Becca + Phil | Christmas Picnic Wedding

In the past, Becca and Phil had both discerned religious vocations. By the time they both felt ready to date and pursue marriage, they met online. Becca shared in her profile that her dream man wouldn’t be unlike Ebeneezer Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, in A Christmas Carol.

A few days later, she received a message from Phil, sharing that he was an actor currently playing the role of Fred. Their conversations began flowing nonstop. One week later, they met face to face, and began officially dating the following month on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has since become their patroness.

From the Bride: We both knew pretty quickly that this was serious and we began to talk about marriage and family a few months in. During our courtship, we, who are both teachers, were both directing theatre shows at the same time that I was working and in grad school. Through all of the hectic scheduling and stress, we were still able to support each other through prayer and were able to attend every one of each other’s events.

After our engagement, things were crazy: I got a new job, Phil took on summer work to help with our expenses, and we decided to do all of the wedding planning ourselves. Yet through it all, there was so much growth and so many insecurities in us uncovered, so many new steps taken in our faith and so much joy shared in the chaos. With every step, we were extremely blessed. So many times we thanked the Lord for someone who was willing to help us or do something for the wedding for manageable rates. God continued to pull people out of the woodwork that consistently blessed us with financial gifts, emotional support or practical help. The Lord was so present there with us, and our celebrant and Pastor, Fr. Dan Leary, was a vital part of showing us or leading us into God's presence.

We got engaged at the Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg, Maryland, a place rich with meaning for us. We both feel very devoted to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and still visit the Shrine often. During our dating and courtship, we prayed the St. Andrew Novena and Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory Consecration to Mary. We followed that with Fr. Gaitley’s Consecration to Merciful Love. Right before our wedding, we wrote a novena that included all of our patrons.

The Mass was the most important part of planning for us. Though we were frequently told we needed to focus more on reception items, attire, or favors, both of us felt strongly that the Mass shouldn’t be on the back burner. We wanted the day to be focused on the sacrament and desired that the Mass would draw our friends and family closer to the Lord and the Church.

As musicians ourselves, the music for the liturgy was very important to us. We were blessed by eight of our close friends singing as a choir and by 3 priests who concelebrated the Mass. The liturgy opened with "Jesus, All for Jesus" and ended with "God, We Praise You," because this was the reason we decided to get married: to offer ourselves as a gift to God, to do His will, love Him and love each other.

The readings were from Song of Solomon 2:8-10, 14, 16; Psalm 34, Romans 12 and John 17. Fr. Dan's homily was focused on the reality of the sacrament, not just the symbolic gesture. His theme was 1+1=1, which quickly became our wedding hashtag. He focused "this body, broken for you" and our sacrifice for one another, in flesh and spirit. One of the most moving moments of the Mass was during the Communion meditation, set to the song "Even Unto Death" by Audrey Assad. It was, and is, our continued commitment to God and each other. There was a great witness during that moment that has been echoed by several of our guests, some of whom are not even Christians. We are confident that their testimony is the fruit of prioritizing the liturgy above everything else.

The day was full of trust and peace. We both took the morning pretty slowly and enjoyed some quality time with friends and in prayer. The celebration itself was also pretty simple. Because we paid for most things ourselves, we kept expenses to a minimum.

We used the December Christmas season to our advantage, calling our reception our "Christmas Picnic". We used chalkboards, biodegradable snow, white lights, curtains, pine and holly to decorate. We used pine and cedar disks as centerpieces, with lanterns on top. Phil even built a s'mores bar where guests could roast marshmallows. The meal featured picnic items: sandwiches, salads, lemonade, and chips, followed by hot chocolate, tea, hot cider and coffee. The casual theme allowed for a peaceful and fun atmosphere, where everyone could really relax and celebrate.

My dress was a beautifully unexpected choice. I went shopping with ideas in my head, but ended up with something totally different than I’d originally imagined.

At the reception, people continually came up to us raving about the ceremony. That was so wonderful after our frequent prayers that our Mass would be the focus of the day.

Despite cake getting on both of us (Phil had asked me not to, but some seminarians sitting by the cake pressured me into it at the last minute!), we were both overjoyed. We made lots of rounds to see everyone and remember the reception flying by. It truly was everything we thought it would be.

It was truly so meaningful as Catholics. The Mass was a milestone and because I'm a convert, it was so beautiful putting the whole thing together and seeing every part's meaning; the intention behind every word and motion. Our day was so special because the highlight, truly the "source and summit" was the Mass, the Eucharist and the sacrament of Matrimony. Having almost 200 people there to share this amazing occasion was so overwhelmingly beautiful and moving. We feel so blessed by Fr. Dan, by our family and what our wedding was and is for us now.

Photography: Amy Leigh Horan Photography http://www.amyleighhoran.com/ Church: St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Emmitsburg, Maryland | Reception Venue: Thurmont American Legion, Thurmont, Maryland | Engagement ring by Wholesale Diamond Consultants: http://www.wdc14k.com/, Flowers by Freesia & Vine: https://favflowers.com/, Invitations designed by the Bride and printed by Vistaprint: https://www.vistaprint.com/?rd=1, Decor Rental by I Do, You Do Wedding Decor Rentals: http://www.facebook.com/idoyoudo.wedding.rentals and Freesia & Vine: https://favflowers.com, Catering by Wegman's: https://www.wegmans.com/, Bride's dress from I Do I Do: https://www.idoidoweddinggowns.com/, Bride's veil from Your Heirloom Veil: https://www.etsy.com/shop/YourHeirloomVeil, Bride's shoes from Cinderollies: https://www.cinderollies.com/, Bride's jewelry from Lizardi Bridal: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LizardiBridal, Bride's fur bolero from Meshka Bridal: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MeshkaBridal, Groom and Groomsmen tie clips from SiBelle Jewelry: https://www.etsy.com/shop/SiBelleJewelry, Bride's Ring from Pompeii3: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Pompeii3, Groom's Ring from Manly Bands: https://manlybands.com/, Groom's suit, tie and shoe, and groomsmen ties by JcPenney: https://www.jcpenney.com/, Cake baked by Kelly Clabaugh, Fairfield, PA; Bride's makeup by Kim Sykes, Mary Kay Rep; DJ by Greffen Audio Visual: https://www.facebook.com/Greffen-Audio-Visual-232231706827995/; Reception Coordinator: Linda O'Brien, Mass Music provided by local musician friends, Cake Topper by Momo Rad Rose: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MomoRadRose

When You and Your Sister Are Both Engaged

KAT FINNEY + GENEVIEVE ALLEN

 

Do you have not just your own wedding drawing near on the calendar, but that of someone else you’re close to?

Kat and Genevieve are sisters who got engaged within three days of each other and were married in the same year. “Wedding planning together was one of the sweetest experiences of our lives,” shares Kat, “but it can also come with some challenges.” For other women planning their weddings at the same time as their own sisters, family members, or close friends, we’re honored to share the fruits of these ladies’ wisdom.

Practical Considerations

In Kat’s words: One of the more obvious benefits to being engaged at the same time as your sister is the mutual experience of planning for one of life’s biggest moments. You get to giggle over wedding magazines and dream about the future together. It’s like that time you marched down the aisle of your shared bedroom together, humming “da da da dum” and wearing veils made of curtains, only it’s real. Take some time together to go to lunch and let it sink in that this is really happening. Take pictures. Toast each other. Soak it up.

A great practical benefit of getting married around the same time as my sister was familiarizing ourselves with vendors in the area. You might consider working with wedding vendors who offer referral packages, should you both choose to book with them. We used many of the same vendors, not only because we liked what they had to offer, but also because many of them had referral offers in exchange for spreading the word about their businesses.

One possible downside: we were concerned since our weddings were in the same year, our guests would have déjà vu once they went to the second wedding. The key when using the same vendors is to stay true to your own taste. It was very tempting for me to just copy all of Gen’s décor, simply because I knew she had great ideas and her wedding would be beautiful. But even though I loved everything about Gen’s wedding and the details she chose, I would have been untrue to myself if I hadn’t gone with my own choices. Never compromise your own style, even when your bestie’s is temptingly gorgeous.

In Genevieve’s words: Kath and I even had some of the same bridesmaids, so we tried to be conscious of cost when making choices for our bridal party. That's at least two dresses, showers, and bachelorette parties your favorite girls might feel pressure to pay for, so consider what investments could be optional. For example, does it really matter that all of your bridesmaids are in heels? No. So request that your girls wear nude shoes, but don't specify a style. If you want everyone in the same kind of jewelry, provide that as your bridesmaid gift.

Lots of these little things won't actually matter to you in the end, but they can provide big savings for some of the most important women in your life. I actually wish I hadn't been so firm on the color of bridesmaid dress for my wedding, because I now love the trend of mismatched but coordinating gowns. This cost consideration goes for wedding guests, too. If you have a registry, include a wide range of items and price points. Whether you’re getting married in the same year as your sister or not, this is a considerate thing to do.

Things to Do Together and Apart

Kat: One of the best decisions Gen and I made was to scheduling our own individual dress appointments, as opposed to trying to find our dresses at the same time. The first time we ever tried on dresses, we decided we’d go and both look together. It would kill two birds with one stone, right?

Wrong. We ended up not really being able to shop well, each wondering if our sister was going to want the same dress or bringing dresses off the racks for each other while forgetting to look for ourselves. We hated every dress we tried on that day and felt discouraged after leaving. This may not be how everyone experiences shared dress shopping dates, but both of us highly recommend making separate appointments. The main reason is it takes the pressure off and allows you to better dote on your friend or sister as she shops for her gown.

Genevieve: Ultimately, this day is about you, your future spouse, and your marriage. It can be easy to forget about that when you’re covered in bridal magazines and fabric swatches. Some things, like choosing shoes or wedding jewelry, are naturally going to be better sister activities.

Most wedding decisions and preparation, however, should be focused on you and your spouse. You probably will be able to identify which wedding tasks your fiancé won't care too much about, but give him the opportunity to make decisions with you before assuming he won't be interested. For example, I knew my fiancé cared not at all about flowers, so this was one aspect of planning Kath and I had a great time tackling together.

Keeping It Prayerful

Kat: We suggest saying a novena together in preparation for your weddings. Obviously this can be done with your fiancé, but it can also be done with your bestie. Nothing is more important in the wedding planning process than spiritual preparation. And when you know you have the spiritual support of your best friend, it can be a real source of grace and inspiration during a potentially stressful time.

Gen and I both took different routes for marriage prep within the Church. It’s good to recognize that your relationship and your sister’s are different, and that no one option is a “best” choice; there’s only a best choice suited to you and your fiancé as a couple.

My fiancé and I met regularly with the deacon at the church where we got married, along with about a dozen couple-to-couple meetings. I couldn’t recommend this more, especially if you know a couple you admire and if you have the time to meet. This brought up so many difficult questions that we were able to answer before getting married, and we had tons of fun with the couple who guided us. The downside to this route is if you don’t know the couple leading you or have trouble relating to them, this could be a very dull, drawn out, and frustrating process, so the Engaged Encounter weekend may be better if you don’t have a mentor couple in mind.

Genevieve: My husband Dalton and I chose to do an Engaged Encounter instead of a mentor couple. We liked the idea of being isolated in a retreat-type setting for our marriage prep, away from distractions.

I could probably write an entire book on the pros and cons of that weekend. Overall, it was very meaningful. We learned a lot about each other, ate bad retreat food, prayed for our future family, learned an overview of NFP (luckily we had our own Creighton instructor to fill in the rest), and generally felt a lot more prepared for marriage. If you have some hurdles to overcome prior to your wedding day--differences in faith practices, family of origin issues, or questions about Church teaching, the couple to couple option might be a more fruitful experience for you.

Finally, try to resist the temptation to compare your engagement, wedding, or relationship to that of your sister and her fiancé. We have found the best way to overcome this is to simply love and want the best for each other. Prayer can help with this, and so can open communication with your future spouse and your sister.

I found that my biggest point of comparison with Kath was actually our rehearsal dinner speeches. Her toast was the perfect blend of humor and emotion, and even as she was delivering it, I was regretting that mine wasn’t as good. I had to try to let that feeling go quickly because I wanted to enjoy the moment, but I’m still kind of jealous, even now! That girl can give a speech.

The joyous swirl of wedding planning is made even better when you are experiencing it with your sister. No one can better understand why you might feel the need to burst into tears when you finally find the perfect cake topper after hours of browsing on Etsy. No one is better at letting you know when you might be veering off into Bridezilla territory. No one's smile will be bigger when you finally walk down the aisle. Well, your fiancé's smile should probably be bigger, but yours might be almost as big.

Visit, or revisit, Kat and her husband Jonathan's wedding here and Genevieve and her husband Dalton's, both rich with New Orleans traditions, here.


