How to Get Your Marriage Blessed by the Pope



My husband and I just returned from our babymoon/honeymoon part two, in which we traveled to Rome and several locations in Northern Italy. It was a beautiful trip, but by far the highlight was going to the papal audience on Wednesday, June 13, and being blessed by Pope Francis as part of the “Sposi Novelli” (newlywed) blessing. Our baby in utero got a special blessing as well! When I posted one of our photos on Instagram, I got lots of questions about how couples can go about planning their own newlywed blessing, so I thought I’d share some of what I learned from our experience.

Order your tickets in advance.

All papal audience tickets are free, but due to the number of newlyweds who want to attend each week, you must request tickets from the Bishops’ Office for United States Visitors to the Vatican (contact your local diocesan office for information if you do not live in the US). It’s as simple as emailing the office a few months ahead of your visit, asking for Sposi Novelli tickets for the Wednesday audience you want to attend, and picking the tickets up between 3-6 PM on the evening before the audience. The office is near the Trevi Fountain and you can find directions to it on their website.

Be aware of the rules and restrictions.

According to the BIshops’ Office, couples are eligible for the Sposi Novelli blessing if they’ve been married for two months or less*, and must bring their marriage certificate, signed by a priest or deacon, with them to the audience.  

*In the interest of full disclosure, Kristian and I did not know this rule and had almost been married six months at the time of our Sposi Novelli blessing (we planned on going much earlier, but first trimester and international travel do not mix well). As I said before, our baby got blessed too as I was visibly pregnant, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone. If you want to get your marriage blessed but can’t go to Rome within two months of your wedding, it may still be possible, but it’s a good idea to check with the Bishops’ Office before you book your airline tickets.  

Plan your wardrobe.

 For the Sposi Novelli blessing, couples are expected to come in “wedding attire”, which broadly interpreted means men in suits and women in white dresses. At our audience, there were women fully decked out in their wedding dresses and grooms in tuxes, but that isn’t required. And if you go to Rome in the summer, you may want to forego the wedding dress simply due to the intense heat in St. Peter’s Square.  

A note about dress code: There’s no specific dress code to get into St. Peter’s Square, where the audience is held, but if you want to go into the Basilica afterward, you’ll need to have your shoulders and knees covered.

Get there early.

The Bishops’ Office recommends that you get to the audience as early as possible (the Square officially opens at 6:30 AM) even though the audience doesn’t begin until 10 AM. Kristian and I weren’t able to make it until about 8:30 due to jet lag, but even then almost all of the special seats for the Sposi Novelli were taken. It’s worth it to get there as early as possible, especially since there’s nothing quite like an almost-empty St. Peter’s Square in the early morning light. Just bring snacks, a water bottle, and some reading/prayer material with you to pass the time.

Note: The Basilica does not open until a couple of hours after the audience concludes, so you won’t be able to go to Mass beforehand.

Pay attention to the weather.

I’ve been to Rome during every season except Fall (which I hear is gorgeous), and as much as I love the Eternal City, I must say that summer (mid-June through August) is a tough time to visit. The heat can be oppressive and there’s little relief from trees or ubiquitous A/C. But if summer is your only option, there are a few things you can do to beat the heat at the Sposi Novelli blessing:

-Don’t wear your wedding dress unless it’s light, airy, and breathable. Consider purchasing a white dress that will allow you to look bridal without overheating.

-Advise your husband to wear a lightweight summer suit.

-Bring an umbrella or parasol (I’m so thankful that the Italian couple sitting next to us let me huddle under theirs).

-Bring a LARGE bottle of water and refill it while you’re waiting in one of the natural fountains in the Square.

-Wear sunglasses.

-Bring something to fan yourself with. Trust me.  

Note: If you are planning a winter or spring visit to the Vatican, an umbrella is also a good idea as it tends to rain more often during those seasons.

Bring any religious articles you'd like blessed by the Pope.

At the end of the audience, the Holy Father will do a general blessing of any and all religious articles that you’ve brought with you. I wish I had remembered to bring the rosary that was wrapped around my bouquet! 

Be aware that you may not get a cool photo with Pope Francis.

Depending on the time of year, the number of couples sitting in the Sposi Novelli section varies quite a bit. Couples from all over the world (especially Italy and other countries in Europe) come for the newlywed blessing.  You’re more likely to get facetime with the Holy Father if you do not go during the summer. If you do go during the summer, like Kristian and I did, be prepared for the possibility that you may only get a general greeting from the Pope. We were able to get to the front of the line because I'm pregnant (pregnant women, I learned, are treated like royalty in Rome), but that was an unexpected blessing as there were over 100 newly married couples in attendance that day! My brother and sister-in-law, who went in May 2016, were part of a much smaller group in which everyone got a personal greeting from the Pope.

