By Janet Tappin Coelho
A newlywed couple have paid for the dreams of 20 people to come true, after discovering all were desperate to get married but none could afford to pay for their big day.
In an amazing act of generosity, Alex and Priscila Façanha, paid for the ceremonies out of their own pockets. They received help with donations from wedding companies and support from volunteers who worked to make the day, which cost around 150,000 reais (£33,500 / $46,575), a huge success.
The big-hearted pair, who live in Fortaleza, north east Brazil, even postponed their honeymoon, after walking down the aisle the previous day, to arrange for the 10 hard-up couples, who they had never met before, to tie the knot.
The kind-hearted professionals revealed this month how they made a huge difference to the relationships of 20 complete strangers.
They selected the candidates after asking their bridesmaids and groomsmen to choose a couple of friends or acquaintances who had been in a stable relationship for some time but had not been able to marry for financial reasons.
Now the Façanha’s are planning to turn the initiative into a marriage project called Casamenteiroos or Matchmakers which will give away a free wedding day to a group of deserving love-birds once a year.
Alex, 37, a graphic designer, said: “Priscila and I have been together for eight years and we got engaged in January last year. As we started planning our wedding for this year, we noticed other couples were facing difficulties in finding the money for their own marriage festivities.
“We came up with the idea because we wanted to spread a bit of our own happiness and decided to share our special moment in a unique way that helped others fulfil their dreams and allowed them to finally make it to the altar.
“Four months before we got married we called on our friends and family, who were part of our wedding entourage, and asked them to find people who dreamed of getting hitched.
“My brother recommended a waitress who worked at his restaurant. A cousin suggested her manicurist who always talked about walking down the aisle and my aunt nominated a cook who had given up hope of ever hearing wedding bells.”
With all the candidates identified, the Façanha’s held a raffle to raise funds to pay for the rings and drummed up support from local companies who donated bridal gowns, cars and flowers among other things. As an additional surprise, the charitable couple donated all their wedding presents to the ten brides and grooms.
Around 40 friends volunteered their services, hand-making the wedding invitations, arranging the hair, make-up and nails for the brides, sorting out the decoration at the church and coordinating the ceremonies, catering and entertainment at the wedding venue for 250 guests.
On Saturday 6 January the Façanha’s pledged their vows before 350 well-wishers, then delayed their honeymoon to spend the following day (Sunday 7 January) ensuring the nuptials of the ten betrothed couples went according to plan.
Priscila, 29, a publicist, said: “The day was a wonderful success and more challenging than planning our own wedding. But we had the satisfaction of knowing we were creating something special and memorable for these families.”
Alex added: “We had 13 photographers and six cinematographers who recorded the day without charging. One of our groomsmen who is a dentist gave everyone a brilliant polished smile for free and the DJ who played at our wedding the day before, volunteered his services for the 10 couples’ celebration party the following day.”
The newlyweds exchanged rings at the same time but in two different churches.
Seven marriages were held at a Catholic church and three had an evangelical service.
Then everyone gathered at the wedding party venue where the Façanha’s had held their reception the day before.
Elizangela Nascimento, 40, a manicurist, one of the brides who had been living with her partner Gleison Ferreira, 36, a locksmith, said: “We always hoped to seal our relationship by getting married, but we just couldn’t afford it.
“To be given this wedding day as a gift has left me with inexplicable emotions because people who we never knew have helped to make our dreams come true.”
Housewife, Francesca das Chagas, 30, who married builder Alberto Araujo, 35, after eight years together said: “I never imagined this would ever happen to us. It’s a magical moment that we will treasure and be grateful for, forever.”
Waitress Sayonara Pinheiro, 25, had already married Pablo Pinheiro, 24, a cook, in a registry office but wanted a religious service to complete their union.
She said: “We were starting to give up on the idea because of the cost. But all that changed when our names were put forward for this amazing opportunity.”
According to Alex, plans are already being made for the next Casamenteiroos or Matchmakers do in January 2019.
He is however, keen to downplay what was spent on the ceremonies as he said: “It’s not about the money but about the act of helping others.”
He revealed: “We kept a rough breakdown of what we would have had to spend if we had paid for everything ourselves. We’re not keen to say how much money we put in as it’s not about blowing our own trumpets.
“But the total came to at least 150,000 reais (or £33,500 / $46,575) and a fair amount was kindly donated.
“We want to do something every year and make it even bigger. This year’s event showed that with the generosity of others and thoughtfulness, you can make a real difference to people’s lives and celebrate love,” he said.
Breakdown of the costs of the 10 couples wedding organised by the Façanha’s:
10 Wedding Dresses @ 3,000 reais each = 30,000 reais (£6,700 / $9,300)
10 Grooms @ 700 reais each = 7,000 reais (£1,525 / $2,120)
10 Cars at 1,200 reais each = 12,000 reais (£2,700 / $3,740)
Dentist x 20 mouths @ 350 reais each = 7,000 reais (£1,525 / $2,120)
Invitations – 1,000 reais (£225 / $315)
DJ – 2,000 reais (£450 / $630)
Photographers – 7,000 reais (£1,525 / $2,120)
Cinematographers – 8,000 reais (£1,800 / $2,500)
Wedding venue – 20,000 reais (£4,500 / $6,250)
Buffet – 12,000 reais (£2,700 / $3,750)
10 Make-up and accessories @ 600 = 6,000 reais (£1,350 / $1,900)
Flowers and accessories for bouquets and decorating church and venue – 12,000 reais (£2,700 / $3,750)
20 Rings – 1,200 each = 24,000 reais (£5,350 / $7,450)
Churches x 2 – 2000 reais (£450 / $630)
Total in 150,000 reais (£33,500 / $46,575)