The importance of healthy boundaries during wedding planning



Wedding planning is stressful no matter how you slice it, but when you throw two different extended families into the mix, things can get…complicated. The mother of the bride wants everyone dressed in tuxes and evening gowns, while the mother of the groom insists on a more casual dress code. One side of the family isn’t Catholic and doesn’t understand why the wedding party can’t break out the bubbly right before the wedding Mass. Or perhaps the guest list is the bone of contention: one set of parents insists on everyone being invited—budget notwithstanding—including that friend-of-the-family you haven’t seen since you were two years old.

What some couples don’t realize is that there is an emotionally healthy and charitable way to keep these potential conflicts. By setting clear boundaries with both of your families, you’ll not only avoid wedding planning drama (and the tears that accompany it), you’ll also be setting the tone for your future interactions with extended family.

Be realistic about how much autonomy you and your fiancé can expect during the planning process.

If your parents are paying for some or all of the festivities, you probably can’t reasonably insist on having complete control over the details—especially when it comes to the reception. Think of it this way: this is your parents' gift to you. Normally, we don’t get to choose the gifts that others give us; we simply accept them, even if they’re not exactly what we wanted. At the end of the day, you and your husband will be married, which is what matters.

That said, if you want total control from soup to nuts, you’ll need to pay for most everything yourself (like one of our recent contributors, Katie, and her now-husband did). This may not be an option for young couples who are getting married right out of college or grad school, but it’s definitely something to consider if you and your fiancé have been working in the “real world” for a few years.

Communicate clearly from the beginning.

Figure out what you’re willing to compromise on, and what’s non-negotiable for you and your fiancé, and discuss it with both sets of parents as soon as possible. A face-to-face meeting of some kind (FaceTime counts) is preferable, as emails can get easily misinterpreted. Make sure your parents and future in-laws know how much you value their support and input, but make it clear that there are certain things you’re not willing to budge on—especially when it comes to the nuptial Mass. This will be particularly important if one set of parents isn’t Catholic.

Remember that you’re laying the groundwork for your new family’s future.

After you get married, your primary family unit is you and your husband, not you and your family of origin. This is a tough transition to make, especially if you’re close to your family or are still working on establishing healthy boundaries with them. Think of engagement and wedding planning as a trial run for newlywed life, when parents and siblings may struggle to accept that your primary roles are not daughter/sister anymore. You and your future husband are a team, and the more you act as a team while engaged, the easier it will be to set healthy boundaries with your families in the future—especially if you have children.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” (charitably).

Christian charity is not the same thing as being a doormat. Yes, it’s difficult to say “no” to your well-meaning family members (or future in-laws) when they offer their opinions, advice, or assistance, but there is a kind way to do so. The key is to thank them whole-heartedly for their suggestion, and calmly explain that you and your fiancé have already decided to go in a different direction.

Enlist your fiancé's help.

Your fiancé is your biggest ally and can encourage you as you try to establish boundaries, especially with your own family. Make sure you keep him in the loop as much as possible, so that he can call you out if he sees that boundaries are being crossed in either direction. On the flip side, be sure to let him know if you feel like he needs to work on boundaries with his family, especially if you feel as though he is prioritizing his family’s feelings over yours.

If you want to explore the topic of healthy boundaries further, consider discussing the topic with a pre-martial counselor in your area. You and your fiancé may also want to check out the following books as part of your marriage preparation:

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman

Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody

Attachments: Why You Love, Feel, and Act the Way You Do by Dr. Tim Clinton


About the Author: Christina Dehan Jaloway is Spoken Bride's Associate Editor. She is the author of the blog The EvangelistaRead more


Vendor Spotlight | BodaMaestra

Maestra, in Spanish, means masterpiece, and that’s just what Esme Krahn wants your wedding--boda--to be. Esme was working full-time, coordinating weddings on the side, in Mexico when she first met a man named Joe, from Virginia, through online dating. Their initial conversations bloomed into a long-distance, cross-continental relationship that culminated in a Washington, D.C. proposal.

