Guests wear blindfolds at wedding of blind bride who has never 'seen' her husband
When Stephanie Agnue was 18, her mom was diagnosed with Cone-Rod Dystrophy, an inherited eye disorder that affects the sensitive parts of the retinas. The disease causes vision loss, gets progressively worse over time and there is no known cure. One year after her mom's diagnosis, Stephanie was diagnosed. At the age of 19, she discovered that she would soon go blind.
"I gave in my licence when I was 23," Stephanie told FEMAIL, "which was really hard as I was a property manager and my sight then stabilised as it was for a while before deteriorating very quickly between the ages of 27 and 30. I'm now left with light and dark perception and can see some shapes and shadows." Meanwhile, her mother is completely blind.
However, Stephanie didn't let her condition get her down. She continued to work in real estate for 11 years, and recently married the love of her life, Robbie Campbell. They were next-door neighbors, but didn't socialize much, due to Robbie's job as a policeman. Finally, they met at a drink function, and hit it off. "I've never seen him," said Stephanie. "But I know his build - he is six foot four and I am five foot four so he is a lot taller than me - and I know he has broad shoulders but other than that I have to rely on descriptions."
After 18 months of dating, Robbie proposed on Christmas Day. "'[My friends and family] were all there," said Stephanie, "and I felt the box and he had given me an Apple TV but apparently my face dropped because it wasn't a ring box but then he surprised me and got down on one knee and did a little speech. I was so thrilled and it was just a beautiful, surprising moment."
The couple tied the knot at beautiful spot in Maleny, Queensland. The venue boasts an incredible view of the Glasshouse Mountains, which Stephanie remembers seeing as a kid. "The staff were amazing and spent a lot of time with Steph describing the visual features of the whole venue," Robbie told FEMAIL. "They were instrumental during the day by helping her feel the tactile elements that were a part of the ceremony and reception."
The wedding contained several heartwarming details to make the Australian bride's special day unforgettable. The staff described every sweet-smelling flower in her bouquet. The fabric of her wedding gown was infused with different oils to bring back different memories of the day in the future. An owl flew down the aisle and perched on her arm to deliver the rings.
But the best detail? All 54 wedding guests wore blindfolds in solidarity during the vows. That way, they could experience the big moment without sight, just like the bride and her mother.
Photographer James Day, a long-time friend of Stephanie, captured the princess-perfect ceremony with breathtaking pictures. He also helped create some of the unique sensory elements, like the essential oils permeating her dress. "I couldn't control my emotions as she walked down the aisle - she looked like a true princess bride in the dress," said Robbie. He added that the videographer, Lemon Tree Film House, "is putting together a film with extra audio descriptions from the day so Steph can experience it audibly instead of visually."
Stephanie has three siblings, and two of them have been diagnosed with Cone-Rod Dystrophy. Hopefully one day doctors will discover a way to restore her eyesight. But the 32-year-old has made peace with her condition. "If they don't find a cure I'll be okay," said Stephanie. "I'd love them to, I really would, but I'll be okay."
"When people tell you that you can't do something you can't let that affect you," she explained. "It has pushed me to want to succeed even more. I was really unsure about the whole bridal process to the point where I wanted to just go to the registry because I didn't think I could deal with it. But it's been such an enjoyable process.'Everyone has hurdles so it's important to dig deep within yourself and understand that life can be hard but there are always ways to deal with things."