Kelsey and Jacob first met at a summer camp when they were 18. They became fast, close friends, but that remained the extent of their relationship for the next eight years. They went their separate ways, living in different states and cordially keeping in touch now and then. Until the Fall that everything changed.
In 2015, Jacob and Kelsey both found themselves back in their Missouri hometown over the holidays and reconnected. When Kelsey returned to her current home in Alabama, a three-page handwritten letter awaited her.
From the Bride: It was the most courageous and beautiful letter I’d ever received. It was from Jacob, basically asking if we could put the stuff in our past behind us, and saying he would like to fly to Birmingham, from Texas, and take me on a date.
I was shocked and still very hesitant, but with my sisters’ encouragement I said yes. We started talking every day on the phone and even before Jacob came to visit, I could tell something was different. We were both very confident from the beginning that this was the ‘thing’ people talk about when they are falling in love.
We dated long-distance--800 miles--for our whole courtship and engagement. On a September weekend in Birmingham, Jacob and I to St. Paul’s Cathedral for Sunday Mass. At the end of the liturgy he leaned over and asked if we could stay behind to pray. After ten minutes that felt like forever, he asked me if I was ready. I said ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Are you sure?’
Instead of exiting the church, Jacob took me to the altar, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I thought the day couldn’t get any better. Then I walked out the doors. As he opened them, our family, friends, and loved ones from so many different states were standing out there, waiting for us. It was one of the most incredible gestures anyone had ever done for me: to bring all the people I love into one place. The long-distance wedding planning began from there, and I believe that the distance only strengthened us in preparing to enter into the holy sacrament of marriage.
One of our favorite parts of engagement was our mandatory preparation. Given our long-distance status, weekly meetings with a teaching couple weren’t really an option for us. We received permission to attend a one-day marriage preparation retreat in a diocese of our choice. The most convenient place for us meet ended up being Little Rock, Arkansas. A priest there and gave some of the best advice we’ve ever been given, and it truly has become a cornerstone for our marriage, and we pray it continues: he challenged us to individually sit down and write a prayer to God about our future spouse and our hopes for our marriage. He said after a few days of prayer, come together, combine the two, and write your marriage prayer.
We were encouraged to start praying it every night and to continue it as a nightly habit in our marriage. So, that’s what we did. And it was so enriching for us both. It was so nice having a uniting prayer that we could pray over FaceTime each night while we were engaged, and by the time we were married it became part of our nightly routine. Our prayer helps us keep a clear perspective on what our goals for each other and our marriage are, with God’s help.
One of the most meaningful parts of our Mass was after Communion. The hymn, “Ave Maria,” began to play, and Jacob and I took a lily to St. Joseph’s statue and a rose to the statue of the Blessed Mother. These two, along with the child Jesus as the Holy Family, have played a huge role in our lives and bringing us together as a couple. As we placed the lily at Saint Joseph’s feet, Jacob and I prayed our marriage prayer. We then went to the foot of Our Lady, placed the rose, said a Hail Mary, entrusted our marriage to her, and said an individual prayer of thanksgiving to the Holy Family.
Our priest paused afterward, before the final blessing. He said to the congregation that during the meditation hymn, something happened that he’d rarely seen before. He then turned back to us and said, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounded like you were both praying the same prayer out loud. I have never heard this prayer before.”
We responded that yes, we were praying our marriage prayer. He asked, “Can we hear it?” It was absolutely unplanned, but now looking back it’s one of our favorite memories of our wedding day. The priest took his mic and placed it between us. We prayed the prayer out loud for all our guests to hear before the final blessing. To this day we have so many guests from our wedding come up to us, or tell our parents that they were so moved by the prayer and the idea of having a specific prayer with your spouse.
Before the wedding my mother-in-law offered to make us holy cards with our marriage prayer. On the front she printed a picture of the Holy Family, and on the back our names, date of the wedding, and our prayer. It was such a great way to commemorate our wedding, and we loved handing the cards out with the programs. Many people have asked for a copy, and this made it so convenient to have the holy cards to give them.
Thank you for showing us the love we have for each other and the love you have for both of us. We ask that every day you remind us of the blessing we are to one another, and that every action of our marriage is a sincere gift back to you.
We pray our children will be healthy, that we may always show them our truest love, and that they may become pillars of your love. Always encourage us to see the best in each other; to laugh, cry, and lean on the other through all of life’s challenges. Empower us to be beacons of light for others and to help each other become saints. We ask this through the intercession of the Holy Family.
For both of us, sharing our marriage prayer was probably one of our favorite and most cherished moments, but there were many other special times throughout the day. Jacob and I both wrote letters to each other before the ceremony, and I will cherish his words forever. My middle sister had just gotten married a month before, so it was a summer packed full of celebration for our family. The thing that made it so special, though, was I got to stand by her side and be a co-maid of honor, with my youngest sister, and she got to stand by my side and be my co-matron of honor.
Another special part of our ceremony was that two of my former students and a seminarian drove all the way from Alabama to serve at our Missouri wedding. I taught high school theology and was the Campus Minister for a high school in Birmingham for two years, and it meant so much seeing my students participating in our wedding Mass.
After the ceremony, the wedding party took a bus to a local ice cream shoppe, Andy’s Frozen Custard, which was such a fun addition to the day. Finally, the individual touch to top it off was my mother-in-law surprising Jacob during their dance together. Growing up, she always used to read him the story Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, and she would sing the song to him at the end of the book. Without Jacob knowing, she had a special recording of her singing the song made, and before their mother-son dance, her version of ‘Love You Forever’ came on over the sound system. It was a really special moment. Our wedding day was one of the best of our lives, but it was just the beginning. We are so thankful for the memories and for all who made it such a special beginning to our vocation.
Aside from getting to join my life with Jacob's, I think my biggest spiritual take-away from the day, was the feeling of, this must be a fraction of what Heaven feels like. And that fraction was amazing! Jacob and I have both separately moved around and lived away from our families for the past decade of our lives. We've met many people, and so many souls have impacted our lives greatly.
On our wedding day they were all there. They traveled thousands of miles. We even had a friend who lives in Austria come to celebrate this incredible sacrament with us. I still have trouble putting into words that feeling of looking around and seeing all the people who have loved, cared, and sacrificed for you throughout the years. It was a feeling of immense gratitude, joy, and longing for Heaven. I believe that is one of the greatest reasons people say they want their wedding day to last forever.