What's in a Name? | Married Names, Maiden Names, and the Decisions We Make

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

As the dust begins to settle around the whirlwind of wedding planning, a new journey begins to unfold. Together, and with time, you and your spouse will grow into your identity as a married couple. In the midst of this exciting season, there is a vital decision to confirm your new family’s identity in choosing your last name.

When it’s time to fill in that blank on the legal documents, couples generally have the option to take either the bride or the groom’s last name, hyphenate both last names, or create a new name. Although the decision surrounding a married couple’s last name is morally neutral, many women are convicted in their beliefs on a wide spectrum between keeping her maiden name and taking his. If you are curious why a woman would willingly abandon her own family name or if you desire to articulate the reasons why you did, understanding the physical and spiritual nature of men and women may help.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   OCULI CORDIS MEDIA

PHOTOGRAPHY: OCULI CORDIS MEDIA

The history of a bride taking her groom’s last name is rooted in English common law. The practice for creating a thread of surname lineage was centered around establishing both a legality of marriage and set boundaries for couples in regards to acquiring property or business. These standards were eventually adopted in practice in the United States. With the onset of “family names” passed from a father to his newborn child or from a groom to his bride, additional laws, norms, traditions, and opinions began to take root throughout growing cultures both nationwide and worldwide.

Of course, from a legalistic point of view, an immediate perspective assumes that the man claims dominance over the woman when she officially takes his last name. This misguided belief has been the origin of women’s oppression, including, for example, a woman’s right to vote. Because we are a world of imperfect humans, a tradition with the potential to celebrate the gift of marriage and family has been twisted into oppression and abuse.

As a reaction to oppression or because of shifts in the secular definition of marriage, women identify several reasons to keep her maiden name, such as convenience, preference, personal identity or equality of power. Other times, academic careers or professional publications are the cause for a woman to maintain her identity through her last name.

Regardless of the history of societal wedding traditions or the secular, modern approaches to marriage, our legal actions cannot be separated from our spiritual being. Because a human being is body and soul, our physical actions and decisions—including changing our name—proclaim what we understand to be true about being a human.

Therefore, when a woman accepts the last name of her new spouse, she emphasizes the dignity of her femininity as she reveals the legal, physical, emotional and spiritual union with her beloved.

This statement may sound like a surprising contrast to the general “feminist movement.” Many feminists through decades past—and present—would argue that a woman should keep her maiden name in order to claim equal rights, stand up for herself, and maintain her independence. But if we carefully define “what is feminine,” we will find empowering support for woman to fulfill part of her femininity by receiving her husband’s last name.

To understand what it means to be woman through a Christian anthropology, we go to the story when woman was created: in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. “So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The Lord God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman.”

Eve received life, physically and spiritually, by the rib of Adam and the hand of God. With her first breath, Adam received her as a gift to fulfill his desire for union with another. We hear Adam’s joyful relief when he says, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” And as he accepted her, Eve simultaneously received man as a gift for her own fulfillment of self-knowledge. Saint Pope John Paul II explains, ”The exchange is mutual. In it, the reciprocal effects of the sincere gift and of the finding oneself again are revealed and grow.” This cycle of giving of self and receiving the other between man and woman is the epitome of holy, joyful, spousal union as God intended.

Scripture shows us woman’s initial receptivity to life and the love that followed. Although both man and woman are called to give and receive in acts of love, our bodies help define receptivity as a naturally feminine quality. Consider the intimacy of the wedding night and the bride’s physical receptivity of the groom. Or at the moment of conception as the woman receives a child in her womb.

This is not a gender stereotype, but a celebration of what it means to be woman and how we are called to love man: by receiving every part of him as a cherished gift.

Yes, when a wife takes the last name of her husband, she surrenders her maiden name and, perhaps, part of her identity which was secured in that name. The emotional struggle of letting go of a maiden name emphasizes the reality that a name has value to a person’s identity.

For a husband to offer a meaningful gift of his identity—his name—is a beautiful and masculine act of love. When a woman accepts his last name, she is not practicing an outdated, man-driven tradition; she fulfills her femininity in a selfless act of receptive love. In the way only a woman can.


