10 Products for Radiant Wedding-Day Makeup



To me, makeup is an accessory. It highlights the God-given beauty of each face, and each of us have different features that we love to “dress up”, whether that be our skin, eyes, brows, or smile. That is why I have loved teaching women how to apply natural-looking makeup for over a decade as a makeup artist and beauty consultant. Though some use makeup as a way to mask or change their features, there are a few techniques and products that enhance rather than hide. A few minute check-in in the mirror before starting the day can boost self-confidence, even if it’s just a little mascara, concealer, and lipstick.

Makeup for special events isn’t the same as makeup for everyday. There are a few tricks and types of products that ensure it will last from morning to night, and even look flawless in photos.

I have a list of 10 tips to use to make your makeup look professionally done, even if you do it yourself.


Clean skin makes an even canvas.

Before applying your makeup, use a cotton pad to wipe a micellar water (something without alcohol) over your bare skin. This will remove any residue from soap and leftover makeup to make your skin look much more even and bright.

Always moisturize!

Moisturizer is a necessary part of getting foundation to look most like skin, and not like a mask of color. Test a few before your wedding day to see which one looks best under your foundation. If it balls up as your foundation goes on, it could be too heavy--something to save for a nighttime regime.

On the other hand, if your foundation goes on looking chalky, your moisturizer isn’t doing its job to plump the skin. Supple, hydrated skin allows the makeup to look most natural. Allow your moisturizer to set for a few minutes before the next step.

Primer is the glue.

If you struggle with getting your complexion products to last all day, you probably need a primer. Primer creates a barrier between moisturizer and foundation. It smoothes uneven texture and has an almost magnetic effect on foundation, allowing it to last an entire day without caking, creasing, or rubbing off.

 Liquid foundation, not powder.

One mistake I often see in bridal and special event makeup is the use of too much powder. Mineral powder and powder-based foundations are excellent for day to day use, though they look best on oily skin types because they mattify naturally. Liquid foundation slides onto a primed, moisturized face and blends effortlessly into skin. It is the most forgiving formula to use, especially when you apply it in the middle of the face first and blend outwards as you go. Always match foundation to your jawline so it blends seamlessly.

Matte bronzer adds warmth, not shimmer.

For photography, it’s important to keep products with shimmer or iridescence on the eyes, lips, or cheekbones so it catches light in the right way. I always recommend a matte bronzer because it warms up the skin gently, and doesn’t make the face look like a disco ball in photos.

Warmth needs to be added back into the skin after applying foundation to bring natural dimension back to the face. I like to apply it with a fluffy brush to the hairline, tops of the cheeks sweeping toward the ear, and lightly on the bridge of the nose. It ends up looking sun-kissed and glowy without sparkle.

Finely-milled setting powder prevents shine.

A finely-milled setting powder is absolutely key for setting makeup, preventing oil patches, and locking all your hard work in. Look for powders that say triple-milled, and apply them with a small fluffy brush in a patting motion. A cheaper powder that is not triple-milled will immediately look heavy, as if it is sitting on top of the skin, similar to the texture of chalk. And finally, if you rub the powder brush over the skin rather than tap it gently, you risk pushing the products around, which may result in the makeup looking patchy, creating discoloration and unevenness.

Create a base for eyeshadow with longwear products.

A longwear base, whether a cream shadow or eyelid primer, works the same way as a face primer. It gives eyeshadow something to cling to and prevents creasing. If you apply primer, then shadow, then liner, and waterproof mascara, your eye look will last all day.

Tame the brows.

Whether your brows are full or thin, brow gel is going to set the hairs in place and add texture to make them look 3D, rather than flat or painted-on. I like to backcomb the brows, rubbing the application brush from tail toward the nose, and then brush the hairs up to frame the face and lift the eyes.

Some of these products can flake after a few hours, so be sure to test a few before your big day.

Skip glossy and super matte lips.

Look for a lip product with a satin finish, meaning it is comfortable to wear, but gives an opaque color to the lips, and shouldn’t transfer heavily onto anyone you kiss. This kind of lip is perfect for photographing both indoors and outdoors, because it has just a hint of shine and won’t crack or dry the lips out.

 Waterproof mascara is a must.

Rather than risking a black smudge across your face--which can easily happen from tears, humidity, or rain--use a waterproof formula that won’t flake or run. From drugstore to department store, many brands make reputable waterproof formulas, but once again, give them a go before the big day. Maybe even watch your favorite tear-jerker movie as a test.

