Happily Ever After

by LeeAnne Carson ‘02

When Kyle Garlett ‘96 and Carrie Riordan got engaged a year ago, they envisioned a modest wedding ceremony near the California coast. But on May 9, 2005, an entire nation will witness their star-studded nuptials on primetime television.

Inspired by the couple’s heartwarming story, ABC chose Garlett and Riordan from more than 1,000 applicants to receive their dream wedding in the first episode of Extreme Makeover: Wedding Edition. “It was an amazing experience,” said Garlett. “I’m looking forward to seeing it on television because it’s still a little of a blur!” Garlett was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in 1989 at 18 years old. Despite treatment, he was rediagnosed twice more over the next six years, and then developed secondary leukemia as a result of his chemotherapy. Riordan, a University of Michigan and Georgia Tech graduate, is a marathon runner who met Garlett in 2002 at a Leukemia-Lymphoma Society charity run. Garlett has been in remission for seven and a half years. But, he is also waiting for a heart transplant, the anticipation and cost of which delayed their original wedding plans. Employees of the City of Hope medical center, in Duarte, California, where Garlett has received treatment for several years, suggested the couple apply for the show. And it was at City of Hope where the “I Do Crew,” Extreme Makeover’s six event-planning experts, surprised Garlett and Riordan with the good news. The team scheduled the event to take place a mere three days later, and while the crew made preparations, the couple received celebrity treatment – literally. Choreographer Chris Judd taught Garlett some moves for the couple’s first dance together, and Tony Gonzalez of the Kansas City Chiefs – Garlett’s favorite team – flew in for the bachelor’s party. Riordan met with breast cancer survivor and dress designer, Amy Michelson, for a custom-made wedding gown. And Garlett and Riordan raided Sears on a shopping spree for household items. In true Extreme Makeover fashion, the couple remained in the dark on all wedding plans, even barred from their own rehearsal. The “I Do Crew” relied on interests Garlett and Riordan revealed in interviews and surveys during the show’s application process to plan the wedding details, along with help from family members. They designed the ceremony “in the round,” with a spiral aisle that went by every seat. Combining the couple’s favorite city and holiday, the crew created a “Christmas in New York” themed reception, complete with a Manhattan skyline, falling snow, an ice-skating rink, and a performance by Liza Minnelli. “I was initially worried that we’d have a camera guy in our face during the ceremony,” said Garlett, “but they were all hidden and unobtrusive. We were in really good hands. The producers never lost sight that this was more than a television show – it was also our wedding.” The 150 guests – flown in within 48 hours – included APU’s own former president, Richard Felix, Ph.D.; Terry Franson, Ph.D., senior vice president for student life and dean of students; and Gary Pine, director of sports information and assistant director of athletics. Fellow APU alumnus and pastor Ted Tyman ’96, M.A. ’00, officiated the ceremony at Garlett’s request. A good friend of Garlett’s, Tyman remembers supporting Garlett during his cancer treatment, especially after a bone marrow transplant in 1995. During visits to the hospital, the two often talked baseball, a topic Garlett appreciated for its normalcy as opposed to the more somber ones he had with other visitors about his condition. “It was such an honor to be asked [to officiate the ceremony],” said Tyman. “But then to find out it was going to be on television and the producers still wanted me to do it – wow! For people as deserving as Kyle and Carrie, this was an amazing experience and a great blessing.”It has been a month since the wedding taped on April 1. Since then, Garlett and Riordan honeymooned in Sonoma County and have settled into their Marina del Rey home. In recent weeks, Access Hollywood featured the couple on a show, and the New York Post interviewed them about their experience. Plans for a second reception are also underway – without the television crew. “It was my whole ordeal with cancer that brought Carrie and I together,” said Garlett. “If I did not have cancer, I would not have met her. Everything really does work out in the end. I’m excited millions of people will see our story and know that cancer is survivable, if the right people are around to support you.”

Extreme Makeover: Wedding Edition premieres Monday, May 9 on ABC. Check your local listings for air times.

LeeAnne Carson ’02 is the research editor at Diablo magazine and a freelance writer and designer in the San Francisco Bay Area. lcarson@diablopubs.com