Angela + Lucas | Farmhouse-Inspired DIY Wedding

It started on the roof of a convent in Mexico. 

Angela and Lucas met on a medical mission trip with FOCUS as both prepared for their forthcoming missionary years with the organization. Text by text after returning home, spanning the miles between Indiana and Colorado, each realized a uniquely attractive depth and character in the other. They began a long-distance relationship punctuated by letters, phone calls, and occasional visits.

 The following summer, Lucas went on pilgrimage in Poland. Angela participated in another mission, this time to the Philippines. Upon their return stateside, Lucas invited Angela to a Wisconsin shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to whom they share a devotion that began during their time in Mexico. There on a hillside, at Our Lady’s feet, Lucas proposed.

From The Bride: The Nuptial Mass was the center of our wedding day, and I am glad we put so much of our focus there. Our relationship is founded on a love for Jesus Christ and his Church, so the Mass was the most important and special part of our day. We also chose Soul Creations as our photographer because the owner, Sinikka, is Catholic and familiar with the Mass. She was able to beautifully capture it.  

We chose Mass parts we loved while hoping to share the beauty of the Mass with those attending. Not all of our friends and family are Catholic, so we hoped to be instruments of an encounter with our Lord for them. Everything from the Worship Aid to the petitions was considered from the perspective of a new-to-Mass attendee. Praise God for the truth, beauty and goodness of the Church.

 Our Lady is of particular importance to us, and we wanted to offer great thanksgiving for her motherly hand. I walked in to an organ rendition of the Salve Regina. Our Gospel reading was the Wedding Feast at Cana, where Mary gently guides us all to do whatever Jesus tells us. We presented flowers to Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Holy Family while my good friend and talented vocalist Kelly sang the Ave Maria-it was the one part of the Mass that made me weep!

 We chose a white and neutral aesthetic, inspired by the image of heaven. With white and gold as our main colors, we found bridesmaid and groomsman attire that looked great on everyone, simple yet beautiful flowers, and many DIY projects. We did not want the look of anything to appear overbearing, but natural and simple, highlighting the beauty of those in our wedding party and the natural elegance of the church where we held the Mass.

 I loved the way my dress fit with our intentions for the theme. The cathedral-length veil and the long train fit very nicely in the church; simple yet elegant.

I’d originally hoped for our reception to be held in a simple barn, but little did I know they were such a hot commodity and not as budget-friendly as I’d hoped. We also wanted to serve our own food--homemade by Lucas' incredibly talented family--and most venues didn’t permit outside catering. So, we ultimately chose a hall. At first look, it was a bare and resembled a gymnasium, but our decorations upped the elegance. Much of the inspiration was my own. Some items, like the flower hoops over our head table, were Pinterest re-creations. Other elements, like the pallet décor, were made of found items. You never know what you’ll find for projects.

I must totally credit the generosity of Lucas’s family for providing the best food ever! They let Lucas and I help make tamales with them one day before the wedding, and my family learned so much during an afternoon of laughs, instructions from Lucas' grandmother, and bonding with family members.

We had a mariachi band that started the night with dancing and singing before the bridal party even arrived. The father-daughter dance was special to us and so much fun! My dad is certainly not the sappy, emotional type. My family has a great love for Chicago Cubs baseball, so we decided to dance to their signature anthem, “Go Cubs Go,” which was perfect.

The best way for me to describe our wedding day is in the words of our opening hymn, "O God Beyond All Praising." We are beyond blessed by our heavenly, Father through the intercession of our Mother Mary. Together they brought us to the altar, after introducing us in such a surprising and unforeseen way before our FOCUS missionary service. Our wedding day was a great celebration of thanksgiving for the goodness they have given us in loving one another.

It was also a time of thanks for the conversion of our own hearts. We both know deeply that we have done nothing to deserve this goodness, yet it has been freely given to us as a gift from our loving Father, a fact that still causes me great wonder. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, our wedding day was one of great witness to our family and friends of the love we have for the Church and the joy that comes from living the Gospel! We were so blessed to have a Catholic and non-Catholic bridal party, bringing people from every sector of our lives to celebrate together. It was awe-inspiring to see the young Church alive in the pews and in celebration at the reception.

Most of all, in reflecting on our wedding day, I thank God for a husband who loves God more than me, who desires to pursue holiness with every ounce of his being, and who loves me without reserve, especially now that we've started our little family.