 Whether you’re a beauty junkie or are trying this on your own for the first time, these products will help you get the best result. Think of your makeup as an accessory, just like a beautiful shoe or necklace, and let it enhance--not overshadow--your natural beauty.

Images by Meaghan Clare Photography, seen in How to Do Your Own Bridal Makeup | Video Tutorial

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About the Author: Nicole M. Caruso is a wife, mother, makeup artist, and writer. She believes her mission is to inspire women to invest in their self-worth. 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. The New York native now resides in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and daughter.


Emily + Nathan | Beauty-Inspired Rainy Day Wedding

“In the end, beauty triumphed.”

Emily’s words echo back from her wedding day throughout her courtship, dating relationship, and friendship with Nathan.

From the very beginning, Emily and Nathan kept Beauty himself at the center of their relationship. Their trust in God and peaceful, intentional discernment eventually led to a garden proposal--which included a beautiful rosary as an engagement gift and a ring pop.

But perhaps the most inspiring part of Emily and Nathan’s story is their confident, consistent awareness of the Lord’s presence in even the smallest details of their wedding day. And not just his presence, but also the joyful presence of his loving mother, the Blessed Virgin.  

From the Groom: Emily and I met through church in college and became part of the same group of friends, but we didn’t get to know each other very well at first. Not until we landed full-time jobs in the same city after graduating in 2016. Both of us were coming out of some broken relationships and were looking to “find ourselves” out in the real world.

From the Bride: Shortly after graduation, I started attending a young adult small group through my parish and invited Nathan to join as well. Seeing each other at these weekly meetings helped us learn more about each other and become closer friends.

Nathan: That fall, we went with a group of friends to a Catholic dating seminar. The speaker, John Antonio, was a former seminarian who presented a more intentional approach to relationships. It was similar to the progressive stages of increasing commitment he made while in seminary. Dating Emily wasn’t on my radar at the time, but we received the same mental framework for dating that would help guide us later on.

Emily: My relationship tumult continued, and I was confused by my strong interest in several guys, including Nathan. I wanted my next relationship to be different. It needed to be different. So I prayed more fervently and made a stronger, more conscious effort to entrust my relationship decisions to God.

Soon afterwards, I prayed the 30 day novena to St. Joseph with the intention that I would meet my future husband sometime during the year. We didn’t have to get married that year, but I wanted to know who. The whole idea was a longshot, but this was a good opportunity to practice trusting in God more fully. And St. Joseph is not known for letting people down!

Nathan: I had my first inkling that I might end up with Emily in September 2016, but life circumstances at the time prevented our relationship from blossoming. In January 2017, I signed up for a Catholic young adult volleyball league and sent a message out to recruit teammates. It sounded fun, but in the back of my head I knew that my parents met in a young adult volleyball league, and I was hoping I’d find somebody there too.

Emily was the only one to accept my invitation. Over the next couple months, I became more certain that I should take a chance with her.

Emily: About a week after I completed my novena, Nathan approached me and said he’d like to talk to me about “some stuff” soon and then walked away. I freaked out a little. So after our small group meeting the next day, I pulled him aside to ask what “stuff” was.

Turns out we had been thinking about each other quite a lot. Wanting to set a more intentional course, we agreed on a “mutual discernment period” that ran through the end of the volleyball season to see if our friendship would blossom into something more.

Nathan: Things progressed nicely over those two and a half months, so while on a date in June 2017—after a strange sequence of events that led to hiking along a mosquito-infested pond behind a grocery store—we decided to make it official. As boyfriend and girlfriend, we wanted to “step it up” and set a more lasting spiritual foundation for our relationship.

Emily and I started some spiritual traditions together: Mass, weekly adoration, and nightly prayer. We grew to love God and each other more in the process, and it didn’t take us long to realize we wanted this relationship to continue for the rest of our lives.

Emily: On October 7, 2017, I met Nathan early in the morning in our church’s rosary garden. I had a feeling that day would be “the day,” but I tried to quiet my heart and focus on praying with him. After finishing our rosary, we stopped in front of the statue of Our Lady, and Nathan proposed.

But he didn’t ask me with a ring. He didn’t ask with anything but himself, and I said yes! Afterwards, he gave me a beautiful rosary as an engagement gift…and a ring pop.

We wanted the wedding to reflect our vision for marriage: Christ-centered, and therefore, full of beauty. However, we knew this beauty wasn’t just for us, but for everyone witnessing it as well, so we would all be drawn closer to Beauty himself. We also knew we couldn’t do it alone, so we asked the Holy Spirit to guide us every step of the way.

To honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, we chose to have our wedding on September 8, the feast of her nativity. I half-joked with a friend that our wedding cake was actually Mary’s birthday cake. It wasn’t until after the wedding that we noticed how much she made herself quietly, humbly present in every detail of the day.

So many little things pointed to her. Even the decorations behind the head table at the reception seemed to form the Auspice Maria symbol, which we recently discovered is Latin for “under the protection of Mary.” Really, we didn’t plan this! And yet, she made it so clear she wanted to be part of our celebration.

I am also a believer that God works through Pinterest. We found some gorgeous color palettes that included light blues, greens, and a dash of red. After reflecting on our choice, I realized that light blue could point to Mary, the red to the Precious Blood and sacrifice, and the greens to new life.

Our flowers--lilies, roses, and light blue hydrangeas amidst eucalyptus and baby’s breath--also held a special significance for us. Lilies are my favorite flower, mainly due to their association with Mary and St. Joseph, and roses are significant for both Nathan and me. My patron saint is St. Therese the Little Flower, and roses became special for Nathan after he gave a talk on a retreat that used a rose to symbolize the sacrificial nature of love.

Much of our wedding also reflected our desire to be creative and share that creativity. From our homemade save-the-dates and invitations to the crayons we placed at every reception table (so everyone could doodle, of course), we shared our love of creativity with our guests. After all, it is one of the most profound ways we reflect God, the Creator himself.

My ring was also born of this God-given creativity.

One reason Nathan didn’t propose with a ring was because he wanted me to choose one, and I elected to do a custom design. After many ideas and unsatisfying sketches, I decided to simply ask the Holy Spirit to guide my hand.

The end result was astounding. My design incorporated all the elements I wanted: lilies, thorns, and sapphires, but the significance and symbolism of their arrangement didn’t sink in until I looked closer at the sketch.

Around the central diamond is a “crown” of thorns, which radiates outward and touches the blue sapphires. Beyond the sapphires lie the lilies, from which leafy vines emanate. This is what I interpreted these elements to mean: Christ, the light of the world, suffered and died for our sins. Through Mary’s fiat, allowing Christ to come through her and humbly suffering alongside him, the resurrection was possible. And from Christ’s resurrection, we have new life.

Surrendering to the Holy Spirit can be difficult, but the end result is always more beautiful.

Planning the liturgy involved the most prayer and discernment. We have many friends and family members who are not Catholic, so we wanted to make the liturgy as beautiful and elevating as possible to draw everyone deeper into the mystery of the Mass and marriage.

Nathan and I opted to walk down the aisle together at the beginning of Mass in lieu of my dad escorting me. While this is an uncommon choice at contemporary Catholic weddings, it is a richly symbolic approach that visibly communicates the covenant we are making with each other and with God (see Genesis 15 for how God seals His covenant with Abraham).

It also makes it clear that no one was “giving me away” to Nathan. We were freely choosing this and hopeful of God’s blessing. To spend a few special moments with my dad, I had a first look with him in the bride’s room.

We chose Tobit 8:4b-8, Psalm 34, Romans 12:1-2, 9-18, and John 2:1-11 for our readings. St. Raphael is a key figure in the book of Tobit, and we credit him for helping us find each other through his prayer for the wise choice of a marriage partner.

We invited everyone to glorify and praise God for his goodness during the psalm. In the passage from Romans, St. Paul describes the life of a Christian in bold, resounding phrases, reminding us to serve others through our marriage in the most beautiful way possible: the Way itself. In the Gospel, Mary, our greatest intercessor, tells Jesus, “They have no wine.” Wine is a symbol of joy. She wants us to have joy and asks her son--whom she knows can provide everlasting joy--to give it to us. In her humility and wisdom, she charges us with the command, “Do whatever he tells you.

Continuing to honor and thank Mary, we offered her flowers as some of our dear college friends sang the ancient Carmelite hymn “Salve Mater Misericordiae.” It has been a tradition in our friend group to sing Marian hymns at each other’s weddings, so this was very special for us. It was our hope that this and the other music chosen would draw people closer to the beauty of God.