Note: if you do get photos with Pope Francis, you’ll have an opportunity that afternoon to peruse them, choose the ones you like, and have them printed out for you for a small fee.

What if you can't make it to a papal audience for a special newlywed blessing? Are your dreams of papal marriage blessings dead? Not at all! You always have the option of requesting a Papal blessing for your marriage directly from the Vatican, which is printed on parchment and sent to your home.

I hope this has been a helpful guide for planning a Sposi Novelli trip to Rome. If you're engaged and planning on honeymooning in Rome or a newlywed who recently made the trek, we'd love to hear about your experience in the comments! 


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


Robyn + Greg | Spring Garden-Inspired Wedding

After a season of not enjoying or feeling at peace on dates, the sound of a man’s incredibly joyful laugh made Robyn pause, listen, and take a deep breath before opening the door to a bonfire and bourbon-tasting party. It would be the night she met her husband.

Robyn and Greg talked at the party that night and continued the conversation over the following weeks, sending each other music and poetry recommendations. But it wasn’t until a month after their first meeting, when they found themselves the only two in a D.C. Metro station on Divine Mercy Sunday, that their friendship moved toward dating. As Robyn descended the escalator to catch her train, she found herself face to face with Greg.

From the Bride: That day Greg and I met again at the station, we spent the next few hours walking up and down the Georgetown waterfront, talking nonstop about everything. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered." It's a line that comes to mind often when I think of how our story started. The next week, we had our first date.

 We dated for two years before getting engaged--traveling, camping, wine tasting, dancing, reading--slipping more and more into that intimacy. It wasn't always easy between losing a job, adjusting to new careers, and much self-discovery about how to be the best version of ourselves in a relationship, not just the “best girlfriend” or "best boyfriend” to make each other happy. But it was full of more laughter and joy than I had ever known.

Two years after I stumbled upon Greg in the Metro, he surprised me at the same escalator with his great-grandmother's ring.

We wanted to make sure our wedding celebration expressed our personalities and our stories. Picking the Mass readings was somehow the easiest part our wedding planning. Although both our families are mainly Catholic, we have many friends who don't belong to a church, and wanted this to be a moment for them to hear the Word of God in all its joy. We wanted the readings to not just represent the sacrament of marriage for that day, but to express ideas everyone could relate to. With that in mind, we chose Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 31-31, Psalm 34, and Romans 12:1-2,9-18, and Matthew 22:35-40.

 Our wedding took place the weekend after Easter--Divine Mercy weekend, echoing when we found each other in the Metro. Gorgeous Easter flowers still filled the Church, and the joyful music of the liturgical season reflected that of our wedding feast. Looking back, two of my favorite moments during the Mass were walking down the aisle to "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" with my father, such an important song in my spiritual life, and us receiving the Eucharist together on our knees for the first time as man and wife.

 It was a gorgeous spring day, with a few cherry blossoms remaining in season, and we had such sweet moments alone after the Mass to take pictures. But being quickly whisked away into our huge reception was surreal. Greg and I had both agreed on a large wedding because it was important to us to have all those we loved there, and less important to have the most expensive dress or fanciest reception.

Our first dance song was "Like the Dawn" by the Oh Hellos, a beautiful love song written from the viewpoints of Adam and Eve, and one of the first songs we really bonded over early in our friendship. The opening line is "I was sleeping in the garden when I saw you first." With that in mind we tried to make our reception feel like a laid-back spring garden: large windows around the room, centerpieces I designed with my favorite flowers, and a pie table--our favorite dessert to bake together. The day was overwhelmingly full of joy and tenderness, and hands down the best day of our lives.

At one point during the Mass, about to say our vows, I remember looking out over the congregation and seeing loved ones from all points of our lives, and it really felt like we were in heaven. During our wedding reception, when Greg had the chance to thank my parents for making this magical day possible, he addressed the crowd and echoed my feelings perfectly: that he’d always imagined heaven as a large banquet, and here we all were today at the wedding feast, our own glimpse of heaven.

Through so much of my spiritual life I've focused on planning (and then worrying), achieving and searching. I could never have planned for Greg. I could never have orchestrated finding him on the Metro on Divine Mercy Sunday. Our wedding day was a strong reminder of the joys and mercies God desires to lavish upon us. Having a day to feast with everyone we love most, the many helping hands who made the day wonderful, and even the last minute perfect weather made it feel that creation was rejoicing over Easter and seemingly over us. It was a day, much like our marriage, abundantly full of joy and mercy.