I frequently echo the words of Our Lady: He has done great things for me, and Holy is His name. Praise Him!

View Angela and Lucas's DIY projects up close, and hear Angela's how-tos, here.

Photography: Soul Creations Photography | Church: St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Indianapolis, IN | Wedding Reception Venue : McGowan Hall, Knights of Columbus, Indianapolis, IN | Rings: Reis Nichols, | Flowers: Ayers Wholesale Flowers | Dress: Blushing Bride on 17 | Shoes: Toms | Bridesmaids Dresses: David's Bridal | Groom / Groomsmen Attire: Jos A Banks | Cake: Classic Cakes | Hairstylist: Fringe Salon | Makeup Artist: Fringe Salon  | Music / DJ: Complete Weddings and Events | Planning / Coordination: Courtney Roach

He Invites Us: Developing a Healthy Attitude Towards Chastity



I spent my engagement on a year of service, speaking about chastity to middle and high school students. It was...a time of paradox.

Talking to five classes a day about reserving sexual intimacy for marriage while being tempted to do the opposite. Advising seventh graders to draw physical boundaries at simple kisses while navigating the more complicated boundaries of being in a serious, yet chaste relationship in your twenties. A crucible of formation and prayer wracked with frequent attacks. Awaiting my wedding, a day I was pretty sure would be among the happiest of my life, while coming to terms with the awareness that even the most beautiful earthly gifts can be idols, just a flicker when compared to the fire of divine ones.

It felt good, in a way I hoped wasn’t prideful or self-glorifying, to share my story of having stuck around too long in the wrong relationship for me, one in which I let myself be used, of writing stacks of letters to my future husband, and finding even my biggest dreams insufficient to the reality of the man I would marry; someone so sacrificial, self-giving, and pure of heart. The girls I spoke to sometimes cheered when I revealed all the letters I’d written would be a surprise for my husband-to-be in a matter of months. “And then,” said one student, “you’ll be married and you won’t have to worry about chastity anymore.”

I paused. Her words, though clearly rooted in a place of innocence and good will, didn’t sit right. But I couldn’t immediately explain why. I bumbled through an explanation that chastity doesn’t end in marriage, feeling the frustration of what seemed like a missed opportunity. On the drive home, I challenged myself to better articulate exactly why it doesn’t.

If chastity is not defined as mere abstinence, not just a list of no's but as sexual self-control for the sake of freedom and authentic love, so that your yes can be truly meaningful, of course it doesn’t end at the altar. Chastity embodies love that is free, faithful, total, and life-giving, so much so that the self-discipline and disposition to being a living gift--in whatever way that looks like, to your spouse and to others--spills over in the best way possible, changing not just your sex life, but your outlook on life in its entirety. Practically speaking, what’s the best way to do this, throughout engagement and on into marriage?

It’s natural, and so good, to anticipate the fullest physical expression of your love within marriage. Yet my thoughts on that drive home, and in the months and years since, have emphasized to me the importance of viewing that anticipation in a healthy way. I realized the notion of abandoning chaste love after marriage could easily encourage a white-knuckle attitude of just “making it through” times of abstinence, could make an idol of sex, and could become a crutch enabling a lack of self-control.

I wanted something more for my relationship: true freedom to give of myself instead of license to do whatever I wanted, a healthy perspective and respect for the gift of our sexuality instead of elevating it out of proportion as a highest, pleasure-focused good.

If, like I did, you find yourself still refining your view of abstinence, chastity, and anticipation during engagement, I encourage you to pray for a spirit of reverence in your physical relationship. Don’t feel discouraged if you recognize the need for a shift in perspective, but fortified and resolved. Authentic love and freedom aren’t a destination, but a long path. One on which we still might stumble, yet one far more exhilarating and alive than any other journey.

Your walk up the aisle is, quite literally, a walk toward Calvary: the image of a life poured out and given without reservation, for the sake of pure love. Ask for the grace to give of your own life in the same way; to imitate and embody the love of the Cross. Christ gave entirely, and invites us to do the same. His Passion and love are just that: not a milestone to reach and then move on from, but a constant outpouring of self. An invitation. He awaits us, and our yes, always.

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


How and Why to Consider Bringing Examen Prayer into Your Relationship

Engagement is busy, and it’s noisy. You might be surprised, however, if you find that even after your wedding day, life still feels busy and noisy. Life’s demands and responsibilities never really cease; they simply change with our seasons in life. 