In keeping with our desire to show our guests the beauty of the Catholic faith, we invited everyone to pray the Liturgy of the Hours with us as the last “event” of the reception. The Dominicans at our college taught us these prayers and a beautiful version of the Salve Regina. This became part of our daily prayer while we were dating, so this was another way to share our spiritual life with our guests.

In the end, beauty triumphed.

The word we heard most as we spoke with family and friends about the wedding was “beautiful,” and that's exactly what we wanted. We wanted the whole day to be beautiful. We hoped to draw people into the beauty of the Mass and the sacrament of marriage, into the beauty of fellowship, and ultimately into the beauty of God.

But our wedding day was not just beautiful; it was authentic. By allowing God to work through our perspectives, talents, and desires, we were able to carry out his will in a way that was very distinctively us. Each one of us has a unique way of pointing towards God. Our way just so happened to include crayons, Night Prayer, SpongeBob references, classic rock, and Latin hymns.

A strong theme in our relationship, wedding planning, and now our marriage, has been surrender: handing everything over to God, because he writes the best love stories. He knows the most beautiful way to do things. Ask him, and he will guide you to the beauty you seek in the present moment.

It blows our minds that the astounding beauty we experienced that day isn’t even a fraction of what is waiting for us in Heaven, where we will finally, intimately, and fully encounter Beauty himself.

Photography: Soul Creations Photography | Church: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church | Reception:St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church Parish Hall | DJ / Band / Live Music: DJ Connection, Billy Kinsey | Cake Vendor: Becky’s Bake Shop and Floral (main cake) | Caterer: The Putnam Inn | Rentals: A Classic Party Rental | Bartender: The Putnam Inn | Dessert / Appetizer Bars: The Putnam Inn | Rings: Master Jewelers | Shoes: DSW | Bridal Gown: Blue House Bridal | Reception Venue: St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church Parish Hall | Ceremony Venue: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church | Groom’s Suit/Tux: Haggar | Bridesmaid Dresses: Azazie | Stationary / Invitations: Pretty Little Papers

The Feast of St. Joseph | A Fellow Human, A Saintly Spouse



Today is the feast day of St. Joseph: foster father of Jesus, spouse of Mary and head of the holy family. He was a carpenter, he was a man.

When we look to Joseph, we see a man who surrendered himself to the direction from an angel in his dreams. We read how he obeyed the command of God, loved and served Mary as his chaste spouse, and raised Jesus, the son of God, as his own earthly son.

Have you ever imagined when Mary and Joseph lost Jesus in the caravan, only to find him days later, preaching to adult men in the temple? My heart goes out to Joseph. The parameters of his mission were simple: love, protect, and guide Jesus and Mary. All in all, through obedience and grace, Joseph fulfilled his calling. But in this experience of losing Jesus and consoling Mary, I imagine Joseph was tempted to worry and despair.

Years later, Joseph died when Jesus was 30-years-old, on the brink of his public ministry. I picture Joseph lying on his deathbed, preparing to part from his earthly life. Joseph must have felt both sorrow and joy as he left his family with anticipation for his son’s powerful mission. I imagine the deep sadness of Jesus and Mary who said goodbye to their beloved.

Reflecting on the stories of Joseph bring his humble holiness to a human reality.

As we gaze at Joseph in statues and paintings, recall stories of him in Scripture or reach out to him in prayer, we encounter a friend. He is so approachable; a human man who intimately encountered the divine every day. This man who we rightfully honor with holy veneration was conceived with original sin. He was as human as me and you.

In the vocation to married life, we are sacramentally offered good and holy gifts such as intimacy, vulnerability, and companionship. Receiving and living out these gifts can often send individuals and couples to the heights of love, or can expose a raw wound of human brokenness. Perhaps in a moment of insecurity we believe, “I am not enough.” In the midst of an argument we fear abandonment. In prolonged frustration and anxiety, we despair and lose trust in God’s providence.

It may be easy to admire an icon of Joseph, Mary and Jesus and assume the immense joy in their family life. Amidst the celebration of such pure trinitarian love of the family, I hope against hope that there were days Joseph wished he could love Mary better. Or days when he was disappointed by how he received Mary’s perfect love. Joseph’s imperfections are the only stains of sin in the holy family, yet his entire being—holiness and imperfection combined—was destined for his specific vocation.

Through both his human imperfection and pure intention, God empowered Joseph to love Mary, show Jesus about the love between a husband and a wife, and receive love from his family. In the same way, we are each called to be fully present with God in our unique vocation, to love with virtue despite our own shortcomings.

