Vendor Spotlight | Stanley Murzyn Photography

It’s surprising how vocation can be a constant source of change: within a certain call, the Lord often continues to whisper still to our hearts. Stanley Murzyn gets this. A former seminarian turned husband and father-to-be, and former hurricane recovery worker, conservationist, and homeless shelter operator turned photographer, Stan’s professional and personal pursuits speak to pursuing the smaller calls within the larger ones, and putting them at the service of others.

A lifelong lover of taking photos, Stan first began pursuing photography more seriously during a study abroad program in Taiwan. Years later, after documenting a cross-country motorcycle trip using only his iPhone, he desired to grow in technical skill, and learned to shoot with a DSLR camera for the first time. Before long, at his wife Justina’s encouragement, his hobby became a business as of 2016.

A few years prior, after discerning he wasn’t called to the priesthood, Stan left seminary with a conviction that the best thing he could do with his life was to imitate Jesus and St. Joseph, particularly in their example of a simple, holy life and of practicing a craft. In this sense, he has a love for the technical aspect of the art of photography. That attention to technique, combined with his past experience in the non-profit and service world, lends itself not only to beautifully captured images, but to a client experience rooted in relationship. After all, it’s through relationship that we’re able to hear the Father’s voice and embrace our callings.

 From Stan: [My wife] has really kindled the creative flame within me, giving me courage to pursue that aspect of my personality. Since a child, I've always had a camera in my hand and loved telling stories. Now I'm dedicated to capturing and telling those stories for solid Catholic marriages. Christ has made himself so very present in our marriage and it's a daily gift. It's an amazing thing to be a part of and witness in others’ marriages.



Catholic Photographers Share 4 Tips for Your Engagement Session



For some--if not most--couples, getting your photograph taken can be unnerving! It’s not a common or normal experience. An engagement session is often the first time a couple has ever had professional photographs taken. From us to you, here are four ways to make the most of your engagement portraits so that, first, you and your fiancé receive images you're truly happy with, and second, that you have an incredible time during the actual session. In fact, the second point--having an amazing time--is critical because it directly influences the first--receiving photographs you’ll always cherish.

It's mutual.

Your photographer is going to bring the artistic vision and necessary equipment to create a session that delivers portraits he or she hopes will truly connect with you as a couple, providing something lasting and meaningful for your relationship.

That being said, it’s important to realize that you are co-creators in this process. For your photographer to truly capture amazing images of the real you, the real you needs to show up, ready to join in. In a big way, that means being willing to let your guard down: be vulnerable and share your love, your joy, your laughter, your tears, and your honesty.  

Consider: when it's just the two of you alone, and you feel truly connected as a couple, how do you act? How do you laugh? How do you embrace? How do you hold hands? How do you kiss? How do you look at one another?  

Focus on those questions instead of on posing or how you think you look. The couple "poses" that look absolutely amazing in final images are usually the ones that simply show a couple being truly themselves, letting their love shine through. Authentic love is about as natural as it gets, and you don’t need to be professional models to convey that.

You just need to be you. Sometimes that's incredibly serious and intimate. Sometimes that's silly jokes and laughing to the point of tears. Whatever it is, let it be you. If you're willing to show that level of vulnerability with your photographer, we promise you are giving them an incredible starting point to create meaningful engagement photos.

Prepare emotionally.

We have been married for eight years. One thing we've realized about our own relationship is that it's crazy hard to just flip an emotional switch, quickly changing from being wrapped up in our individual busy lives to being truly present to one another. There have been times we've gone out on amazing planned date nights, yet haven't connected at all because we weren't in the right state of mind. If our minds are stuck on work, kids, or other life obligations it's impossible to switch on the spot to romantic date mode. The result is that those dates ends up mediocre, at best. For us, as a couple, to go on amazing dates we have to proactively enter into the right state of mind and leave everything else behind.  

It's the same for photos. We just advised that you to show up and be your vulnerable, loving selves in front of the camera, but true to our own experience, we don't expect you to flip a switch at the start of your portraits and be able to do that on the spot.  