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

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Creating a Unique Wedding Registry

CLARA DAVISON

 

Wedding registries can be both an exciting and anxious part of wedding planning. Who doesn’t get excited about making the ultimate wish list for their new home? This is an opportunity for you and your fiancé to decide your style as a couple and how your future home will reflect that.

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At the same time, it can create an extra level of stress as you scrutinize each item you add to your registry. What does it mean to be a good steward of your friend’s and family’s generosity? How much should you consider the price range of items? Is it wiser to restrict your registry to necessities, or is this an opportunity to include things you would not consider purchasing yourself? What is the balance between kitchen items, larger furniture pieces, linens, and miscellaneous?

A little prayer and confidence in the joyful generosity of your friends and family during this season of engagement can help alleviate these anxious questions.

A wedding registry is an opportunity for those who love you to channel their affection into acts of charity. And there is never another time in your life when you’ll get to create such an exciting wish list!

And so, it can be fun to find ways to veer from the traditional aspects of wedding registries and add some uniqueness to this part of wedding planning. Here are three ways to make your registry more personalized towards your future life as a married couple:

Books

What better way to celebrate your marriage than growing your new family’s library? Though my husband and I accumulated a large number of books during our years as English majors, I wish we had added the missing classics to our wedding registry. This is a wonderful way to infuse your personality into your registry and give your guests the opportunity to add to your book collection. It is also a great way to include your fiancé—who may be apathetic about towel and sheet colors—in the registry selections. Giving your guests the option to purchase books might be a welcome change from the usual selection of linens and kitchen items.

Charities

As you and your fiancé begin creating your registry, this is a wonderful time to discuss how charitable giving will be incorporated into your marriage. In the midst of picking items that you will no doubt enjoy in your future home, it is nice to consider how your upcoming marriage will benefit others. Is there a specific charity that is significant to you or your fiancé? Is there a ministry that has supported you and your beloved’s spiritual growth?

As a couple, you have the opportunity to begin your marriage prioritizing charitable giving and inviting your friends and family to join you. What a beautiful testimony to the life-giving fruit of marriage!

Experiences

One of my favorite developments in wedding registries is the incorporation of experiences. Most registries now have the option for couples to create individual experiences that their guests can choose to help fund. This is a nice way to balance the many physical gifts on a registry with experience gifts that build memories rather than clutter. I used this option to create specific experiences that our guests could gift us for our honeymoon. Tickets to the Vatican Museums and to a play were just two of the options that guests could use to help us celebrate our first few weeks as a married couple.

In the midst of the chaos of wedding planning, the registry can be an opportunity to relax and enjoy dreaming up the trimmings of your future home. Adding a few unique additions to your registry is a fun and refreshing way to incorporate your interests as a couple. What are some unusual items that you have added to your registry?


About the Author: Clara Davison has worked as a whitewater raft guide, sex trafficking researcher, U.K. Parliament researcher, swim coach, and freelance writer. She currently works in independent school advancement and lives with her husband in North Carolina.   

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What Does it Mean to Belong to Your Spouse?

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

The song my husband and I chose for our first dance includes the line, “I want to belong to you.” The words resonated deep within, evoking something free, intimate, permanent.

As we said our vows at the altar I felt the weight of commitment and distinction, grace made tangible and distinctively binding us together. The very gravity of our promises made them romantic to me: faithful love forsaking all others, fruitful love that wouldn’t stop at the two of us, free love that willingly desired exclusive belonging, total love that saw all of me.

I thought I got it at the time. I thought my husband and I shared a healthy sense of vulnerability and a spirit of loving encouragement and correction. In many ways we did, and continue to.

But in the months and years since, I’ve seen the ways in which seemingly small matters make me fall short of letting myself belong entirely to my husband, calling me into communion over division.

There have been times I’ve clung to wounds received and inflicted in past dating relationships, allowing them to hold sway even after I thought I’d moved past them. It’s only been more recently, as I’ve waded fully into this pain for the first time, that I’ve shared the fullness of embarrassment over my past actions with my husband. I hadn’t intentionally withheld these thoughts earlier in our relationship; their magnitude and resulting unrest only surfaced later on, the fruit of deeper insight and self-examination.

Holding on to the past, I realized, was a distraction from my present.

I was sacramentally united to my husband and desired to rid my mind and heart of the past. He loved me still. He encouraged me to offer my humiliation--a true sense of being humbled--to the Lord, praying for freedom and interior peace.

There have been times I’ve retreated inward, too embarrassed and ashamed to admit fault in actions both minor and major. Yet each time I’m tempted to keep my mistakes to myself, I feel the restlessness creep in. The overwhelming desire to share, tempered by fear. Being seen in the fullness of who you are is thrilling, though terrifying. He loves me still.

Even in my shame, I am loved. Even in admitting the regrets and misjudgments I’m scared to bring up, my husband is gentle and forgiving. I’ve come to understand belonging to him as an invitation to take off my masks. An invitation to reveal who I am and who the Father calls me to be.

A healthy sense of belonging to my spouse has, for me, amplified an awareness of ways in which I ultimately belong to the Lord.

However imperfect in this life, the purpose of each vocation is to make manifest God’s love. My husband’s love—so patient, merciful, total, and accepting—shows this to me. I am known; I am seen; I am beloved. It’s not unlike the sacrament of reconciliation, in which we find ourselves tenderly embraced in our brokenness. We leave armed with the grace and resolve not to remain the same, but to stay the course in pursuit of greatness. The word reconcile, after all, is rooted in the Latin word for “to bring together.”

Are there small cracks and nagging divisions tugging on your own heart, drawing your attention to ways in which your relationship can grow in total honesty, trust, and intimacy? Though always a work in progress, I can’t attest more to the joy and freedom of transparency and accountability that embody the Father’s love. Saint John Paul II has interceded for us from the start, and I frequently recall his motto, totus tuus. This phrase, “totally yours,” expresses his trust in Our Lady to bring him to her son; in our marriage, we make this our same prayer.

If you find yourself, like me, suddenly seeing ways in which you can belong to your spouse more entirely, I encourage you to enter into them, even when you’d prefer to run. Sit with your mess, let yourself feel any pains of your shortcomings, and move forward--with prayer, practical steps, and, if necessary, spiritual direction or counseling--knowing you’re not just moving for movement’s sake, but toward a beautiful pursuit: being brought together--reconciled--with both your earthly and heavenly beloved.

“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you.”


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

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Abby + Blair | Classic Indiana Wintertide Wedding

Sometimes cherished friends from the past unexpectedly reappear, and love can flourish even stronger.

This was the story with Abby and Blair, who met and became friends in junior high. At the time, their “young love” didn’t last very long, to the disappointment of their mothers.

But God had other plans. After going in separate ways after high school, Abby and Blair were suddenly reunited. This time, their companionship blossomed into a deeper romantic love, and they began discussing engagement and their desire for marriage.

After a year-long engagement, their lifelong friendship finally transformed at the altar into a lifelong covenant of married love.

From The Bride: Blair and I met in the 8th grade. We didn’t go to the same school, but I was on a club swim team with him and his twin sister, Alison.

Alison and I became fast friends and began spending a lot of time together. As my friendship with her grew, Blair and I began talking more and eventually starting “dating.” Unfortunately, our young love didn’t last longer than a month. We ran around with the same friend group in high school but never considered dating again.

Our mothers always teased us about getting back together. I knew they both would have loved it.

After senior year, Blair went on to Wabash College, and I went to Indiana Wesleyan. Later, during the summer before our sophomore year of college, we both ended up back in Kokomo, Indiana looking for a summer job. As I was beginning my search, my grandma told me about an open camp counselor position at the local YMCA summer camp. I thought this sounded fun, especially since I began my job hunt late and had no other pending opportunities up my sleeve.

I sent in my application, hoping they still had a spot. My mother, a friend of one of the camp directors, made a call on my behalf. The YMCA told her that they didn’t have any spots left, but they would make an exception for me.

I was excited to begin but also a little nervous because I didn’t know anyone else who was working there that summer. Imagine my surprise when I walked in on the first day and saw Blair sitting in a chair, ready for our first team meeting. We exchanged casual hellos and went on our way. But as the summer went on, we began talking more, even outside of camp.

I was beginning to really like him and looked forward to the days we would work together. I could tell he liked me too because he starting flirting with me--I mean teasing me. By the end of the summer, we were officially an “item,” and I couldn’t have been happier.

We were both a little nervous about going back to school and not seeing each other everyday, but we decided to make it work. I would visit him at Wabash, and he would visit me at IUPUI (Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis) . We spent every weekend together and sometimes would even meet half-way during the week.

Our mothers were thrilled that we were in love. We began talking about marriage the first year we dated. Somehow, we both knew we wanted to be together forever.

So on November 11, at the biggest football game of the year at Wabash, Blair got down on one knee and proposed in front of everybody in the stands. All our family and friends were there. It was the most amazing day and something we will never forget.

I always knew I wanted our wedding to be simple and classic. We chose the month of December because we both love winter and the snow that comes with it. Besides, I had dreamed of a winter wedding since middle school.

We had a little over a year to plan the big event, which gave us plenty of time. Unfortunately, Blair graduated in May, and I graduated in December, our wedding month. This made planning a little stressful and overwhelming at times, but my mother and close friends helped tremendously. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

Our venues were easy to choose. St. Patrick Catholic Church, Blair’s home parish, is not only very special to us, but also the most beautiful church in town. Our reception took place at The Bel-Air, a gorgeous banquet hall close to the church. I was so excited and relieved when we secured both venues.

After that, we focused on finding the dress, which was such a fun day. My mother’s best friend came into town from Florida, and we had a great time trying on dresses. I ended up choosing the first dress I put on. It was perfect. After that, everything else seemed to fall into place.

Finally, it was the wedding week, and my family from Florida was in town. The night before the wedding, I thought the morning would never come, I was so ready and excited for my wedding day to arrive.

I was up bright and early with my wedding party as we left for the salon. My mother and aunt made breakfast, and we all had fun enjoying the whole salon to ourselves while we got ready. After that, the day seemed to fly by.

Before I knew it, I was a bride walking towards Blair, and everything else faded away. The nuptial Mass was beautiful and emotional. We were finally a married couple!

Then it was picture time. We hid it pretty well, but December 30 was definitely one of the coldest days of the year. We braved the icy wind for some amazing pictures taken outside the church and then moved on to a local mansion. Here we endured the cold again to try and capture sweet memories.

Once the pictures were taken, our wedding party jumped into the limo and headed to the reception. My mother had graciously put together a basket for all of us filled with champagne, chocolate, and mints. I’ll never forget spending that special time with our closest friends.

When we arrived at the Bel-Air, I was speechless. The hall was absolutely stunning. A few of my mother’s close friends helped decorate before the ceremony, and it was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.

We spent some time freshening up before we made our big introduction, and right after we were announced as “Mr. and Mrs.” we went into our first dance. Dancing with my new husband was a feeling I will never forget. Dinner and dancing followed, along with Blair and I greeting each and every one of our guests. It was so special to be able to personally speak to everyone who attended our wedding.

After we got a few dances in, it was time to head out for the night. Before hopping into the limo, we found our both families and gave them enormous hugs. It was such an exceptional day, and we couldn’t have done it without them. Overall, our wedding day was filled to the brim with memories, emotions, smiles, and faith. It was absolutely perfect and everything I had ever dreamed of and more.

I know that without God, our marriage would mean nothing. We strove to make our special day all about Jesus, and I feel that is exactly what we did.

From the Groom: In the months leading up to our wedding, we were constantly reminded that our wedding day would be life-changing, and nothing would ever be the same after we both said "I do". Whether we heard it from friends and family, discussing the sacrament during our Pre-Cana classes, or in everyday preparation for the wedding, we were always aware of how sacred and serious our marriage would be.

But it didn't really settle in until I saw Abby walk down the aisle.

As she walked to me, remembering all the times I failed her during our courtship and engagement, I knew our union would be a holy imitation of Christ's love for the Church. From that moment on, we would begin to base our lives on the life of Christ, sacrificing ourselves for the good of each other.

From the Photographer, Sinikka Roher of Soul Creations Photography: As a photographer, I have learned that when you enter into a wedding day, there are a multitude of points where things can go wrong. However, on Abby and Blair’s wedding day, I doubted those points would come to pass.

I noticed the powerful presence of the Lord’s peace when Blair genuflected before entering the church, said a prayer to our Blessed Mother, and was prayed over by the priest prior to the ceremony. And as I spent time with the bride, she reminded me of both Martha and Mary. 

There was a hustle and bustle to get ready around her, but Abby stood patient and peaceful, waiting for her time just as Mary had. Then, moments before the Mass began, her preparation mindset took over, and I saw Martha in her too. 

Brides tend to be either a Martha or a Mary, but Abby beautifully embodied both before, during, and after her ceremony. She blissfully walked down the aisle, laughed carelessly at the cold air that chilled her wedding party in the winter weather, and delicately checked in now and then on the timeline of the day.

Abby and Blair's big day was one of perfect harmony between the celebratory environment of a wedding and the sacramental beauty of their marriage covenant. It was incredible to capture it in it's entirety.

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Photography: Soul Creations Photography, Spoken Bride Vendor | St. Patrick Catholic Church, Kokomo, IN | Reception: Bel Air Events, Kokomo, IN | Ceremony Venue: St. Patrick Catholic Church | Reception Venue: Bel Air Events | Cake: Create-A-Cake | Makeup Artist & Hairstylist: Revive Salon | Dress: Marie Gabriel Couture | Florist: Diane Richey | DJ: DJ Sound Solution | Bridesmaids Dresses: Nancy’s Bridal Boutique | Menswear: Men’s Warehouse | Videography: Josiah Duncan Videography

Becoming Radically Available to Love

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Nearly 18 months ago, my friend returned from her inaugural FOCUS missionary training with a palpable enthusiasm to build community, love others, and make her love for Jesus visible in the world. She returned with a suitcase full of books, business cards, pamphlets, and ideas. She was eager to fundraise her salary and move to a new college campus for the start of the school year with the undergraduate students she would come to know, mentor, and disciple towards Christ. She was ready to serve where God had called her.

Her selfless demonstration of service as a missionary has influenced and inspired my identity as a wife.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   MEL WATSON PHOTOGRAPHY

Although I admired my friend’s zest and zeal through her process of discerning missionary life, I was cautiously curious about the details of her new routines. What was it, exactly, that she would do once she arrived on campus? I have not forgotten her response to my question:

“It’s about being radically available for others.”

This use of radically enlists a sense of wonder and mystery. Being available for someone is standard, like answering the phone but calling back later if something is going on. But being radically available means clearing the schedule and committing the rest of the day to talking on the phone.

While she committed to a dating fast for her first year on the job, I discerned my vocation to married life. Months later, her commitment to be radically available for her students has influenced my understanding of what it means to be a Christian wife in service of God and my husband. All in all, we are talking about vocations to love.

A holy missionary is wholeheartedly committed to being a faith-filled friend, mentor, confidant, and image of Jesus. We can look at the way Saint Mother Teresa befriended families in India and how Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati gave the coat off his back to the underdressed stranger. We may recognize missionaries in our midst and see how they surrender their plans and expectations to answer a call from God to build community with others.

Although I am not called to serve as a missionary in the world, do I bring a missionary heart of charity, service, and friendship into my own home?

To be radically available to another reminds me of the standard “stop, drop, and roll!” response when a person catches on fire. Yet when a significant matter arises in someone’s life, it is the one who is radically available who lovingly stops and drops everything in order to roll to the other’s side.

Saying I do on the marriage altar opens a door to the daily invitation to love my spouse. To love is more than an emotion, it is an act of the will. There are a number of factors that affect our heart’s approach to service: external pressures, internal insecurities, hormonal mood swings, lack of exercise or sleep, political conflict, social conflict, and simply feeling overwhelmed (to name a few). But we make a vow to love--and to serve--on the good days and the bad days.