A lifelong Catholic and a lover of the Church and of her native Hispanic culture, Esme channeled her college event coordination experience into wedding planning the first few times she assisted with Hispanic Catholic weddings, and was awakened to a God-given gift. Now residing stateside with her husband, Esme earned her wedding planning certification through Weddings Beautiful Worldwide and transitioned her career into full-time wedding coordination and design. She’s served the D.C. Metro area through BodaMaestra, offering full and partial wedding planning or management plans, for over a decade.

Click through BodaMaestra’s gallery of recent weddings  and Instagram feed and you’ll find a range of gorgeous celebrations Esme has designed and coordinated for couples and venues of every origin; she happily takes on clients of any background. For Hispanic and American couples alike, her blog is a mine of practical information for brides and grooms seeking to plan a spiritually and visually beautiful day that exudes gratitude to God and to family and friends, with pieces on everything from creating an initial mood board to preserving your wedding cake to choosing the Catholic wedding readings best suited to you as a couple.

Yet Esme's specialty, the need she seeks to meet and the call she has answered in the wedding industry, is guiding Latin American couples in honoring the traditions of their heritage, through a nuptial Mass and reception that reflect the customs and rich culture of their families’ home countries. Latin America is a traditionally Catholic region with a uniquely exuberant sensibility when it comes to worship, dress, music, and other aspects of any celebration. The new union of man and wife is certainly cause to celebrate, and Esme’s ability to transform these aspects into something visible and beautiful in the particular and very needed niche she’s been called to, something guests can sense and be drawn into the the heart of God, is so inspiring to us.

Ultimately, it’s this focus on the Father’s love, goodness, and beauty that anchors all of Esme’s work and her client experience. She willingly and joyfully prays for each of her couples as they prepare to walk down the aisle, and encourages them to look beyond the wedding day as they complete their plans. Any wedding professional offers a service in the business sense of the word, but it’s this active sense of intercession, preparation, and grounding in virtue that makes Catholic wedding coordination, particularly BodaMaestra’s, distinctive--abounding in generosity and service in the truest sense.

From Esme: It is an honor to experience a couple's wedding day, as well as their preparation journey as I get to coach them and advise them on how to handle different situations. The beauty of marriage resides in becoming one and goes far beyond a one-day celebration. It is a longtime journey where the ultimate goal is to fulfill your vocation as a married couple and future parents, with God among you. To this day, I have helped dozens of couples, American and Latinos and anything in between!

I like to be there for my clients. At the outset of each coordination process, I hold discovery meetings where I find out what's truly important to the bride and groom. No couple is alike, so I take time to find out what each one’s main priorities are, what fears are hunting them and the overall feel they are looking for on their wedding day. My couples and I are a team where everyone has responsibilities and decisions to make. Our planning meetings are productive and a stress reliever--by the time the wedding day rolls around, the only thing they have to worry about is each other! My couples can trust me 100% that I will troubleshoot any day-of issues and will execute their plans as agreed. Each day is accompanied with a prayer for their life as a couple and for our team's abilities to shine and perform flawlessly.

BodaMaestra has been featured on United with Love, Ruffled, Borrowed & Blue, and Emmaline Bride.




1940s-Inspired Styled Shoot


We're excited to share with you our second styled shoot, photographed by Monica Jazmine of Jazzy Girl Photography and featuring one of our Spoken Bride vendors, Sea and Sun Calligraphy. If you appreciate vintage-inspired weddings, the 1940s, or World War II-era love stories, you'll love this shoot. 

Quick engagements and long-awaited marriages were incredibly common following the dark days of World War II.  Among those who found love were Rose Del Mese and Joseph Pizzale, both from Upstate New York.  The young soldier, newly back from the war, found his future in a dark-haired beauty he called Rosie.  They married on November 9, 1945, and were married for more than 60 years. 

To honor that marriage, a re-creation of their wedding day was captured by Monica Jazmine of Jazzy Girl Photography. To make the photoshoot even more memorable, Rose’s wedding gown and veil were worn by her granddaughter, Camarie McBride.