Our best tip for making that transformation a natural one is to consider making the entire day of your session about the two of you, letting your portraits just serve as an extension of an already amazing time. Better yet, make the entire weekend about you! No wedding plans; no talk about work or school or family obligations. Think about the days that have been most incredible for the two of you as a couple, and and identify ways to recreate them.

Spend time doing some things you love, and you’ll show up to your engagement session in that state. It will help you be more present and connected.  

Be you.

Dress like you. Be comfortable. Fit the environment.  

In other words, if you're going to be exploring fields and trails in the woods, leave the heels at home. If your session will feature a classy evening in the city and you love to dress up, then by all means, get dressed up.

At the end of the day, your clothing choices are not what the session is about. Yet it is important that your attire complements who you are as individuals, without diminishing your comfort level and emotional state.


Leave your phones in the car (unless there's a real emergency reason for you to be on call). Nothing kills being present like getting texted!

Images by the authors, via An Endless Pursuit Photography.

About the Authors: Steve and Bernadette Dalgetty are the husband and wife photography team behind An Endless Pursuit. For the past eight years they have documented stories, celebrating marriage and families throughout the greater Washington DC area and around the country. Steve and Bernadette currently live in a 125 year-old home in Leesburg, Virginia with their three kids. They met in college at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and named their photography business after their dating relationship that took a few tries to get right. They love the world of wedding photography because of the incredible witness it has been for their own marriage, observing the love of couples each weekend and seeing their joy as they make their vows.


Mary the Dawn: Immaculate Conception Meditations for Couples


The Solemnities throughout the church year are a wonderful opportunity to take the time to reflect on the mysteries of our faith with your fiancé or spouse. Today, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mother, we hope you will be blessed and inspired by the quotations and prayers below. 

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Amen. 


Mary is a “symbol of hope” for us all.

For these weeks of Advent she stands before us as the woman who is carrying the Hope of the world just under her heart and, thus, going before us on our way as a symbol of hope. She stands there as the woman in whom was is humanly impossible has become possible, through God’s saving mercy. And thus she becomes a symbol for us all. For if it is up to us, if it depends on the feeble flame of our goodwill and the paltry sum of our actions, we cannot achieve salvation. However much we are capable of, it is not enough for that. It remains impossible. Yet God, in his mercy, has made the impossible possible. We need only say, in all humility, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord” (cf Lk 2:37f.; Mk 10:27). --Joseph Ratzinger, What It Means to Be A Christian

“Mary Immaculate first and fully bore Christ within.”

"Our Lady offers God her canticle of faith this Advent.  As she watches her belly grow large with God, she becomes our Patron as we join her--waiting, watching, the Christ-Seed planted in us all. We learn from her how to foster the Christ-life within.  As we keep vigil, Our Lady sits with us, listening with the patience of a mother, responding with the creative energy of a young girl.  She teaches us that nothing is impossible with God.  She tells us her story--the trials, challenges, and adventures that attend us when God dwells within.  Christ rests in her womb, and Mary is transformed.  We are invited into that love and transformation.  Mary Immaculate first and fully bore Christ within.  This Advent, find yourself caught up in Our Lady's love for Christ.  Tell her your story.  Let her delight in God's love for you.   

O God who gives us grace to triumph over sin, make us beautiful in purity and truth so that Christ may be fully formed in us.  

Pray for us, holy Mother of God."--Caryll Houselander, Reed of God

“God does not want a certain percentage of us...he wants our whole being.”

Mary is the gift of mankind to Christ. And this in turn means that the Lord does not want some thing from man, but man himself. God does not want a certain percentage of us. He wants our heart; indeed, he wants our whole being. He wants our faith and the life that is based on faith. And from this life, he wants those gifts of which he will speak at the Last Judgment: food and clothing for the poor, compassion and mutual love, a word that gives consolation, and a presence that brings comfort to the persecuted, the imprisoned, the abandoned, and the lost.

