Why a Christmas Octave Wedding is a Beautiful and Unique Choice + How to Plan One

MARIAH MAZA

 

On December 30, 2017, I entered into a mystery, the sacrament of holy matrimony, with my high school sweetheart and love of my life--only five days after Christmas and one before New Year’s Eve!

I never thought I would get married during the Octave of Christmas, the period of eight days after the second highest solemnity of the Church: the Nativity of our Lord.  

In fact, the end of December was far from my first choice. I had begun blissfully imagining a spring or summer wedding, since winter was my least favorite season. Unfortunately, my college schedule and that of my fiancé, who went to school two hours away, made it one of the few available weekends. So I reluctantly agreed. Our engagement was already going to be 18 months long, and after seven years of dating I couldn’t wait any longer to finally be married.

At first, I was afraid that a “Christmas” wedding would feel like one more holiday event for my family members to drag themselves to after the exhausting celebrations at the beginning of the same week. My wedding, the happiest day of my life, was about to be sandwiched uncomfortably between Christmas and New Years.

Fortunately, I was very wrong! And as my nuptials loomed closer and the planning progressed, the more excited I became about my winter wedding. In his generosity, almost like a divine wedding present, the Lord surprised me with a gift I didn’t even know I wanted.

So if you are still trying to settle on a date for your big day, and the Christmas season is one of your only possibilities, here are five reasons a Christmas wedding is a beautiful option:

The holiday cheer and festivity.

This one element of the season, which I thought would most distract myself and everyone else from the actual wedding, was ultimately one of the best parts of getting married right after Christmas. As I opened presents, feasted, and spent amazing quality time with my family and soon-to-be in-laws, the excitement of my wedding coming only a few days later heightened the Christmas joy to a level I had never felt before. I celebrated knowing our families would soon be united forever by my marriage, and that thrilled me.

I drifted from the celebration of the Incarnation, Jesus Christ made flesh, to the celebration of another kind of incarnation: my husband and I made one flesh.

Advent.

The liturgical season leading up to Christmas is a time of preparation and joyful anticipation. What better way to spend the last weeks before your wedding than in a spirit of stillness and anticipation with the whole Church?

When wedding planning gets stressful and chaotic, take this time of Advent with your fiancé for extra spiritual preparation and intentional silence. This prayer time and reflection will benefit you greatly the day after the wedding is over, and the lifelong marriage covenant begins.

The church is already decorated.

Who doesn’t love to save money? Decorations are a major part of wedding planning that can easily cost thousands of dollars, especially between beautifying a church and a reception venue. When you choose a church, keep in mind that during the Octave of Christmas, a lot of flowers, lights, and trees (and possibly a beautiful Nativity scene) will still be up for Christmastide. Besides Eastertide, this is one of the weeks the inside of a church is most beautiful.

If you are beginning to plan more than a year before your wedding, go check out how the local Catholic churches are decorated for Christmas. You may not only save on flowers, but someone else will have done the work of decorating days before your wedding! Scratch that off the list.

Christmas music!

There is something about Christmas music that is both incredibly special and nostalgic. Most people have at least one or two Christmas hymns that they look forward to singing and hearing every year. If you are planning your liturgy during the Octave of Christmas, you may have the unique opportunity to choose favorite Christmas hymns for the nuptial Mass.

What would it be like to hear a rendition of “What Child is This” played after communion? Or “Joy to the World” as the recessional song, as you walk out of the church as husband and wife for the first time? Some other ideas could be “O Holy Night,” “The First Noel,” or “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Check with your pastor or musicians to find out what kind of music is allowed or possible.

Winter and Christmas color schemes.

I admit my first choice for wedding colors was something more pastel and softly pretty that would go with the feeling of a spring wedding. But when I set my date for five days after Christmas, I felt like a spring color scheme would feel very out of place in a season of red and green.

I decided to do some research into deeper, more wintry color combinations, just for fun.

Think deep maroons, wine reds, emerald greens, dark navy blues, rustic browns, off whites, and silver and gold accents.