The rosary in Camarie's hands symbolizes her prayer life with God and seeking the intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary in her life as as a wife and mother in the Holy Sacrament of marriage. The Annunciation Card a symbol of Rose saying "yes" to her marriage to Joseph, just like Mary said "yes" to God's will in the Annunciation. 

All of the vendors involved in the shoot made sure that the details were in keeping with the 1940s theme: florals and table settings were designed by Annette Callari, and the engraved invitations, dinner menus, and hand-calligraphed envelopes bearing stamps from that era (created by Sea and Sun Calligraphy) added to the nostalgia of the shoot. 

Our model’s make-up and hair design were done by Trina Vigil of Makeup by TREEVG and truly brought to life the look and emotion of that November day in 1945.

The shoot was a beautiful tribute to an enduring love.  Rosie and Joe, no doubt, would be very pleased. 

From the photographer: I was so touched when Camarie McBride asked me to photograph this special tribute shoot in honor of her grandparents' love story, celebrating the beauty of their wedding day in 1945. Prepping for the shoot was a dream, as I got to work with Trina Vigil, whose makeup and hair captured the post-War era glamour perfectly.

Photography: Monica Jazmine of Jazzy Girl Photography | Model: Camarie McBride | Makeup & Hair: Trina Vigil of Makeup by Treevg | Set Designer & Floral: Annette Callari | Cake Designer: Irene's Dessert Table | Calligraphy: Sea & Sun Calligraphy | Handmade Paper & Envelopes: Spurle Gul Studio | Gold Wax Seal: Saint Signora | Stamps: Verde Studio | Ribbon: Honey Silks Co. | Vintage Rental: Oak Tree Vintage Rentals 

Planning your dream wedding without breaking the bank



One semester during college, my friend Kate and I started the tradition of getting together to study a few times a month. And by “study” I mean we would meet at Barnes & Noble to pour over the pages of every bridal magazine on the shelf until they kicked us out because we only bought one latte.

I had been dreaming of my wedding day since I was a little girl (cliche, I know). It would be a summer wedding with me wearing a princess dress, bridesmaids in yellow chiffon, and every friend and family member on the dance floor in perfect harmony. Conveniently, I wasn’t dreaming about the financial and logistical implications of hosting a wedding for all of our nearest and dearest. The moment my now-husband, Stephen, and I started discussing engagement and marriage, however, all of that changed. Because we are both one of four, and because we wanted total freedom in the planning process we made the decision to pay for our wedding on our own. Today I am sharing a few ways we planned our dream wedding without breaking the bank.

Design a Dream Budget, but Be Aware of Reality.

Before we were engaged I made a list of all the things I wanted for our wedding day, including everything from dress to DJ. Next to each item I wrote the maximum amount of money I’d be willing to spend, and the grand total reached almost $45,000, which was both overwhelming and unrealistic. I wanted a dream wedding, but there was no way it would be possible at that price. Writing it all down was an important exercise for me, because seeing the potential reality of wedding costs on paper helped me to start planning with a firm grasp on reality.

Readjusting my expectations, knowing how quickly things could add up, crossing certain items off the list entirely, and being mindful of budget challenged me to get creative. It also helped me to reevaluate my priorities and focus on what is most important: the Sacrament itself.

Ask Friends and Family to Share Their Time and Talents

Like us, I am sure you have talented friends and family members who would love to be involved in your special day. Don’t be afraid to ask if they’d be willing to share their gifts and talents with you!  Our main motivation in doing this was to give the day a more personal touch, but it did save money overall to pay those we knew for their expertise. Stephen and I wanted to include as many loved ones as possible by supporting their time and talents, while also sharing their gifts with our other guests.

Although the major elements like venue and photographer were through traditional vendors, almost everything else came from friends and family. Our flowers were ordered online and put together by my youth group students, the groom’s cake was made by Steve’s aunt, and my best friend’s husband went above and beyond to make our wedding video. Two good friends from college and my baby sister sang for our Mass, and another of my sisters took our engagement photos. A dear friend made four different flavors of cupcakes in lieu of a wedding cake, and my family offered their beautiful car to drive me the church. It was truly special to look back on the day and see so many details lovingly created by people who mean so much to us.