What can we offer you, O Christ? We certainly offer him too little if all we do is to exchange costly presents with one another, gifts that are not the expression of our own selves and of a gratitude that otherwise remains silent. Let us try to offer him our faith and our own selves, even if only in the form of the prayer: “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!” And on this day, let us not forget the many in whom he suffers on earth.-- Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, The Blessing of Christmas.

Mary, Undoer of Knots

"The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith." --St. Irenaeus

“Mary the Chalice, Christ the Saving Blood.”

Mary the Dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;

Mary the Gate, Christ the Heav’nly Way!

Mary the Root, Christ the Mystic Vine;

Mary the Grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!

Mary the Wheat-sheaf, Christ the Living Bread;

Mary the Rose-Tree, Christ the Rose Blood-red!

Mary the Font, Christ the Cleansing Flood;

Mary the Chalice, Christ the Saving Blood!

Mary the Temple, Christ the Temple’s Lord;

Mary the Shrine, Christ the God adored!

Mary the Beacon, Christ the Haven’s Rest;

Mary the Mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!

Mary the Mother, Christ the Mother’s Son.

Both ever blest while endless ages run.


--Medieval English text

Emily + John | Classic Virginia Wedding

Her freshman year at James Madison University, as Emily prepared to leave for a retreat called Arise, a young man approached and shook her hand, saying, “You may not know me, but I know you’re Emily. I’m John.” A friendship was formed that weekend, yet until their final semester of college, Emily only thought of and referred to John as her “Catholic guy friend.”

That Lent, Emily and John both decided to dive deeper into their faith before graduation. On Ash Wednesday morning, they sat in a Starbucks and decided they’d both attend Adoration as often as possible over the next 40 Days.

John had a key to the campus ministry building, and early in the mornings they’d sit before the Lord in silence, praying and growing in their individual relationships with him. Afterward, they’d share coffee and reflections. Unknowingly...

From the Bride: ...all the while, God was forming a rock solid bond between our two souls. It wasn't until the end of Lent--Easter Sunday to be exact--that we realized we were seriously in love.

Exactly one year later, John brought me back to the same chapel where we had prayed side by side throughout Lent. He started praying out loud, which was weird to me. I kind of tuned out because I hadn't had coffee, but I snapped out of it when I heard, "... and I pray she says yes."

He asked me to marry him, and as we drove to our favorite spot to watch the sun come up, it started snowing!

There are no words to express my gratitude to God for allowing such deep relationships to exist between people on earth and for giving us the gift of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. We were beyond excited to profess our vows to God and each other, to uphold the sanctity of marriage, and to embrace this vocation as our pathway to heaven.

My maternal grandmother passed away one week before the wedding.On the day of, I realized I’d never chosen a bracelet to wear. My mom brought my grandmother's rosary beads to the hotel where we were getting ready, and without thinking twice I wrapped them around my wrist. I held the crucifix from her beads in my hand the whole day, from getting ready through the ceremony and reception. Her beads kept me ever-mindful of the cloud of witnesses above me and the realness of the presence of Jesus Christ that day--and every day since.

We got married in John's home parish by our good friend and spiritual leader, Father Thomas Cavanaugh. Two priests from my hometown of Jacksonville flew in to concelebrate. The image of the three of them genuflecting before the altar will never leave my mind. It was unreal to see all of my worlds come together for the day and to kneel before the Lord with John beside me, our family and friends behind us, and the unseen presence of all the angels and saints around us.

John and I had consecrated our lives to Jesus through Mary the previous year, and my good friend sang the Ave Maria as, together, we processed to Mary to ask for her intercession as we began our marriage. Mary is a huge part of our story: John asked for roses from Mary to signify it was "time" to propose. She gave them to him within a few months, when the timing was perfect. We strive to trust God by way of Mary.

A dear friend's mother handcrafted 250 rope rosary bracelets that were carried down the aisle next to our rings. The bracelets were blessed just before the end of the Mass and given to each guest as they left the chapel, along with an insert of how to pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet.