Photography: An Endless Pursuit | Nupital Mass or Engagement Location: St Leo the Great, Fairfax, Virginia | Wedding Reception Venue : Harbour View, Woodbridge, Virginia | Caterer: R & R Catering, Dianna Gilbert | Florist: Twinbrook Florist, Tonya Evans | Transportation: Reston Limosine | DJ: Black Tie, Deon Wilson | Wedding Designer: Be Seated, Janeen Parrott | Dessert: Mom's Apple Pie, Avis

Why I'm Grateful for Traditional Wedding Vows



This probably isn't a surprise to most, but when you get married in the Catholic Church, you don't get to write your own vows. For some, this might be difficult to accept as the wedding industry attempts to ingrain in brides that their wedding day is preeminently theirs and every detail and moment of the day should reflect them alone.

Moreover, movies, TV shows, and real-life weddings often show in beautiful, humorous, and tear-jerking ways that vows can be a way to express the unique love shared between the bride and groom--a love not shared by any other couple. Being told you must use vows shared with countless other couples can be a bit of a letdown.

However, the problem the Church has with couples writing their own vows is that, by doing so, they pledge themselves to their own idea of what marriage is rather than what the Church teaches marriage is. What, then, does the Church teach that marriage is?

There's a part in C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces that I think movingly encapsulates the Christian truth about marriage. In the passage that follows, the character of Psyche is about to be sacrificed to a monster. Despite her fate, she is surprisingly full of equanimity and tells her sister:

 "And how would it be better if I had lived? I suppose I should have been given to some king in the end...And there you can see again how little difference there is between dying and being married. To leave your home — to lose lose one's maidenhead — to bear a child — they are all deaths."

 Amidst wedding day daydreams of dresses and flowers and perfect color palettes, the idea of marriage as a death might seem emphatically unromantic. But as with death, there is a veil that covers marriage preventing us from fully seeing what is beyond. No matter the amount of preparation you put into marriage, you still can't fully understand what you're getting into until you're actually in thick of it.

In fact, marriage is more than just a death, in the sense that you can't see beyond the threshold of the wedding day.

Like any vocation, marriage is a crucifixion. When you answer 'Yes' to God's call in your life, you choose to nail your will to Christ's on the Cross.

And herein lies the paradoxical truth of weddings and marriage that stands at odds with the culture's understanding: we're told your wedding day is only about you and your spouse, a celebration of you, a grand display of your wills to marry now, but then to do what you will later.

The Church tells you your wedding and your marriage are not about you. Or rather, they are about you insofar as they are about Christ. Marriage is designed for the salvation of your soul and of the the souls your marriage touches for the glory of Christ. Your wedding day is the willing renunciation of your will. 

How can we then presume to be able to put together more fitting words for entering into a mystery we cannot fully understand? Who better than the Church can give us the right words to renounce our wills and unite them to the Cross?

Like a mother teaching her small child to speak, she teaches you to speak the right words. In her wisdom, she gives you words carefully crafted and passed down through the centuries. They are words that clearly spell out the gravity of what you are doing: making a solemn vow in front of God and man--a vow that cannot be put asunder by will or undone in times of difficulty or distress.

Yes, they are words shared by a multitude of other couples, but for that reason they bind you more closely to the whole Body of Christ. They are words you will be asked to repeat in your thoughts, words, and actions every day of your marriage. And they are words imbued with sacramental grace, to help you and your spouse become a living sign to the world of the love between Christ and His Church.

Dominika Ramos.png

About the Author: Dominika Ramos is a native of Houston, Texas though she dreams of spending her days frolicking in the English countryside. She and her husband met at the University of St. Thomas, where she studied English literature, and they were married at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham on the Feast of the Visitation in 2014. Her life is currently composed of running Pax Paper, a hand-lettering and illustration business, blogging about the transcendental aspects of motherhood (among other things) at A Quiet Quest, and chasing after her rambunctious and delightful toddler son.



Editors' Picks | Vol. 7: Registry Essentials

At Spoken Bride, we love a good book, a good meal, a standout statement necklace, a heel you can dance in, and the list goes on. And when we make those discoveries, we want to tell everyone. So every month or two, we're sharing our latest and favorite finds in everything engagement, wedding, and honeymoon-related.

Creating a registry can be a daunting task, especially if you're one of the first among your friends to tie the knot. Keep in mind that registering for gifts, as awkward as it may seem, is actually a gift to the family and friends who want to celebrate your marriage; a well-planned registry takes the guesswork out of gift-giving. We've compiled our registry essentials below, and hope they will be a helpful start to your list. 