Be Creative and Intentional about Saving Money

When I was living on my own I read the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and quickly adopted his Envelope System as a way to budget my money and pay down student loans.  I took this same approach to our wedding, writing savings goals or item totals on the outside of the envelopes, and dividing my paycheck into each one weekly. Figuratively spending my paycheck by budgeting this way allowed me to avoid impulse spending, and helped us meet the different payment deadlines for various vendors.

We are fortunate that Steve doesn’t have any student loan debt, and I was living with my grandmother during the time of our engagement, which allowed a good amount of money from our jobs to be used for wedding costs. Stephen’s parents generously hosted the rehearsal dinner, and my family was able to help with some of the venue costs. Despite these advantages, we still had to find creative ways to pay for everything. Throughout the year we were engaged I worked as a waitress in the summer, as a part-time nanny, and I helped a local wedding planner with her social media account, in addition to my full time job. I sold clothes I didn’t need on Poshmark, or through a local consignment shop. Steve worked two jobs, and picked up a summer parking gig at our parish. It was exhausting, I’ll admit, but it was temporary and I know it is a huge reason why we did not start our marriage with a massive amount of wedding debt.

Let Go of What the Wedding Industry Says You “Have to Have” for the Perfect Day

Now more than ever, there are so many options and elements that could go into a wedding day, and it’s easy to get caught up in the extras. Every time Stephen and I thought we’d remembered everything, another potential expense popped up. Knowing and continually revisiting our budget, and cutting out non-essentials helped keep us from feeling the pressure to add more and more.

I remember spending so much energy thinking about wedding favors, but we couldn’t ever agree on one thing that didn’t feel wasteful or was within the budget. After much debate we decided to forgo favors entirely, and focused instead on spending individual time with our guests and personally thanking them for sharing the day with us. As much as a sweet favor can represent the couple and add beautiful detail, it didn’t feel essential for us. Letting go of the elements that didn’t fit our style freed up the budget for the things that were most important to us.

Focus on God  and the Sacrament of Marriage

Throughout our engagement we used different resources to help us keep the focus on the sacrament itself. Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen, Embracing God’s Plan for Marriage: A Scripture Study for Couples by Mark & Melanie Hart, and the Magnificat were all helpful resources we used to guide our spiritual preparation. The night before our wedding, we left our rehearsal dinner and headed to a local church with perpetual adoration. It was in this same church where our engagement story started and we wanted to take a few moments together to pray, knowing the next day would be a whirlwind.

Stephen and I went through many unexpected trials throughout our engagement, but centering ourselves in prayer was so key. It helped us trust that God would walk with us through the difficult days, and gave us peace of mind in all areas of the planning process.

The journey of engagement is a beautiful and joyful time, but merging finances and opinions and lifelong dreams can quickly turn into struggle and stress if you don’t have your priorities straight. Although Stephen and I were not exempt from these difficulties, we made it through together and we truly enjoyed every minute of our wedding day-- even the part where our getaway car died and we had to improvise. Praying throughout our engagement and knowing God was preparing us for a lifetime together instead of just one day helped put everything into perspective and brought us true peace and joy.

I hope that sharing some of the ways we saved for our wedding will be a source of inspiration for you, and I’d love to hear any creative things you have done throughout your own wedding planning!

Photography by Salt Water Studios

Katie Waldow is a youth minister currently living in Ocean City, NJ with her husband, Stephen, and their dog and cat. She loves the beach, a double espresso and anything blush colored. Her favorite way to pray is reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet in song. You can find her documenting more of her life & adventures over at .                        


How To Do Your Own Bridal Makeup | Video Tutorial

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A major part of our mission at Spoken Bride is communicating God's goodness through the medium of beauty. Beauty is an invitation; an outer glimpse into the interior truth of every person. It reflects the deepest desire of our hearts to be known and seen: Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved...let me see your face, let me hear your voice. 

On your wedding day, of course, this longing to be seen is tangibly present as you, the bride, prepare yourself as a gift to your bridegroom. Self-gift is beautiful; radiant in a woman who knows her dignity, worth, and genius. The desire to take extra care with your appearance as you enter into your vocation is natural and good, an integration of the outer and the inner.

