Parents

'Best surprise ever': Couple marries in the hospital hours after daughter's birth

She’s the cutest, tiniest little party crasher, and her parents are overjoyed that she made a surprise appearance at their wedding, just five hours after entering the world.

Briar Dorothy Pulcipher was born at 12:42 p.m. on July 29 at a Michigan hospital where her parents, John and Jael Pulcipher, carried out their plans to marry later that day.

“She’s the ultimate wedding crasher,” Jael, 29, told TODAY. “Our little party girl, she didn’t want to miss out.”

John L. Russell
John and Jael Pulcipher hold their newborn daughter, Briar, who was born hours before they married at a Michigan hospital.

The Traverse City, Michigan, couple planned to marry at Lake Charlevoix on July 29, seven weeks before Jael’s Sept. 16 due date. But four days before the wedding, Jael was hospitalized after her water broke. The couple wanted to marry before their first child was born, so they moved the nuptials to the Munson Medical Center.

Briar, born healthy that morning at 4 pounds, 5 ounces, was doing so well that she was wheeled into the ceremony in her isolette to make her debut as her parents said “I do” before 70 guests gathered in a conference room in the hospital basement.

“Having her in the room was the best surprise ever,” Jael said. “Holding her in front of everybody, my heart just melted. I started crying happy tears. I was just crying, oh my gosh, I’m a mom, I’m a wife.”

John L. Russell
They did it!: John and Jael Pulcipher followed through on their plans to marry on July 29, even though the bride had just given birth hours earlier.

“We’re so blessed to have everything come together,” said John, 30. “We felt on top of the world, like a million bucks.”

John L. Russell
Sealed with a kiss. The couple celebrates after tying the knot at the hospital hours after their daughter was born.

When Jael was first hospitalized, she had hoped to make it to their original wedding venue, about an hour from home, on a day pass.

“I was thinking they’re keeping me for 24 hours, it will be fine,” Jael said. “But the doctor said, ‘Oh no. Let me clarify. I’m admitting you and you’re not leaving until you have this baby.’ They weren’t going to let me leave the hospital campus.”

So with guests traveling to Michigan from seven states, the couple moved the wedding to the hospital, and planned for an outdoor garden ceremony. Jael even had a bridal shower at the hospital, and celebrated with a veil her nurses made from a laundry bag.

Courtesy Jael Pulcipher
Jael Pulcipher celebrated her upcoming nuptials with an in-hospital bridal shower.

But on her wedding day, Jael woke up in labor. John pulled double duty, helping his bride-to-be through labor and working out the on-again, off-again wedding plans.

“I was on the phone and massaging and holding her back,” John said, adding that they didn’t get approval for the wedding until early afternoon when it was clear that Jael and Briar were doing well, but wouldn’t be able to go out to the garden.

The 3:30 p.m. ceremony they planned was too soon, so John broke the news only to closest friends and relatives that they had just become a family of three.

“People showed up at 3 and I told them that the wedding plans were changing drastically, but we had a surprise and to come back at 5,” John said.

The guests enjoyed a dinner reception, as the bride recovered and got ready, wearing a red dress that her sisters bought her at the last minute, and a floral headpiece.

“One of my nurses pushed me in a wheelchair downstairs and once I got to the hallway outside the conference room, I managed to walk myself down the aisle with my dad,” the bride said. “I was feeling pretty good. I was moving slowly and definitely wasn’t going to be dancing.”

With everyone gathered, John revealed the gender and name of their newborn daughter, and the couple was married at 6 p.m. They celebrated afterward briefly with cake and toasted with sparkling juice and soda.

John L. Russell
Cake time: The newlyweds enjoyed their wedding cake after the hospital wedding ceremony hours after their daughter was born.

“It was exactly what I wanted — to have a daughter that was born and that had no complications, and I wanted to marry my best friend,” John said. “It was miraculous.”

Briar spent nine days in the neonatal intensive care unit, and is now home with her newlywed parents who are thrilled with the way that July 29 turned out.

“It was magical,” said Jael, who posed for photos in her white wedding gown the next day. “I still can’t believe it happened the way it did.”

“It’s a day that I should never forget,” John joked, “because if I do, these women will be real mad at me.”

John Pulcipher has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for The John Ritter Foundation and for Briar’s future. John Pulcipher suffered an aortic dissection due to a genetic mutation, and says Briar will need genetic testing to see if she has the mutation as well.

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