These colors together, in the right shades, were strikingly beautiful in a solemn and elegant way.

We decided on wine red, emerald green, navy blue, rustic brown, and gold accents. For a girl who prefers silver over gold in almost everything, I was surprised how much I loved the look of the glittering gold pieces in my decorations and wedding ensemble.

It is true, there are some drawbacks to planning a wedding during the Octave of Christmas: some guests may have been traveling, for instance, or maybe you live in a state where the end of December and early January is unbelievably cold, and a wedding during this time would mean being buried under feet of snow.

And yet, I have no regrets about my December nuptials. Looking back, I would not want to get married any other time of the year. Almost everyone we invited was able to attend, and nobody froze to death at the reception.

The day after our wedding was the Feast of the Holy Family, an extremely fitting celebration. On this day, my husband and I celebrated the miraculous creation of our new, little holy family for the first time.

Two days after our wedding, we started the new year as newlyweds. It was powerfully symbolic of the end of the first chapter of of our lives and the start of our vocation together.

Even if it never occurred to you before, consider the Christmas season for your I dos. I pray that as you discern the date for your wedding, you’ll be filled with the joy and peace that God loves to grant his children--should we seek it--every day of the year.  

Are you planning a December or January celebration? Find more inspiration here:

Winter Weddings | Holiday Weddings


About the Author: Mariah Maza is Spoken Bride’s Features Editor. She is the co-founder of Joans in the Desert, a blog for bookish military wives. Read more

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Inviting God into your Wedding Planning Desires

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

God created us, and he creates our desires to point us towards goodness, beauty, creation, and virtue. When we are attentive to our desires--both the lighthearted and the deepest desires of our hearts--Christ can teach us something about ourselves or about himself. (Or really about anything, because he is God.)

Does your season of engagement feel overwhelming and distracting due to stress or expectations of wedding planning? With a prayerful approach, the desires and details in our wedding planning can become a sacramental aspect within the sacrament of matrimony. When we seek God in our desires, the smallest wedding details can give visibility to a truth of our faith, to our relationship with Christ, or to the deeper desires of our hearts.

The sacramental aspect of our Catholic faith describes the ways physical objects make an invisible truth visible. For example, water is the physical object signifying the spiritual cleansing, or rebirth in Christ, through the sacrament of Baptism. In marriage, the first night together as husband and wife, and every act of love thereafter, makes tangible the unifying vows of the sacrament of Matrimony.

So how do we uncover the deeper meaning of our desires in wedding planning? How do we tune in to the songs our hearts are singing?

First, we have to know what we want. In the gospel of John, the first question Jesus asks is, “What do you want?” It’s not a selfish question to ask ourselves, especially when we are striving to know ourselves and know Christ in a pursuit of holiness.

Despite how clear your vision for your wedding day might be, consider pausing to journey into that vision with God. Invite God into your head and your heart and ask yourself, “What do I want to see at my wedding?” Note the first things that come to mind. Is it a specific flower, color scheme, or song? Is it a desired anticipation for how a moment will play out?

Perhaps a surprising  answer will pop into your mind! In those moments, you can certainly say “hello” to the Holy Spirit who is guiding your heart.

Perhaps answering the question “what do I want?” is challenging. Is there a tinge of fear, anxiety, or apprehension that bubbles to the surface of your heart when you try to dive in that deeply? If so, keep going, trust the Lord, keep Him close; He wants to show you something good! Rather than fearing the fear itself and suppressing those feelings, take Mary or Jesus’ hand and prayerfully walk into those desires.

Second, take to Christ whatever comes to mind and let him begin to unfold the mystery of your heart. A prayer as simple as, “Okay, Jesus. I want ____ at my wedding. I imagine ____ at my wedding. What is it about ____ am I attracted to? I ask you to reveal something deeply beautiful about these desires to me.”

God might reveal these answers to you in that exact moment of prayer, or maybe over a series of days. Maybe he will withhold his response until the wedding day, or even weeks after when you’re turning back through pictures. Regardless of how he answers this prayer in his timing, he hears you. He is with you in your desires. The things we are attracted to are ways God romances us towards his goodness, his beauty, his creation, and his love.

