Behind the Scenes | Andi's Insider Look at the World of Catholic Wedding Planning

Andi Compton, our Business Director, planned her own birthday parties as a girl, spent hours making wedding collages as a teenager, and worked at the largest bridal store on the West Coast during college. She eventually answered the call to turn her organization and creativity into a business, Now That’s a Party, wherein she coordinates weddings primarily for Catholic couples.

Today, we’re excited to share with you an inside look at a wedding coordinator’s responsibilities--and how you, as the bride, can have the best experience with your coordinator, if you’ve chosen to hire one, and to anticipate the details that make for a smooth wedding day. Read on for Andi’s testimony, her advice for a joy-filled marriage--the fruit of 10 years with her husband, Matt--and the #1 piece of information to share with your coordinator.

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You've loved weddings and had a creative streak for a long time! How did you get started in the wedding industry?

I've been planning parties since my fourth birthday, when I told my parents we were having it at Chuck E. Cheese! Each year my parties got increasingly complex. My parents were very supportive of my ever-growing love of crafts, taking me to the store for classes and demos and letting me take over a cabinet (then a closet) for all of my supplies.

Then at 15, I saw the movie The Wedding Planner. I had no idea people could earn a living getting to help others with parties! This is long before Pinterest, so I’d save my allowance to subscribe to any bridal magazine I could get my hands on, then cut and paste together mock weddings.

In college I worked at Mon Amie, the largest bridal store on the West Coast. I learned so much about the wedding industry and even got to model dresses on the weekends.

When my husband proposed, we came up with a budget and I finally got the chance to learn exactly how to put together the ideas I’d been reading about for so long. After our wedding we were blessed with a bunch of babies (and lots of birthdays to plan!), and I would occasionally help a friend with her wedding.  

Soon I was being asked to essentially coordinate these weddings. I felt a pull towards making things official with a name, website, and branding. Then came networking and coordinating styled shoots, where I could meet other local vendors and build a relationship.

Do you work mostly with Catholic couples, or with others, as well? What, to you, sets a Catholic wedding apart?

The majority of the couples I work with are Catholic, and I would really enjoy that being my focus. I still work with secular couples, but they are mostly family friends or referrals.

Jesus Christ is what sets a Catholic wedding apart! Having the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord truly present at a wedding is just beyond phenomenal.

Do you have any stories of seeing the faith come alive in the couples you've worked with?

I arrived to the church an hour early before one wedding and prayed in the Adoration chapel until the wedding party arrived. At that time, I noticed the groom was nervous. I told him to go and sit in front of our Lord for awhile, and it was beautiful to see him, his brother, and their friend in prayer.

Now That's a Party offers services from basic wedding day timelines to full-on coordination from start to finish. What aspects of wedding planning are your brides most surprised by?

I think the biggest surprises are the little details that can easily be overlooked--like ordering meals for your vendors, packing an overnight bag if you're staying with your new husband in a hotel, and designating plans for cleanup and taking gifts home.

Here’s an example of unexpected details it’s important to plan for: one wedding I did was in a park overlooking the ocean, and the bride had ordered rose petals. I had her look over city regulations, pack a rake for after the ceremony, and schedule the petals into the timeline.

Brides have so much access to visual inspiration, message boards, and dozens more resources when planning their weddings, often before they even meet their vendors. As a coordinator, have you noticed pros and cons to this?

Pinterest can be an awesome tool to visualize your ideas and discover what trends you’re drawn to. On the flip side, it can make everything seem overwhelming; almost paralyzing. The biggest downside for me is having clients say, "Sorry, this isn't really going to be Pinterest-worthy wedding," as if that were the goal.

Becoming a Pinterest trend or getting featured on a wedding blog should never be your focus. Viewers will care about it for a day or so, then move onto the next thing. But the man you're engaged to wants to be your husband for the rest of your life.

Another disadvantage of inspiration overload is that so many wedding images on Instagram, Pinterest, and blogs are simply unattainable to the average couple, yet it can tap into our vanity because we want to fit in. Few wedding blogs feature simple receptions in church hall, yet I've happily coordinated those; and truly, the couples are so filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit from their wedding. It is just beautifully infectious to all their guests.

What's the most helpful thing a couple can do for you, as their coordinator, before and during the big day?

Hands down, send me copies of every single signed contract and give me contact info for each vendor, friend, or family member who will be there for setup, as well as emergency contacts. Once I have all of that info, I can contact each vendor and helper so I know what to expect and can construct a timeline for each person involved, so we are all on the same page. That timeline is gold on the day of!

