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Homeless couple inspired to turn life around after community throws them wedding

All Evelyn and Rocky Barlett wanted was a marriage license to seal the deal, but what they got was so much more: a chance at turning their life around.

After finding the couple, both 56, in the woods last year, Officer Dan McDonald, Tampa Police Department's homeless liaison, put them on the waiting list for permanent supportive housing, but he didn't think that was enough.

Once he found out how badly they wanted to get married, he started to think of ways to help them raise the $93 they needed for a marriage license.

Courtesy of Carrie Wildes
Rocky and Evelyn Barlett with Officer Dan McDonald

"We've been together for 22 years and believe it or not, we've never had enough money to get the license in all those years," Evelyn Barlett told TODAY.com.

RELATED: Dad with cancer given chance to see his daughter get married from his hospital bed

When Bonnie McSharry, owner of Cross Creek Ranch, an all-inclusive wedding venue in Tampa, Florida, heard the couple's story in December, she thought back to her own time on the streets and immediately felt obliged to help.

"We've never donated a wedding before, but when I called the vendors we work with, I couldn't even get the full story out before they were jumping at the opportunity to offer their services at no charge," Nancy Spooner, director of weddings at Cross Creek Ranch, told TODAY.com.

Courtesy of Carrie Wildes
Evelyn and Rocky Barlett with friends, family and many of the vendors, who were also invited as guests

"I take wedding photos for a living, but to be able to use your talent to do something for someone who has never experienced anything like it before, that's what you look for, right?" Carrie Wildes, the couple's wedding photographer, told TODAY.com.

By January, everyone from the caterer and DJ to the stores that donated the tuxedo and gown and both wedding rings, were working together to give the couple the wedding they never thought they'd have.

Courtesy of Carrie Wildes
The couple during the wedding ceremony

Right after receiving their rings at the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, McDonald presented them with keys to their very own apartment.

RELATED: 15 ways to save money on your wedding

"I wanted to make sure they had a place to live by the time of the wedding," McDonald told TODAY.com. "For them to have to take the limo back to the woods wasn't an option in my mind."

When Evelyn was getting ready for the wedding on the morning of April 1, she couldn't stop thinking about the night ahead of her. Not only did her community come together to throw her a beautiful wedding, but she and her partner were about to have a proper roof over their heads for the first night in years.

Courtesy of Carrie Wildes
Rocky and Evelyn Barlett

"I woke up this morning and I still have to pinch myself to make sure it's real life," Barlett said.

RELATED: Family turns reception into feast for the homeless after wedding is called off

The newlyweds both grew up in Ohio, where Evelyn worked at her family's restaurant and Rocky worked on a chicken farm.

"Those were our happy days," Evelyn said.

Courtesy of Carrie Wildes
Rocky got emotional upon seeing Evelyn during the reception.

Once Rocky developed heart issues about 10 years ago, he lost his job, forcing them to move in with Evelyn's stepmom. After a few months, she kicked them out and they bounced around different family members' homes before moving to Tampa three years ago to get away from the cold.

They're so grateful to have been given a second chance that they don't plan on taking it for granted. Rocky has already started applying for jobs and Evelyn is planning to take computer classes so that she'll be able to work from home with the computer her friends plan on getting her.

"When I was a young girl I desperately wanted to be a secretary," Evelyn said. "I have my own little desk in the new apartment, which makes me feel important — a feeling I don't think I've ever felt before."

Courtesy of Carrie Wildes
Evelyn and Rocky Barlett shared their first dance together as husband and wife.

"What amazed me about them was their resilience and self-sufficiency," McDonald said. "They never asked for anything and assumed they'd be homeless for the rest of their lives."

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3 generations of women have worn this wedding dress, but that's not the craziest part of this story

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3 generations of women have worn this wedding dress, but that's not the craziest part of this story

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