Photographer Gives 11-Year-Old the Gift of a Walk Down the Aisle with Her Dying Dad


Photographer Lindsey Villatoro of Lovesong Photography recently did something that is warming the hearts of the entire photo community and beyond: she gave a daughter the surprise of a lifetime when she put together a ceremony where her dying father got the chance to walk her down the aisle — something he very likely won’t get to do again.

Villatoro is a wedding and portrait photographer who spends her free time working with charities and cancer organizations to give the gift of photography to terminally ill patients and their families. That’s how she met the Zetz family.

Jim Zetz, 62, has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and so he and his wife Grace scheduled a photo shoot with Villatoro. During the shoot she found out that their daughter Josie would be turning 11 on March 14th, and so she offered to do something for her as well.

When she got home she posted the story to her website to see if she could raise some money or gifts for Josie’s 11th birthday. This could be the last birthday she gets to spend with her father, and Villatoro wanted to make sure it would be extra special.


That’s when an idea struck. Why not give her something every little girl deserves? After speaking to Josie’s mom, the plan began to take shape: they would create a surprise wedding for Josie so that she could have her father walk her down the aisle.

In 72 hours, Villatoro was able to bring together a wedding dress from L.A. Fashion Week, catering, flowers, tux, hair, makeup and more, all donated by her local vendors. There was even a wedding cake and promise ring. In all, Villatoro tells us, “she received over $2,000 in birthday presents from my clients,” and not a cent was spent to bring the event together.


Villatoro didn’t even meet Josie until the day of the wedding. “She was a little bit overwhelmed when her mom picked her up from school and told her,” she tells the Huffington Post. “Later, she said, ‘This is the best day of my life.’ She was very glad and excited to have these moments.”



The story has since gone viral and been picked up by the Daily Mail, the Huffington Post and, now, photo blogs and other publications. It’s a story of hope, of photography coming together for a higher purpose, of visual storytelling at its best. Something we’re intimately familiar with, and never fails to touch our hearts.

To top off the experience, Villatoro also put together a video slideshow of highlights from the full day called “Walk me down the Aisle Daddy.” If you haven’t cried yet, we suggest you get the tissues ready:

Villatoro has said that her goal with photo shoots like this is “to preserve that person. Most people focus on the death and not the beauty of that person, who they were and the memories that they leave.”

It’s just our opinion, but we believe her goal shines through in these photos beautifully. This isn’t a photo and video about death, but about life. About a father who is leaving behind a beautiful memory for his daughter, that we’re sure she will cherish long after he is gone.

(via SLR Lounge)

Image credits: Photographs by Lindsey Villatoro/Lovesong Photography and used with permission

  • greenarcher02

    But that’s the point, the father should be in the spotlight, along with his relationship to his daughter.
    No, not goods, but someone responsible enough to start a family of her own. Do you know how difficult it is for some parents to let go of their daughter? They don’t want to, but she wants it, obviously. It’s symbolic stop taking it literally. Are you that lacking in intellect? LETTING GO is no the same as GIVING AWAY dumb person. It means they are at peace with her decision, her decision to move away, and start a life with someone else. I was heartbroken when my older sister (and my older brother, too) decided to marry and move out. But most especially with my sister since I was closer to her and my brother married first, so I knew that if my sister moved out, I’ll be the only one left here with my parents. I assume it was more difficult for my parents. Heck, they cried at her wedding. Bittersweet tears, I assume.
    And that’s the point, YOU ARE NOT HER. Stop associating your own beliefs to her, stop shoving it to others. Obviously the girl cares, and obviously she wants to get married some day (at least as of now), and obviously she knows how important this is as well. Otherwise she wouldn’t have agreed with it. YOU ARE NOT HER. Just because you lack the brain cells to understand doesn’t mean it’s dumb and less important.

  • Larissa

    It’s funny how all you interneters feel the need to insult someone as soon as they have a different opinion than you. There’s a word for that. It’s called bigotry.

  • greenarcher02

    Oh jeez you managed to fail all logic, and mistake the definition of not less than TWO words. All in one post.
    Let me all lay it out to you, since you obviously lack reading comprehension.

    1. She is NOT marrying an old man, and that is NOT the purpose of this photoshoot. And it does NOT look like that. Therefore it has nothing to do with all the forced marriages happening elsewhere in the world. Stop being “concerned” for the sake of being concerned without context. This has NOTHING to do with those unfortunate events. It just makes you look like a pretender and a bigot.

    2. I get that you have an opinion but shoving it in people’s throats AND dismissing the decision of ALL parties involved (including the girl, and the parents). It makes you a bigot. Just because they have this romanticized view of marriage that you don’t subscribe to, just because there’s a dark side to marriage on other parts of the world, does NOT mean you have the right to utterly put them down like what you are doing. That’s what you call bigotry.

    3. You lack empathy. Having an opinion does not mean demeaning other people’s actions. Especially actions that does not hurt anyone. The fact that you tried to use forced marriages and kidnappings (in case you didn’t know, some families kidnap girls and force them to marry. It’s called bride kidnapping and it’s happening in some parts of the world like Chechnya and Kyrgyzstan) is utterly disgusting. Those have nothing to do with this.

  • Rachael Juedes

    My problem with this is that the daughter had no input on it. They should have asked the child what she wanted to do with her father or at least asked her opinion about it.

  • A

    A harrowing and necessary experience? Did you mean UNnecessary?

  • Vin Weathermon

    Give it up; Adam and Larissa are the people you would not want anywhere near a sensitive issue such as how a family prepares for death. They can’t help it, it’s the way they’re wired. And they enjoy the frustration of people who hope to change their unchangeable minds (which in itself is a tiny bit disgusting that this excites them). You can’t be being a decent, sensitive person and convince them to be so also, nor can you win by sparring with words since this is their turf. They win by sucking the life out of you; let’s not let vampiristic commenters change the nature of human decency.

  • Kidu Yuzkhi

    We have our own opinion to every situation taken place but let’s not
    forget that this isn’t ours…we should respect the parties involved,it
    was their moment….even commenting,we have to learn our boundaries…

  • Kidu Yuzkhi

    We have our own opinion to every situation taken place but let’s not
    forget that this isn’t ours…we should respect the parties involved,it
    was their moment….even when commenting,we have to learn our boundaries…just stating my opinion,I’m not here to argue…TNX

  • Jaime Lacayo C.

    damn dust in my eye

  • SBW

    This was beautiful. It was pretend and it is a memory she will have b/c as the article states she will NEVER get the opportunity to be walked down the isle by her father when she grows up and does get married. She will have this moment to treasure. I think it was a beautiful gift they both will have. All those calling this disturbing need to stop, how dare you make rude comments and take the joy away from a beautiful thing.

  • Jupiter C.

    This is what happens when there’s overthink & a tendency to be maudlin. It’s morbid & bizarre. Sickening. Now the child’s (possible) future of having a wedding will be scarred & strange. People die. This example isn’t called graceful. It’s just sick.