We’d love to hear stories from some of the weddings you've worked on! Are there any particularly profound moments that stand out to you? Any funny or otherwise memorable ones?

One of the most fun moments at a wedding was when a bride and groom surprised their families with a belly dancing ensemble. One of the groom's cousins came out and played drums with the drummer, and everyone there was really into it. They even danced with swords! Another couple went all out smashing cake into each other's faces. That was rare for me; in my experience, most couples are nice and don't want to make a mess.

Does being immersed in weddings and, by extension, marriage, influence your relationship with your husband and family, and vice versa?

Yes! A big trend I've seen in the past several years is elaborate, showy proposals. They are featured on blogs, go viral on YouTube, and are all over Pinterest. Though I, of course, cherish my husband, he absolutely did not stage a "dream proposal," and I've had to try really hard to develop humility, accepting the reality of what happened and growing in gratitude for who he is. A proposal is all of five minutes, but having someone by your side, someone who constantly chooses to love you in sickness and in health, in bad times and in good…well, that's real love.

Lastly, what distinctively Catholic planning secrets can you share with brides-to-be?

First, before booking any vendors, book your church. Many dioceses require 6-9 months of preparation before the wedding. Second, develop an openness to Natural Family Planning. For many couples, it's their first time delving into the technical aspects after years of just hearing about it. No matter where you’re coming from, learning about the body God gave you is truly empowering.

Photography: Leif Brandt Photography, as seen in Sara + Calvin | Sophisticated Handcrafted Wedding, coordinated by Andi.


Andi Compton is Spoken Bride's Business Director. She is the owner of Now That's a Party where she coordinates weddings, fundraising galas, and social events. Read more

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Editors' Picks | Vol. 12: Favorite Love Stories

At Spoken Bride, we love a good book, a good meal, a standout statement necklace, a heel you can dance in, and the list goes on. And when we make those discoveries, we want to tell everyone. So every month or two, we're sharing our latest and favorite finds in everything engagement, wedding, and honeymoon-related.

The best romances direct our earthly emotion and longings to the Holy One, the beloved of our souls whose love is bottomless. Today, we're sharing the love stories that inspire us from literature, movies, TV, and the lives of the saints.

Jiza, Co-Founder + Creative Director

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series: Oh, where to begin?! There is something about Anne and Gil that will always give my stomach butterflies or make my heart skip a beat. I love Gil’s devoted pursuit of Anne and that he loves her for who she is, even when she is absolutely stubborn and unreasonable. From their early rivalry to their friendship to their eventual marriage, this fictional romance is one of my all-time favorites.

Chiara Corbella Petrillo and her husband, Enrico: Chiara is a young Italian wife and mother who died in 2012 of carcinoma. When you read her biography, Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy, written by her friends Simone Troisi & Cristiana Paccini, the beginning delves a great deal into Chiara and Enrico’s roller coaster courtship. Their marriage, too, was also not short of great suffering and sacrifice up until her death. Their relationship is real, gritty, and painful, yet still full of joy, trust, and redemption. In a world that idolizes the appearance of a curated, blissful marriage, I find great consolation in Chiara and Enrico and their absolute surrender to always serve God and do His will, no matter how much it hurts.

 

Andi, Business Director

Jim and Pam from The Office: this has got to be one of the most down-to-earth, relatable love stories out there (you know you cried at their wedding!). From the start I loved how Jim and Pam were friends; their relationship just slowly grew from there, and the show drew it out over a few seasons because real life is messy and doesn’t always happen on our schedule. Jim was so patient and it was worth it in the end!

 

Mary and Joseph: As I recently prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, I was reflecting on the theological virtue of hope, and Mary and Joseph came to my mind. Saint Joseph shows us so much trust in the Lord when he decides to marry Mary, despite the unexpected news of the Word becoming flesh in her womb. They both show us hope by trusting in God’s plan for their marriage and family, even with all the unexpected circumstances they had to endure.

Ella and Kit from Cinderella (2015): I had very low expectations going into this Disney remake and ended up blown away by the tenderness and affection that grew between Cinderella and Prince Kit. So much depth, personality, and actual motivations were given to these characters, and it made them so real! I think my favorite aspect of their relationship is the purity it’s portrayed with: neither had the intent to use the other for their own purposes, and neither felt worthy of the other, allowing real love to grow.

