At most weddings, the bride is given away. At this one, the bride is giving the wedding away — complete with a reception for 200.

Two months before Michelle Marxen’s wedding, the groom called and said, “I can’t do it.”

“He said he couldn’t pretend to love me anymore and didn’t want to go through with the wedding,” said Marxen, 26.

After the sudden breakup, a brokenhearted — and broke — Marxen moved back home with her parents.

She started calling family and friends, as well as florists and bakers, to let them know there wouldn’t be a wedding. But because the date was just two months away, most of the $15,000 already paid to vendors wouldn’t be refunded.

With that kind of price tag, Marxen decided the party must go on — with or without her.

So, rather than cancel the reception, planned for this Saturday at the Crystal Ballroom at the Ramada Plaza in Fargo, N.D., Marxen decided to donate the party to a Moorhead organization that serves people with disabilities.

“What was supposed to be my dream wedding will be their special day,” she said. “Knowing that is definitely helping me to heal.”

On Saturday, wedding bells, champagne and flowers will be replaced with the “Monster Mash,” spooky punch and jack-o’-lanterns. More than 200 clients of Creative Care for Reaching Independence will attend a Halloween party complete with a parade, photographer and giant candy station instead of a cake.

“It is going to be an over-the-top Halloween party,” said Executive Director Shannon Bock. “A lot of our folks live on a very limited income and wouldn’t be able to go to an event like this. ... It’s bringing so much joy to them and we are all so grateful.”

Donated receptions rare

Marxen said she and her parents decided to donate the reception after taking a tally of the losses from the canceled wedding. While some contracts could be voided, the reception could not. Marxen had heard about Creative Care from a YouTube video and thought it sounded like a worthy charity.

She hadn’t heard about a similar donation made in September by an Atlanta family, whose daughter’s abruptly canceled wedding became a four-course meal for about 200 homeless people.

Her donation is believed to be the first of its kind in Minnesota.

Ashley Henry, a wedding planner with Simply Elegant Bridal Consulting, said she’s seen plenty of other late cancellations, but never a response like Marxen’s. “It’s phenomenal that she’s thought of such a great way to impact people with her not-so-great situation,” Henry said.

In the Twin Cities, the Salvation Army has received donations of tickets to sporting events, even grave sites, but never a wedding reception, said Annette Bauer, public relations director.

If such an offer presented itself, she said, the Salvation Army would consider whether a party might be a nice social opportunity for the people the nonprofit serves.

“We try to make use of anything we can if there’s a need somewhere,” Bauer said. “We turn down very little.”

For her part, Marxen is philosophical about her would-be wedding.

“What I’ve come to terms with is that you can’t make anyone love you,” she said.

She’s doing well, she said. She’s moving on. She recently landed a new job as a pediatric nurse at a children’s hospital. In November, she’ll move into her own apartment.

But she can’t quite bring herself to attend the Creative Care Halloween party. Instead, she’ll spend the weekend in Las Vegas with her parents.


Staff writer Katie Humphrey contributed to this report.