Elise, Social Media Coordinator

Quality Serveware: Splurge on serveware! These are pieces that you’ll want to pull out for guests or special occasions. As a family, we are called to be a home for our community and a welcoming space for all of God’s people. Having nice servingware is a way to have fun with hospitality.  Whether it’s a cheese platter or a nicer serving bowl, go ahead and put them on your registry.

Experiences: Something Hunter and I have enjoyed exploring while setting up our registry, is having the option to add “experience” gifts to our list. Registries like Zola, allow you to put experiences such as a “Night Out on the Town” or a “Travel Fund” essentially act as gift cards. Multiple guests can contribute to the experience and give you and your fiance the means to have experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise.

Beautiful Artwork: Wall art isn’t usually something that you would buy for yourself, but it will definitely brighten your home and make it feel like your own special place. Make sure to include gorgeous Catholic art like The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, Blessed Is She’s prints, or the 2015 World Meeting of Families Icon.

Christina, Associate Editor

It hasn't been long since I put together my registry, so I can honestly say each of these items is much-loved and much-used in our home. If you're looking for a convenient one-stop registry website, I highly recommend Zola

Instant Pot: I’ve always been a fan of my Crockpot, but the Instant Pot has knocked it right out of first place in terms of hassle-free cooking. Since Kristian and I got married, I’ve used the Instant Pot at least once a week to cook everything from soup to pulled pork. It’s like a Crockpot, but instead of waiting 8 hours to eat the tenderest meat of your life, it takes 45 minutes thanks to the fact that it’s a high tech pressure cooker. You can also steam vegetables (including potatoes), make yogurt, sauté onions and garlic before adding in your main ingredients...the list goes on.

Psalter for Couples: Kristian and I make it a point to pray together before we go to bed each night, and this Psalter has been a wonderful addition to our prayer life. The folks who publish the Magnificat have carefully chosen Psalms (each followed by a short prayer) for couples to pray together in different seasons and on different occasions throughout married life.

A high-quality set of knives: Growing up in a family where cooking wasn’t really a thing left me with little appreciation for a good set of knives. Now, thanks to lots of trial and error during my single years, I know that a high quality set of knives is essential if you want to cook efficiently and safely. For those nervous that the high price of a full set will scare people away from purchasing knives, consider registering for individual knives, or small companion sets of knives.

Stephanie, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder

Picture frames and photo printing credits: As my sixth anniversary approaches, I sometimes shake my head at the fact that I’ve never had a wedding album made--immediately following our wedding, money was tight and my husband and I couldn’t afford extensive album design and creation with our photographer. Quality wedding images are an investment, but they’re an instant treasure you won’t regret. Choose a set of classic, coordinated frames like these for easy display in your new home once you’ve received your photos, and speak with your photographer about whether he or she offers gift cards for album services that your guests can purchase, or for recommendations for high-quality print labs.

Family Bible: As you enter into the sacrament of marriage, a whole new sacramental life begins with the two of you. A beautifully crafted Bible like this one, with a special section to record those who participated in your nuptial Mass, along with, God willing, future Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, and your children’s vocations, becomes an heirloom record of a shared life in Christ.

Quality tool set: It’s not as romantic as champagne flutes or down pillows, but through moves, furniture (and maybe down the road, toy) assembly, and ordinary household tasks, a set of well-made tools will see you through countless instances you didn’t think you needed them for. My husband picked out this set by Stanley when we got married, and even now it gets at least weekly use and has held up great. I asked him about recommending tools, and from him to you, his advice is to choose quality over quantity: the biggest set isn’t necessarily the most useful, and the lowest price might tend toward a more temporary item than a long-term investment. 

Andi, Business Director

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet: I never thought I'd want or even use something like this, but here I am using it pretty much every day to make veggies, grilled cheese, and more.

Bath SheetsI had no idea giant, cozy bath sheets ever existed before my husband Matt asked me to register for them. They're the best! We've had towels from Pottery Barn, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, and Macy's, but these are my absolute favorite because they are so soft.

Measuring Cups and SpoonsI've used these daily for almost 10 years and they still look brand new. They definitely hold up to the wear and tear of family life.

Jiza, Co-Founder + Creative Director

Cast Iron SkilletYou can't go wrong with a quality cast iron skillet. It's sturdy, versatile, economical, and has great heat distribution. I love how you are able to use it on the stovetop, for baking, or even outdoors for camping. And if you take good care of it, it will last you a long time.

Quality Flatware: When my husband and I were engaged and creating our registry, I teased him about how long he took selecting a silverware set. He went down the aisle, lifting the various forks and knives to see which ones had a good weight. I thought it was silly at the time, but eight years later, our silverware is still going strong, and anytime I reach for our set of Dollar Tree flatware from his single days, I notice a huge difference. Here's to spoons that don't bend when you're scooping ice cream! 