 

Stephanie, Co-Founder + Editor in Chief

Kitty Scherbatsky and Konstantin Levin from Anna Karenina: Tolstoy’s novel is most famous for its portrayal of a love story gone off the rails, via the affair conducted by the title character. So I found myself surprised, as well as incredibly moved, when I read the book for the first time and discovered that in contrast to Anna’s infidelity and emotional caprice, the story also traces the development of another relationship, one rooted in constancy and personal growth. The romance between Kitty and Levin matures as each grows in awareness of human nature and suffering, culminating in one of the most beautiful proposals I’ve ever encountered--fictional or real.

Saint Gianna Molla and her husband Pietro: Saint Gianna, to me, is a woman of vocation. She embraced all the Lord called her to in both gladness and trials; her decision to give birth to her fourth child at the cost of her own life embodied our ultimate call, as Christians, to lay down our lives. Her sacrifice is heroic, yet what stands out to me most is the ordinariness of who she was, in the best way: a 20th-century working mother, like so many of us, who desired to create a joyful and peaceful home for her family. The number of canonized married saints is few, so I am grateful for the poetry and encouragement I’ve found in the letters exchanged between Gianna and her beloved husband, Pietro. They cared for one another with a beautiful regard for one another’s spiritual well-being, with a sweet tenderness, and even a holy boldness--feeling certain of her devotion to Pietro, who was the shyer of the two, Gianna was the first to say I love you, expressing her desire for a lifelong commitment and family!

Tami and Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights: I consider myself emotional when it comes to love (read: crying over practically every Spoken Bride wedding submission), but I’m not easily swayed by shallow sentiment or sweeping gestures. I find the real and the messy romantic, because that’s who we, as humans, are. It’s what I love in the relationship between Coach Taylor and his wife. I truly can’t think of another TV marriage that is so realistically and positively portrayed: one rooted in abiding trust and good will, even when frustrated by life and work’s demands, one that doesn’t blow problems out of proportion for the sake of drama but confronts them with honesty and respect, and one with expressions of endearment and physical affection that feel so unaffected and true to life.

Did we include your favorite couple on this list? Share the love stories you love in the comments and on our social media.

Engagement + Newlywed Retreats, Part II | How to Plan Your Own Personal Retreat

This post is the second of a two-part series. Find Part I, our regional guide to the best retreats for Catholic couples, here.

If you and your beloved crave a respite from wedding planning or life’s busyness--quite literally, retreat--yet your time, travel, or financial circumstances aren’t suited to a more formal, sponsored retreat, it’s still possible to create your own day(s) of contemplation and fruitful discussion.

Here, our tips for planning a DIY retreat.

 Photography: Dominick Tardogno, seen in How  He Asked | Caty + Ryan

Photography: Dominick Tardogno, seen in How He Asked | Caty + Ryan

Choose a destination.

A shrine, monastery, cathedral, or other holy site in your area (or within day-trip distance) are good potential retreat locations. If you live in or near a city, consider planning a day of pilgrimage to several shrines or chapels. This directory of Catholic sites in the U.S. is a handy starting point for your plans.

Seek out the sacraments.

In the real presence of the Lord, the sacred beckons. Allow time in your day and travels for Mass, confession, spiritual direction, and/or Eucharistic Adoration.

Bring materials for introspection and prayer.

As deeply as we all desire quiet and rest, once we find it, it’s easy to feel...restless. The fruit of our perpetually connected, phones-at-the-ready habits. It’s alright if you struggle to focus during longer periods of prayer; persist, asking the Father to remove distractions from your heart and draw you into himself.

Moreover, come prepared, and allow time to practically and spiritually renew your relationship. Plan for at least one, and up to several, periods of Adoration or quiet prayer before the Tabernacle during your day of retreat. Designate a time for structured prayer, reading, or other devotions. You might consider…

Lectio divina (read Spoken Bride vendor Liz Escoffery’s tips for praying with your wedding vows here) | Spiritual reading on love and marriage (find our recommendations here) | Beloved, a video series on Catholic marriage | The Culture Project International’s lecture series on St. John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility | a talk from the National Forum on the Theology of the Body | How-To Catholic, a podcast on liturgical living and the daily life of the faith, hosted by a husband-and-wife duo | Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire podcast | Leah Darrow’s Do Something Beautiful podcast | Dr. Gregory Popcak’s More 2 Life podcast, focused on relationships

Talk.

