Stepfamily's viral story hits home

NEW YORK • Ms Brittany Peck was not planning on people around the world sharing in her wedding day. But that was before a photographer captured the moment on Sept 26, when her father, Mr Todd Bachman, reached for the hand of her stepfather, Mr Todd Cendrosky, to include him in the bride's walk down the aisle.

"I was behind the tree," she said, "and it was actually hard for me to see. But I heard. I heard people sobbing. Everyone was crying."

That single, unexpected gesture within a stepfamily has unleashed a tidal wave of emotion worldwide on social media.

Today, more than four in 10 American adults have at least one steprelative in their family, accord- ing to a nationwide Pew Research Center survey. Ms Peck's wedding photographs garnered 64 million views, as of last Thursday, on the Facebook page of Delia D. Blackburn Photography of LaGrange, Ohio. "I know Ashton Kutcher shared on his Facebook page," Ms Blackburn said. "It's been shared throughout the world."

Commenters on her page wrote of joyful experiences, such as one where a father pushed a stepfather up the aisle in a wheelchair so they could both accompany the bride, and sad ones of weddings where fathers or mothers refused to go because stepparents were present.

The story behind the picture of Ms Peck's wedding day moment goes back more than 15 years, when Mr Bachman and the bride's mother, Ms Candace Cendrosky, divorced and each fought for full custody of their two daughters.

"Brittany had always planned to have both dads in her wedding," Ms Cendrosky said, adding her daughter had left the final decision to her biological father. But when Ms Peck did not hear from her father as her wedding day drew near, she found the courage to ask him.

"You told me you wanted my wedding to be perfect," she recalled saying. Before she could continue, he stopped her and said: "I know what you are going to say and I already have a plan."

Because her wedding was outdoors, they travelled in a golf cart from the main house to the wedding site. He parked the cart behind a tree, then strode down the aisle.

"I had no clue, and he reached out his hand and said: 'Hey, you had as much a part in raising her as I did. Let's go walk our daughter down the aisle,'" Mr Cendrosky said.

Pulled from his chair, Mr Cendrosky burst into tears. Adding to the poignancy is that he has received a diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis, which causes loss of mobility in the spine, along with Crohn's disease and lupus. Because of the fear that for his next daughter's wedding, he will be in a wheelchair, his wife was particularly grateful. Ms Cendrosky said: "Deep down, I really do believe he did this for Brittany." NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2015, with the headline 'Stepfamily's viral story hits home'. Print Edition | Subscribe