Items for your family oratoryDid you know you can create a Catholic gift registry? Religious art and some prayer books aren't exactly inexpensive. My husband and I created a Catholic gift registry for our wedding with Aquinas and More, and we were so thankful to receive some religious icons that otherwise would have taken some time and saving to purchase ourselves. When you get married, you're building the domestic church, so why not give your loved ones an opportunity to help create your first oratory?

We love making new discoveries, particularly from Catholic vendors--share your registry gift ideas in the comments or on our social media!

How He Asked | Jocelyn + Cheyne

Cheyne was friends with Jocelyn’s older brother, and when they met her sophomore year, she quickly developed a crush. After Cheyne graduated, they didn’t see each other again until four years later, on a hike with mutual friends. Five years after that, Cheyne came into the coffee shop where Jocelyn worked, and the rest is history.

In Jocelyn’s words: When Cheyne and I reconnected in the coffee shop, we began a journey together that I now know was the beginning of my walk through this life--and eventually eternal life--with my future husband.

 The day of our proposal was Cheyne’s birthday. I’d planned a dinner with his closest friends and family, but little did I know something else was stirring up! On my way to pick up Cheyne at his apartment, he left a voicemail saying he’d gone out and would be right back. When I arrived, a piece of paper hung on the door. It told me I was going to begin a scavenger hunt, and at the end he’d meet me.

 My heart knew right away what was happening. I just began to cry tears of joy. Cheyne left a key with instructions. I entered the apartment, where wildflowers covered the living room. On the coffee table sat a picture of us, along with Clue Number One, which led me to the place of our first kiss. When I pulled up there, my best friend was waiting with Clue Number Two.

It brought me to the spot where Cheyne asked me to be his girlfriend, and was followed by a third clue leading to a cafe where we used to talk, read, and dream about our future together. My friends were there, holding a book Cheyne had made with the next clue.

 This clue brought me to the chapel at the University of Redlands, where we have often prayed together. My parents were at the front of the chapel, standing proud with tears in their eyes. I was overwhelmed with complete joy!  

My parents led me inside, where Cheyne was waiting. He walked me down the aisle, adorned with pictures of each of us as children and ending with photos from our adult years and relationship.

Cheyne had written an original choral piece with the lyrics, "I have found the one whom my soul loves," sung in Latin. I turned around, and with our friends and family sat in the pews, Cheyne got down on one knee and said, "You are my best friend and my soulmate. Will you do forever with me?"

 God has blessed me with this man and I cannot wait to begin our discernment of Holy Matrimony together. We have been drenched in his faithfulness and provision, and each time we reflect back on our story, still being written by our loving Author, we are moved to tears. I prayed for this man. God brought me more than I could have ever imagined. Our prayer is that in this next season we are reminded of his plan for our marriage, that we are rooted firmly in the Gospel as our center, and that our union would bring him glory. 

In Cheyne’s words: Jocelyn looked over at me from behind the safety of her older brother, with a sense of wonderment and innocence, the first time we locked eyes. It was that moment, now ten years ago, that without a single word spoken we made a connection. She still looks at me that way, as if each day begins with the first moment we met.

 We never seemed to go far from that road we first walked together. From the night hike where we met again after high school, to the late night chats that followed, I always felt a sense that Jocelyn was nearby, even when we we apart. Since high school we had watched each other grow. Through the good and the bad I saw strength, stability, and independence in her. Throughout my growth, she saw ambition, passion, and a longing for more. But we both saw a bit of ourselves within each other. My victories were hers. Her woes were mine. I found glory in her triumphs; she found sorrow in my pain. And this was as friends!

 Through it all, we waited on one another. We left space, left words unspoken and feelings untold, but our story was far from over. Something kept us close and reminded us that the home we sought so dearly was always there, waiting. I'm reminded of the days we almost crossed paths, and it is easy to become envious of the man I could have been had we taken steps closer to one another earlier in life. Like the time Jocelyn came to my dorm room and left a note, fully aware I could be sleeping on the other side of the wall. Or the many, many times that we spent time with the same crowd, but somehow seemed to always miss each other. Although I envy that young man who could have found his love so early on, I also take comfort in knowing that providence would have us wait to know it was each other when the time was right.

 It's strange how things work out, and how life has a way of piecing itself together. Like a puzzle, each moment in our lives fits within a beautiful picture, but without each moment the picture would never be complete--we'd be left with meaningless pieces. I can’t begin to count the pieces that drew me closer to Jocelyn.