Yet, in truth, I wrestle with the tension between selflessness and self-care. Christ tells us, “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Does this mean we can momentarily push pause on loving others so we can escape to love on ourselves? How much am I willing to surrender for the sake of my spouse’s joy? Or comfort? My God-given responsibility as a wife is to work for my husband’s salvation; is his earthly happiness worth sacrificing my own personal pleasures, comforts, and opinions on certain matters?

Consider decisions as small as keeping the thermostat at a certain temperature, agreeing on specific holiday traditions, or choosing between music, television or silence as background noise in your home. Then there are decisions to read a book alone or spend quality time together, to sleep in or wake up early to make breakfast for your spouse.

Even in meager moments of surrender, I am encouraged by C.S. Lewis’ wisdom to “submit to death of your ambitions and favorite wishes… and you will find eternal life.” I am increasingly intrigued by the invitation to be radically available than by the alternative to be content in my own pleasures.

In every decision to choose the other, our individual identities fade and we become more fully united through acts of love.

As Catholics, we are privy to the benefits of the sacraments—and prayer—as fuel to keep loving when our tanks run low. Christ also says to “love others because he loved us first.” He makes himself radically available so that we, too, may love with an everlasting love—on the good days and the bad days.

Living a life of service and radical availability can challenge both our human nature and cultural norms. Who do we look to as models of charity? How often do we receive God’s merciful love to refill our tank? Do we elicit affirmation from others as permission to turn inwardly or as encouragement to serve others with virtue?

My prayer is that you and I can make a choice to fulfill the call to love by being radically available to someone this week, with the persistent hope of establishing ever-deeper bonds of charity in our homes and communities.


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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

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Moments that Matter, Memories that Last

ELIZABETH MAHON

 

On a wedding day, the bride and groom’s carefully selected vendors come together to serve specific roles with a shared objective of making the day a run smoothly. Coordinators keep everyone on schedule as bouquets and floral arrangements are assembled, finishing touches are added to cakes, and priests deliver their homilies. The wedding photographer is there to capture and preserve these memories.

As a wedding photographer, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of one of the most monumental days in people’s lives. This role is unique from other vendors. I remember the pressure I felt the very first time I was charged with the responsibility of photographing a wedding, “These photos could hang on their wall for generations; make sure you don’t miss any of the big moments!” I thought.

While I still feel a certain type of pressure going into wedding days, my outlook on capturing them has changed slightly over the years. This is partly due to my own experience as a bride, but mostly because of seasoned knowledge of how a wedding day will unfold. I have seen enough wedding days to anticipate how they will likely progress; most vendors will tell you the same thing, echoing the words of Julius Caesar, “experience is the best teacher.” Yet, the tangible anticipation of serving a couple as a wedding photographer prevails (even with years of experience) because the intimate moments that matter are fleeting.

In the photography community, there is an emphasis on capturing "moments that matter.” These moments happen between the scheduled events, or they might not be noticed by the bride and groom until they look through their gallery of images long after their wedding day.

It is impossible for the bride and groom to see every aspect of their wedding day when they are in the spotlight. They will miss the look on the father-of-the-bride’s face when his daughter vows her life to her husband, and they might not see the wedding guests in prayer during the dedication to the Blessed Mother. As the day unfolds, I am constantly on the lookout for these moments. It is a more organic approach than simply working from of a shot list or checking items off of a list; there is always a sense of anticipation.

Of course, it cannot be denied that there are parts of a wedding day that require structure. The family formal photos and standard portraits are important. As part of a pre-wedding questionnaire, I have all of my couples list any guests of honor who will be in attendance, and the family photos that they, or their parents, wish to have.

I thrive on looking for unique ways to capture the ceremony, depending on each church--as no two are the same. Parish churches, Cathedrals, and chapels all radiate a different type of beauty, and it is fun to get creative.

Although I have documented many types of wedding ceremonies over the years, a majority of my experiences have been in the context of a Catholic Mass.

The sacrament of matrimony adds an entirely new meaning to the phrase “moments that matter” because of the sacramental graces bestowed upon the couple. While these graces can never be fully captured in a picture, their essence is what I aim to reveal in the photos I take.