It’s a paradox of our perpetually-connected, phone-at-the-ready lives: solitude and quiet can feel like freedom, or they can feel like desperation. Stillness doesn’t always come naturally, yet it can be developed. Whether your prayer life currently feels central or whether you’re looking for direction to guide your thoughts, incorporating Examen prayer might provide a link between a desire for self-reflection and figuring out exactly how you might bring that reflection about.

Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, an examen is a form of guided prayer that prompts reflection over the events of your day, instances of strength and weakness in your actions, and, above all, gratitude for and attention to the ways the Father is at work in your life. All self-knowledge, for better and for worse, is a grace; the Lord inviting us to consider ways we can best put ourselves at the service of love for him and for those in our lives. Gift.

This sense of service and self-gift takes on particular resonance in the vocation to marriage: you’re accountable not only to yourself and to God, but to your spouse. Developing a sense of attention to the blessings of your shared life, and to areas in which the Lord is gently prompting us to grow, can only bear fruit in your relationship. Consider committing to a week, a month, or more of bringing an examen into your prayer ritual, with time to share the movements within your hearts. You might spend this time before parting ways for the night if you’re engaged, or after dinner, before beginning your evening chores and leisure if you’re married.

There are a wealth of resources with suggested text and prompts for your examen, which means with time, you’re likely to find a particular version that’s well-suited to your spirituality as a couple. All examen prayer follows a general structure of giving thanks, bringing your petitions before the Father, reviewing your day and meditating on his hand in it (this part might take the longest), asking forgiveness for your shortcomings and meditating on the mercy of God, and looking to the following day with a sense of resolve and and renewal.

In light of you and your beloved, it’s helpful to consider the ways the Lord has shown himself in the time you’ve spent together during the day and in the ways you’ve shown, or fallen short in showing, his love to one another. As a starting point, we recommend this examen with meditations from Scripture and Saint Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises and Fr. Michael Gaitley’s “BAKER” prayer that invites particular contemplation of Jesus’ merciful love.

Saint Ignatius prayed, “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.” May you and your beloved, together, enter more deeply into his love and the gifts he so desires to bestow on your relationship.

Heather + Matthew | Rustic Family Wedding

Matthew was the man in the pew in front of Heather each Sunday at Mass, leading his three little girls in the faith. He often turned to greet Heather and her own three daughters with a smile and handshake. It was Heather’s six-year-old who fell in love with Matthew first, saying that man up there in the pew was the one her mama would marry.

From the Bride: It took a little under a year, the involvement of our priest, and of countless friends from our church community to finally bring Matthew and I together.

After 6 months of waiting and watching and one failed first date, we had our "second first date" and clicked. Just four months later, Matthew was down on one knee in front of me our six girls, in the chapel of local seminary, asking me for my hand in marriage.

And now we are a family of eight, married by the priest who first felt compelled to bring us together, along with our current priest and in front of 350 of our closest friends and family members.

Our wedding, planned in just eight weeks time, felt almost like what I imagine weddings used to be like: people came out of the woodwork to bring it together for us. Over 40 friends brought homemade dishes for our potluck-style reception. A college classmate, turned baker, created the most beautiful cake shaped like a birch tree in honor of my groom’s arborist career.

A dear friend and part-time photographer captured the day’s memories in a way no outsider would have been able to.

More friends from church, a dear young couple expecting their first baby boy, handled our music; I walked down the aisle to Chris Tomlin's “Good Good Father.”

And at the center of it all was our Lord. The Father that had brought us through some of the most unimaginable storms was fully present in the sacrament we exchanged. The love between us, our daughters, and our heavenly Father was palpable that day, and I believe it will carry us through the years ahead.

Overwhelmingly I felt our Father's love. It all just made sense in that moment. The years of pain and heartache, the questioning, the brokenness, all came together in a picture I could have never envisioned. He led us here.

Photography: MessyFace | Church: St John Neumann Catholic Church Sunbury, OH | Reception: St. John Neumann Catholic Church Sunbury, OH | Flowers: Maple Lee Flowers | Dress: Gabriele Bridal

A DIY Bouquet for Literature-Loving Brides



"Can you give me your bouquet for a moment?" asked the Lorax-mustachioed priest at our wedding Mass. I was surprised and a tad embarrassed; I don't love attention, even on my wedding day.