My mother gifted us a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, which sat next to our guest book. Each guest got to sign next to a prayer of the rosary. So when everyone prays the one prayer they signed next to in the book, a perpetual living rosary is prayed! This still gives me goosebumps.

Each table and place card at our reception featured the icon of a saint instead of a number. We chose these holy men and women whom we have a connection with and carefully selected whose table got which saint. We also provided a personalized description of each saint, who they are and why we selected them for each table. We wanted our reception to be tied to our ceremony and for each guest to feel intimately invited into the love of our Church, not outside of or confused by it. John and I feel called to be missionary disciples; our wedding was the perfect opportunity to begin to share the love we are blessed to enter into.

Nothing was missing from our wedding day, because Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist. He was there. Not just in my mind, my heart, or in the people around me. But there. Physically. Fully. Truly. No doubt in my mind. For his love is so full and so true it's not possible for him to remain hidden in our hearts and minds and friends.

He has to pour himself out and enter us, for there's no other way he--or we--can be satisfied.

Our openness, our conscious consumption of him into ourselves, our yes, our acceptance, is only truly possible by receiving the Eucharist. Exactly like how married love must be consummated. Not because it has to, but because it wants to be made complete. Lovers feel a lacking until the moment their love is made complete. It is no different with God, our first love.

He can dwell with us in many countless ways but only in Holy Communion can our love be complete while we're separated from heaven. It's not a requirement, but an abundance of an out of control love that can't stay small; can't hide; can't blend into the background. His love is powerful, unique, strong and physical. It's his body and his blood that are alive and with us always.

Photography: Jen Harkleroad Photography | Church: St. Theresa Catholic Church - Ashburn, Virginia | Reception: Lansdowne Resort & Spa - Leesburg, Virginia | Rings: Ketterman's Jewelers | Bridal Gown: Love: A Bridal Boutique Jacksonville, FL (Dress: Essence of Australia) | Cake: Connie's Cake Creations  | Flowers: Rick's Flowers  | Planner: Lynn Iannizzi -The Finer Points  | DJ: Kurtis Cross | Video: Vu Nguyen - nVu Films  | Favors: Jill's Jellies and Jams | Rentals: Imperial Decor | Hair/Makeup: Alison Harper & Company - Ali (makeup) and Ilda (hair)

The Spoken Bride 2017 Gift Guide, Curated by Our Vendors

Last year, our team shared with you our favorite gifts for fiancés and spouses, family, and friends. Today, with our gratitude, we've turned to our vendors. Here, some top picks from their gift lists:

Lindsay Trezza, Artist, Just Love Prints

Handmade Wooden Pocket Rosary: This shop, Catholic Woodworker, is one of my favorites! Owner Jonathan Conrad is a talented craftsman who uses his woodworking skills for the glory of God. Any one of his creations would make a great gift for a husband, but this pocket rosary is definitely my top pick.

Customizable Wedding Vow Print: If you someone you know is celebrating their first, second, tenth--or 50th--Christmas together as husband and wife, this hand-painted 8x10 print will make the perfect keepsake. Give to a friend or create one for yourself! It's customizable with names and a wedding date to make this a truly unique gift that will be treasured for years to come. 

Lighthouse CD of the Month Club: With this subscription, a different Catholic CD is delivered to your mailbox each month. The discs cover a wide range of captivating topics that are great for long car rides and daily commutes. I think it's a perfect gift idea for parents and in-laws!

"Love Begins at Home" PrintThis hand-painted print of St. Teresa of Calcutta's words makes a lovely addition to any home, as a holiday housewarming gift or any time of year. 



Brianna Fitzpatrick, Videographer + Photographer, OC Media

Artifact Uprising Photo BookFor a recently married couple, Artifact Uprising allows you to personalize your books to make them special. We often give these as gifts to our photography clients, and they LOVE them. Another great gift idea from the same company is a personalized photo box, accompanied by prints. We also love these wedding memory boxes from Etsy, or these glass keepsake boxes.

