The saleswoman persuaded the store to donate the dress, about $1,800, and accessories. The stars seem to align a lot in Friensen's life, but she sees it as God's plan rather than coincidence.
"I feel like because I have such a strong belief there's been a purpose in everything, I almost feel like it's not my story," she said after her wedding Saturday.
Friesen was born with a complex congenital anomaly, a malformation of the heart. The night she was born, one of the nurses on duty was married to a pediatric cardiologist who was one of 10 doctors in the United States with an experimental drug that keeps babies with heart defects alive long enough to undergo surgery. It saved her life.
Now, her life might be saved again by Dr. Jorge Reyes, whose recent move to Washington brings the necessary expertise to perform a complex combined heart and liver transplant for the new bride.
The operation is risky, but Friesen couldn't survive a heart transplant alone and she can't survive longer than a few years without one.
"These things are risky operations and you have to balance out your calculations as far as success and failure as compared to someone who just needs a heart or just needs a liver because these organs are precious and you don't want to waste them," Reyes said. She is the right patient to do this."
As she chatted on the couch in her apartment to rest between her ceremony and reception, the looming operation was overshadowed by her new husband holding her hand. Dan Friesen worked with the worship team at their church when Rachael worked the coffee bar.
"All of a sudden, he started buying a lot of coffee," Rachael said, laughing. "Even though the coffee wasn't that great."
Rachael, who has undergone three open heart surgeries, got sick again a little over a year into their relationship. She gave Dan an out -- she told him she would understand if he wanted to break up.
"I knew I couldn't walk away without wondering my whole life about it," Dan said.
Just a few weeks shy of their fifth-year dating anniversary, they wed at Summit View Church in Vancouver, with an backyard reception at Rachael's parents' house.
They had put the wedding off for a while to wait until after Rachael's transplant.
"There was a point where we decided we were tired of waiting," Dan said.
And their families were there with them. Nearly everyone made sure Rachael was OK at each stage of the process, and Dan's father Charles Friesen officiated the ceremony.
"Rachael, I've watched you as you care for Dan," he said during the ceremony. "It's kind of like the Western 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.' And your love is unswerving."
Rachael Friesen worries the most about what would happen to her family if the transplant failed, especially the new family she just started Saturday.
"It's terrifying to think I'll get a phone call and in the next 12 hours they'll knock me out and I don't know if I'll ever wake up," she said. But, Dan tells her frequently that if they have 60 days or 60 years left, he will be there with her to love her, which means a lot to a 30-year-old whose phone could ring at any moment when a donor is available.
"Daniel has cared for Rachel," the bride's mother, Carol Loehr, said. "It's very difficult with her medical problems. We're very happy to have him as a son."
Rachael writes about her sickness on caringbridge.org under the tab Rach. She wants to encourage people with sicknesses to keep strength.
"If I can give someone else hope because I've fought through what I've fought through — all the pain and tears and whatever I've went through is worth it," she said."