 Every major decision I've made in life has kept me close to her, and for that I am grateful. We reconnected when Jocelyn’s passion for coffee brought her to the place we now call home. From the small town of Redlands, California came Augie’s Coffee Roasters, a company that has made a big impact the industry. When I saw that Jocelyn had started working for Augies’ new location near our hometown, I knew I needed to reach out. We started talking on the phone for hours each night, growing closer and closer. When we finally saw each other again for the first time it was like re-connecting with a long lost love and friend. I knew so early on that she was the who held my heart and soul.  

Three months after we became a couple, I’d already bought a ring. I kept my proposal plans secret for months as I waited and planned and found the right time to bring everyone in our lives together. Seeing Jocelyn walk through the chapel doors at the end of the scavenger hunt reminded me why I love her more each day. I count my blessings that I have found someone with such a deep love and appreciation for me, and who brightens my life in every moment.

Creating a Meaningful Wedding Mass Program



Without a doubt, designing the program for our wedding Mass was my favorite part of the entire wedding-planning process.  I have a lifelong passion for communicating and explaining the truths of our faith to others: I was a high school theology teacher for nine years and have been a catechist of some kind since college. I saw my program as an opportunity to explain, particularly to our non-Catholic and non-practicing-Catholic guests, the beauty of the Mass and the Church’s teaching on marriage. I’m not naive to think that everyone present actually read the program, but I knew that some people would, and prayed that the Lord would use it to draw our wedding guests more deeply into the liturgy. 

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for catechetical/evangelical wedding Mass program templates on the internet, you probably won’t find them. Back in January, I offered my personal blog readers the text to my program if they emailed me, and to date I’ve received dozens of requests for it from eager Catholic brides. Today, I’ll be sharing with you how you can create a meaningful wedding program that will reflect not only you and your fiancé's love for your faith, but also your desire to share it with your guests. And be on the lookout for Spoken Bride wedding program templates in the future!

Be clear about the mechanics of Mass.

Perhaps the most confusing thing for non-Catholics when they come to Mass, especially for the first time, is all of the standing, sitting, kneeling, and responding that we do. Normally, the priest will give directions to the congregation (most priests are well aware that a percentage of those at Catholic weddings are not familiar with the Mass), but sometimes he forgets or people need extra reminders. This is where your program comes in. Below is an example of what I mean:

First Reading

Please sit

When the lector says “The Word of the Lord,” at the conclusion of the reading, you may respond “Thanks be to God.”  

These instructions won't increase your page count by much, and go a long way to making non-Catholics feel more comfortable during Mass. Note: if you use Latin Mass parts, it’s a good idea to provide your guests with a translation.

Break Open the Word

Chances are that the priest or deacon who preaches at your wedding won’t have time to go into detail about each of your chosen readings, which may leave your biblically illiterate guests feeling a bit lost. One way to help them understand the Scripture readings is to provide brief explanations of why you chose each reading, and if necessary, some context for your readings. Believe it or not, most of your wedding guests (even the faithful Catholic ones) probably haven’t read the entire book of Tobit. Here’s what I wrote for our first reading:

First Reading Tobit 8:4b-8   

Context: Tobit’s son, Tobiah, has just married his kinswoman Sarah at the encouragement of the (disguised) archangel Raphael. Sarah is oppressed by a demon who has killed her last seven husbands on their wedding night. Raphael helps Tobiah and Sarah to vanquish the demon and encourages them to pray before consummating their marriage.

The couple chose this reading because of the important role that prayer has played (and will continue to play) in their relationship, and because the prayer of Tobiah and Sarah recounts the establishment of marriage by God in Genesis.

The Rite of Marriage

It’s no secret that Catholic weddings are different from secular, or even Protestant weddings, but many of your guests may not realize that the Catholic understanding of marriage is unique as well. Consider including an explanatory line or two about marriage as a Sacrament, the significance of the vows and rings, and an explanation of any special wedding traditions you’re incorporating into the rite (such as holding a crucifix or exchanging arras). For example:

In the Catholic Church, marriage is a Sacrament, which means that it is a visible sign of God’s grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which Divine life is dispensed to us. This is what makes Catholic marriage so much more than a legal union, and why it must be--like God’s love for us--free, total, faithful, and fruitful. Ideally, a marriage between two Christians should be a clear, visible sign of God’s love for his people.

A note about the crucifix: Kristian and Christina decided to incorporate the Croatian tradition of holding a crucifix together while professing their vows. This symbolizes the fact that marriage, like all vocations, is a sharing in Christ’s cross and resurrection, and that both spouses are called to lay down their lives for one another as Christ did for us. The couple will hang the crucifix in a place of honor in their home so that they can be reminded to carry their crosses together and unite their sufferings with Christ’s.

