And so they went anyway.
A day before Saturday's ceremonies, Tim and Jeni Buchanan uploaded photos to Facebook that showed them exploring the Central American country, trying local seafood and smiling with family. They would be some of the last memories the South Carolina couple shared together. The following day, Tim Buchanan suffered a heart attack at his daughter's wedding — shortly after finishing their "father-daughter" dance at the reception, those close to the family said.
He died a few hours later, according to a post from Jeni Buchanan the morning after the wedding.
In it, she urged friends to cherish each moment and remembered her husband as a proud father and grandfather. "You never know when the last time will be the last time!" she wrote. "... He was the most beautiful soul I have ever known and I will never be the same without him. I know he loved me and our family."
York County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Trent Faris said Buchanan had been with the department for nearly 20 years. The department shared news of Buchanan’s unexpected death on Facebook, calling him "a long time member of the YCSO family."
For two weeks, sheriff's deputies will wear black mourning bands around their badges in memory of Buchanan, Faris said.
On Sunday, family friend Jenn Lewis started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the Buchanans after what she called “an unimaginable loss.” In three days, the account raised more than $15,000. The funds will go toward helping Jeni Buchanan, a wedding photographer, cover funeral arrangements and other expenses after her husband’s death, Lewis told The Washington Post.
"Many of you know that Jeni is a wedding photographer, and understandably, she will need some time away from that after such a tragic event at her own daughter's wedding," Lewis wrote on the GoFundMe page.
Jeni Buchanan told friends Monday that the family was still grieving and that she could not take phone calls or deal with much more while still in Costa Rica. “Once we have plans settled, someone will update or announce them,” she wrote on Facebook. “For now, just pray. He was always the one to make us feel better when things went wrong and so we need all the prayers we can get.”
She posted another update Tuesday, urging others to watch out for their health.
“If you know Tim, you would know that he wouldn't want any kind of hoopla about anything, but he can't argue right now, so let me pass along this message from our family,” Buchanan wrote. “... Every one of us wish he was still here and hadn't ignored the signs that something was wrong. If there is anything you can do for us, it is to take care of yourself and your loved ones. If we can save just one life with our tragedy, then he can be a hero one more time.”
A subsequent second post put it more plainly: Go see the doctor already.
"I have a challenge for you," she wrote. "I hate going to the [doctor], and I know I'm not alone in that. So I'm challenging all of us to do this together. If it's been more than a year since your last physical, I challenge you to call your doctor and make an appointment NOW. We need to all take better care of ourselves, for Tim's sake."
The American Heart Association recommends beginning regular cardiovascular screening tests around age 20, so that doctors can screen for risk factors such as high blood pressure, high total cholesterol or high blood glucose.
Conscious of resistance from some people to see their physicians, the organization maintains a list of the "Top 10 Reasons Men Put Off Doctor Visits" on its website — but insists: "When it comes down to it, there are no good reasons not to see the doctor, only excuses. Don’t wait. Schedule your annual physical today."
Even men who feel healthy should consult with their doctors regularly to check their blood pressure, diet and exercise levels, according to physician Don Smith of the Mayo Clinic Health System.
“You can establish a rapport with a primary care provider so when you get sick you already have someone who knows you and your family history,” Smith says in a statement on the health-care system's website. “You feel more comfortable talking to someone you know when you have problems or symptoms.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. About 735,000 Americans have heart attacks each year, the CDC notes, adding: "Every 43 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack."