Chelsy and Ben were both newcomers to Washington, D.C. the night a mutual friend introduced them at a Mass in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Their first conversation didn’t take place until, that same evening, they waited for a table at dinner with friends. Chelsy sensed a spark and invited Ben to the upcoming housewarming she and her roommates were hosting. In the weeks that followed, they got to know each other on several more occasions in groups.
For their first official date, Ben took Chelsy hiking, followed by lunch at his forever favorite, Chick-fil-A. It was a perfect casual day that gave us plenty of time to get to know each other as we both tried not to twist an ankle,” says Chelsy, and a few months later, after a weekend ski trip with friends that involved Ben assisting Chelsy down the bunny slopes, they were both left thinking they might have found the one.
Within about six months, they knew it was love, and the desire to share one life grew continually stronger. “When you look forward for Friday night grocery shopping dates,” says Chelsy, “you know you’ve found the person you can spend your whole life with. We continued to pray and discern, but the Lord revealed His will in subtle ways as it became harder and harder to imagine life without each other.”
A year and a half later, on the backyard swing where he’d first asked her out, Ben popped the question on Chelsy’s birthday.
From the Bride: The night before our wedding, following our rehearsal dinner, we gathered with family and friends for a special Holy Hour. One of the Deacons serving at our wedding Mass led the hour of prayer, while our celebrant was available for confession. Ben's uncle generously led us in song, and we were both able to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. We spent much of that hour in silent prayer preparing our hearts to enter into marriage together. It was such an essential time to reconnect with one another and our Lord in the midst of all the craziness of wedding week. We both still had long to-do lists to accomplish, but for that hour we were able to refocus, put all our tasks aside, and remind ourselves of the reason behind the whole celebration.
The morning of our wedding we arranged to have gifts delivered to one another. In the Lord’s providence, we both had chosen to gift each other a crucifix. Ben gave me a delicate, golden crucifix to wear around my neck, the most perfectly unplanned wedding day accessory. I gave him a nuptial crucifix that now hangs on our bedroom wall. We both wanted to acknowledge that in marriage we were giving our lives to one another: pouring out our very selves in sacrifice for God’s glory, as Christ has done for us. The sanctuary of our parish Church is dominated by a gorgeous crucifix, under which is written, "As I have done, so you must also do." These words, such an important reminder during the weeks and months of preparation for our wedding day, were the perfect backdrop as we made our vows to one another.
Before the Mass began, we took time to pray together. As is the case for most wedding days, things hadn’t gone exactly according to plan that morning. But all the worries and anxieties melted away when I was finally able to hear Ben’s voice and join our hands in prayer.
Our wedding Mass took place on March 25, the day the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation. This has long been my favorite Marian feast day, having great significance in my spiritual life. To begin our marriage on the day the Church celebrates Mary's sweet fiat, and the Incarnation of our Lord himself, had such profound meaning for us and for our future family.
In taking one another as husband and wife, we were indeed giving our own fiat to the Lord, allowing Jesus to be incarnate in our marriage. It was such a powerful lens through which to view the marriage covenant.
We chose to have the Mass celebrated ad orientem. For those unfamiliar with this liturgical custom, ad orientem is a Latin phrase meaning "to the East," symbolizing the Church’s waiting in joyful anticipation of Christ’s coming.
The main difference in this celebration of the Mass is the orientation of the priest. During parts of the liturgy in which the priest and the congregation are joined in prayer addressed to God, the priest and the congregation all face the altar together in unified prayer. Alternatively, when the priest is directly speaking to the congregation, he turns and faces them, addressing them directly. This practice serves as a visual reminder of the moments we are united in prayer to our Lord and highlights the unity of the priest and the people. We found it so incredibly moving to celebrate our wedding in this ancient orientation, with all our family and friends gathered together, joining us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
We presented a bouquet of roses to Our Lady before the Mass concluded. We honored her on the feast of her great fiat which changed all of human history, asking her intercession as we began our life as husband and wife.
Since Ben and I met, dated, fell in love, and would start our family life together in D.C., it was really special to be able to celebrate our wedding in the place that has very much become home for us. Ben serves in the Air Force, so like other military families we will call many places home, but we know D.C. will always be a special place for us. Our family and friends came from all over, and it was such fun to share with them a place we love so much. Since it was Spring, the city was really showing off as the Cherry Blossoms were in peak bloom! The location and season definitely contributed to our classic, Capitol-inspired wedding and reception. Our entrance into the reception was marked by an Air Force saber arch, and aviation-inspired details were sprinkled throughout, including gliders for all the kiddos--and kids at heart.
We began our honeymoon by celebrating Easter in the Eternal City. On Holy Saturday, we stood in St. Peter's Square as the Holy Father celebrated the Easter Vigil. The bells rang out and the whole square was filled with overwhelming light, proclaiming the Resurrection of Christ.
In marriage, we accept the Cross and all its sacrifice, knowing that in doing so we are promised the joy of the Risen Christ! That promise had never felt so real and so new as it did standing in the square that evening as newlyweds. A few days later we were present for the Papal audience to receive the sposi novelli blessing, and were able to personally greet the sweet Holy Father. The rest of our honeymoon was spent journeying through Rome, Venice, Bavaria and Austria, visiting the most gorgeous Churches and asking for the intercession of each Church's patron, and those of its altars and artworks, all along the way. It was like one giant, geographic Litany of the Saints!
When I think back on our wedding day, I am consistently drawn to our vows and to the parallels between the marriage covenant and Mary’s great yes that led to the Incarnation of Christ.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary as a young girl, she--much like a young bride--had been preparing for her vocation. Mary may not have known she would be the Mother of God, but by nurturing an intimate relationship with the Lord, she had been preparing her heart to receive this great honor.
When she was told she would bear Christ, the Son of God, as a child in her womb, she couldn’t have known exactly what her acceptance would entail. She asked, “How can this be?” clearly knowing there would complications explaining how she—a virgin—was with child, all while betrothed to a man. Not only was it complicated; it could actually cost her her life. Yet she embraced all the possible suffering that lay ahead with her faithful response: “May it be done to me according to your word.”
In that moment, Mary may not have foreseen Calvary, but she trusted God to provide for her through whatever trials were to come. In much the same way, bride and groom cannot know the challenges and sufferings that await them in marriage. While they may have an idea, they don’t know what their specific Cross and Calvary will be, yet they enter a covenant—“for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”—for love of the other and love of Christ.
They say yes to one another, trusting in God’s plan, willing to sacrifice their very lives. Through this dying to self, the spouses come to know the joy of life with Christ. For Mary, it was only through her embrace of the Cross that she came to wear her Crown and reign as the Queen of Heaven. As spouses, we pray that our marriage will sanctify one another and lead us to experience the joy of Heaven—and even begin to taste its sweetness while here on Earth.
Photography: KT Crabb Photography | Church: St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, Fairfax, Virginia | Reception: St. Francis Hall at the Franciscan Monastery, Washington, D.C. | Bride's Dress: Stella York | Bride's Shoes: Betsy Johnson | Groom and Groomsman Attire: Jos. A. Bank | Cake: Wegmans | Rings: Personal Touch Jewelers | Stationary: Vistaprint