This spring, we were thrilled to collaborate with a team of gifted men and women out to pursue and share the Father's glory through beauty. Professional makeup artist Nicole Caruso believes and understands every person is beautiful, made in the Father's image, and jumped at the chance to create a bridal makeup tutorial you can follow and recreate for your big day, with pro-level results.

Click above to view video tutorial

From Nicole: On your wedding day, makeup, hair, and a beautiful dress accentuate your features with special touches. Makeup is a tool to highlight your natural beauty. Following this tutorial step-by-step will help you achieve a flawless, bright complexion, sparkling eyes, and a feminine blushing-bride glow that is the perfect accompaniment to any dress and hairstyle.

If you’re wondering what separates your everyday beauty routine from bridal makeup, just think of taking 3 additional steps than usual like adding extra mascara, a touch of blush, or a rosy lip— something that feels a little more glamorous than usual, but isn’t completely different to what you’re used to. Your wedding day is not the day to change your look completely, in my opinion. Save hair color changes, fake tanning, or a new skincare product for another time (or, test it months before your big day!). 

Typically, a professional makeup artist will charge anywhere from $100-$300 for bridal makeup. For some, that is a large investment for one day, and for others it is a special treat of self-care on their wedding day. In the event that you want to do your own makeup and need to purchase a few new items, the cost may also be between $100-$300, but you get to keep all of the makeup to take along on your honeymoon, and use throughout the first year of your marriage, since most products last up to 12 months (just check the bottom of the product to find out). 

If you follow these steps in this tutorial, I know you will not only look beautiful, but you will radiate confidence as you walk down the aisle. 

Products Used

Click images to enlarge.

The Team Behind The Scenes

Nicole M. Caruso is a wife, mother, makeup artist, and writer. Formerly the Beauty Editor of Verily Magazine, Nicole now shares her expert style and beauty advice, tips on healthy living, and reflections on marriage and motherhood on her website, where she hopes to inspire women to invest in their self-worth. The New York native now resides in Northern Virginia with her husband and daughter. 


Meaghan Farley is a natural light, portrait, wedding and lifestyle photographer from the Maryland area. She wants her work to celebrate the uniqueness and beauty of the individual(s) she is capturing. As such, she aims to creates timeless, clean images that are not over edited. She works with the natural environment around her to focus on bringing attention to that which is already beautiful.


Shelagh Bolger brings 7 years of event production experience in the entertainment, non-profit, and political industries successfully planning hundreds of events ranging in size from intimate dinners for 8 to festivals and conferences with thousands of attendees. Her comprehensive logistical and technical skills are coupled with a keen eye for event design and décor. Having lived in Rome, Italy, Shelagh brings her love of art and architecture into her design vision for each event. Styling credentials include attendance at the award winning En Masse Boutique Flower School and the Wild Hand Workspace Photo Styling and Image Creation Workshop. Shelagh’s styling and party planning tips have been published in Darling Magazine and Verily Magazine.


Megan McCleneghen is originally from Dallas, TX.  She received her B.A in Religious and Pastoral Studies from Mater Ecclesiae College in Smithfield, RI. Megan worked as a coordinator of religious education and as a high school youth minister in Houston, Texas. In 2014 she moved to Washington, D.C. to begin a Master's degree in Theology. She is a current student of the John Paul II Institute at the Catholic University of America and works as a Development Associate at the Saint Luke Institute. Last fall she participated as a model in D.C. Fashion Week. In her free time, Megan enjoys a good British mystery and exploring the beautiful city of Washington. 



Videography: Max Haben | Photography: Meaghan Clare Photography Styling: Shelagh Bolger Makeup Artist: Nicole Caruso Model: Megan McCleneghen

Hannah + Jared | Elegant City Wedding

Despite her skepticism, hearing of a FOCUS missionary's success story on the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel convinced Hannah to give the app a try. Within a few days, Jared popped up as a match, and he soon asked her out on a real date, willingly making the trip to meet her from his Army base in Biloxi, Mississippi. At the time, Hannah was studying Theology at Spring Hill College not far away, in Mobile, Alabama.