God has so carefully woven two lives together in your marriage. On the days when your sinful, selfish, or short-sighted human nature is too much to bear, remember goodwill and purity of heart are enough for love. In striving to love and be loved, moments which expose brokenness do not define a limit for love. Rater, these moments help us identify where grace and mercy can provide healing. Joseph’s example offers peace and encouragement to every person, for our hearts to become a channel for God’s love to shine through.

St. Therese of Lisieux offers encouragement to little souls, to those who recognize their long journey to perfection, “Agree to stumble at every step therefore, even to fall, to carry your cross weakly, to love your helplessness. Your soul will draw more profit from it than if, carried by grace, you would accomplish with enthusiasm heroic actions that would fill your soul with personal satisfaction and pride.”

You are human. Joseph was human. If he could fulfill his vocation to the Holy Family, you can fulfill your vocation in your own holy family. You were created for a mission exactly where you are. As you bring your completely human heart to God, you will grow—with an ever-deepening purity of heart—in the capacity to love and be loved.

St. Joseph, you sought to bring glory to God in every action and word. Together with your pure heart, Mary’s Immaculate heart, and Jesus’ Sacred heart, guide me to embrace my human imperfection with humility so that I may receive God’s mercy and grow ever more deeply into the virtue of my vocation. St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more


What We Should Have Asked During Marriage Preparation



Our first marriage prep meeting was in the deacon’s office of the large parish where we were to be married. As we sat facing his desk, we noticed the shelves facing us; they were filled with binders labeled ‘Annulments A-Ba,’ ‘Annulments Ba-Ce,’ ‘Annulments Ce-Di,’ and so on. As we stared at the bewildering number of annulment binders, the deacon informed us that, as twenty-somethings, the odds are against us: statistics show married people in our age bracket are more likely to end up divorced.

We left our first meeting discouraged, our second underwhelmed, and our pre-Cana retreat scared. We desired to make our marriage preparation worthwhile, but all of the support offered by our diocese and parish left us feeling more lost and confused than ever.  As an engaged person, it is often difficult to find the all-encompassing resources to feel spiritually prepared for marriage.

If you are already married and feel as though your marriage preparation was lacking, there are resources available for married couples. You can still seek a deeper understanding of this wonderful sacrament.

Although our diocesan-level preparation lacked convicting formation, we did not  advocate for stronger pre-cana support for ourselves because we did not know what questions to ask. After reflecting on these shortcomings over the past year, here are some of the questions I wish I had asked in the deacon’s office.

What have been the best ways that you have seen couples prepare for marriage?

Maybe the Pre-Cana retreat in your diocese is not up to scratch, but your parish may have an excellent sponsor couple program. Working with a mentor couple who has many years of experience in marriage and marriage preparation can provide trusting relationships and additional ideas during your engagement.  Ask around to friends and family as they may have recommendations as well.

What resources are available to us?

Little did we know, there is a fantastic office full of Catholic marriage counselors down the road from our parish. We never heard about these services while we were preparing for the sacrament of matrimony, probably because we never asked. Every diocese has its own resources, and there are many more online. The right resources are often hard to find, but the first step is to ask the right people in your community.

What books can you recommend?

Ask your married friends for helpful books from their engagement. Ask priests or religious sisters for books to deepen your understanding and knowledge of the sacrament of matrimony. Consult blogs and articles for recommended readings. With your beloved, consider the options and discern which resources you want to dive into together. Even if there are not many formal resources available in your area, you can form a self-guided  marriage prep course with the help of a good reading list.

Are there any ministries geared toward people who are already married?

Marriage preparation is only one part of the equation. Marriage is not an easy vocation; husbands and wives need all the support they can get in a world that consistently tears down the call to marriage and family life. Are there any groups in your parish or in your diocese which can connect you with others trying to live the vocation of marriage?

There are many resources to help you prepare for your lifelong marriage, and many people who aspire to share their wisdom--and your excitement--in your preparations. Do not be afraid to ask for the things you need, both in your desires for more and in the midst of a struggle. As Matthew 7:7 reminds us, “Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.”

About the Author: Ada Pimentel studied English at the University of Dallas and currently teaches elementary school. She married her college best friend in November 2017. When she is not teaching, Ada can be found contemplating classical education, redecorating her apartment for the hundredth time, and reading British novels.