The Source and Summit

The Liturgy of the Eucharist is the reason why Catholics celebrate the marriage rite within the context of the Mass. Unfortunately, the Blessed Sacrament is also commonly mistaken for a mere symbol or ritual by non-Catholics (and misinformed Catholics), which is understandable considering how mysterious the Real Presence is. A little bit of explanation goes a long way to clearing up these misconceptions. Here’s what we did:

The Liturgy of the Eucharist

The Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith, because it is Jesus himself, mysteriously present, body, blood, soul, and divinity under the signs of bread and wine. Thus, the Liturgy of the Eucharist is the high point of the Mass.


During the offertory, we bring up the bread and wine that will be offered to the Father and transformed by the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of Christ. We also present our hearts, minds, souls, and all of our cares and concerns to the Father who loves us. The prayers of blessing that the priest prays over the gifts hearken back to the prayers of blessing over meals that Jesus would have prayed at the Last Supper that he shared with his disciples.

Great Amen

At the end of the priest’s prayer, the congregation chants “Amen”. In saying “Amen”, we say “yes, I believe” that the bread and wine that were on the altar are now sacramentally Jesus’ body and blood.

Who may receive the Eucharist?

Only baptized Catholics who have received their first communion, are practicing the faith, and are not aware of having committed mortal sins since their last confession may receive the Eucharist. If you are not going to receive, please remain in your seat and pray for and with the couple.

Not only were these explanations helpful to our non-Catholic family and friends, but we  had faithful Catholic guests approach us after the wedding and comment on how beneficial these explanations were for them and their own prayer during Mass.

There’s Something about Mary…

After teaching the faith for over a decade, it no longer surprises me when non-Catholics and Catholics alike think that we worship Mary. Usually, this is the result of a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word “worship.” Worship is not the same as prayer, reverence, or honor. Worship is the surrender of one’s entire self to someone or something--and that surrender is due only to God. If you’re planning on presenting a bouquet of flowers to Mary as a couple during your nuptial Mass and know you’ll have Protestant guests at your wedding who may be confused about how we understand Marian devotion, consider including something like this in your program:  

It is traditional for the newly married couple to honor Mary with a gift of flowers. Contrary to popular misconception, Catholics do not worship Mary. Worship is due to God alone. We honor Mary as Jesus’ mother, the woman whose “yes” made our salvation possible. “What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 487).

Again, I don’t know if anyone read this explanation or had their minds or hearts changed on the matter of honoring Mary, but I DO know that if they wanted more information, it was available to them.

Little extras

If you have room in your budget for a long-ish program, consider adding some inspirational quotations from Scripture, Saints, or theologians. I’ve compiled a short list below of some of my favorites, but there are many more to choose from!

"Love is the light--and in the end, the only light--that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God." --Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

“Just as of old God encountered his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Savior, the spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of Matrimony.” Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,” and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love. In the joys of their love and family life he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb.” --Catechism of the Catholic Church #148-150

“Grace has the power to make straight the paths of human love.” --St. John Paul II

“How can I ever express the happiness of a marriage joined by the Church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels, and ratified by the Father? . . . How wonderful the bond between two believers, now one in hope, one in desire, one in discipline, one in the same service! They are both children of one Father and servants of the same Master, undivided in spirit and flesh, truly two in one flesh. Where the flesh is one, one also is the spirit.”--Tertullian, an early Church Father

"Then, in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my vocation, at last I have found it...MY VOCATION IS LOVE!" --St. Therese of Lisieux

St. Gregory of Nazianzus on the marriage of his parents: "They encourage us to virtue...he has been her good shepherd, whom she has prayed for and guided on his way; from her he has received the model for being a good shepherd. Both are of one dignity, of one mind, of one soul, no less in partnership of virtue and closeness to God than in a partnership of flesh. They compete with each other equally in length of life and silver of hair, in prudence and in brilliance...they are held back little by the flesh, far advanced in spirit...The world is both not theirs and theirs-one world they ignore, the other they far prefer. They have disposed of their riches, and have become rich through the industry of holiness, despising one sort of wealth and buying instead the riches of the world to come."

“Do not forget that true love sets no conditions; it does not calculate or complain, but simply loves.” --St. John Paul II

I hope this has been a helpful guide to creating a more meaningful program for the most important part of your wedding day. Please feel free to copy and paste any part of this post to use for your program, and share with other Catholic brides-to-be who may be interested. If you have any questions about these explanations or would like help crafting your program, please feel free to email us.



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


When Sacrifice Feels Like Too Much.



