncomfortable.
But Peck was nevertheless distraught about the difficulty of her decision. With just a couple of weeks to go before the wedding, then, and in floods of tears, she called her biological dad and told him she was unable to make her final choice. Showing the diplomacy of a loving father, Bachman expressed that all he wanted was for his daughter’s happiness to come first on what would be the biggest day of her life.
Of the heartfelt phone call, Peck told People, “I said, ‘Dad, I really have to talk to you. You told me just last week that this is my wedding, I only get married once and it needs to be perfect.” She said no more. In fact, she didn’t need to. Her father reassured her that everything would be just fine.
Peck continued, “I just said that, I didn’t even mention why I was calling him, and he said, ‘Brittany, don’t you worry, I have it all planned, I wasn’t even going to tell you, but I know how upset you are and how much you want this. So I’m going to make it as special as possible.’” It was clear from his words that Bachman wouldn’t let his daughter down.
Bachman added to Ohio newspaper The Chronicle-Telegram, “I told her I already had something planned. She was so torn, and the last thing I wanted was for her to be torn.” Yet Peck knew nothing of what her father had in store until right before the ceremony took place.
Then, finally, it was time for the happy couple to tie the knot at the Elyria, Ohio, home of the groom’s mom. And as the guests assembled on that day, Cendrosky took his seat by the altar with his wife Candy. Then, as the decorated golf cart carrying Peck and driven by Bachman approached the ceremony, it stopped. Peck, though, had no idea what he was doing.
“He just stopped driving,” she subsequently told The Chronicle-Telegram. Wedding photographer Delia Blackburn, meanwhile, knew something was going to happen – but didn’t know exactly what. “He told me, ‘I’m going to do something special. Be ready,’” she explained to Cleveland-based TV station WKYC. And with Peck still in the dark as to what was about to happen, Bachman got out of the golf cart.
A bewildered Peck looked on as her father marched up the aisle to where Cendrosky was seated. Then Bachman pulled at his arm and dragged the unsuspecting stepfather to his feet. With the ceremony brought to an abrupt halt, onlookers didn’t know what to think as Bachman proceeded to lead Cendrosky away.
Cendrosky told CBS Sunday Morning, “[Bachman] said, ‘You had just as much of a part in raising these kids as I did. You’re gonna come and help me walk our daughter down the aisle.’ And that’s when I lost it.” The moment was beautifully captured by the photographer and consequently shared on Facebook and liked more than a million times.
Then Bachman led Cendrosky back up the aisle to collect their daughter. It was naturally a hugely emotional moment for Cendrosky – but he wasn’t the only one touched by the gesture. Indeed, Blackburn said, “Everybody was shocked, silent and crying. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Even I was crying.”
Finally, Peck, Bachman and Cendrosky linked arms, and the bride’s dream came true. Peck had wanted both men to escort her down the aisle, and on their daughter’s special day they were able to put their differences aside and make that happen. For Peck and Cendrosky, in fact, Bachman had made the wedding perfect.
“I got weak at the knees and lost it,” Cendrosky told People. “I couldn’t have anything better in my life, the most impactful moment in my life. Every time we tried on tuxes or did some planning it crossed my mind that I’d be sitting in the crowd, not walking her down the aisle.”
“That really meant a lot to him,” Peck added to People. She also explained that, due to a medical condition, Cendrosky may not be able to walk in the future. Meanwhile, while speaking to CBS Sunday Morning, Bachman commended her stepdad. “If that individual accepts your children and treats them as his own, how can you not have respect for somebody like that?” he said.
Meanwhile, Peck hopes that her story will help other families going through separations. As she told People, “I think a lot of people who saw the photos are going through divorces, custody battles and putting their children in the middle. I hope parents see our story and learn not to put their kids in the middle and try their hardest to work it out.”