We want more than we think we want.

Even after the wedding day has come and gone, this conversation with Christ is one we can continue in any season of life.

In my most recent personal experience, praying through my desires was an effort to clarify if my desire was from God or from my own selfishness. When my husband and I moved overseas, it took over two months for our belongings to arrive from the United States to our new (and first) home. The time of waiting tested my patience and led to my restless wanting of our stuff. In the past, I’ve done well with traveling out of a backpack and maintaining a relatively simple profile, so this deep feeling of need for my things was surprising to me.

On the one hand, it takes a personal touch to create a home. We were living on rental furniture and bare walls; I desired our personalized bookshelves and coffee mugs and photographs. I desired to create a home with my husband.

But on the other hand, I was tempted to shame in those desires because I was being “too materialistic” and “too selfish” and “too needy.” The latter experience led me to my knees in a prayer to see God in those desires.

He shattered the glass of my temptation to self-shame. In his most gentle and straight-forward way, God first allowed me to speak my fears: “I feel like I am a bad Christian if I want my stuff.” Nearly instantly thereafter, he provided a sanctifying clarity: it’s not the stuff for the sake of having stuff I desire, but the love, joy, memory, journey, hope, and faith that those things represent. A home is a place of hospitality, rest, unity, and love; beyond the desire for “stuff” is a beautiful desire for a home.

And beyond the desire for a home is a desire for our eternal home, heaven. The ache for what I want now opened my perspective to what I want forever.  

My patience was restored and the process of building our first home has filled my heart with gratitude and hope for all the goodness to come--both in this life and in heaven.

Oftentimes, the details we want to see on our wedding day are a manifestation of our heart’s yearning for beauty and virtue and love. Through the gift of free will, God will patiently wait to show us those deeper layers of our hearts until we ask him to show us. When we invite him into our wedding planning--the season of preparation toward the vocation to a sacrament of marriage--he will undoubtedly show up and love on us as he does so well.

He has already shown up by inviting you into this sacrament--one of the beautiful ways he reveals his love for his people! Why would he stop there? Our God is a God of infinity.

What does he want to show you? What does he have to teach you? What beauty can be revealed as we journey through wedding planning and decision making processes with Christ by our side?

May the journey continue for you with infinite beauty and surprise.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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Just Engaged? Tips + Considerations for Setting a Wedding Date

It’s a predictable pattern: once friends and family receive the news of your engagement, their responses, in quick succession, are typically How did he propose? followed by, So when’s the wedding?

  Photography:    Shea Castricone

Photography: Shea Castricone

It’s hard to fault your loved ones for their interest and excitement on your behalf. Yet it’s alright to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of choosing a wedding date, let alone planning for it. If you’re newly engaged and wondering where to begin, start by arranging a meeting with the priest at the parish or chapel where you plan to enter into marriage.

At your first meeting, your priest will discuss practical matters like if and when you and your fiancé have received the sacraments, give an overview of the marriage prep process, and will likely send you home with an interview or inventory like FOCCUS to illuminate areas of your relationship that could benefit from deeper examination.

Sometimes when setting the date, the process is as simple as choosing from a list of available days and times. It can be overwhelming, however, to see endless calendar blocks open to you. Here, to aid in your discernment and decision-making, considerations for choosing your date.

The liturgical year

If a particular saint or feast has been significant in your relationship, consider bringing that significance into your wedding date, by way of a saint’s feast day or a solemnity. Spoken Bride’s Business Director, Andi Compton, was married on September 8, the birth of Our Lady, and Creative Director Jiza Zito was married August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption.

Bear in mind that most dioceses do not permit celebratory sacraments, like matrimony and baptism, during Lent. On the other hand, weddings held during the Christmas and Easter seasons convey a beautiful image of new, fruitful, glorious life.

Your personal responsibilities

While, like many major transitions in life, there’s never an ideal, conflict-free time to dive in--and the joy of entering into marriage drowns out those small matters--it is worth considering if any major obligations on the horizon could add stress to your wedding plans. Busy seasons at work in the finance, education, and retail fields, for instance,can be difficult to leave at the office, and if one or both of you is serving on mission, wherein you’re expected to prioritize your work and apostolate, setting your wedding date for a relatively calm time of year can minimize burnout.

Family obligations

If anyone in your immediate family or prospective wedding party will be traveling abroad, on a military deployment, giving birth, or undergoing major surgery or medical procedures in the upcoming months, understand the strain these circumstances might place on their ability to attend your wedding. Of course, it’s impossible to set a date where no guests have prior obligations, but for those closest to you, it’s a gesture of consideration, and a gift to you as a couple, to set a date they’ll be able to attend.

Circumstances and needs at this time in your lives

A short engagement can work well if neither you nor your fiancé will be relocating to a new city or state after your wedding, if one of you is already living in the home you’ll eventually share, or if you’re both well into your post-college lives and careers. A slightly longer time of preparation might be practical if you’re still in school, will need to make arrangements for your living situation, or have concerns that could benefit from pre-marital counseling.

All that said, every divinely ordained relationship, and every unrepeatable person within it, has unique needs, strengths, and challenges. It’s alright to move forward in faith even without all the answers, to get married while going to therapy, or to celebrate your marriage in the midst of professional or family-related whirlwinds. When we step out into the deep, Peter-like, Christ is present and won’t leave us to flounder.

More on discerning the length of your engagement and choosing a wedding date:

Christina Dehan Jaloway’s reflections on a short engagement and on being an “older” Catholic bride | Elise Crawford Gallagher’s tips for thriving during a long engagement | Holiday weddings

How did you and your beloved go about setting your wedding date? Share your thought process with other brides in the comments and on our social media.

Balancing Materialism and Majesty in Your Wedding Plans

SINIKKA ROHRER

 

If there’s one thing I remember from my engagement, it’s the difficulty of balancing the majesty and materialism a wedding involves.

Quite a few friends and family offered well-meaning advice about what a wedding day should look like. After every conversation, I'd look at my fiancée with fear-filled eyes:

“Do we really need to have a cocktail hour?”

“Is anyone going to care if we have favors?”

“Will anyone notice if we have faux flowers?”

The amount of material concerns pressed upon us was overwhelming. In the midst of these decisions, I remember wishing I had a way out from it all. I want to help give that to you.

Here is permission: you do not need to have a cocktail hour. No one will care if you have favors or not, and even if someone notices that you have faux flowers, it doesn’t diminish the beauty of your day.

Your wedding day is about more than pretty dresses, perfect centerpieces, and prime cuts of meat. It’s about uniting with your beloved, under the mantle of Christ.

Here are a few ways to feel balanced as you navigate material and spiritual concerns:

Set a budget and prioritize.

Your mother, sister, or aunt may be telling you you should get the dress you love, book the venue you’ve always wanted, and have the open bar everyone would love. The perfect dress, venue, and cocktails are all great things to include in your plans, but keep in mind what the bill will look like at the end of the day.

To help financial conversations go smoothly, make sure you (and whomever is helping foot the bill) set--  and stick to--a specific wedding budget. Identify what you’re willing to splurge on and list each of your top vendor priorities with your groom. In our case, for instance, I cared most about the photographer, and my husband about the DJ.

For all other details and costs, we made sure they fit our budget. That means our centerpieces, favors, and appetizers were not the fanciest, yet still offerings we could be proud of. It felt good knowing the bill was not crippling to ourselves or our parents after the day was done.

Respectfully say no.

Many times during my wedding photography career, I have run into the situation where an opinionated family member has a specific plan for how a wedding day will run and what it will look like.

If you have someone explicitly stating your day will not be good if it doesn’t have large floral centerpieces, an open bar, or any other item, this piece of advice is for you:

You are allowed to say no.

It might feel uncomfortable, but it’s healthy to respectfully decline ideas and put your foot down in order to help your day stay focused on what matters most.  