What started as a simple coffee date morphed into lunch, followed by a stop by Hannah's campus chapel, botanical gardens, dinner, and plans for a second date. When they officially declared their relationship a few dates later, both were struck by the ease of friendship and lightheartedness they shared, making the new feel familiar.

Shortly after, when Jared graduated medical school and was relocated near Seattle for residency, Hannah accompanied him on the forty-five hour drive to his new town. After days on the road, discussing life’s big questions and listening to Catholic radio, they knew their friendship had become real love. They saw in each other the desire for a holy marriage and the qualities of mutual love and respect that could make it possible. Three months later, when Hannah returned to Washington for a visit, Jared got down on one knee. 

From the Bride: A long-distance engagement didn't seem ideal, but it helped us focus on communication and was part of God’s plan for our engagement nonetheless. Thankfully, technology provided us with an opportunity to prepare for the sacrament of matrimony online through Catholic Marriage Prep's program. After six months, our endless planning, prayers, reflection, and support from family and friends brought us to our anxiously awaited wedding day. 

Like most Catholic little girls, I always envisioned myself having an elaborate wedding Mass, and upon realizing God’s call for my vocation was, in fact, to be a wife, the desire remained. Now though, I wanted a wedding mass for different reasons than when I was young--most importantly, the Eucharist. I knew now that if we were to have only a ceremony, there would be neither consecration nor distribution of the Eucharist. The presence of the Eucharist, being the “source and summit of the Christian life,” seemed particularly important for our wedding day.

One potential roadblock to having a full nuptial Mass, however, was that my groom was not yet Catholic, nor baptized. Jared was in RCIA at the time, yet until he was baptized we would not be able to celebrate our wedding as a sacrament. A special request was put into the Bishop of Seattle for an early baptism for Jared. On January 21st, one month before our wedding, Jared's long-awaited desire to become Catholic was fulfilled, and he was fully initiated into the Church!

In a spirit of thanksgiving, we planned our wedding Mass right away. Incorporating our guests was an influential factor--our friends and family in attendance would be from varying faith backgrounds. For some, it would be their first Mass experience; for others, it would be their first time in church after many years away. With that in mind, we wanted the songs and readings we chose to reflect our personal preferences, but more importantly, to reflect our experience of God as a loving and merciful Father. 

We chose John 15 for our Gospel reading, which includes the famous verse, “there is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Seeing in this verse the complementary nature between the love of Jesus and the love of husband and wife, it seemed to encompass the perfect ‘love triangle’ our marriage prep had been talking about. The rest of the passage was also a good fit for our congregation, and we hoped it would particularly speak to those who were unfamiliar with the Word of God: “You are no longer slaves if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from my father I have made known to you.” 

The beauty of our wedding also served as a means of evangelization, both for our guests and in our own hearts as the bride and groom. The church itself where we were married, Holy Family Parish, is beautiful yet understated and about a hundred years old. The traditional design and larger-than-life wooden crucifix call one’s attention to Jesus. I had been confirmed in this parish, my many aunts and uncles had also made their sacraments there, including some of their own weddings.

Jared and I strove to dress up as gifts for one another. I'd only tried on a few dresses before choosing the long-sleeved, beaded gown that I hoped would compliment Jared's fancy Captain’s dress uniform. Other small details also had lasting impact: my grandmother handmade a dozen gold bows for the pews; white lilies, my favorite flower, flanked the altar; on top of that, sun poured through the stained glass windows during Mass and despite the February date, the day was warm.

Remembering loved ones who couldn't be physically present at the wedding was also important to us. Jared's father passed away a few years prior due to cancer; his mother had a picture and tribute made for him displayed at the front of the church. We also remembered him during the Prayers of the Faithful, as well as my deceased grandparents who'd attended the church for nearly sixty years. Being able to lift their souls up in prayer was a comfort, as well as a reminder of everyone’s true, eternal home. 

