Emily + Nathan | Beauty-Inspired Rainy Day Wedding

“In the end, beauty triumphed.”

Emily’s words echo back from her wedding day throughout her courtship, dating relationship, and friendship with Nathan.

From the very beginning, Emily and Nathan kept Beauty himself at the center of their relationship. Their trust in God and peaceful, intentional discernment eventually led to a garden proposal--which included a beautiful rosary as an engagement gift and a ring pop.

But perhaps the most inspiring part of Emily and Nathan’s story is their confident, consistent awareness of the Lord’s presence in even the smallest details of their wedding day. And not just his presence, but also the joyful presence of his loving mother, the Blessed Virgin.  

From the Groom: Emily and I met through church in college and became part of the same group of friends, but we didn’t get to know each other very well at first. Not until we landed full-time jobs in the same city after graduating in 2016. Both of us were coming out of some broken relationships and were looking to “find ourselves” out in the real world.

From the Bride: Shortly after graduation, I started attending a young adult small group through my parish and invited Nathan to join as well. Seeing each other at these weekly meetings helped us learn more about each other and become closer friends.

Nathan: That fall, we went with a group of friends to a Catholic dating seminar. The speaker, John Antonio, was a former seminarian who presented a more intentional approach to relationships. It was similar to the progressive stages of increasing commitment he made while in seminary. Dating Emily wasn’t on my radar at the time, but we received the same mental framework for dating that would help guide us later on.

Emily: My relationship tumult continued, and I was confused by my strong interest in several guys, including Nathan. I wanted my next relationship to be different. It needed to be different. So I prayed more fervently and made a stronger, more conscious effort to entrust my relationship decisions to God.

Soon afterwards, I prayed the 30 day novena to St. Joseph with the intention that I would meet my future husband sometime during the year. We didn’t have to get married that year, but I wanted to know who. The whole idea was a longshot, but this was a good opportunity to practice trusting in God more fully. And St. Joseph is not known for letting people down!

Nathan: I had my first inkling that I might end up with Emily in September 2016, but life circumstances at the time prevented our relationship from blossoming. In January 2017, I signed up for a Catholic young adult volleyball league and sent a message out to recruit teammates. It sounded fun, but in the back of my head I knew that my parents met in a young adult volleyball league, and I was hoping I’d find somebody there too.

Emily was the only one to accept my invitation. Over the next couple months, I became more certain that I should take a chance with her.

Emily: About a week after I completed my novena, Nathan approached me and said he’d like to talk to me about “some stuff” soon and then walked away. I freaked out a little. So after our small group meeting the next day, I pulled him aside to ask what “stuff” was.

Turns out we had been thinking about each other quite a lot. Wanting to set a more intentional course, we agreed on a “mutual discernment period” that ran through the end of the volleyball season to see if our friendship would blossom into something more.

Nathan: Things progressed nicely over those two and a half months, so while on a date in June 2017—after a strange sequence of events that led to hiking along a mosquito-infested pond behind a grocery store—we decided to make it official. As boyfriend and girlfriend, we wanted to “step it up” and set a more lasting spiritual foundation for our relationship.

Emily and I started some spiritual traditions together: Mass, weekly adoration, and nightly prayer. We grew to love God and each other more in the process, and it didn’t take us long to realize we wanted this relationship to continue for the rest of our lives.

Emily: On October 7, 2017, I met Nathan early in the morning in our church’s rosary garden. I had a feeling that day would be “the day,” but I tried to quiet my heart and focus on praying with him. After finishing our rosary, we stopped in front of the statue of Our Lady, and Nathan proposed.

But he didn’t ask me with a ring. He didn’t ask with anything but himself, and I said yes! Afterwards, he gave me a beautiful rosary as an engagement gift…and a ring pop.

We wanted the wedding to reflect our vision for marriage: Christ-centered, and therefore, full of beauty. However, we knew this beauty wasn’t just for us, but for everyone witnessing it as well, so we would all be drawn closer to Beauty himself. We also knew we couldn’t do it alone, so we asked the Holy Spirit to guide us every step of the way.

To honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, we chose to have our wedding on September 8, the feast of her nativity. I half-joked with a friend that our wedding cake was actually Mary’s birthday cake. It wasn’t until after the wedding that we noticed how much she made herself quietly, humbly present in every detail of the day.

So many little things pointed to her. Even the decorations behind the head table at the reception seemed to form the Auspice Maria symbol, which we recently discovered is Latin for “under the protection of Mary.” Really, we didn’t plan this! And yet, she made it so clear she wanted to be part of our celebration.

I am also a believer that God works through Pinterest. We found some gorgeous color palettes that included light blues, greens, and a dash of red. After reflecting on our choice, I realized that light blue could point to Mary, the red to the Precious Blood and sacrifice, and the greens to new life.

Our flowers--lilies, roses, and light blue hydrangeas amidst eucalyptus and baby’s breath--also held a special significance for us. Lilies are my favorite flower, mainly due to their association with Mary and St. Joseph, and roses are significant for both Nathan and me. My patron saint is St. Therese the Little Flower, and roses became special for Nathan after he gave a talk on a retreat that used a rose to symbolize the sacrificial nature of love.

Much of our wedding also reflected our desire to be creative and share that creativity. From our homemade save-the-dates and invitations to the crayons we placed at every reception table (so everyone could doodle, of course), we shared our love of creativity with our guests. After all, it is one of the most profound ways we reflect God, the Creator himself.

My ring was also born of this God-given creativity.

One reason Nathan didn’t propose with a ring was because he wanted me to choose one, and I elected to do a custom design. After many ideas and unsatisfying sketches, I decided to simply ask the Holy Spirit to guide my hand.

The end result was astounding. My design incorporated all the elements I wanted: lilies, thorns, and sapphires, but the significance and symbolism of their arrangement didn’t sink in until I looked closer at the sketch.

Around the central diamond is a “crown” of thorns, which radiates outward and touches the blue sapphires. Beyond the sapphires lie the lilies, from which leafy vines emanate. This is what I interpreted these elements to mean: Christ, the light of the world, suffered and died for our sins. Through Mary’s fiat, allowing Christ to come through her and humbly suffering alongside him, the resurrection was possible. And from Christ’s resurrection, we have new life.

Surrendering to the Holy Spirit can be difficult, but the end result is always more beautiful.

Planning the liturgy involved the most prayer and discernment. We have many friends and family members who are not Catholic, so we wanted to make the liturgy as beautiful and elevating as possible to draw everyone deeper into the mystery of the Mass and marriage.

Nathan and I opted to walk down the aisle together at the beginning of Mass in lieu of my dad escorting me. While this is an uncommon choice at contemporary Catholic weddings, it is a richly symbolic approach that visibly communicates the covenant we are making with each other and with God (see Genesis 15 for how God seals His covenant with Abraham).

It also makes it clear that no one was “giving me away” to Nathan. We were freely choosing this and hopeful of God’s blessing. To spend a few special moments with my dad, I had a first look with him in the bride’s room.

We chose Tobit 8:4b-8, Psalm 34, Romans 12:1-2, 9-18, and John 2:1-11 for our readings. St. Raphael is a key figure in the book of Tobit, and we credit him for helping us find each other through his prayer for the wise choice of a marriage partner.

We invited everyone to glorify and praise God for his goodness during the psalm. In the passage from Romans, St. Paul describes the life of a Christian in bold, resounding phrases, reminding us to serve others through our marriage in the most beautiful way possible: the Way itself. In the Gospel, Mary, our greatest intercessor, tells Jesus, “They have no wine.” Wine is a symbol of joy. She wants us to have joy and asks her son--whom she knows can provide everlasting joy--to give it to us. In her humility and wisdom, she charges us with the command, “Do whatever he tells you.

Continuing to honor and thank Mary, we offered her flowers as some of our dear college friends sang the ancient Carmelite hymn “Salve Mater Misericordiae.” It has been a tradition in our friend group to sing Marian hymns at each other’s weddings, so this was very special for us. It was our hope that this and the other music chosen would draw people closer to the beauty of God.

In keeping with our desire to show our guests the beauty of the Catholic faith, we invited everyone to pray the Liturgy of the Hours with us as the last “event” of the reception. The Dominicans at our college taught us these prayers and a beautiful version of the Salve Regina. This became part of our daily prayer while we were dating, so this was another way to share our spiritual life with our guests.