Despite the chorus of outside voices, remember this day is not about others, but about you and your groom--and ultimately, about Christ shining through the whole day.

Remind us all: it's the sacrament that matters.

Your attitude and choices can communicate to friends and family what’s most important to you: the sacrament of marriage itself. This is the reason why the details honestly don’t matter and the timeline is just a sheet of paper. Your sacrament will be beautiful and unifying. You can set an example of moderation, embodying the balance between your own experience and others' expectations.

You are Christ’s advocate for your wedding day.

You are your advocate for your wedding day.

There is no one else who will stand up to say enough is enough when orchids are overpriced and decisions start to overwhelm you.

You have the agency to stand up, step back from decision-making, and recall what’s most important.

The materials of this world are insignificant in comparison to the heavenly majesty of your wedding. I challenge you remember this daily, balancing any necessary cares of this world with the cares of the next.


About the Author: Sinikka Rohrer is a Christian wedding photographer and Spoken Bride vendor on mission to encourage brides with practical and spiritual encouragement on the way to the aisle. She is a lover of all things healthy, early morning spiritual reads, and anything outdoors.

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6 Ways to Have a Spiritually Rich Wedding Rehearsal

What are your rehearsal dinner plans?

Though the rehearsal evening is traditionally hosted by the groom’s family, you and your beloved can still take on a role--whether privately or with your wedding party and family members--in planning a spiritually rich evening, one rich in gratitude and anticipation.

  Photography: Spoken Bride Vendor    Evan Kristiansen Photography

Photography: Spoken Bride Vendor Evan Kristiansen Photography

Many brides say their actual wedding day passes in a blur, with little one-on-one time for quality conversation with each and every guest. In some ways, the rehearsal dinner is like a mini-reception: joy and celebration, with more freedom of time and leisure in an intimate setting with those you’re closest to. Here, to reflect that spirit of joy and closeness, our suggestions for a spiritually significant rehearsal.

Go to Mass with your fiancé the morning of.

With such an extensive list of last-minute details and events, time with your fiancée to simply be, to absorb the reality of the transformation about to take place, can be hard to come by. Taking a few hours for a final date as an engaged couple, to daily Mass and coffee, provides a welcome respite and strengthens you in the Eucharist.

Have your celebrant(s) hear confessions.

Entering into marriage with the clearest conscience and a heart as fully disposed to grace as possible is a great gift. Ask your priest(s) to hear you and your beloved’s confessions in the chapel at the conclusion of the rehearsal and, if time allows, invite your wedding party and families to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, as well.

Attend, or host, a holy hour.

Ask your celebrant to expose the Blessed Sacrament for Adoration following the rehearsal and before your meal--if you’re planning to provide confession, it can be held during this hour of reflection. Consider extending the invitation to all guests who are able to attend, and to inviting musically gifted friends to provide praise and worship or chant.

Share a personal piece of your faith.

When distributing gifts to your wedding party and family and/or assembling welcome bags, it’s beautiful to give your guests an insight into your spiritual life as a couple. Including a custom prayer card, saint medal and short bio, or a book that’s resonated in your relationship is a gift of faith, an expression of who you are, and an invitation to learn.

Looking for ideas? Start here:

Personalized holy cards | Gifts and artwork by Spoken Bride Vendors | Spiritual reading recommendations from our community

Ask for a blessing.

Have your priest pray and give a blessing over attendees at the end of the evening.

What if not everyone is on board?

As unifying as your wedding day is--on many levels--the pain of division can also arise in instances where your loved ones are not Catholic or not practicing the faith.

If you’ve attended or read about other weddings wherein the couple, their parents, and their siblings are all entirely present at pre-wedding prayer time and immersed in the Mass, fight the urge to compare your own situation.

In some families, the Lord works through many, and in others, through certain individuals--perhaps you and your fiancé, in this instance--whom he calls to witness to the fullness and beauty of the faith to loved ones.