How My Running Shoes Prepared Me for Marriage



I got married on October 6, 2018. A year before that, my husband and I I had been dating a little over a year. And a year before that, I was living by myself in Los Angeles, recently dumped by someone I thought was (finally) a good guy for me. And I wasn’t Catholic. 

How quickly things can change.

It took a lot of personal growth and therapy for me to make the transition from a clingy, single Episcopal girl to a confident, engaged Catholic woman. However, I truly believe the thing that prepared me the most for coming home to the Church--and to my marriage--was running.

Running eased my anxiety. It led me to the Catholic Church. Ever since I became engaged I’ve desired to express the ways my running habit taught me how to be in a healthy, adult relationship.

Below, quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s explanation of the sacrament of marriage, and how they relate to my running life.

God himself is the author of marriage (1603).

 Like anything else, my marriage starts with God. At the time I was dumped by the guy I was dating in Los Angeles, I was training for my first full marathon. The date of that race was February 14th--Valentine’s Day. I don’t think this was a coincidence.

 In my training, I learned exactly how strong I was physically and mentally. At the same time, I was learning to remember I deserved love. Not despite the fact that I was single. But because I was created by God, who knew me intimately and wanted the best for me.

This combination of a spiritual revelation with my physical accomplishment made the race day even more special. It was like I was spending Valentine’s Day with God; the support and encouragement from all of my friends that came to cheer me on during the race was directly from Him.

Marriage helps to overcome self-absorption, egoism, pursuit of one's own pleasure (1609).

I think running creates saints in the same way marriage does. While training for my marathon, there were many times I had to say no to going out late with friends to prepare for an early-morning long run the next day. Going out was a short-term pleasure, while doing well in my race was a long-term one. Sometimes it’s necessary to forgo one for the other.

Running really helped me distinguish between earthly and heavenly pleasure, a distinction I can now apply to my marriage.

When, for example, my husband is coming home from a work trip on a Saturday at midnight and I need to pick him up from the airport, I get grumpy about the obligation--especially since we’ll need to wake up early for Mass the next day. But I want to be a good person in general by helping out someone in need. I want to show my husband my love by picking him up myself, instead of asking someone else to do it. And I want to experience Jesus in the Eucharist the next day, even though I may be bleary-eyed and would sort of rather be sleeping in.

Though that’s a small example, and though it’s always a struggle to get myself out the door for a run when I would rather be binge-watching something, I think being a regular runner ensures that I experience this rejection of my ego constantly.

Marriage helps to…open oneself to the other, to mutual aid and to self-giving (1609).

 Before I started learning more about the Catholic Church, I was a little hostile to some of her teachings.

No sex before marriage? I can understand that for one-night stands. But what if you’re in a committed relationship?

No artificial birth control? Puh-lease. I want kids, but I don’t want dozens of them!

 Running gave me the necessary understanding to dive deeper into these teachings once I was open to doing so. My husband and I had engaged in premarital sex, but once I realized sex was a beautiful way of engaging in the marital sacrament, we stopped. We weren’t even engaged yet--and it would be almost a year and a half until we were--but we knew why it was important.

It wasn’t easy, of course. But neither is running 26.2 miles, or climbing a couple of feet off the ground with nothing but a tiny rope (my husband’s favorite form of exercise is rock climbing).

And since we both could do that, we knew we could save sex for marriage, whether it was ultimately with each other or not. 

As for the artificial birth control issue, I am forever grateful to the Church for offering Natural Family Planning. I took up running because I wanted to be the healthiest version of myself I could be. The sport taught me to pay close attention to my body and discern what was normal, and what needed to be addressed through self-care or the help of a professional.

So it was easy to translate that mentality into tracking my fertility once I learned about NFP. I wasn’t even engaged when I started using the sympto-thermal method, but it was so useful for me even without the prospect of marriage. I am now in the process of becoming a sympto-thermal teacher myself, since I hope to teach single women in particular that fertility awareness can point out health issues long before marriage is even on the horizon.

 Whether you’re single, engaged, or married, I encourage you to try running. It’s a great way of learning more about the virtues Jesus and all of the saints modeled for us. And I believe it cultivates a mindset that will help your marriage flourish.

About the Author: Johnna Wilford helps women design health and wellness routines that fit into their lives. She is a RRCA-certified running coach, a POP Pilates instructor, and a SymptoPro Fertility Educator in-training. She is also the Co-Founder of the online community Catholic Women Run.