About the Authors: Genevieve and Katherine are sisters and best friends from New Orleans, Louisiana. Gen is the older sister, a nurse and lactation consultant living in Louisiana. Kat is a former high school religion teacher who now stays at home in Pittsburgh with her daughter. Gen loves to stay inside and cozy up to a good book; Kat loves to be outside and to do karaoke with her husband. Gen is the introvert; Kat is the extrovert. Since they live far away from each other, they use their blog, The Sister Post, as one way to keep up communication lines and to share ideas and stories with each other and their readers. The purpose of their blog is to empower women to share in a common sisterhood; they see each other as their best resource, and they hope by sharing their own ideas, tips, and stories, other women will be uplifted by the online sisterhood they've created.

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Enter Our Summer Giveaway with Radiant Magazine + Anthropologie!

June brings with it bare feet, travel, reading that stirs the soul, and, hopefully, a marriage celebration or two on your calendar. We want to help you set the stage.

With wedding season in full swing, we’ve collaborated with Radiant Magazine, a quarterly print periodical for Catholic young women, to gift one lucky follower a copy of Radiant's Summer 2018 Love Issue, featuring Spoken Bride, and a $50 gift card to Anthropologie (also good for Anthro's wedding line, BLDHN!). To enter:

  1. Follow @spokenbride and @radiantmag on Instagram.
  2. On the corresponding giveaway post in Instagram, tag a Catholic bride-to-be or newlywed in a comment. Each separate comment is a chance to win.

The giveaway begins today and ends Tuesday, June 19, 2018 at 11:59pm EST/ 8:59pm PST. Winner will be randomly selected and notified via Instagram on Friday, June 22, 2018.

Click here to read the official giveaway rules.

6 Options for Selling or Donating Your Wedding Gown

Do you have plans for your wedding gown after your walk down the aisle? The choice is a personal one that might include preserving it for a relative, friend, or future daughter, repurposing it into baptism or First Communion pieces for your children--truly a visual representation that the bond established on your wedding day bears spiritual fruit through the years--or giving your dress to other brides, which fosters both sisterhood and a green sensibility.

If you’ve chosen to sell or donate your gown, the options can be overwhelming. Here, our curation of the best organizations the dress donation world has to offer, including some distinctively Catholic resources.

 

  Photography: Juliana Tomlinson Photography

Photography: Juliana Tomlinson Photography

For the ease of online transactions

Preowned Wedding Dresses: This online marketplace, the largest out there for bridal items, boasts 14 years of credibility and facilitates gown and accessory re-sales directly between buyers and sellers. It’s designed to minimize hassle and maximize profit, offering a one-time listing fee with no commission for the site, a dress value calculator, and a conveniently specific search function that makes it easy for your gown to appear in listings.

To give to military couples

Brides Across America: A nonprofit dedicated to military and first responder brides, this organization supports the men and women whose life’s work is our freedom, providing free wedding gowns at their events nationwide. Gowns less than five years old are accepted for consideration.

To support humanitarian causes

Adorned in Grace: This bridal shop and design studio in the Portland, Oregon area accepts wedding dresses five years old and newer, in-store or by mail, to be repurposed or redesigned by at-risk girls in the area, including those who’ve been in the foster care system or have been traficking victims. Rooted in a mission to convey to these young women their dignity, worth, and identity in Christ and to model the love and hope of faith-centered weddings, proceeds from the nonprofit go to design workshops, education, and/or counseling from human traficking survivors.

Brides for Haiti: A project of St. Mary’s parish in the Archdiocese of Washington, the Brides for Haiti program sells secondhand wedding and formal attire. Profits benefit St. Mary’s sister parish, St. Joseph’s, in Carcasse, Haiti, including health, education, and infrastructure initiatives. Volunteers and seamstresses are on-site at events to answer questions and provide information about the cause. Stay informed about calls for donations--in person or by mail--and upcoming sale events via the project’s Facebook page.

The Bridal Garden: Located in the heart of Manhattan, this not-for-profit shop dedicated to education specializes in discounted designer gowns from boutiques and donations. Earnings benefit disadvantaged schools and children in New York City.

To support the Church

Religious life: Our sisters in religious life are every bit the bride, espoused to Christ through their vows. In several orders, including the Colettine Poor Clares, Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, and some Carmelite orders, it’s customary for women to profess their solemn vows in wedding attire. Contact communities in your area directly to discuss the possibility of donating your gown.

Parish resales: Parishes nationwide hold periodic sales of secondhand gowns, with proceeds benefiting the church or diocese. This donation option not only supports the parish community in your area, but encourages shopping locally. To keep up with forthcoming sale events and inquire about making a donation, try subscribing to your diocese’s newspaper, emails, or social media platforms and keeping an eye out in weekly bulletins.

Have you or are you planning to donate your dress? We love hearing about the local and national programs that support other women in their call to marriage, so be sure to share what additional means of donating you’ve employed in the comments and on our social media.

Abigail + Joe | Notre Dame Basilica Wedding

Abby and Joe had been Spanish classmates, co-retreat planners, and even sat with friends at the same table for meals, never speaking, for their first three years at Notre Dame University. It was on a bench in the football stadium that they first officially met and, in Abby’s words, “that we truly saw each other for the first time.” By the end of the game, they both wondered why they’d never talked before.

Early on in their dating relationship, they both knew the Lord was calling them to marriage. They spent a semester apart as Abby studied abroad in London and Joe in Chile, then were reunited for their senior year.

The fall after graduation, they returned to Notre Dame for Abby's birthday, where they headed straight for the campus grotto. It led to their favorite tree, a site of many late-night conversations. There stood a group of their friends, candles in hand. Along the path from the tree to a nearby lake where they first began dating, friends and family were gathered;  at each stop, they read a line from a poem Joe had written for Abby.

Finally, at the final stop at the lake, Joe asked Abby to marry him. Even without any lights, and though Joe forgot which hand the ring goes on, “it was perfect.”

From the Bride: The two years between graduating college and getting married were joyful, but tough. Joe was in a Master’s program that required him to live in community and delayed marriage, so we spent those years long-distance. Since we had a long engagement, we were able to dive into marriage preparation--reading books, praying together, having so much fun dreaming about our future, and continuing to learn about each other and ourselves. We also, however, really struggled to be grateful for this time of preparation in our desire to just be married. Looking back, the distance was incredibly difficult, but through God’s grace it brought us closer to him and to each other.

When envisioning our wedding, the word we kept returning to was joy. We were so excited to be entering into the sacrament of marriage, and we wanted that joy to permeate the day. There were tons of stressful moments (I could never be a wedding planner!), but joyful ones, too: picking out my dress with my mom, designing my ring from my great-grandmother’s wedding band, practicing our vows and first dance, and spending time with our family and best friends at all the pre-wedding festivities.

Joe and I decided to do a first look for a couple of reasons. I thought I would be super nervous, since I don’t like being in front of crowds, I hoped seeing him first would help with that. While, miraculously, I wasn’t a bit nervous, it was incredible to start our wedding day by walking to the church hand in hand.

We wanted to do a Marian devotion, but didn't have time during our ceremony. So we did our first look at the Notre Dame grotto, a place where we have prayed with Mary many, many times--both together and as single people before we met. We left flowers in the hands of Saint Bernadette’s statue: a rose for Saint Therese of Lisieux and a lily for Saint Joseph, two of our favorite saints.

The Mass was our favorite part to plan, and the absolute best part of our wedding day. We were married at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Notre Dame’s campus, a church where both of us had come to know Christ’s love during our time at as students. The Mass was full of music, joy, and celebration. During the ceremony, I kept thinking this is what heaven would be like.

We are blessed by friends with musical gifts, and our music was unreal. We had an organ, violin, cello, and a whole choir lifting their voices in prayer. For our preludes we chose “Song of Ruth,” “Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring,” and a Litany of the Saints. Our wedding party walked down the aisle to “Gabriel's Oboe,” and then my dad and I walked to “Arise, My Love.” Our readings were Jeremiah 31:31-34, and 1 John 4:7-12, and our Gospel was John 15:9-12.

We had talked with our friend and celebrant, Fr. Pat, during marriage preparation about how many of our friends and family are not Catholic. He made sure to explain parts of the Mass so everyone was involved. He gave an incredible homily (you can hear a little of it in our wedding video), and laughter filled the Basilica when a giant fly flew on Joe’s face in the middle of our vows.