JORD watch: We were at a wedding where a bride gifted this to her soon-to-be husband the day of the wedding. Not only was it a beautifully crafted wooden watch, but it made for some great pictures during the wedding day! It was a great cue for my husband, who ending up gifting me with my own for Christmas that year. I absolutely love my watch!

Martin Family IconThis can be a very beautiful gift from children to their parents! The Martin family holds a special place in our own hearts because they represent a whole family of saints.



Emily Ricci, Designer, Gloriam Marketing

Engraved handwriting bracelet: I actually gave this engraved bracelet to my mom as a thank you present at our rehearsal dinner, but it is such a sweet idea for any occasion to give to the awesome women in your life! The jeweler actually takes your handwriting and engraves it onto a bangle, necklace, or ring, which adds a beautiful touch of love and personalization to the gift. I love the idea of  aiding in creating a piece for a loved one!

Catholic Planner: This planner is perfect for just about anyone. It includes Scripture passages, Mass readings, and even space for journaling. For someone like myself who likes to be super organized, it's nice having that reminder right in my planner pages to let go and offer my busy life to the Lord.



Mel O’Keeffe, Photographer, Mel Watson Photography

The Night Sky Custom Star Map: I ended up giving this as a gift to my husband for our first anniversary this past August. It serves as the perfect Christmas gift, too! Want to see what the night sky and constellations looked like the night you had your first kiss, got engaged, or held your wedding reception, in poster form? All you do is enter the month, day, year, and location of your significant event and BOOM! The Night Sky finds the coordinates of that location, making instant constellation awesomeness to remind you what the stars looked like on a super meaningful and important night. You can also add a quote or words at the bottom of the poster.

The Little Oratory: A Beginner's Guide to Praying in the HomeThis book is worth its weight in gold. My best friend gifted it to me right before I got married, and it's been so helpful for me and my husband in creating an intentional, prayerful environment in our home. The authors cover everything from praying the Rosary as a family to living liturgically to how to create an altar or "little oratory" in your home! It's perfect for a girlfriend who is engaged and is preparing for marriage, or friends who have recently gotten married. It truly is an aid for those striving to create their own domestic church.


This season comes down to letting "earth receive her king"--heaven come down to us in the Incarnation, the ultimate act of spousal self-gift. Know of our prayers for you and your beloved during this sacred time of Advent. Be sure to check out our vendors' most recent work and to share your favorite gift ideas in the comments and on our social media!

The Language of Complementarity



After my conversion--largely shaped by the future St. John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility and Theology of the Body audiences--but before my first serious relationship, I thought the “rules” of pursuit, along with men’s and women’s unique and complementary roles in it, were totally clear: men should pursue and initiate, and women should receive. It was simple, until it wasn’t.

The first time my now-husband Andrew asked me out, I said no. I’d recently ended a long relationship and knew I should take time to recharge spiritually and emotionally. At the time, we’d been friends for months, and I knew deep in my heart we would one day be married. He was perfectly understanding of my wanting to wait before we began dating, and said to tell him when I was ready.

None of my spiritual books had prepared me for this. The ball was squarely in my court, put there in a way entirely respectful and well-intentioned on my husband’s part. But I worried: I was more than comfortable having our feelings for each other out in the open, yet suddenly I was in the position of pursuing, rather than waiting to be pursued, as I discerned the proper time for us to date.

Conversion is a funny thing. It sweeps you up in divine romance, in all its goodness and beauty, then forces you to reconcile all that romance with reality.

In my case, I felt bound by the TOB-inspired nature of complementarity: as a woman, how could I tell this man I was ready to walk into what I hoped would be forever, without stepping outside the boundaries of what I thought was feminine?

As we began dating, that question of how to be feminine arose again during the times I wanted to take his hand first, the times I didn’t mind driving for our dates, and the times I wanted to treat him to coffee on my dining hall plan. Then, without my noticing, the questions started fading into the background. Simply as we settled into each other and forged an identity as a couple, an easiness and peace took over.