In the end, beauty triumphed.

The word we heard most as we spoke with family and friends about the wedding was “beautiful,” and that's exactly what we wanted. We wanted the whole day to be beautiful. We hoped to draw people into the beauty of the Mass and the sacrament of marriage, into the beauty of fellowship, and ultimately into the beauty of God.

But our wedding day was not just beautiful; it was authentic. By allowing God to work through our perspectives, talents, and desires, we were able to carry out his will in a way that was very distinctively us. Each one of us has a unique way of pointing towards God. Our way just so happened to include crayons, Night Prayer, SpongeBob references, classic rock, and Latin hymns.

A strong theme in our relationship, wedding planning, and now our marriage, has been surrender: handing everything over to God, because he writes the best love stories. He knows the most beautiful way to do things. Ask him, and he will guide you to the beauty you seek in the present moment.

It blows our minds that the astounding beauty we experienced that day isn’t even a fraction of what is waiting for us in Heaven, where we will finally, intimately, and fully encounter Beauty himself.

Photography: Soul Creations Photography | Church: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church | Reception:St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church Parish Hall | DJ / Band / Live Music: DJ Connection, Billy Kinsey | Cake Vendor: Becky’s Bake Shop and Floral (main cake) | Caterer: The Putnam Inn | Rentals: A Classic Party Rental | Bartender: The Putnam Inn | Dessert / Appetizer Bars: The Putnam Inn | Rings: Master Jewelers | Shoes: DSW | Bridal Gown: Blue House Bridal | Reception Venue: St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church Parish Hall | Ceremony Venue: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church | Groom’s Suit/Tux: Haggar | Bridesmaid Dresses: Azazie | Stationary / Invitations: Pretty Little Papers

Rebecca + Brian | Verdant Church House Wedding

Despite friends’ enthusiastic intentions, neither Brian nor Becca was overly thrilled to try out swing dancing at the Catholic student center. But when Brian first saw Becca during the dance lesson, he initiated a strategic plan. “If I stand next to her, we’ll have to be partners,” he thought.

He was right--and rather successful! Brian only had to dip her once, and Becca was smitten. But there was one major obstacle to Brian’s pursuit: she was already dating someone else.

And so, Brian and Becca’s friendship grew gently and quietly. It was nourished by a boisterous group of mutual friends, regular communal night prayer, spontaneous theology debates, swing dancing, and $2 Sunday night dinners in the church basement.

Over a year later, Becca had been single for several months, and God told Brian the time was right, as the Lord would over and over with each milestone in their relationship. Also present at each milestone would be the Author of Love, fully present in the Blessed Sacrament:

Whispering in the silence of the adoration chapel, Brian first professed his affection to Becca, thinking it wouldn’t be returned.

Exclaiming prayers of thanksgiving in the same chapel some weeks later, they delighted in just having made things “official”.

On one knee in front of the altar and tabernacle several years later, Brian proposed in the very spot he hoped to soon marry Becca.

Two weeks before their wedding, kneeling in front of the tabernacle, they consecrated themselves to Mary.

Their hope for their consecration day, the Feast of the Annunciation, was that their yes to Mary would echo Mary’s yes to God, which would foreshadow their upcoming yes to each other on their wedding day.

To remind themselves of their consecration to God, Mary, and each other, Brian and Becca had their wedding bands engraved with the Latin phrase “totus tuus”, which means “totally yours.”

From the Bride: For years, I had been unsure of how it was possible to wholly dedicate myself to God and a husband at the same time. This question bothered me a lot, and I spent a lot of time praying about it.

I knew the answer, but I didn’t always feel it in my heart, especially early in my discernment with Brian. And yet, by the time I saw him standing at the end of the aisle, I deeply felt and knew the response to my years of “unsure-ness”—to say yes to God was to say yes to Brian.

Because our sacrament of marital love finds its origin in the Author of Love, we wanted to make sure the wedding pointed back to God in every way. We spent a lot of time selecting readings that we thought would be fruitful and eye-opening for both our non-Catholic and Catholic guests. We also spent a lot of time choosing music.

Music is so powerful. Just like in the movies, when you know what you should think and feel in a scene because of the music, the same goes for weddings.