If inviting others into your pre-wedding spiritual plans will cause tension, allow yourselves the freedom to experience them privately as a couple. That might mean staying alone in the chapel after the rehearsal for some moments of prayer--or even Adoration--praying a novena that ends on your wedding-day eve, or praying together in the car on your way to dinner. Know that no matter how “Catholic” your wedding appears on an invitation, the actions you choose and emotions that arise in your own hearts are what truly invite the Lord into your celebration.

Did you incorporate a spiritual element into your rehearsal? Share the practices that have deepened the final 24 hours before your walk up the aisle in the comments and on our social media.

Here, read our tips for making the most of the moments immediately before your wedding Mass.

The Unplugged Nuptial Mass: What It Is and Why It’s Valuable

JIZA ZITO

 

In our digital age, it’s common to see wedding guests with smartphones or devices in hand. Everyone is excited to witness the joyous event, and with technology (and creative wedding hashtags), we are able to immediately share the day’s highlights with friends, family, and followers.

  Photography: c/o    Studio Senn

Photography: c/o Studio Senn

While it is a great gift to instantly capture and share images instantly, the constant presence of devices can also be a source of distraction and can prevent us from fully experiencing the moment. Hence, the coined phrase: the unplugged wedding.

What is an unplugged wedding?

An unplugged wedding is when the bride and groom request that guests refrain from taking photos and videos with their devices during the wedding ceremony--and sometimes the reception, as well. This includes--but is not limited to--smartphones, iPads, and digital cameras.

While it may initially seem off-putting and forward to make such a request, here are some reasons to consider an unplugged wedding Mass, and tips for making that request charitably.

Less distraction, better images

As a wedding photographer, there have been numerous times in my career when guests have obstructed an important image. Most guests like to snap a photo when the bride walks down the aisle, for instance, and during the exchange of vows, the kiss, and procession out of the church. I’ll never forget the wedding I shot where right as the bride’s father shook hands with the groom after walking his daughter down the aisle, a wedding guest got up from her seat and stepped directly across me in order to grab a shot with her cellphone.

The exchange itself between the groom and the father, as the bride looked on with a smile, was beautiful. The image, however, now has a very obvious fourth person--and her cellphone--in the frame. For me as a photographer, it was disheartening. At the end of the day, your photographer only wants to give you and your spouse the very best photos, ones you can cherish for the rest of your days.

So, although Uncle iPhone or Aunt Samsung Galaxy mean well with their desire to take a few photos, requesting an unplugged wedding is a good option if you don’t want them and their devices to make it into the sidelines of your album images.  

Getting the most from your investment

Part of hiring a wedding photographer is trusting he or she will do the job well. Your photographer is working as a professional, and you are putting forth a good investment to ensure they will capture all of the important moments of your day. Depending on your photographer’s contract, there may also be a section stating there must be no other photographers at the wedding.

If you happen to be doing a live stream of your wedding Mass for a family member or loved one who cannot be physically present, be  sure to let your pastor, photographer, and videographer know.

Mass is a time for worship

Our Catholic faith considers the Mass to be the highest form of prayer. If non-Catholic guests are attending, it’s a perfect opportunity for them to experience the beauty of the Mass and to learn more about the faith. By being present at Mass, we directly encounter Jesus Christ in his Real Presence, in the Most Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life (CCC 1324).

So, with all the angels and Saints, we are worshipping God in a very tangible way at Mass alongside the bride and groom. With an unplugged wedding, we not only give the couple our attention. More importantly, we’re better able to give God our full attention through our worship.

"When you’re a guest, your job and privilege is to witness and pray." - Claire Watson, Claire Watson Photography, Spoken Bride Vendor

How to request an unplugged wedding?

If you and your fiancé opt for an unplugged wedding, it’s helpful to give your guests a heads up .

Spoken Bride vendor and calligrapher Sarah Erikson of Sarah Ann Design shared this simple note in her wedding program:

"To preserve the spirit of worship, please refrain from all cell phone use (including photography) while inside the church.”