Discuss the thoughts and insights borne of your prayer, reading, or listening. If questions surface--from the fun to the serious--ask them. A Q+A book for Christian relationships, like this one from the author of The 5 Love Languages, can spark your inquiries. Should particular issues arise that invite further probing and communication, pray about whether pre-marital counseling or spiritual direction can benefit you.

Plan a date.

End your day of retreat with dinner, a long walk or hike, or favorite hobby. For movie buffs, Christopher West’s The Cor Project offers a free, downloadable guide to “Theology of the Body at the movies” when you subscribe to their mailing list.

As Christ is transfigured atop the mountain, a vision of heavenly glory, his friends desire to linger there. Yet, he gently reminds them, they aren’t meant to stay forever at the summit; it’s back on the ground, amid the world, that they’re called to be his witnesses.

And so it is with a retreat, just as with marriage: some moments are so elevated, so glorious, we never want to leave. In the times we’re back in life’s trenches, when the crosses feel heavy, when our hearts cry out, it’s those memories of transcendence that sustain us. May you find true peace and rest during your time of retreat, re-entering the world remade and brought to life.

Healthy Ways to Talk About You and Your Beloved's Pasts

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

Have you and your fiancé’s past relationships--and your actions within them--influenced your engagement?

Before our wedding, my husband and I spoke extensively about regrets from former relationships, in everything from physical boundaries to the ways we’d fought or solved problems with our exes. Our discussions generally felt constructive, and were probably aided by the euphoria of newer love, making us quicker to forgive and express empathy than we might have been otherwise.

  Photography:  Elizabeth M Photography  

It wasn’t until recently, several years into marriage, that the impact of the past hit home for me. My husband and I imagined what we would have thought of each other if we’d met at a younger age. With lightness, trust, and an innocent curiosity in my heart, I asked if I could read some of the messages he’d exchanged with an old girlfriend. That lightness turned heavy as I read through nicknames and jokes so similar to ones my husband had written to me. I quickly clicked the window closed.

I didn’t feel sad that he’d ever had feelings for someone else. It was the echoes of our own relationship I read in his teenage self’s words that unsettled me, making me feel as if our love were somehow less unique.

I should be clear in stating that I don’t blame my husband in any way for this. After all, we didn’t even know of each other’s existence at the time he’d written those words, and essential parts of who we are are consistent in every relationship, romantic and otherwise. Rooted deep in my soul is the knowledge that I have chosen, and been chosen by, a man entirely committed and faithful to me. But it hurt all the same.

What I know now is that my asking to read that correspondence was neither healthy nor constructive. Our relationship has thrived on honest vulnerability about our past mistakes, yet I’ve realized honesty and prudence aren’t always the same thing.

Having already known and discussed my husband’s thoughts and areas of growth from that relationship, my asking to know it in more detail than necessary was fruitless, inflicting fresh salt on wounds that had long ago been cleansed. I wish I’d been more at peace with not knowing. While, in my opinion, it’s important and good to gently reveal your past errors in judgment or sexual sins in a broad sense, I’ve also arrived at the opinion that delving overly into specifics often causes more hurt than healing.

As you and your beloved work through your own past dating experiences on your path to the altar, here are other habits that have helped me do the same.

Ask yourselves the purpose of what you’re revealing.

The right sorts of disclosure--that is, the sorts that bring peace, restoration, and mercy--enable mature love to grow. If you choose to reveal parts of your past as solely as a means of feeling emotionally closer, as an occasion of pride that leads to feeling superior to your fiancé’s exes, or out of prurient interest, chances are these revelations will inspire more division than unity. Be real with yourselves about what purpose your inquiries and revelations serve.

As someone prone to nosiness, I’ve struggled in this area and have grown in greater wisdom and self-knowledge about why I might be asking about certain parts of my husband’s past. It takes ruthless honesty to admit to yourself that your intentions might not be the purest of heart, and to discern whether their fruits would be nourishing or bitter.

Get rid of all items from past relationships.

Though you haven’t yet made your wedding vows, engagement is a time of declared commitment that’s moving toward a specific end: your wedding day. In light of this gravity and forthcoming permanence, these months of preparation are an ideal time to get rid of any lingering possessions, gifts, texts, and emails from the past. Even if you and an ex have remained in each other’s orbit by choice or circumstance, it’s healthy to remove items with romantic significance from your life. It’s a gesture of faithfulness, and of turning forward in hope, to your fiancé.