One of my favorite moments was during the preparation of the gifts. The choir sang “The Servant Song” while we sat and soaked up the reality that we were finally married. We administered communion as our first act as husband and wife, and then exited the church to “O God Beyond All Praising,” our favorite hymn. It was more joyful than we could have ever imagined.

Since we were married in the summer and love the outdoors, we chose the Blue Heron at Blackthorn for our reception venue because it has an outdoor tent attached to the ballroom. I adore flowers, so I gave our florist, Poppies by Polly, and our wedding planner, Belle Behind the Ball, the reins to cover the space in an abundance of flowers. The best moments were the toasts, the dances, and witnessing our friends and family mingle and get to know each other. It was such a gift being surrounded by so much love.

From The Groom: Our wedding Mass was amazing. We just had so much fun. From standing at the altar seeing our favorite church fill with our favorite people, to crying as I alternated between looking at Abby and being overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s love for us, my heart was filled with joy.

Something that stands out to both of us is how often other people have said they felt the same way. Months after our wedding day, friends and family members still bring up moments from the liturgy: everyone crying during the Litany of Saints; three of my groomsmen standing up and belting the psalm, “I Will Praise Your Name”; how close Abby and I continuously tried to sit next to each other during the readings and homily. One of the most common statements we heard upon leaving the church was, “I didn’t know how much fun it could be to be Catholic.”

God visibly worked inside the hearts of others on our wedding day. People felt comfortable picking the brain of our priest at the cocktail hour. A friend who is dating a Catholic woman, but is not Catholic himself, found me during the reception to tell me he was considering having a Catholic wedding ceremony after attending ours.

I share these stories to point to the work that God did on our wedding day. We became a sacrament of God’s love for the world the moment we exchanged our vows. Our Mass, our marriage, is not just for us. It is for everyone who was in the church that day, and everyone we will meet going forward.

To close, our advice would be to worry over the little details. We stressed over a lot of the wedding planning, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what food you eat or what colors you choose. What matters is the sacrament you are entering into. And trust us: when you give him the space to work in you, God will show up and amaze you with his love.

Photography: Soul Creations Photography | Church: The Basilica of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana | Wedding Reception Venue : Blue Heron at Black Thorn, South Bend, IN | Rings: Diamond Gallery - Hers, Fred Meyers Jewelry - His | Florals: Poppies by Polly | Rentals: Burns Special Event Rentals & Pro Show | Transportation: Royal Excursion | Caterer: Blue Heron at Blackthorn | Bridal Gown: Bridal Gallery in Grand Rapids | Shoes: Nordstrom | Bridesmaids' Attire: Vow to be Chic (https://www.vowtobechic.com/)
Bridesmaids' Gifts: Hatch Prints | Groom's Suit: Louie’s Tux Shop | Groomsmen Gifts: Louie’s Tux Shop | Groomsmen Attire: Louie’s Tux Shop | Cake: C’est La Vie Cakes | Hairstylist: Bethza Professional Makeup Artist Studio | Makeup Artist: Bethza Professional Makeup Artist Studio | Choral Ensemble: Folk Choir of Notre Dame | Cocktail Music: Samantha Kasmer | DJ: 27 Entertainment (https://www.27e.co/) | Coordination: Belle Behind The Ball Wedding & Event Planning, bellebehindtheball.com | Photobooth: EA Pro Music (https://www.eapromusic.com/) | Ice Cream Sundae Bar: American Espresso Catering Co.

The Sophia Series | Annamarie

ANNAMARIE HAMILTON

 

I met my husband Kevin in college. We were best friends for about a year; as time passed, it became obvious that we had feelings for each other. From very early on in our courtship, we knew we would end up getting married. We knew we had each found the one who was God’s perfect match for us. Kevin proposed during my senior year, and the following August we got married. While our marriage has been far from perfect, we had had a fairly easy time for the first five years.

During that time we had three children; Dominic, Lucy, and Simon. Although having children definitely changed our marriage and made life harder and more stressful in general, we were still living a happy and generally peaceful life, and our marriage was as solid as ever.

On August 8th of 2017, a few days before our fifth anniversary, we ended up taking two-year-old Lucy to the Emergency Room. She had been very lethargic for a few days and wouldn’t eat anything. We were completely blindsided when she was diagnosed with leukemia.

Kevin and I were both in complete shock. It is the kind of thing that you think will never happen to you until it does.

