updated 08/09/2012 AT 1:00 PM ET
•originally published 08/09/2012 AT 1:50 PM ET
The Connecticut doctor who lost his wife and children in a brutal home invasion five years ago married his fiancée Sunday in an emotion-filled day that included his late wife’s family, who has given the couple their blessing.
Dr. William Petit, Jr., 55, and freelance photographer Christine Paluf, 35, said their vows before about 300 guests in the chapel at the Holy Family Passionist Monastery and Retreat Center in West Hartford, Conn., according to his spokesman, Rick Healey.
Father David Cinquegrani presided over the Mass at their wedding. Paluf wore an ivory lace gown by Modern Trousseau, a Connecticut-based designer. Her father, Robert Paluf, gave her away. A reception followed at The Riverview in Simsbury, Conn.
Before the wedding meal, a Petit cousin read a blessing written by the Rev. Richard Hawke, the father of Dr. Petit’s late wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, who was killed in July 2007 along with daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, when two men entered their Cheshire, Conn., home and held them hostage for several hours before burning down the residence.
Rev. Hawke was supposed to read the blessing himself, but he and his wife could not attend due to his wife’s illness. First, the cousin quoted from a Methodist hymn called “New Beginnings,” then, he says, he offered some encouragement from Dr. Petit’s late wife and children. Rev. Hawke also said he and his wife had a copy of the “New Beginnings” blessing framed and are giving it to the Petits as a wedding gift.
“I said I can hear Jennifer giving her blessing and love to William and Christine,” he told PEOPLE. “I said about Hayley – who was this sports [fan] in the family and also a very good student – I had her saying, ‘Way to go, Dad!’ ”
“And from Michaela I had her saying, ‘Don t forget us, Dad,’ ” he continued. “’[And] if you have more children, and we hope you will, just love them as much as you have us and you will all be OK.’ ”
Petit and his new bride also had the blessing of Jennifer’s sister.
“Our family needed this to help us heal,” says Cindy Hawke-Renn, who attended the wedding and reception with her husband and children and said how moving Hawke’s blessing was for everyone in attendance. “Making sure that he is going to move forward and have love in his life and have some joy is something that makes us feel better. It s like a piece of our healing. We all really like Christine.”
Petit became engaged to Paluf on New Year’s Eve. The couple began dating last summer after meeting at a local golf club where Paluf worked. She’s also a volunteer at the Petit Family Foundation, which Dr. Petit founded after his family tragedy.