Hymns and melodies reserved for the sacred sphere give the listener a profound sense of God’s presence in the church. It sets the events occurring inside the church apart from any other thing that happens outside.

We were blessed to have a spectacular organist and cantor, as well as a talented group of friends who sang some tear-jerking polyphony acapella. After the wedding, we were very happy to hear from several guests that they appreciated how the the Mass and ceremony were incredibly reverent.

I’ll let G.K. Chesterton sum up our attitude toward the reception: “for economy is far more romantic than extravagance.” Who said you need a ton of money to have a great party?

Brian and I enjoyed the romance of creativity with less funds, making the reception more entertaining with items that didn’t cost much. For example, the guestbook consisted of guests’ suggestions for bucket list ideas for Brian and I written on paper circles. The circles were then clipped to ribbons for a pretty and fun display. We got everything from “take your parents and in-laws on a cruise” to “conquer Lithuania using only a spoon and an Ethernet cable”.

Instead of clinking glasses for a kiss, guests clinked their glasses to get everyone’s attention.  Then the glass-clinkers could sing a song, do a dance, or recite a poem about love and the bride and groom. It was hilarious!

The best performance was from one of our seminarian friends who clinked his glass, solemnly stood, and began “a reading from Sacred Scripture…” reciting super love-y lines from Song of Songs with perfect comedic timing and facial expressions.

After dinner, two friends taught a group dance called the ring dance, and many of our guests joined in for this crazy and fun mix of partner switching! My dad and I also surprised everyone (Brian included) with a father-daughter dance of Bollywood, ballroom, and dorky retro dance moves that my sister and I had mixed and choreographed some months before. Hearkening to our first encounter with each other, there was also lots of swing dancing throughout the night.

Brian and I couldn’t believe how not nerve-wracking, peaceful, and perfect the day was. We kept repeating to each other, “that was so beautiful and perfect! God is so good!”

From the Groom: It is awesome and inspiring when I consider the events of our wedding day in the context of God’s divine plan.

From the very moment that our souls were conceived in the mind of God, he had this day already awaiting us, and we set forth on a new path amidst his blessings and joys.

I had no qualms or second thoughts as I approached the altar and waited impatiently for Becca to do the same. I thought over and over to myself, “I was made for this.” You—as finite as a moment in eternity, and yet an eternal soul—were created for the mission entrusted to you by the all-powerful God of the universe. So be excited! Do not be afraid! God will never abandon his faithful servants.

From the Bride: We have the same favorite moment of our wedding day: kneeling together in front of Mary after Communion, saturated in the angelic singing of the Arcadelt Ave Maria by a choir of friends. We had doubly given our lives away to God and to each other, leaving us at once totally empty and totally full. Nothing had ever felt more right. Neither of us are criers, but we both had tears in our eyes.

To close, I want to pass along an incredibly useful piece of advice I received from my best friend. If you’re nervous about the crowds on your wedding day, think of all the faces turned toward you as you walk down the aisle. Yes, think of them. It might be a lot of faces, but all those people love you and your fiancé, and you and your fiancé love them.

Thus, there is nothing to worry about, because you are surrounded by love.

Photography: Soul Creations Photography - Spoken Bride Vendor | Church: St. Alphonsus Liguori Roman Catholic Church - Zionsville, IN | Reception: St. Alphonsus Liguori Roman Catholic Church - Zionsville, IN 46077 | Catering: The Juniper Spoon | Clutches: Tina Frantz Designs | Bridesmaids Dresses: AZAZIE | Bridal Gown: David's Bridal | Bridal Shoes: Ve-Ve's Dance Company | DJ: AMS Entertainment & Audio/Visual | Rings: Diamonds Direct, Monique Fine Jewelry | Jewelry: Tiffany & Co. | Cake: Confectioneiress Cupcakes & Sweets

Abby + Blair | Classic Indiana Wintertide Wedding

Sometimes cherished friends from the past unexpectedly reappear, and love can flourish even stronger.

This was the story with Abby and Blair, who met and became friends in junior high. At the time, their “young love” didn’t last very long, to the disappointment of their mothers.

But God had other plans. After going in separate ways after high school, Abby and Blair were suddenly reunited. This time, their companionship blossomed into a deeper romantic love, and they began discussing engagement and their desire for marriage.