I try to focus on moments throughout the day that will last long after the sparkler send-off. While the handcrafted invitations and DIY centerpieces are exquisite and deserve to be remembered, they do not bear the same importance as those intangible moments. I can recognize a bride who values sacramental elements when she is seeking a photographer who is familiar with the  beauty of the Catholic Mass.

It is a gift when I am able to partake in the Mass as a photographer. I have heard homilies that are edifying to my vocation as a wife, joined in prayer for couples alongside the congregation, and gratefully received communion as a part of my work day.

While I want my clients to have an overall enjoyable experience throughout wedding planning, it is most important that they cherish the photographs from their wedding day for years to come. If you are seeking a wedding photographer, look for someone whose work highlights what is most important to you. If you and your photographer value the same aspects of a wedding day, you will capture and cherish those fleeting yet precious “moments that matter” forever.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth is a national wedding + portrait photographer and Spoken Bride vendor. Although based in Maryland, she has traveled the country photographing weddings from California to Maine and everywhere in between. She loves old movies, the Green Bay Packers, and learning any/everything about American history. Elizabeth is married to her college sweetheart, Patrick, and the two are raising their baby boy Theodore just outside of Baltimore, MD.


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5 Ways to Highlight Your Bridesmaids' Feminine Genius, Inside and Out

Are you currently shopping for bridesmaids’ attire and planning events with the women who will stand by your side at the altar?

Photography:    Du Castel Photography

True sisterhood and virtuous friendship are a gift to your marriage, a source of support and intercession that enter into your joys and trials. In his Letter to Women, praising the unique gifts, dignity, and role of women in the world, Saint John Paul II directly thanked “women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.”

In thanksgiving for the role of these precious female friendships in your life and in the years of marriage to come, here, suggestions for illuminating the feminine genius in your bridesmaids’ attire—and, above all, on the interior.

Look for dresses that flatter a range of feminine beauty.

When a woman feels confident in the clothes she wears, she projects a visible sense of inner contentment and confidence, as well. Radiance. Draw out this beauty in your bridesmaids by seeking out lines that offer a wide range of sizes--including maternity, if necessary--and universally flattering styles. Floor-length dresses, one-shoulder or wrap styles, and A-line silhouettes flatter women of any size and body type.

Mismatch.

The trend of mismatched bridesmaids’ looks, in color, style, or both, continues going strong; consider inviting your maids to pick their own dress within guidelines you’ve chosen, allowing each to wear a piece she feels best complements her skin tone, figure, and taste.

Choose accessories just for them.

The inner uniqueness and unrepeatability of every person is manifest, among other ways, in the way a person dresses and presents herself to the world--and that’s a beautiful and fascinating, revelatory thing! If you’ve opted to give jewelry as a wedding party gift, contemplate each bridesmaid’s personal style and consider picking out a different necklace, saint medal, pair of earrings, or other item that reflects who she is.

Commit to body positivity, together.

The prospect of being photographed, processing up the aisle, and giving speeches is enough to make any woman desire to look and feel her best. If you or any of your bridesmaids share the goal of getting in shape before the wedding day, strive for a healthy attitude and spirit of encouragement, not of self-criticism. If these women are your closest friends, you likely wouldn’t dream of speaking to them harshly about their bodies and self-image.

Yet when it comes to our own selves, we as women are so quick to perceive only flaws. Surround yourself with your friends, and build each other up. If fitness is important to you as the big day approaches, consider taking a workout class together, meeting for weekly hikes or runs, or even doing videos at home together. Focus not on weight loss, but on strength--both outer and inner.

Give of your time, and your heart.

If time allows, spending one-on-one time with each of your bridesmaids during your engagement wonderfully commemorates your relationship as the transition into marriage approaches. Have a coffee or dinner date, go to Adoration together, or visit a shared favorite spot.

The Scriptures and lives of the saints are rich with strong, compassionate women who stood by their friends, some even unto death: Ruth and Naomi, Felicity and Perpetua, Clare and Francis, Brigid and Patrick. Your wedding celebrations present a unique opportunity to celebrate the female friendships in your life, as well.

We love hearing your own rituals and ideas. How have you honored the women in your wedding party?