Surrounded by family and friends, a jubilant Elizabeth Smart marries Matthew Gilmour in a beautiful Hawaiian paradise just a month after the two were engaged. The 24-year-old kidnap survivor shares details of her romance with her Scottish Prince Charming, her dress, and their big day exclusively in this week's issue of PEOPLE.
This fairy-tale ending could not have been foreseen 10 years ago, when Smart, just 14, was kidnapped from her bedroom in Salt Lake City. Miraculously rescued nine months later, she grew into a confident young woman who bravely faced down her captor in court and vowed not only to forgive him, but to move on with her own life despite her horrific ordeal. And now that same young woman – who works as a child-abuse advocate – inspires her friends and family as she enters this bright new chapter of her life. "It's who she is now that is the important thing," her new mother-in-law, Kay Gilmour, 49, tells PEOPLE. "She's a most gracious, very brave, very strong young woman."
Healing and happiness are so intertwined for Smart that she chose to celebrate her wedding in the place she visited in 2003 during her recovery from her kidnapping, when the then-traumatized teen was first reunited with her family. "Oahu is a very special place for me, very different than what I was used to," Smart tells PEOPLE. "I guess you could say it was kind of a refuge."
Perhaps as much of a relief to Smart was Gilmour's saying he had never heard of her when the two met in Paris in January 2009. "I got to know her as she truly is," says Gilmour, 22, from Aberdeen, Scotland. Both were in France to perform their Mormon missions, and a quiet friendship quickly sparked. "The thing that attracted me the most to her – at the beginning and now – is how confident she is, especially considering everything she has been through," he says. "As soon as we were together, I felt he was my best friend," Smart tells PEOPLE. "I couldn't imagine life without him."
A few months later Gilmour asked her to marry him, and the two began to plan a summer wedding in Salt Lake City, where he plans to attend college. They moved up the date to escape intense interest from the media and plan a larger party back in Utah in the spring. Once they changed their plans, the race was on for a dress, and after trying on "just about every dress in Utah," Smart scored a coveted appointment slot – and a gown – at New York's historic Kleinfeld's bridal salon while on a weekend trip with a girlfriend. She had the white, dotted tulle Alita Graham retrofitted with lace sleeves and a sweetheart neckline to conform to Mormon standards for her temple wedding ceremony. Happily finalizing the remaining details for the reception with the Turtle Bay Resort, she flew from Salt Lake City with her parents, Ed and Lois, 54, and Gilmour two days early.
On the morning of her wedding day, Smart looked every bit the radiant – and ready – bride. Her younger sister Mary Katherine, 19, at her side, Smart calmly snacked on dried mangoes as her family helped her fix her hair and makeup and put on her dress. Gilmour, wearing the kilt of his late father, Stewart (who died of cancer in 2008), was driven to the Laie Hawaii Temple by his uncle Neville Henderson, who assured him, "Your father is going to be here in spirit." After the ceremony, witnessed only by the immediate family and a few friends, they returned to Turtle Bay Resort for a luncheon with the entire wedding party of family and friends (including Smart's siblings Charles, 25; Andrew, 21; and William, 14).
The guests shared heartfelt remembrances of the couple as children and toasted them with tropical fruit punch. "Last spring, when you told me you had met 'the one,' I said to slow down, take your time," her father said through happy tears. "You were right. You have found the man who will make you really happy." Echoed her mother, Lois: "You have married a prince and a Scotsman. It's a love story that has come true."
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