“This is my body which is given for you.” “ I thirst.” “Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal upon your arm.” We’ve heard these words, felt these aches to lay ourselves bare, to quench the thirst of the Beloved, to make of ourselves a beautiful and perfect gift. The Cross and all it encompasses--body, blood, soul; heroic sacrifice and purest love; a marriage made in heaven--is one of our truest examples of spousal love: self-death and self-gift. But obvious isn’t the same as easy. What can you do when you know you’re falling short of authentic, sacrificial love, and moreover, when you don’t even particularly care to try?

Sacrifice shouldn’t make sense. Inconveniencing and emptying yourself, for no benefit of your own, directly pits our better judgment against our fallen nature. My younger self used to view sacrifice, in theory, as two people each being willing to give and take on certain matters, finding a compromise somewhere in the middle. In practice, as I navigated life with roommates and, later, with a husband, I realized how little I’d understood. Going 50/50 on some things might be good for equality, but it’s not the best for relationships. Sometimes in compromise, and all times in authentic love, one person gives (or gives up) everything, not half. It’s the ideal we vow to chase after and to live out in good times and in bad, standing before the One who gave of himself completely for love’s sake.

Yet even with eyes of faith, of knowing joy flows from putting another before yourself and wanting the good of someone else, sacrificial love is painful. Whether you’re undergoing the struggle of budgets, registries and their ensuing compromises as a bride-to-be or experiencing the growing pains of living with your husband as a newlywed, there might’ve been a time when you’ve asked yourself, how much is too much?

Watching NBC’s This Is Us a few months ago, I was struck by the reality of sacrifice upon sacrifice gone unnoticed or unfulfilled. Years into marriage and raising their children to adolescence, Jack and Rebecca Pearson express the seeming disillusionment they’ve each experienced as they’ve habitually put themselves aside for each other and for their family, the weight of their burdens boiling over into an all-out battle. He feels burned out and unappreciated by years of working a mediocre job while trying to keep family first. She mourns what feels like the loss of identity after ages of existing solely as a mother while putting her own pursuits on the back burner. They wonder and they argue: who has given up more?

Their pain is palpable because it’s real. Dismissing this couple as unwilling to take up their crosses would diminish the truth that even with the graces of marriage, even when sacrifice is a habit, even when spouses put each other (and their children) first and themselves second, the sheer effort can leave you parched and drained. That’s okay. It’s only living water that will restore. Practically speaking, here are some ways to invite the Lord into your brokenness, your tiredness, and to rest in him:

Pray for your spouse, simply as who he or she is.

My prayer often turns to asking the Father for certain virtues that will strengthen me as a wife and mother, and for the same for my husband. During more stressful or trying seasons, though, this approach tends to increase my anxiety rather than my sense of peace. Instead, try simply contemplating the reality of your beloved, in all his flaws and gifts, and thank God for who he is. Chances are, even when you aren’t feeling particularly loving, your focus will shift to a deeper, objective appreciation for the qualities you fell in love with and a diminished sense of frustration with those that are a source of trial. Cultivate a will to thanksgiving.

Say what you need.

It’s surprising how often I find myself burdened by certain obligations of marriage and parenthood and don’t even think to speak up to my husband about them. I don’t intentionally mean to keep my struggles a secret; I tend to (unhealthily) view embracing sacrifice as the more praiseworthy choice than acknowledging my limits, to the point that I end up completely overwhelmed and tired, unable to see them as something potentially fruitful. As we’ve navigated grad school and parenthood over the past few years, I’ve tried to become better about identifying and vocalizing to my husband what can ease the strain. It sounds obvious, but asking for a few hours to go to Adoration, go for a walk, or take myself out to coffee, I’ve finally realized, isn’t selfish. It's a renewal that brings me back to my vocation reenergized.

Thank each other.

In big-picture matters like working a non-dream job or joining in on each other’s extended family vacations, and in small ones like foregoing unnecessary spending when you’re on a budget and putting the dishes away, make a habit of noticing ways your spouse gives of himself or herself for the good of your marriage, and say thank you. For those whose love language is Words of Affirmation, this is particularly meaningful, but for anyone at all, recognizing and valuing what is given can only bear a deeper sense of gratitude, attention, and reverence for the person you love.

No matter how much our particular life demands, on the hardest days I remind myself how much  more miserable I’d be if I were single, with fewer responsibilities, than married to my husband and caring for our children with the difficulties piling on. He is pure gift, meant to sanctify me and, God willing, accompany me to Heaven. Sometimes lightening the load is all about perspective.

“...’alone,’ the man does not completely realize [his] essence. He realizes it only by existing ‘with someone’--and, put even more deeply and completely, by existing ‘for someone.’” - Pope St. John Paul II, TOB 14:2

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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