How He Asked | Elizabeth + Matthew

We are honored by the opportunity to walk alongside you in this marriage ministry, from Yes to I Do and beyond, and we love returning to our couples' stories as they continue to unfold. If we've featured your love story in our How He Asked engagement series and you now feel called to share your wedding with us, as well, submission details can be found here.

Read more here for the story of Elizabeth and Matthew’s wedding, a “taste of the eternal wedding feast” in a magical Irish castle. 

Elizabeth and Matthew met in Ireland in a study abroad program in college. Their fairy-tale introduction at the top of a castle became a very real and fruitful relationship. As they discerned marriage together, they helped each other grow in love for the Lord.

Matt eventually took Elizabeth back to Ireland as a gift, and after a brief set-back and improvised castle tour, proposed to her in the country where they met.

“Incandescently happy” after their engagement, Elizabeth couldn’t believe that “life could be so beautiful and abundant.” And yet beauty and generous abundance is exactly what the Lord desires to give every one of his children.

In Elizabeth’s Words: Before I met Matt, I prayed a novena to St. Anne for my future husband, and I met him on the ninth and final day of that novena. I didn't tell him that until we were engaged.

We met in a castle while studying abroad in Christendom College’s Ireland program. It's a true story, I promise, and was something we never could have planned! As Matt would tell it, I was late and he was early. I had been traveling with my brother before meeting the student group in Ireland, and we met them on their first day at their first stop: Bunratty Castle.

Matt says, to this day, that he waited until he got to the tallest tower of the castle to introduce himself because he wanted to make a good impression on me. He did.

Afterwards when I was dating Matt, God made it consistently clear that he was the man for me, for many reasons. One of these reasons was Matt’s deep and wise faith, which he really cultivated and grew in college. I admired that, and it made me hungry to know Our Lord more fully and also to love His bride, the Church!

I used to tell Matt that I fell in love with God long ago, but it was dating him that really began my love affair with the Church.

I believe my contribution to Matt’s faith-walk came in a humbler way. He tells me often that my love of the Father, this 'Abba' of my heart, inspired him to pray differently and seek to love the Lord more deeply and personally than he had before.

It is beautiful that God, in his wisdom, knew how we needed to complement each other.

We were both adamant throughout our dating relationship that we were discerning a unique vocation to marriage with each other, and we tried to be intentional about that in our conversations and prayer life together. We discovered we had the same dreams for life and the same ultimate goal of heaven, and we both discerned that God was calling us to each other to help us reach those dreams.

After a few years of dating and graduating from college, Matt took me back to Ireland as a gift. He invited my siblings and a few close friends to join us, so I couldn't have asked for a more treasured crew. He was smart because he immediately put me off the scent and told me I shouldn't expect an engagement to happen. Matt was still saving for a ring, and paying for the trip was expensive. I was completely oblivious.

My darling friend Anna always tells a story about the night before we all left on this trip. She was talking to her dad, and he asked, 'So Lizzie knows she's getting engaged on this trip, right?" Anna replied, "Nope, somehow she has no idea whatsoever." She even had to make sure I was wearing cute clothes the day Matt proposed because I was not thinking about it at all.

We arrived back in Ireland on Monday morning as a group and drove up to stay at Ards Friary. This was where Matt and I spent our first summer studying, praying, and having fun together. It brought back a flood of happy memories.

On Tuesday we drove down to Knock Shrine and attended daily Mass. We then drove to Ashford Castle, where we experienced a falconry lesson for the first time. It was so fun!

Afterwards, Matt walked with me to the back of the castle. It was like something out of a fairy tale, situated on a lake with pristine gardens.

I didn't know it at the time, but he had to quickly change plans right before he proposed because the bagpiper wasn't ready yet. One of the concierge guys swept in to help Matt by distracting me. He offered give us a tour.

I was a history major in college, so when he started telling me things about the house that didn't add up, I thought he was the worst tour guide ever! In reality, he wasn't a tour guide at all, but it was pretty comical. The tour was also incredibly short, only lasting about 3 minutes. I was confused and wondered what this guy was doing, but we left our funny tour guide and walked back to the garden by the lake.

It was there that Matt proposed with a bagpiper playing the background, and I immediately started crying happy tears. He told me how I had helped him learn to love God as a Father and that he wanted to spend his life serving God by serving and loving me.