Appreciate who you are now, not who you were then.

Conversion is a powerful thing. Saints are made along the path of reconciliation and virtue. Matters like past emotional entanglements and sexual sins, though, aren’t small; feeling their sting months and years later is normal. It’s valuable to keep in mind not just that the past is the past, but that who your beloved used to be--in all his or her weaknesses or poor choices--is also the past. Praise the Father for the gift of who your fiancé is, and for all the experiences that have brought you to the present.

If necessary, don’t fear professional assistance.

Premarital counseling or therapy doesn’t mean you’re weak.

Knowing when to invite the help of a professional shows great strength and dedication to your relationship.

If one or both of you have struggled with addictions and sexual sin, a Catholic counselor can provide spiritual and emotional tools to facilitate healthy communication.

And if one or both of you have been through any form of sexual abuse or assault, know, above all, that in the Father’s eyes you are nothing less than whole, blameless, and worthy of love. Working through these experiences together, with a counselor, helps cultivate trust, intimacy, forgiveness, and true peace.

Give every part of yourselves to the Lord.

If you struggle with aspects of your pasts, ask for the grace of healing. During a guided holy hour on a retreat I once attended, a priest advised asking Christ in prayer to reveal to us what wounds in our lives he desired to reveal. Sit with these wounds and confront them as they surface, he instructed, and then visualize giving them back to Jesus. Christ, the ultimate beloved of our hearts, desires so deeply to share our heartaches and, moreover, to redeem them.

Resolve to forgive, no matter what.

Forgiveness might take a long time. That’s alright. I encourage you and your fiancé, however, to promise one another that no matter what, you will eventually forgive all past wrongs. Grudges are poison; a source of doubt that limits true freedom. Trust in each other, and in your love, and you will reveal the Lord’s mercy to one another.

There have been times in our relationship where I’ve badly desired the will to forgive my husband and move on, even as I struggled to get my bruised heart on board. I feel thankful that even while upset, I’ve frequently sensed the Lord’s peace amid the storm within. In that peace, I have so strongly felt the certainty that I would forgive, even if I wasn’t ready at the moment. I never doubted I would, and prayed I could feel ready to do so quickly. Let me let go of this, I begged. Help me trust in this certainty.

Never lose sight of prayer for your fiancé, yourself, and your relationship. Prayers of agony, of asking for the grace to diminish or remove former sins from your memory, and even prayers of thanksgiving for the emotional weight of dealing with the past are all more than acceptable.

Our every prayer is a delight to the one who so ardently asks for our total trust: Jesus, I trust in you.

In the times I experience that deep conviction of forgiveness, I thank God for these gifts of trust. Gifts that have affirmed to me my husband’s deep goodness and the ways in which our hearts are so specifically suited to one another’s. I hope, truly, for you and your fiancé to be flooded with similar graces: filled with his peace, living examples to one anotherof divine love and mercy.


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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Engagement + Newlywed Retreats, Part I | Supplementing Your Marriage Prep

This post is the first of a two-part series.

We’ve been asked recently for our tips on making your marriage preparation as in-depth and transformative as possible. Whether you’ve chosen a day-long workshop, pre-Cana classes at your parish, or meetings with a sponsor couple, consider taking time for further education and prayer, as time and finances allow, with a supplemental retreat for you and your beloved. In these days of the New Evangelization, the Church is rich with resources ancient and new that invite rest, contemplation, and time to be drawn nearer to one another as you both are drawn into the Father’s love.

  Photography: Mel Watson Photography

Photography: Mel Watson Photography

Because so many worthy resources exist for different spiritualities, devotions, and needs of the heart, it would be impossible to list them all. Your diocesan website is a good place to begin seeking upcoming events that might bear fruit in your relationship. Another is the dwellings of religious orders in your area, some of whom welcome visitors to join in their daily rhythms of prayer, work, or ministry or who host speaking events.

And think beyond the confines of topics related specifically to marriage prep: retreats with the themes of prayer, art, theology, mental wellness from a Catholic perspective, and beyond allow ample time for discussion, self-examination, and growth in faith.  Below, by region, are a series of programs and ministries that can provide the silence and deeper dive you might be thirsting for.

 

East Coast

Charis NYC: Ignatian retreats by and for Catholic young adults, with several program options centered on spiritual concerns common in this stage of life, including discernment, contemplation, meaningful living, and life’s transitions (New York City).

