When Britta and Chris Sieggen met in 1999, they knew. They knew from their shared language of movie quotes and Beatles lyrics. They knew from their mutual love for trying new things — foods and adventures.
“There was something about Chris,” Britta said. “I felt like he was almost a soul mate right off the bat, like I had known him for such a long time.”
Getting engaged that November, three months after meeting, felt natural and not at all rushed.
“I felt like I had the whole package right there,” Britta said, “so I wasn’t going to let him go, that’s for sure.”
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Months later, in February 2000, everything changed.
“It’s the time of your life, you’ve just gotten engaged, and life throws a little curveball at you,” Britta said.
Britta was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 34 — the same age her mother had been when she received what would become a fatal diagnosis.
“My mom passed away from breast cancer when I was 11, so I was always very much aware of the probability or possibility of me getting breast cancer, and so were my doctors,” she said.
Chris and Britta decided to go forward with the wedding, even though it meant Britta would be in the middle of treatment on their special day.
“I wasn’t going to let (cancer) ruin or beat the best thing I had going in my life, and that was Chris,” Britta said.
Chris and Britta were married in a simple ceremony at Chris’ childhood church on Oct. 21, 2000.
“He won’t take a lot of credit for it, but he basically planned our whole wedding,” Britta said. “He stepped up and knew I wanted to do this.”
Chris was a University of Kansas undergrad at the time, but he did what he needed to plan a wedding and keep up with school work.
“I felt like no matter how difficult this part of life was going to be for me, it’s completely, totally a minuscule percentage of the hell that she was going to go through,” he said. “I might have been stressed and freaked out, but I wasn’t staring death in the face either.”
After the wedding, Britta completed treatment and eventually got a clean bill of health. Nearly 15 years passed.
Then in July 2014, Britta found a lump. She had breast cancer again.
And another crisis struck: Chris lost his job when the church where he worked closed.
“We were just trying to follow God and serve God, and then to lose a job, and — in the middle of me trying to find work — she is diagnosed with cancer a second time,” Chris said. “You’re just like, ‘What?!’
“It was one of those hard, honest, bang-your-fist-on-the-chest-of-God moments,” he said.
Again, Britta soldiered through treatment.
“I made a decision without batting an eye that I was going to get a double mastectomy,” she said.
Three months after her mastectomy and chemotherapy (which, she’s happy to report, has improved drastically in the past 15 years), the news was good.
It was then that Britta’s good friend and neighbor, Christine Darden, unveiled the plan she’d been secretly working on for months.
Darden owns Celebrations of Love, a Kansas City wedding and event planning business. She knew Britta and Chris wanted to celebrate their 15-year wedding anniversary in a big way — in a “big ball of wow,” Chris said.
Britta remembers Darden coming to her with the news that she was using all of her wedding vendors to gift the Sieggens a dream vow-renewal ceremony and reception.
“I still get goosebumps,” Britta said. “I feel so humbled and grateful that so many people gave of their time and their money for us.
“That means money and time away from their families,” she said. “That’s what blows me away about it all. I get really teary-eyed. All these people had never even met me.
Donations for the vow renewal totaled about $14,000 in goods and services.
“It really gives you hope,” she said. “People don’t even meet you, and they want to give because they can. It’s amazing.”
The Sieggens renewed their vows Oct. 17, almost 15 years to the day of their wedding.
Invitations: Little Yellow Leaf
Location: Jacob’s Well Church
Length: 1 hour
Dress code: Dresses and suits
Officiants: Jim Gum of Jacob’s Well and Amanda Goin Burgess of Christ Church Anglican
Wedding party: “The bridal party was everybody who had been on this 15-year journey,” Britta said. “It was people who had been here for us along the way in every moment of our marriage.”
Design: Daisies on the corset with one layer of tulle under dress. The train was bustled during the reception. “I got to wear the dress I had always wanted to wear,” Britta said. “I didn’t have to settle for a dress just because I had scars or whatever. I felt more confident.”
Theme: Daisies and pink, in tribute to Britta’s two-time breast cancer survivor status
Colors: Pink and gold
Song that got the party started: “Moves Like Jagger,” Maroon 5
DJ or band: Quincy Wiley, DJ
First dance: Chris recorded himself singing the Beatles’ “I Will” for the first dance. He is part of a Beatles cover band, which donated all its proceeds to Britta’s cancer treatment last year. The couple waltzed to the song, fulfilling Britta’s childhood of dream of waltzing at her wedding. The Sieggens took classes with Amy Castro at Overland Park Ballroom & Social Club.
Processional: “Calico Skies,” Paul McCartney
Location: Wilderness Club House in Overland Park
Number of guests: 200
Wedding cake: Icing on the Cake
Food: One Block South Catering
Honeymoon: The “newlyweds” stayed at a beach house rented by friends for a week in Anna Maria Island, Fla. This trip was especially important, as Britta’s cancer treatment prevented them from honeymooning the first time around.
Day of event coordinating: Christine Darden, Celebrations of Love
Photography: Meghan Spencer, Spencer Studios
Florist: Poppy & Clover Floral Design
Bartending service: Top Shelf Bartending