  Photography:  Jocelyn's Photography , from the author's wedding

Photography: Jocelyn's Photography, from the author's wedding

My bouquet had caught many eyes, including our priest's, because it wasn't made of flowers. I’d created it from the pages of books. Our priest asked for my bouquet during the homily. I handed it over and he started to ad lib about how the novels whose pages I included were symbolic of my husband and I. These books, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (barring its problematic ending), reminded me of how open my husband and I are with each other and how we love doing unusual things together. We each make the other better and are always working at our relationship. Books, said our priest, can already be good as their own entitiesu. But when transformed by marriage and by God, they can become something even more beautiful--like my bouquet.

Two people, their own individuals, become one new entity in marriage, better than they could be alone. How much more beautiful and meaningful could marriage get?

Truthfully, I didn’t think anyone would really care about my bouquet. In fact, when friends and family members heard about the DIY project I’d planned, they did the polite head nodding thing while saying “Oh, that sounds interesting,” which almost always actually means, “Okay, good luck with that.” I continued anyway, a sucker for meaningful things.

Practically, I created this bouquet because I was getting married in February in the Midwest, where fresh flowers would have cost an arm and a leg. But I also did it because my husband and I read The Fault in Our Stars together in our early days of dating. We both identified with the characters' interactions. I love personalizing everything I can and creating meaningful moments. I chose my bouquet as an opportunity to personalize our wedding liturgy.

I bought the books and began tearing out their pages, cutting out petal shapes, and wrapping them around floral wire. It was a long process, yet incredibly worth it--it is something I can keep forever. After the wedding, a friend asked if she could write about it for Reader's Digest in an article about alternative wedding bouquets. I was honored, and sort of stunned that my simple bouquet would reach the amount of people it did.

But isn’t this like marriage? A marriage is hard work: lots of menial tasks, yet so full of sacred meaning. A marriage starts with something ordinary, like a book or like two independent people, and makes it into something extraordinary, like a bouquet or one in the eyes of God. And then these two people go out together and serve. So without trying to, or seeking it, God taught us and our wedding guests the meaning and the call of marriage: to join together and create something extraordinary.

Let God work through your creativity. After all, he is the creator of all life.

About the Author: Lauren Henderson is a newlywed and convert to the Catholic faith who loves cooking, baking, reading, and singing in the car. She studied Psychology in college and enjoys guessing whodunit in mystery shows. A lover of children, she cannot wait to be a mother someday. Lauren and her husband host the podcast God Winks and the Kitchen Sink.


Tips for Choosing Your First Dance



Perhaps there’s a song you’ve loved since long before you were dating your spouse-to-be, one you determined you’d dance to at your wedding. Maybe you and your beloved have had “your” own song from the start. But what if you don’t fall into those categories? Here, four considerations that can aid in your decision-making.

Is there a song that recalls a particular time or memory from our relationship?

Your song might not be one you’ve discussed outright in the past, but one that speaks to your history as a couple, nonetheless. Maybe hearing a song that was on heavy rotation at a memorable time in your relationship transports you vividly back to that moment. Perhaps there’s a piece that consoled one or both of you during a difficult time.

One of the songs with the strongest hold on my own memory, for instance, is one I actually experienced alone. Around the time I started dating my husband, I had recently bought Keith Urban’s album Defying Gravity; I’d repeatedly play one of the tracks, “If Ever I Could Love,” that captured the sense of newness, purity, and the joy of discovery I found myself experiencing. Take time to consider what titles have played a similar role for you; list the songs that have held a particular meaning in your own lives to this point or remind you of one another.

What songs are meaningful in our family cultures?

Dancing to your parents’ or grandparents’ wedding songs convey a sense of timelessness and of respect and affection for the bonds of love that make up your families and their traditions. Elise’s parents’ song, “It Had to Be You,” holds a fond and particular significance to her to this day.

Would we like to dance in a particular style?

If you and your beloved are skilled at swing, ballroom, or a style of dance that reflects your heritage, incorporating it is fun and takes off some of the pressure for your first dance to be a completely serious, romantic affair. At a wedding I attended were the groom was a theatre teacher, the couple included a choreographed entrance by the bridal party at the conclusion of their first dance. Jiza and her husband performed a swing dance.