At the culmination of the celebration, we were both joyfully able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. The hymn, “Here I Am, Lord” was sang during communion, a childhood favorite of mine, followed by “Amazing Grace,” a beloved song to Jared. Once again, the complementary nature of the songs seemed to symbolically encompass our new union as husband and wife, as well as the union of each individual with Christ in the Eucharist. It was truly a sublime moment, one that leaves a lasting impact on the soul.

Time. My only sadness on my wedding day was time. It was the fastest thing to go; I loved every minute of that day. I loved it so much so I wished I could pause the moments, store them away, and walk back into them whenever I wanted. As a finite creature, I know it just cannot be. But as a hopeless romantic, I nonetheless long for an eternal love story.

My wedding helped me realize something my ten-year-old self would gasp at: marriage itself still does not satisfy my deepest longings, which are for God. Upon saying I do, though joyful and full of love, I did not magically feel complete. Perhaps it was the recognition that even spouses and fathers, though dearly loved, are not ours to keep. Time is part of the human condition, and one day God will come calling for all souls, which truly belong to Him.

While I wished to somehow pause our wedding day and make it last forever, I also realized the wedding wasn't the end, but the beginning of something much greater. It was amazing to tangibly celebrate our covenant together, surrounded by loved ones. However, like all earthly things, the cake, dancing, and merriment had to come to an end. We’re left now with each other and the gift of each day. Like our wedding, my greatest desire going forward is that we simply invite Him in, letting the Prince of Peace reign in our hearts and marriage.

Photographer's Business Name: Steven Dray Images  | Church: Holy Family Parish - New Brighton | Wedding Reception Venue: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh | DJ/Host and uplighting: Kelli Burns Entertainment | Flowers: Blossoms by Jillian | Dress: Justin Alexander | Dress/Veil: One Enchanted Evening, Zelienople, PA | Dessert table: Lauren at Sweet Boots Baking Co., Pittsburgh, PA  | Cake: Bethel Bakery, Bethel Park, PA | Maid Of Honor Dress: Jenny Yoo | Flower girl: Wrare Doll Custom | Bridemaids: Weddington Way | Card box: Steven and Rae

Newlywed Life | To Love + To Honor: the Learning Curve of Married Communication + the Learning Curve of Prayer



Even with significant, comprehensive preparation, even with the purest intentions and highest hopes, the reality of marriage sometimes looks a lot different from what you've imagined. And that can be good: life together as man and wife is a mirror, a purification, a road to the Resurrection by which we can't avoid the Cross. Over the upcoming months, our contributor Carissa Pluta is sharing her insights into transition and developing deeper communication and honesty as a couple.

When I told my husband Ben I was going to be writing about communication, he laughed. He knows me too well. Just the other day we got into an argument after he held up a blackened piece of toast, asking, “Is this too dark?”

It really had nothing to do with the toast. Ben thought he was doing something nice for his wife, and wanted to communicate that he cared about me and my toast preferences. But I heard the frustration in his voice after a tough evening, and thought that frustration was directed at me. There were so many other factors, so many minute (but important) details that turned what should have been a simple question into a half-hour argument.

While I have grown in my ability to communicate, especially in the ten months of our marriage, for me communication is the area of our relationship with the steepest learning curve.

When you get engaged, and then again when you enter into marriage, you quickly learn you need to communicate in ways you’ve never had to before. Your thoughts, your emotions, your words no longer just affect you. They profoundly and intimately affect your fiancé or spouse. It can be an exciting gift, to share so much of yourself with another, to be called to love someone in an entirely new way. But that doesn’t make it easy.

Early on, attempts to effectively communicate often lead to misunderstandings, arguments, and maybe even hurt feelings. It can frustrate us, and if you are anything like me, it sometimes leaves us wondering: Isn’t this supposed to be a happy time? Why does it seem like we are fighting all the time? Is there something wrong with our relationship? 

Even in healthy relationships, communicating well is a challenge.

Cultivating effective communication skills is similar to cultivating an effective prayer life—it requires time and patience. But more importantly, it requires vulnerability and openness, humility and reverence, love and the knowledge that we are loved.

