Kristy Stratton dabbed her eyes while she and her soon-to-be-husband Jim Larsen listened to the pastor speak. A captive audience sat behind them, watching the happy couple stand together and go on to recite their vows – although most of them hadn’t even anticipated being at a wedding that day.
Then, after the couple exchanged rings, it became official: the two were wed and sealed the deal with a kiss. The seated guests, meanwhile, cheered and blew bubbles to celebrate as the official introduced “Mr. and Mrs. Jim and Kristy Larsen” to them all.
All the while, Kristy’s mother Billie Jo Stimmel, a corsage pinned to her jacket, watched as one of her wishes came true. In fact, Billie Jo was the inspiration for the unique and beautiful circumstances of this wedding – a wedding that passed, one might say, with flying colors.
Kristy had met Jim six years ago – and almost by chance. She works as a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines and first encountered her future spouse during a layover flight from LA to Seattle. That initial meeting blossomed into a romance, and the two would go on to eventually set up home in Washington state’s largest city.
Those happy circumstances, however, were tempered by tragedy. In September 2014 Billie Jo learned that she had stage four lung cancer – the most advanced form of that disease. Perhaps, then, that diagnosis spurred her on to ask her daughter to grant her three wishes.
Since Billie Jo had not had a chance to visit the couple in their new home, her first wish was to see where Kristy lived with Jim. “She wanted to come out and see where we were at because she knew I was happy out here in Seattle,” Kristy explained in an interview with Washington-based Fox affiliate station KCPQ.
Secondly, Billie Jo wanted to see where her daughter worked. And it wouldn’t have been Billie Jo’s first time on a plane, either; in fact, Kristy’s own love of travel was initially inspired by her globetrotting mom.
And Billie Jo’s third and final wish was one that in fact most mothers probably hope for: to see her daughter marry her soulmate. All three of these simple yet meaningful requests would go on to be fulfilled – albeit perhaps not in the ways that Billie Jo was expecting.
Certainly, at least one of Billie Jo’s desires went down well with Jim and Kristy: they were more than happy to get hitched. But, like many couples planning to tie the knot, they had to consider how they could make the ceremony their own – not to mention where it should be held.
However, as Kristy told Today after the ceremony, she had an unusual idea up her sleeve. And by carrying that plan out, it was possible to successfully grant all three of her mother’s wishes virtually in one fell swoop.
After getting the go-ahead from her fiancé and her employer, then, Kristy put her plan into action. And the result was the wedding of a lifetime – one that wouldn’t soon be forgotten by anyone who was there.
That’s because on February 19, 2016 Kristy and Jim said “I do” from 35,000 feet up in the air. And those unsuspecting wedding guests were also the passengers of Alaska Airlines flight 461 – traveling, appropriately, from Los Angeles to Seattle.
It was an ingenious decision that not only made the big day an exceptionally special one for the bride and groom, but for the bride’s mother, too. After all, she was getting not just one but all three of her wishes granted.
For one, Billie Jo was able to see where her daughter lived. The flight landed in Seattle, after all, so it was perfectly possible for mom to visit the newlyweds’ home in the city for the first time and to go sight-seeing there.
Kristy’s mother also got to see where her daughter carried out her job – although, obviously, it had proved to be a far from normal workday. And lastly, of course, Billie Jo was able to watch her daughter marry her intended in a truly one-of-a-kind event.
It wouldn’t have been an event that the majority of the passengers on flight 461 were expecting beforehand, though. Still, there were some subtle clues when they entered the plane and after that something out of the ordinary was about to take place.
Bubbles and candy, after all, aren’t usually given out on plane trips. Approximately 60 minutes after take-off, though, one flight attendant took to the tannoy to clue the passengers in.
She told the story of Kristy’s mother and her three wishes, ending by explaining to them that one of them was to see Kristy wed Jim. The moving ceremony then took place, carried out by Kristy’s pastor and incorporating a neat air travel-related touch: as well as placing rings on each other’s fingers, the couple also pinned pilot wings onto the other’s clothes.
What’s more, Kristy even wore a custom, airline-inspired pair of shoes for the occasion. The super-cute heels were designed to look just like a plane and were emblazoned with inspiring and apt written messages on their sides and heels – one of them being “Love is a journey.” Aw.
And the impromptu wedding guests even made their mark on the bride as well. As Kristy told Today, “I was really touched and overwhelmed by the amount of love and joy flooding through the cabin. Not only did they make the day even more special for me, but for my mom as well.” It definitely seems, then, that love was in the air on flight 461.