The next few days were an emotional whirlwind of new information, surgeries, chemo, and hospitalization. Two days later, as we celebrated our anniversary in the Operating Room waiting area, I remember thinking and talking about our marriage, and how this was something we never could have planned for.

In our vows we say “in sickness and in health,” but we never really thought seriously that we’d have to deal with real sickness, or what that would look like.

That day, we talked about how grateful we were to be going through that together. To have someone else who knew exactly we felt and who loved our daughter just as much. Although this is never where we thought we would be, five years into our marriage there is no one else I would want to go through this with. Over the past few months, Kevin and I have grown closer than ever, and I think our marriage is stronger than ever. We have had to lean on each other and learned to love and support our spouse even as we deal with our own pain. That has given us a bond we could never have imagined.

This journey with cancer is far from over, yet we feel our family is finally in a good place again, and everyone has learned to adjust to the “new normal” that is our lives. We already feel stronger as a family and as a husband and wife from having gone through this. Although this time of our lives has been the hardest yet, we feel confident that if we can get through this, we can get through anything.

Annamarie’s words of wisdom for brides:

Don't be afraid to be dependent on each other, rather than trying to work out problems on your own.

Pray for each other.

Don't take the little, everyday things for granted.


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About the Author: Annamarie Hamilton is a stay-home-mom from Baltimore, Maryland. She is married to her best friend Kevin and together they have three children: Dominic, Lucy, and Simon.

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The Royal Wedding and its Insights Into Evangelization

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

Unlike some of my friends, I didn’t closely follow the royal wedding for months in advance. Not out of disdain, but simply out of having other interests, I’d never really heard of Meghan Markle or watched her TV show, and I generally associated Prince Harry with the wilder, more controversial antics of his youth. Until it all became impossible to ignore.

In the days preceding the wedding, the lead stories on seemingly every news outlet and style blog I follow involved Meghan and Harry: how would they incorporate American rituals into a traditional English ceremony? What musical selections would they choose? Would Meghan wear the Queen’s signature nail polish shade? Before I knew it, I was drawn in, growing in appreciation for what seemed like a genuine, natural love, with sense of equality and mutual admiration between the two.

What was it that made someone like me, who’d been mostly indifferent to the royals, so intrigued by their nuptials? And what made so many others, the world over, feel the same? Particularly in our culture where marriage is received with cynicism, and in light of Harry’s mother, Princess Diana’s disillusionment with her own marriage--her lack of a fairy-tale ending after the original televised royal wedding--our obsession suggests there remains something captivatingly hopeful about the union of man and wife.  

On some level, there’s a realization that marriage still means something big, and we want to see relationships flourish and succeed. Love is worth rooting for, and commitment through good times and bad merits respect even from skeptics.

In the days after the wedding, I found myself scrolling through photos and clips of the service, attire, and family portraits. For those of us who aren’t duchesses, Meghan and Harry’s witness to love and service offers some valuable insights into how we can be witnesses, too.

As faithful Catholics whose wedding guests might or might not be in a similar place spiritually, the desire to evangelize through your wedding Mass and celebration is a natural one. In concrete, sensory ways, like incense, music, the readings, and a program that explains Catholic traditions in a clear, charitable way, that’s possible. I admired how the royal incorporated songs and a sermon from American Christian traditions without much fanfare, simply letting these inclusions speak for themselves. A concrete, yet humble witness. In an even more radical way, the Catholic faith has its own way of speaking for itself, stirring the soul to pay closer attention to the whispers, the longings, deep within.

Consider, as well, all the less obvious, unspoken ways the truth, beauty, and goodness of your marriage can, and will, also shine forth: treating each guest with attention and graciousness; meeting them where they are; exhibiting a spirit of reverence and resolve through prayer and worship simply by being your authentic selves; waiting until after the wedding to move in together. When you lead with the heart, prioritizing relationship over argument, your family and friends become well-disposed to receive, and can look past differences of opinion as their experiencing you and your beloved entering into marriage speaks to God’s grace.

The day after the royal wedding, sin and evil still existed in the world and our culture remained as politically fractured as ever. The wedding, however, stopped so many of us in our tracks for a moment and invited the world to step back from its brokenness and division. In the same way, your wedding day won’t heal yours or your guests’ every wound. Yet with beauty, virtue, and purity of heart, it can testify to something powerful and real without a word.


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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