Given: A day-long event for engaged or married couples featuring talks, worship, and the sacraments (Baltimore).

International Institute for Catholic Culture: Founded in response to John Paul II’s call to the faithful to re-evangelize the culture and form a “civilization of love,” this non-profit educational center well-suited to lovers of theology and academics provides classical language courses, lectures on the intersection of faith and culture, art exhibits, and musical performances (Philadelphia).

Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center: An apostolate of Regnum Christi that hosts Ignatian-inspired retreats of varying length, as well as monthly reflection events. The center is particularly gifted with meeting the needs of couples, offering its own marriage prep program for engaged couples, speaking events for newlyweds, and marriage workshops. Catholic counseling and therapy are also available onsite, through the Alpha Omega Clinic (Washington, D.C.).

St. Joseph Retreat House: Serving the New England region with guided retreats inspired by St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, with time included for structured prayer, recreation, and spiritual direction (Boston).

Theology of the Body Institute: Offering a variety of 5-day courses designed to form the entire person, “head and heart,” the Institute combines academics with the sacraments while educating on Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body Audiences, Love and Responsibility, and other writings, alongside topics like beauty, interior prayer, and a retreat created specifically for engaged or married couples (Philadelphia).  

 

Midwest

Love Your Marriage: An day-long event for married couples, with an emphasis on creating a holy, thriving relationship through all stages of life, including newlywed years and parenting (Denver).

Ruah Woods: a Theology of the Body education center offering study courses and retreats both on and off-site. The center also offers psychological services from Catholic professionals whose worldview informs their work with clients (Cincinnati).

St. Benedict’s Abbey: Men’s, women’s, and couples’ retreats led by Benedictine monks (Atchison, Kansas).

Tabor Life Institute: Programs and retreats that teach the Theology of the Body through the use of Scripture, writings by Church mystics, art and iconography, and the Eastern Rites of the Church. The Institute--whose staff includes a priest who attended some of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body audiences in Rome, the first time they were delivered--additionally hosts Pre-Cana weekend event for couples preparing for marriage in the Byzantine Rite (Chicago).

 

South

Alexander House: Founded by a longtime-married couple who restored their relationship from the possibility of divorce with the help of a Catholic therapist, this apostolate for couples in all stages of marriage and family life provides courses for engagement and problem-solving for troubled marriages, all in light its mission to help couples create a joyful domestic Church (San Antonio).

Casa Maria Convent & Retreat House: Offering structured retreats, including those for couples, that include talks, personal prayer time, the sacraments, and participation in the Divine Office with the beautiful Sister Servants of the Eternal Word (Birmingham).

Catholic Charismatic Center: Offering retreats for young adults and couples (recent leaders include Father Stan Fortuna), rooted in the spirituality of the Charismatic renewal movement (Houston).

Three to Get Married: An engagement retreat aimed at comprehensive formation of spouses-to-be--spiritual, psychological, emotional, and cultural--through presentations from priests, married couples, medical professionals, and trained psychologists (Nashville).

 

West Coast

John Paul II Resource Center: Providing day-long Theology of the Body retreats on a variety of topics--including those geared toward women, men, parents, couples, and educators--as well as talks for marriage preparation and enrichment (Phoenix).

New Camoldoli Hermitage: A beautiful, coastal Benedictine hermitage, offering preached retreats throughout the year by the Camoldolese Benedicitines and inviting participants into the prayer of monastic life (Big Sur).

Our Lady of the Rock: Retreat opportunities hosted by Benedictine sisters, inviting guests to participate in the daily prayer and tasks of their monastic farm life, which is largely self-sufficient (Shaw Island, Washington).

Sacred Heart Retreat House: A site run by Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart, this house provides retreats for men, women, couples, and young adults, rooted in the Carmelite spirituality of leading the faithful into a deeper relationship with Christ (Los Angeles).

 

Nationwide (U.S.)

Passion and Purpose for Marriage: An initiative of Dynamic Catholic, this one-day event, hosted across the U.S. and based in California, offers talks for couples in all stages of their relationship on practical matters in the vocation of marriage, prayer and worship, and time for one-on-one discussion.

Miles Christi: Guided Ignatian silent retreats hosted by the Miles Christi brothers, offered nationwide and based in Michigan and California.

We thrive on the community you help us to grow. If a program or retreat you’ve attended has blessed your relationship outside of marriage preparation, be sure to share it with other brides in the comments and on our social media.