And keep in mind that though your dancing style might not be contemporary, your song selection still can be: a friend and her husband waltzed to Lifehouse’s “You and Me” at their reception.

What do we hope to convey about love and marriage?

Your witness to lifelong love doesn’t end when your nuptial Mass does; it’s manifest throughout your entire wedding day. Whether you communicate it directly or simply through your actions and decisions, you and your beloved speak the language of free, faithful, fruitful, and total promises, simply by virtue of who you are and of choosing sacramental marriage. There are a wealth of selections, both secular and Christian, that embody the language of wedding vows; songs that speak to the longing of our hearts for something more than this life, the glimpse of heaven pure, sacrificial love affords us, the constant battle to allow love to prevail over lust and selfishness, and the perfecting love of the Father, who rejoices simply in the fact that we exist. Take them to prayer and see what lyrics stand out and might lend themselves to your first dance.

Choosing your wedding song one that expresses who you are as a couple and strikes whatever mood--romantic, lighthearted, or otherwise--you intend might feel like a tall order, yet as wedding planning goes, it’s one of the less stressful decisions to be made. The Father sings over us, his children, in a particular way through the sacraments, and no matter what selection you make, the love between you and your spouse makes his rejoicing so visibly evident.

Get inspired by the team’s love song suggestions here. We invite you to share your own favorites and first dance selections, as well. Tell us about your song in the comments and on our social media!

How He Asked | TheaMarie + Benjamin

TheaMarie was raised Protestant, but met her husband-to-be at their Catholic high school. For three years, she and Ben were close friends, telling each other everything in between dating relationships with others. Ben asked TheaMarie to their junior prom where, to her surprise, he asked her to be his girlfriend two weeks later.

In TheaMarie’s words: God is beautifully omniscient and works in the most graceful ways. Slowly but surely, the Lord began to work through Benjamin's loving faith and practices to show me the beauty, mercy, and consolation of the Catholic Church. We began spending time in the chapel during lunch together, going to late-night Adoration, and exploring the sacraments together.

On November 1, 2013 I entered the Catholic Church at a school-wide Mass, with Ben as an altar server. It was very special, and an experience we both hold dear to our hearts. We both went off to college in Wisconsin, him in Milwaukee and myself in La Crosse. Dating long-distance has stretched us in ways we couldn't have imagined. These past four years have not been without tears or long discussions, but the fruits have already become manifest. We have continually looked to our Mother and to St. Joseph for guidance as we’ve weathered our journey across the distance.

Our engagement was expected, yet also completely unexpected. It was expected in that we had been courting for four years, working on our careers and bettering ourselves to grow closer to God. But the timing and setting were entirely unexpected.

I was convinced Ben would propose somewhere in our North Dakota hometown, where we spent countless hours talking, working on homework, driving around, praying, and being with family and friends. He completely surprised me when I’d delayed my flight home from school beforer Christmas break.

It was a Saturday night, and we were on our way to Mass. It was beginning to storm. Unknown to me, before we left Ben had made plans with friends who worked for the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee, asking them the best spot to propose. On our drive to the Basilica, at the same time we both said we wanted to go to a different Catholic Church we had been planning to explore more at some point. We took the exit and attended a beautiful Mass, with few present as the winter storm had made travel difficult.

At the end of Mass, we finished our prayer. Ben asked if we could go to the front of the church to pray for safe travels. As we knelt, I could feel that he was nervous, which made me nervous!

We prayed, and I got up and to put my jacket on. Ben grabbed it from me and put it on the pew. With my hand in his, he knelt and said,

"TheaMarie, we have grown so much over the past seven years. I cannot imagine my life without you. You are my whole life. Will you make me the happiest man... Will you marry me?"

I stood there in disbelief and absolute excitement and said, "Yes, yes, yes!" We hugged, kissed, and he put the most beautiful ring on my finger. The center diamond is from my mother's wedding ring, and my dad, who owns a jewelry store, created it himself.

We thanked God for our relationship and enjoyed a nice meal, just the two of us in a big city where no one knew us. We looked at Christmas lights and called our parents. The next day, I had to leave for home. It was the most beautiful time we had together and our long engagement of one and a half years has been a gift to us: a time of growing in virtue, patience, mercy, understanding, love, and allowing for God to work within us and through one another.

Photography: Ben Gumeringer Photography | Engagement: Milwaukee, WI |. Engagement Ring: Knowles Jewelry, Bismarck ND