This bride’s father was with her on her wedding day—but not in the usual way (VIDEO)

Though the father of the bride passed away 10 years before Jeni Stepien got married, his memory was honored in the most unique and touching way.

Many brides relish the moment they walk down the aisle with their father. As weddings become increasingly elaborate, this symbolic act remains simple: the father escorts his daughter to the altar, helping usher her into a new stage in life. A little tremble or the shedding of a grateful tear is almost a given for both parties. But not every bride gets the chance to share this special walk with her dad.

That was the case for one Pittsburgh bride this past weekend, whose father died roughly a decade before her big day. But Jeni Stepien didn’t opt for another male relative to do the honor, as you might expect. Instead, she had her father’s heart donor recipient accompany her down the aisle at her wedding.

Jeni Stepien. CBS This Morning | Youtube

When Stepien’s father died tragically, after a young mugger killed him, his heart was donated to Arthur Thomas of New Jersey. That generous act sparked another: when Stepien contacted Thomas with her unique request, asking if he would give her away on her big day, he came without hesitation:

“I was on death’s door when [Stepien’s father] was murdered and I needed a heart or I was going to be dying in the next few days,” he told told local CBS news reporters in Pittsburgh. Grateful for the role Stepien’s father played in saving his own life, Thomas honored the bride’s request with a lovely sense of humility.

In one particularly moving moment, Stepien even placed her hand to Thomas’ chest to feel her father’s heart beat for the first time in years. In a sense, she had a part of her dad with her there on her wedding day.

I was just so thankful that my dad could be here with us today in spirit and a piece of his physical being as well. That was really special for us,” Stepien said.

Watch Stepien and Thomas’ touching walk here:

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