Warilla manor wedding win sees tears flow

Dream come true: Leanne McKay, Meagan Torrens, Kathleen Swinbourne, Donna Leak, Aurora Clarke, Lily Clarke (standing), and Edwenna Hilton, Matt Byrne, Kiara Jones, Tara Dingle and Vicky Dingle (sitting) at California Manor. Pictures: GREG ELLIS

Dream come true: Leanne McKay, Meagan Torrens, Kathleen Swinbourne, Donna Leak, Aurora Clarke, Lily Clarke (standing), and Edwenna Hilton, Matt Byrne, Kiara Jones, Tara Dingle and Vicky Dingle (sitting) at California Manor. Pictures: GREG ELLIS

When Matt Byrne and Tara Dingle visited California Manor this week they were not sure what was in store for them.

Initially they did not know they had been entered in a competition by Ms Dingle's mother, Vicky Dingle, and only recently found out they were in for a chance to win a $25,000 wedding extravaganza put together by more than 30 businesses.

They were sitting in a large upstairs living area of the guest house when they were told their names had been drawn and that was where they would be spending their wedding night.

The tears immediately flowed because it was something they had not dared think too much about for 24 months.

Vicky Dinglem Tara Dingle, young Kiara, Matt Byrne and Edwenna Hilton at California Manor in Warilla.

Vicky Dinglem Tara Dingle, young Kiara, Matt Byrne and Edwenna Hilton at California Manor in Warilla.

The couple had initially planned to get married two years ago, but just weeks before the big day Mr Byrne was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin lymphoma.

Everything was put on hold as he began treatment in hospital, and he has not worked since.

"Financially we just could not pick ourselves back up to actually afford this wedding," he said.

The couple had almost given up on thinking about when they might ever be able to fulfil their dream when they were told it was now possible, and that they would not have to pay a cent thanks to the generosity of so many businesses.

Ms Dingle was overcome with emotion and said: "I am sorry but we have been through a lot."

Inside Warilla's lavish California Manor.

Inside Warilla's lavish California Manor.

Mr Byrne's daughter and flower-girl-to-be Kiara Jones was also present and is now looking forward to her big role.

The couple were nominated by Vicky Dingle, who was told about an Illawarra Mercury story by a fellow nurse.

More than 30 Illawarra businesses had come together within six weeks to make the wedding package possible for a local family affected by cancer.

That occurred after Donna Leak, of De'vine Wedding Events, heard Maralyn Young, of Casa Mia, give a presentation at a Business in Heels networking event in Shellharbour.

"We hope this helps you out a little bit," Mrs Leak said.

Mr Byrne and Ms Dingle do not know exactly what the future holds but winning the package has lifted their spirits and they are planning a February wedding at Panorama House.

Mr Byrne said life got pretty hard when he was diagnosed, and he was having trouble taking in all the generosity after losing his father to cancer recently.

"A month before I got diagnosed ... my father was diagnosed with liver cancer," Mr Byrne said.

"I was bed-bound and couldn't work. I also gained weight and didn't want people to see me. I thought I was horrible and hated it. My body would not react to chemo and kept trying to reject it."

Mr Byrne still has cancer.

"I won't ever be in remission," he said.

Ms Dingle is thinking of a February 8 wedding but did not really care what date it is - she is just grateful it is happening.

"This is life-changing; we are getting married," she said.

The happy couple could not thank all the businesses involved enough.

Mr Byrne said he had looked at his life in recent times and wondered what was left.

But now he had something to really look forward to and that was a huge help.

Mrs Leak said so many businesses wanted to get involved she was planning to do it all again in 2015 and make it open to people with any illness.

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