Other ways to communicate your expectations are asking the priest or a loved one to make an announcement before Mass, displaying an attractive hand-lettered sign before the church entrance, or sharing the information on your wedding website and in your Mass programs.

What are your thoughts on having a unplugged wedding?


About the Author: Jiza Zito is Spoken Bride's Creative Director and Co-Founder. She is the owner and wedding photographer of Olive & CypressRead more

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Considerations and Tips for a Kid-Friendly Wedding

Do you have plans to invite many children to your wedding?

The decision of whether to include, limit, or omit kids from your guest list is a personal choice, one unique to your relationships and directly affected by your wedding budget, venue, and time of day.

If you and your beloved are currently working out which--if any--younger friends or family members might be invited to your celebration, it’s useful to consider particular realities for the parents in your life. You might be the oldest in a large family, for instance, or have many recently married friends with babies. Parents’ ease of traveling long distances or arranging childcare can be a major factor in their ability to attend your big day and is worth bearing in mind.

Whatever your call, the temptation to fear is real: how can you avoid wounding guests or prodding sensitive relationships while maintaining healthy boundaries around your decisions? It truly can be hard to feel a sense of freedom when so many others’ expectations influence your actions. As with many wedding-related choices, it’s helpful to discern with sensitivity, move forward with prudence and conviction, and strive for peace over the fact that it’s impossible to please everyone. Chances are, guests who have been through the wedding planning experience themselves--especially in more recent memory--will be reasonably disposed to your choices regarding kids, understanding financial constraints and the challenges of managing a chorus of opinions and expectations.

For Catholic couples in particular, concern might arise in the heart that excluding children from your wedding--whether by necessity or choice, or even de facto circumstances--conveys a closed-off attitude to life. But don’t let yourselves believe that. Openness to life involves so much more than who is or isn’t on the guest list.

If, however, you and your fiancé do decide to have children attend, their presence is a visual testament to the fruits of married love and to your families’ history in the making, across generations. There are no guarantees they’ll behave perfectly, eat everything placed in front of them, keep their best outfits spotless. In a way, that’s the point. The family is a beautiful mess; a cenacle of growth through its very imperfection.

That said, having kids at your wedding isn’t without challenges. Here, our suggestions for cultivating a kid--and parent--friendly atmosphere.

Offer materials for the liturgy.

A month or two before your wedding, ask friends and family members to loan you any Bibles, prayer books, and religious picture books for children to page through during the Mass. Place the books in a basket near the entrance of the chapel, and designate a family member to offer them as guests arrive and regather them at the end.

If possible or necessary, consider kids when booking.

If you anticipate early on that your guests have a significant number of kids, consider keeping their needs in mind as you make your plans. A reception venue with an outdoor area, for example, facilitates play and breaks for kids and makes it easier and more feasible for young parents to attend. Serving a buffet-style meal rather than individual entrées is usually more cost-efficient.

Enlist help.

Hiring high school or college-age babysitters to assist with on-site childcare can result in a lower-stress evening for both parents and children--younger siblings of your close friends or members of your parish’s youth group are a good choice for this role. Provide activities like coloring, books, Polaroid or disposable cameras, bubbles, and board games.

Create a space for downtime.

If the layout of your reception venue allows, creating a nearby area for kids to rest or decompress is a welcome gesture. A downtime space might be as simple as blankets, snacks, and Netflix; a few chairs for nursing mothers are also thoughtful.

Encourage kids’ participation in your guest book.

Childlike faith is more than a figure of speech. For some children, your wedding might be the first they’ve attended; a glimpse of romance and joy that stirs the heart, and an experience more formal and special than their everyday . A sign inviting them to write (or dictate) a message to the bride and groom is sure to elicit humor; and most likely, wisdom.

We love the opportunity to walk beside you in the steps toward your vocation that will end--and begin--at the altar, with the help of so many like-minded sisters. Brides, we want to hear from you in the comments and on our social media: have you and your beloved struggled to come up with guidelines for inviting children to your wedding? How did you approach it, and if you had them attend, what measures helped make the day more kid and parent-friendly?