Like many goods that might initially seem like rules, the language of pursuit and complementarity now seems more to me, in reality, to be a roadmap to a flourishing relationship. At its root, pursuit is about freedom: allowing man and woman to each become more fully who they were created to be.

And while it’s true there are inherent and good differences between men and women, it’s also true each person is uniquely, unrepeatably made. The ways in which each of us lives out those differences speak to our individual strengths and virtues, and reality doesn't always fit neatly into spiritual boxes.

What I’ve come to realize, through the subtlety born of time and maturity, is that femininity doesn’t always mean always being the asked, never the asker; always the pursued, never the pursuer; always the comforted, never the comforter. It doesn’t mean being afraid to argue or voice strong opinions.

It means loving my husband, in his uniqueness, in the specific way only I can. Like any language, that of the complementarity between man and woman can feel foreign at times as you navigate the different seasons of your relationship and come to know the other more deeply. Through serious dating, followed by engagement and marriage, I’ve realized I should never take for granted that I’ve won my husband’s heart. He still deserves the best of me, and for me to express my love in the ways that speak most deeply to who he is.

Have you ever been in a situation like mine, overanalyzing the “man’s role” and “woman’s role” in your relationship? I encourage you to take the pressure off of yourselves. Simply by striving to give of yourselves and receive the other in the inherently unique ways men and women do so, you are living out your masculine and feminine identities. Make it a goal to be the best, most vulnerable, most honest version of yourself with your beloved, because when you’re living in the truth, you see who you really are--who you already were, all along.

Three weeks after he first asked, I was ready, at least for the moment, to put aside convention and go out into the deep. I sat on a bench outside our college library and asked Andrew to ask me out again. In that question, I wasn’t bound by rules; I was free. A true yes always is. "For freedom Christ set us free..."

About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more


Catholic Engagement and Wedding Ring Inscription Ideas


If you’re engaged (or about to be), you’ve probably already had a conversation about what you’d like to have inscribed on each other’s rings. Some couples surprise each other, some get the same thing on both rings, and some forego the ring inscription entirely.

For Catholic couples, the ring inscription can be more than a way to remember the wedding date; it is an opportunity to celebrate the God who called them to the sacrament of marriage. There are as many ways to do this as there are couples. Our Associate Editor Christina Dehan Jaloway and her husband Kristian have the Italian phrase Ti voglio bene ("I will your good.") inscribed on their rings, whereas Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Calis and her husband have "Before thee we kneel" (from the Memoraretheir favorite Marian prayer) engraved in theirs. If you're having trouble coming up with ideas, we hope the list of possibilities below will inspire you: 

A favorite Scripture verse

Note: If word count is an issue, consider using the Biblical reference instead of having the entire verse inscribed. If you have enough room, some of the shorter verses listed here are a great option:

This is my body given up for you.  (Luke 22:19)

Do whatever he tells you.  (John 2:5)

Duc in altum. (“Into the deep.” Luke 5:4)

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.  (Song of Songs 6:3)

Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:8)

I have found the one whom my soul loves. (Song of Songs 3:4)

Be not afraid. (John 14:27)

Nothing is impossible for God. (Luke 1:46)

A pithy quote from a favorite Saint.

Verso l’alto. (“To the heights.”) --Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

Whatever God wants. -- St. Gianna Molla

Do small things with great love. --St. Teresa of Calcutta

Open wide the doors to Christ. --St. John Paul II

My vocation is love. --St. Therese of Lisieux

Love until it hurts. --St. Teresa of Calcutta

Jesus, I trust in you. --St. Faustina

A line from a favorite prayer

Before thee we kneel. (The Memorare--this is what our Editor-in-Chief, Stephanie, and her husband have on their rings)

Come, Holy Spirit.

Thy will be done.

Did you and your fiancé or husband inscribe your rings? We’d love to hear what you chose in the comments!