Next week, read more on retreats, including digital resources and how to plan your own retreat with your beloved.

Our Favorite Quotes on Fruitful Love, on the Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

This week, the Church commemorates 50 years since the publication of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter Humanae Vitae--translated as ”Of Human Life.” Drawing from the hundreds of years of Scripture and tradition on which the Church was founded, the letter was composed in response to a commission whose purpose was to evaluate the effects of newly and widely available contraceptives on society.

The Pope’s words praise the goodness of married love: he calls it “fully human,” involving both body and soul--the whole person--and imaging Christ’s free, faithful, total, and fruitful gift of self. Love like this reserves nothing and bears real fruit, ending not in death but in eternal life.

Life. Whether physically, spiritually, or both, all married couples are called to be abundant and allow new life to flow forth from their love.

Amid social pressure and speculation over whether the encyclical would “reverse” the Church’s directive that contraceptives are contrary to the nature of authentic love, Paul VI courageously maintained that artificial means of birth control are never in keeping with a sincere, unreserved gift of the self and exchange of persons.

After all, as he pointed out, the nature of love itself; the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary, hadn’t changed since before the commission--how, then, could human beings change their imitation of this love, without changing the definition of love entirely? His appeals to logic--and his recognition that every person desires to be loved without conditions or limitations--draw attention to the high, yet attainable, calling of our path to heaven.

If you’ve never read Humanae Vitae, engagement and new marriage are ideal times to contemplate the love spouses are called to imitate; to be the human face of the Father’s love to one another in the particular way only they, as individuals, can.

What’s more, if the demands of love, and the Church’s reasoning on contraception, are difficult for you, take time to turn inward in prayer and ask the Lord if he’s calling you and your beloved to deeper understanding or a lifestyle change. He is merciful in all things and desires nothing less than our deepest happiness.

When the love of husband and wife mirrors the Father’s love as closely as possible, we are drawn more deeply into the heart of God and that much closer to the fulfillment and true flourishing on earth that he intends for us, his children.

This list of resources, including prayers, studies, and media, from the U.S. Bishops is a rich and accessible starting point. For your further contemplation and inspiration, we’ve compiled a selection of passages, from holy men and women past and present, that make us excited and motivated to live out love’s demands.

On authentic love

As a passion sublimated by a love respectful of the dignity of the other, [the relationship between spouses] becomes a “pure, unadulterated affirmation” revealing the marvels of which the human heart is capable. - Pope Francis

Self-discipline...is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character...it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace. - Humanae Vitae

For the Lord has entrusted to [spouses] the task of making visible to men and women the holiness and joy of the law which united inseparably their love for one another and the cooperation they give to God's love, God who is the Author of human life. - ibid

On the love of God

All love ends in an incarnation, even God’s. Love would not be love if it did not escape the limitation of individual existence by perpetuating itself...wherein death is defeated by life. - Ven. Fulton Sheen

The liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands. - Saint John Paul II

Do you want to see the difference [between NFP and contraception]?...There’s nothing to fear. Trusting him is only threatening if he’s a tyrant. He’s not. He’s perfect love. Let go. Let him in. Trust him. - Christopher West

On family size, discernment, and infertility

The number is not in itself the decisive factor. The fact of having few or many children does not on its own make a family more or less Christian. What matters is the integrity and honesty with which married life is lived. True mutual love transcends the union of husband and wife and extends to its natural fruits — the children. Selfishness, on the contrary, sooner or later reduces love to a mere satisfaction of instinct and destroys the bond which unites parents and children. - St. Josemaria Escriva

I would therefore like to remind spouses in a condition of infertility, that this does not thwart their matrimonial vocation. Spouses are always called by their baptismal and matrimonial vocation itself to cooperate with God in the creation of a new human life. The vocation to love is in fact a vocation to the gift of self, and this is a possibility that no physical condition can prevent. Therefore, whenever science finds no answer, the answer that gives light comes from Christ. - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

On sacrifice and its fruits

...the seeking [of Jesus]  is a going out from ourselves. It is a going out from our illusions, our limitations, our wishful thinking, our self-loving, and the self in our love. - Caryll Houselander

Want to be happy?…Lose your life in love and you will find it. Give your life away as a gift, and you’ll come to resurrection. - Bishop Robert Barron

The various forms of sacrifice include one positive similar meaning: Life is surrendered in order to be transformed and shared.” - Scott Hahn

