Save the date ... our Social Media Coordinator, Elise Crawford, is marrying Hunter, her college sweetheart, on August 12, 2017. We're overjoyed for her and are thrilled to share with you a peek into one bride's real-life wedding planning. Over the next year, we'll feature monthly pieces from Elise on marriage prep, choosing wedding details, and her spirituality as a bride-to-be. Join us in praying for Elise and Hunter during this sacred time of anticipation!
Wedding planning is somewhat universal, but when it comes down to it, preparing for marriage is also deeply personal, because it's about two unrepeatable persons freely binding themselves to each other, for eternity. So today it's our pleasure to introduce you to Elise and Hunter and share their love story with you!
Hunter's and my love story is best described with words from Isaiah: "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts … My words will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it … This will be for the Lord's renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever'" (Isaiah 55: 8-13). When I read this passage years ago, I was overcome with fear. But now, reading these holy words, I am filled with joy and an assurance that, yes, the Lord has truly led Hunter and me on this wild journey of dating, engagement, and soon, marriage.
I met Hunter our freshman year of college at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Hunter was from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, loved Dave Matthews, was on the fencing and rowing teams and was well-known in our dorm as the goofy guy who liked to dance. We were introduced by a mutual friend--whose daughter is now our goddaughter!--and attended the same Gospel study group once a week. I remember Hunter liking one of my friends at the time; but other than that, we didn't interact much that fall.
I dated someone from my hometown of Baltimore during my first semester of college, though that relationship ended over winter break. I came back to school pretty upset. Hunter and my roommate took a German class together starting in that spring semester, so he started to frequent my room for studying and borrowing her book.
It was during this time that Hunter and I began to really develop a friendship. Our conversations revealed his deep compassion and kind heart. We talked about my recently ended relationship, and Hunter helped me truly forgive and let go of past hurts. I slowly started to heal, and our friendship grew even deeper over the course of a snowstorm that kept us inside our dorm for a whole week! During this week, Hunter and I led our Gospel study group in prayer and reflection. While preparing for the meeting, I was blown away by his love for the Lord. For the first time, I thought, "Wow. This guy is special."
We began to spend more and more time together. We hung out with friends, explored D.C., attended daily Mass, prayed together and just had a lot of fun! There were several moments during this time that I recognized within myself a feeling towards Hunter that was more than just friendship--I would get jealous when he'd give another girl more attention, for instance, and my heart would leap whenever I saw him--but I pushed these signs of love aside and continued on with our friendship.
Towards the end of April, our freshman year at CUA was coming to an end. The week before finals of 2011 will always be extremely special to me. My now-fiancé describes this week as an intensely spiritual time for him. Hunter had been slowly realizing he was attracted to me, but he fought against it, afraid he would ruin our friendship. During this week, he was attending daily Mass and spending an hour each morning in Adoration. I had a sense of what was going on, but it wasn't until that Wednesday night, after our school-wide praise and worship hour, that I walked by the Our Lady of Wisdom statue outside the chapel and saw Hunter on his knees praying. In that moment I knew I was in love with him.
The next night, Hunter and I took a walk in the garden behind the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception; it was there that he kissed me and asked me to be his girlfriend.
Hunter and I dated throughout college. We took a "break" the spring semester of our junior year while I studied abroad in Rome (and discerned a call to religious life!). That was one of the most difficult times in our relationship, but coming back to the states and being reunited with Hunter reaffirmed our vocation together. We graduated from CUA in May 2013 and both began graduate school in separate cities that fall.
Hunter proposed to me on November 22, 2013, the feast day of my patron saint, St. Cecilia, in the same garden where he asked me to be his girlfriend. Yes, that was three years ago! By the time we are married, we will have been engaged for more than three years. And yes, it has been a much longer engagement than we expected or wanted.
But Hunter and I have truly experienced a conversion of heart during this time. We have delved deeper into what our vocation to marriage and family is tangibly meant to look like. Over the last two years, the vision for our life together has slowly taken shape, and I wouldn't trade that precious time of formation for the world. When we first got engaged we were both studying to receive our MTS (Masters in Theology). Since that year, I changed graduate programs and received my Masters in Communications last December. Hunter did receive his Masters in Theology, finished his first year of teaching high school theology, discerned away from pursuing a PhD in Theology, and is now studying to take the LSATs this fall.
I don't type this out to brag about our situation, but to start an honest and needed conversation about engagement, marriage preparation and this vocation of love. Through all the difficulty of waiting, I have slowly seen our time of engagement start to bear fruit. I feel more peaceful and convicted of our vocation than ever before.
If there's anything these last three years have taught me, it's hope. Hope has allowed me to let go of perfection, embrace the unknown, and open my heart to the Lord's guidance and plans for my life. Walking on this unique path has opened new doors that I never expected. Our God truly is a god of surprises.
My mission for this series is to create a space for open, honest, and authentic conversation about engagement, relationships, and marriage. As sisters in Christ, I hope we are able to lean on one another in order to delve deeper into the messiness and beauty of this vocation of love we are called to. It is a call of incredible sacrifice, yet unbelievable happiness. I am excited to share in these months of preparation with you. Thanks for coming along!
Photography by Rebekah Emily Photography