Looking back, there really aren't proper words to describe the euphoria of a moment like that, but “incandescently happy” was a phrase that suddenly made sense. He pulled out a gorgeous three stone ring, telling me it was a reminder that God would always be the center of our home.

As soon as i managed a 'yes' through my tears, we were swarmed by my two brothers and sister. Everyone was crying, and everyone was happy. The next thing we did was FaceTime my parents and Bella, my little sister with special needs. She started smiling as soon as she saw us. I think she knew what was up!

We spent the rest of the day on a boat on the lake drinking cider (my favorite) and loving every moment. I pinched myself, overwhelmed by blessing and in disbelief that life could be so beautiful and abundant.

Matt is truly a princely man. He is honorable, wise, compassionate, funny, and brave. I felt (and still do!) like the luckiest girl in the world.

We spent the rest of the trip touring Ireland and celebrating. To top it all off, Bono from U2 invited us for lunch at his home in Dublin to celebrate our engagement. My parents have known him for many years, and he actually knew we were getting engaged before I did--which almost resulted in me finding out by accident--but that's a whole other story.

We drank wine at his home and celebrated the beauty of this life together. When Bono and I took a photo together, I held my finger up to the camera with my beautiful new ring as he said 'Party like a ROCK star!'

Proposal Photography: Friends/Family | Engagement Photos: Laura Gordon Photography | Nuptial Mass or Engagement Location: Ashford Castle, Ireland

The Confidence of a Covenant



As husband and wife come together as one body in the profession of marriage vows, man and woman are united through covenant. Though it is not only their participation in the sacrament which binds them ‘till death, but God’s active presence as the third member of the triune union. This truth of trinitarian love can become a source of confident peace “in good times and in bad.”

God desires to fill our minds and hearts with faith, hope and love. In our human experience, we are often tempted to despair. I invite you to reflect on the triggers which test your resilience against fear or doubt in your vocation. When we collaborate with God, he promises to give strength to our weakness and drive out fear through the grace of the sacrament.



The deep intimacy of marriage and call for ongoing transformation is an experience of vulnerability and exposure. This vulnerability has the potential to reflect beauty itself, imaging the original nakedness and shamelessness of the human heart in God’s perfect design—before the fall to sin. Yet for some, myself included, the raw exposure of body, heart, and soul can initiate feelings of self-doubt, lack of trust, or worry for the future.

We are only human; we are not immune to fear.

Fear can take many forms in our lives, such as tension, defensiveness and a short-temper towards others, or apathy and hopelessness towards important matters. Whatever its form, fear affects our relationships.

In my own experiences, I can internalize my emotions, over-analyze circumstances, and seek means to gain control. Fear also materializes in the form of a question, a litany of asking, “what if?,” in times when God is calling me to surrender and trust his providence.

Any number of circumstances can provoke personal discord, such as separation over a distance, challenges with fertility, conflict involving extended family, financial burdens and professional stress. This list is nowhere near comprehensive of the challenges in family life. Yet no conflict or origin of fear is too big or too ugly for God to redeem, especially through the unbreakable bond of covenant.

Despite our brokenness, here is the source of unfailing, sanctifying hope: the sacrament of Matrimony is indefinitely bound to the gift of grace. “Christ dwells with [married couples], gives them strength to take up their crosses and to 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.”

He pours out his love to us and through us. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ created an unbreakable promise of love from God to his children. The vocation to married life is an invitation for us to participate—with God and our spouse—in this promise. Our responsibility is, simply, to remain in him.

When our value, security or identity is threatened by fear, the courageous Christian response is love. 1 John tell us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.” We do not acquire this perfect love through our own effort. Rather, we remember “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us.”

If we honestly identify our source of fear—as an individual or as a couple—and share it with God in prayer, he can begin to restore our hearts and our lives. We eventually break free from the chains of fear, love others in greater abundance, and receive love without hesitation or doubt. In essence, we fulfill our human design to love and be loved. We catch a glimpse of sanctification in our marriage, family, and community.

“Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy… It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and life with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.”

Marriage is a party of three: man, woman, and God. Through our wedding vows, we are infinitely bound to both our spouse and our Creator. In seasons of sorrow or despair, courageously choose love. Enter more deeply into raw intimacy with trust. Enter more honestly into prayer with hope. When temptation to fear abounds, we are invited to stand with confidence upon our unbreakable sacramental covenant, in union with the presence of God, and anticipate the fulfillment of perfect love.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more