On charity with regard to Church teaching

We are fully aware of the difficulties confronting the public authorities in this matter…"the only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values." - Humanae Vitae

Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. - ibid

On human nature

Our body is a cenacle, a monstrance; through its crystal the world should see God. - Saint Gianna Molla

Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning. - Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. - Humanae Vitae

As always, we at Spoken Bride are here for you. No matter where you’re coming from, no matter your opinion or experiences with this aspect of Church teaching, we’re committed to truly seeing and hearing you. We welcome your thoughts, your questions on married love and Natural Family Planning, and even your reservations and respectful disagreements, so know that you have the freedom to share them in the comments and on our social media. Consider this an invitation to conversation, with our hopes of living out our mission of truth, goodness, beauty, and authenticity with charity and productive dialogue.

Photography: Alyssa Michelle Photography, seen in How He Asked | Danielle + Jeff

 

Cultivating a Heart for Your Single Friends

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

I remember the first time I felt it. I’d just helped send my sister off to prom--nine years later, her date would become her husband--giddy with admiration for her beaded dress and lack of preoccupation with her looks. Three years before, I’d reluctantly attended my own senior prom, feeling the weight of expectation that it was what you were supposed to do, supposed to feel emotional about, at the end of high school. No one asked me. My dad dropped me off.

  Photography: Kelli Seeley Photography

Photography: Kelli Seeley Photography

I felt it again the day an old friend called, breathlessly sharing the story of how she’d gotten engaged hours earlier on a snow-covered bench. At the time, I was navigating the waters of serious dating for the first time, aware my current relationship was diminishing my spiritual life and sense of who I was, yet too fearful and passive to do much about it. Where, I wondered, was the man I’d marry, and when would it be my turn?

Those stirrings in my heart had a name: an ache. My heart was beating; I was alive; and it hurt.

Sometimes, it was physically painful to sit on the floor of the chapel, eyes glazed before the tabernacle and desperate for the road to my vocation to present itself. I shared in the joy of my sister and my friends as they experienced the wonder and recognition of meeting the men they’d say yes to, forever. I was sincerely glad for them; not envious, just...sad. Something was missing. I struggled not to idolize marriage, knowing my ultimate fulfillment and truest home for my longings lay not in a spouse, but in the Father’s love. Yet all the same, I longed.

Then I found myself engaged, scarcely believing a man as sacrificial, tender, and endlessly fascinating as my fiancée was even a reality, let alone someone who would choose me. Those whispers of the ache came back, in the form of empathy for several close friends enduring recent, and very raw, breakups.

I remembered the feeling that my dating life had existed in an entirely different world than that of my engaged friends, and feared I’d now be the one inflicting pain on women I loved who were currently single.

As a result, I stayed close-lipped for a while about my excitement and planning experiences with certain friends, concerned oversharing would be hurtful. Until my best friend looked in my eyes and told me not to be worried. She was happy for me, she insisted, and my sharing the details of wedding plans didn’t lessen that happiness.

It takes a woman of great strength and selflessness to say something like my friend told me; someone of pure good will and an ability to enter into the joy of another as if it were her own. My friend gave me such a gift that evening, not only in her other-focused love for me, but in her honesty.

For weeks, I’d wondered what she was feeling as she ordered a dress, planned my bridal shower, and listened to my minimally detailed stories about registry scanners and accessory shopping, all while weathering a storm of uncertainty after what seemed like a promising relationship suddenly ended. I was anxious, constantly wondering if it was too self-important of me to even have the worries I did. As it turned out, directness was so much clearer--so obvious; so much simpler--than speculation and anxiety.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, unsure of how much of your engagement or newlywed life to share with your single friends, I recommend a heart-to-heart. The only way to be sure is to communicate. Ask your friend what sort of involvement in your plans is helpful, what’s difficult, and how she’d like to participate. Chances are, she’ll feel honored you asked, free to be honest with you, and ultimately, sincerely excited about your forthcoming marriage.

Conversations like these can be mutually uncomfortable. But on the other side lies greater comfort than ever, each of you more in tune with the other’s heart and feeling the unspoken freedom and permission to share your thornier emotions. Additionally, the practices of taking time during your engagement to spend quality time with friends who are single and interceding for them, placing your trust in the Lord’s timing with regard to their own vocations, bear only good fruit.

“...love always communicates itself, that is, love listens and responds, love is found in dialogue and communion.” - Pope Francis

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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