Caroline and Matt were friends at LSU for months after they first met. The night they became boyfriend and girlfriend, both made it clear to the other that they only desired to enter into a dating relationship with the possibility of marriage in mind. Matt said “I love you” for the first time while Caroline was baking his favorite Christmas cookies. She wasn’t sure if his heart or his stomach was talking more, but he said the words again shortly after. This time, Matt’s declaration was followed by a long talk about marriage, a future family, and a lifelong commitment to each other in good times and in bad.
By senior year, the two were discussing what their entrance into the real world would look like, praying their relationship could weather the storm of distance and new responsibilities.
From the Bride: Our campus parish equipped us in our faith life so fruitfully for the years to follow. We made a Marian consecration via 33 Days to Morning Glory, for instance, and our hearts have been on fire for Our Lady and the Holy Family ever since. My struggles with hypothyroidism led to a doctor who guided me in the Creighton Model of NFP, which has been a great gift to us in marriage. That same doctor presented a wonderful Theology of the Body-based talk at the university! I loved watching Matt’s involvement in ministry and the solace the Church itself, providing us great comfort time and again.
Seven months after graduation, Matt proposed in front of our favorite spot to say the Rosary at the Christ the King chapel where we’d spent so many hours at LSU. He gathered our friends and family at our favorite restaurant nearby for a surprise party, a night I’ll always treasure.
We found our Pre-Cana experience an invaluable gift from the Church--the priest mentioned during our wedding homily how sad we were when we completed the requirements! Our Engaged Encounter was life changing, a time of recognizing a renewed patience and loving acceptance to whatever Christ has planned for us in life.
Our engagement retreat also included the exercise of writing promises and prayers to each other, known as betrothals, Writing ours was funny, and also tender. When we read them to each other before of a statue of St. Joseph--Matt’s patron Saint--we could hardly speak through the tears. When the opportunity came to read them in front of the group, we knew we absolutely could not--it was too emotional. That moment made us even more grateful the Church writes our vows for us.
We hoped for a winter wedding and were able to get married on the birthday of Saint Bernadette, my patroness. To acknowledge the date, We placed a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes on our reception welcome table.
I found the Praise and Worship singers for our nuptial Mass while in the confessional at a holy hour event! One of my bridesmaids is a moving vocalist, also, who took part in the music. Our Mass selections ultimately included Forever Reign, How Can I Keep From Singing, Hold Us Together, Hosanna, How He Loves, and Ave Maria.
Family was central to the religious significance of the day. My grandfather is a Deacon who has celebrated sacraments for many of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He helped Matt and I choose our readings and keep everything organized so that the Mass, the most important part of our day, would be engaging and impactful. My godson was the ring bearer, carrying our rings in the rosary box we had with us the night Matt proposed.
I also wrapped my great grandmother's rosary around my bouquet. Her parents bought each of their daughters a silver rosary, but when it was my great grandmother's turn, they were in the midst of a crippled economy. Her parents scraped enough money together to buy it anyway. It fell apart over the years, but months before the wedding, my grandmother had it repaired at her parish! We included in the Mass a special family prayer said throughout the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Honoring Mary during our wedding was such a special moment for us. We were able to kneel before our Blessed Mother in the same spot Pope John Paul II did during his visit to New Orleans. The Blessed Sacrament is, of course, the absolute climax of our earthly life. Matt and I were able to be ministers of the Eucharist to our guests, which meant so much to us. The Mass truly felt like Heaven on Earth.
For the reception, my cousin designed a custom Fleur De Lis graphic featuring the words “Love will hold us together,” from the Matt Maher song I chose for my walk down the aisle and for our first dance. Our cake had the words Totus Tuus, or “totally yours,” written on it. These words were Pope Saint John Paul II’s motto, ones I chose to have engraved in Matt’s wedding ring. The cake had one traditional tier atop a stand of petit fours, a classic dessert in our city, with cake pulls, a New Orleans tradition wherein bridesmaids pull a charm out of the cake to tell a special fortune or attribute about the woman who pulls it.
Instead of a garter toss, Matt did a kickoff: he and his Best Man played punter and kicker, and my brother, a groomsman, was a holder. They teamed up to kick a football to all the single men at the reception.
Our reception ended with a Second Line, a tradition formed by African Americans after the Civil War. Membership benefits originally included a brass band for members’ funerals, along with at least one public parade per year with music. Second Lines celebrate not only the life of the dead at funerals, but also new life at weddings and other modern celebrations.
On our honeymoon we were blessed to meet Pope Francis for the sposi novelli blessing. We thanked our wedding guests with a blessing that we hope will one day be a relic!
I love that in the Catholic Church, we are always free to re-celebrate the most important part of our wedding day: Christ makes himself available to us in the Eucharist, heaven on earth. We are always welcome to join him, anywhere in the world. The love I have for my husband is but a fraction of the love that God has for me. Christ gives us the gift of intimacy with Himself, and His bride, the Church, is more beautiful than any part of any wedding day. Christ’s Church equips us with all of the tools for the marriage that we pray for, and then some.
Photography: JC Williams Photography | Church: St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans | Wedding Reception Venue: Intercontinental New Orleans | Videography: Second Line Films | Musicians: Colin MacIver and Karista Filopoulos | Second Line Coordinator: Accent DMC | Cake: Debbie Heyd of The Roosevelt, New Orleans | Hair: Gina Marie | Makeup: Emma Stasi | Dress: Oliver Couture | Veil: Blanca Veils | Flowers: A Floral | Graphic Design: Meredith Johnson | Tuxedos: Rome’s Tuxedos