Christ himself taught us--through his coming to us as a newborn child and a broken sacrifice on an altar--that prayer begins with vulnerability. Prayer is able to go deeper when we approach God knowing who we are when we stand before him. When we are able to go to the Lord, knowing we are both sinners and his daughters, we willingly present our whole selves to be received by him.

Vulnerability, according to Dr, Brené Brown, “sounds like truth and feels like courage.” It means allowing ourselves to be received in our entirety. But how can someone receive what we are unable or unwilling to hold out to them? We first need to understand our inner selves—our emotions, our thoughts, our motives, our weakness, our wounds. We have to take an open, honest look and humbly see the many different facets of our beings—both our imperfections and, sometimes with even more difficulty, our strengths. We have to reflect on the ways in which these things have shaped us over the years and how they affect our moment-to-moment.

For example, in the Great Toast Argument, I needed to step back and reflect on why I had reacted to Ben’s words the way I did. I had been having an incredibly difficult week, and that night was the breaking point. In my reflection I saw that much of my frustration stemmed from insecurities I had developed over many years; the lies that told me I was not good enough. I needed to feel loved, but when I heard frustration, I panicked and took on a defensive stance.

It wasn’t until I was able to communicate all this to my husband that he began to understand my troubled heart. It wasn’t until I understood how I was feeling that I was able to communicate it to him. Only through self-knowledge are we free to really begin sharing our interior life with our spouse. However, all too often communication stops after this self-expression.

Communication is usually seen as expressing how we feel or what we think. And while that is an important aspect, it goes deeper than that.

Communication is just as much--if not more--about the other as it is about us. After all, what would prayer be if we never allowed for God to speak to us? For this reason, it demands reverence. This reverence first begins with our bodies. Prayer begins with putting ourselves in a position that encourages our mind to contemplate heavenly things. We generally don’t pray very well laying down in our cozy beds because it is hard to focus on what we are saying or on what God is trying to tell us. Kneeling or sitting upright in a chapel or in front of a religious image lends itself to much more fruitful prayer.

Similarly, our body language is important for effective communication. If we put our bodies in a position of receptivity, it makes our souls more open to receiving. Eye contact, uncrossed arms, standing with an open space or sitting upright on the edge of your seat, a nod of the head, an encouraging smile: these nonverbal signals make up even more of our communication than what is said. Our posture encourages listening and it helps the other person know that they are being listened to.

Listening is more than a means to an end; we are not listening merely to be able to respond. Prayer is more than just a one-way monologue; we are not simply speaking at God. It is a conversation with the Divine. Both sides speak, and when we speak we know the Lord listens —should we not return this act of love?

But more than likely, the Lord’s words are not heard with our ears but with our hearts. We understand more through thinking and feeling than we do through our sense of hearing, and we come to a deeper knowledge of who God is and who we are in that process.

Conversations with our spouse should be similar: seeking to understand and to listen well. In our argument, instead of asking my husband why he was frustrated, I assumed it was directed at me and, in my own frustration, lashed out. Only when I finally listened to him, and tried to understand his side, was I able to see how my own personal struggles also affect my husband deeply. I was able to see his love for me manifested in his taking on my own suffering. When we listen to others, especially our spouse, we create a space for them in our hearts. We allow ourselves to more intimately enter into their lives, into their pain, their excitement, their sorrows, their joys. We begin to know and can even feel as they do.

Finally, as in all prayer, we look to Christ on the cross as our example and as our source of grace.

He came to us with utter vulnerability, hanging broken on the cross, and allowed us to receive his very life which poured out from his open wounds. He listened to the broken and troubled heart of his Beloved and because he listened. He took on our pain.

And in all of this, his message from the cross was clear. It is the same message we must communicate to our spouse in all we do and say: Let every word, every breath tenderly, and silently speak the words I love you.

About the Author: Carissa Pluta graduated from Franciscan University in 2014 with a degree in English and Communication Arts, and is currently pursuing her Masters. Carissa is the new wife of a Catholic missionary. She enjoys hiking, painting, and drinking copious amounts of herbal tea. Carissa has a devotion to Mary under the title of the Mystical Rose and longs to reflect God's beauty in everything she does.