After a year-long engagement, their lifelong friendship finally transformed at the altar into a lifelong covenant of married love.

From The Bride: Blair and I met in the 8th grade. We didn’t go to the same school, but I was on a club swim team with him and his twin sister, Alison.

Alison and I became fast friends and began spending a lot of time together. As my friendship with her grew, Blair and I began talking more and eventually starting “dating.” Unfortunately, our young love didn’t last longer than a month. We ran around with the same friend group in high school but never considered dating again.

Our mothers always teased us about getting back together. I knew they both would have loved it.

After senior year, Blair went on to Wabash College, and I went to Indiana Wesleyan. Later, during the summer before our sophomore year of college, we both ended up back in Kokomo, Indiana looking for a summer job. As I was beginning my search, my grandma told me about an open camp counselor position at the local YMCA summer camp. I thought this sounded fun, especially since I began my job hunt late and had no other pending opportunities up my sleeve.

I sent in my application, hoping they still had a spot. My mother, a friend of one of the camp directors, made a call on my behalf. The YMCA told her that they didn’t have any spots left, but they would make an exception for me.

I was excited to begin but also a little nervous because I didn’t know anyone else who was working there that summer. Imagine my surprise when I walked in on the first day and saw Blair sitting in a chair, ready for our first team meeting. We exchanged casual hellos and went on our way. But as the summer went on, we began talking more, even outside of camp.

I was beginning to really like him and looked forward to the days we would work together. I could tell he liked me too because he starting flirting with me--I mean teasing me. By the end of the summer, we were officially an “item,” and I couldn’t have been happier.

We were both a little nervous about going back to school and not seeing each other everyday, but we decided to make it work. I would visit him at Wabash, and he would visit me at IUPUI (Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis) . We spent every weekend together and sometimes would even meet half-way during the week.

Our mothers were thrilled that we were in love. We began talking about marriage the first year we dated. Somehow, we both knew we wanted to be together forever.

So on November 11, at the biggest football game of the year at Wabash, Blair got down on one knee and proposed in front of everybody in the stands. All our family and friends were there. It was the most amazing day and something we will never forget.

I always knew I wanted our wedding to be simple and classic. We chose the month of December because we both love winter and the snow that comes with it. Besides, I had dreamed of a winter wedding since middle school.

We had a little over a year to plan the big event, which gave us plenty of time. Unfortunately, Blair graduated in May, and I graduated in December, our wedding month. This made planning a little stressful and overwhelming at times, but my mother and close friends helped tremendously. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

Our venues were easy to choose. St. Patrick Catholic Church, Blair’s home parish, is not only very special to us, but also the most beautiful church in town. Our reception took place at The Bel-Air, a gorgeous banquet hall close to the church. I was so excited and relieved when we secured both venues.

After that, we focused on finding the dress, which was such a fun day. My mother’s best friend came into town from Florida, and we had a great time trying on dresses. I ended up choosing the first dress I put on. It was perfect. After that, everything else seemed to fall into place.

Finally, it was the wedding week, and my family from Florida was in town. The night before the wedding, I thought the morning would never come, I was so ready and excited for my wedding day to arrive.

I was up bright and early with my wedding party as we left for the salon. My mother and aunt made breakfast, and we all had fun enjoying the whole salon to ourselves while we got ready. After that, the day seemed to fly by.

Before I knew it, I was a bride walking towards Blair, and everything else faded away. The nuptial Mass was beautiful and emotional. We were finally a married couple!

Then it was picture time. We hid it pretty well, but December 30 was definitely one of the coldest days of the year. We braved the icy wind for some amazing pictures taken outside the church and then moved on to a local mansion. Here we endured the cold again to try and capture sweet memories.

Once the pictures were taken, our wedding party jumped into the limo and headed to the reception. My mother had graciously put together a basket for all of us filled with champagne, chocolate, and mints. I’ll never forget spending that special time with our closest friends.

When we arrived at the Bel-Air, I was speechless. The hall was absolutely stunning. A few of my mother’s close friends helped decorate before the ceremony, and it was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.

We spent some time freshening up before we made our big introduction, and right after we were announced as “Mr. and Mrs.” we went into our first dance. Dancing with my new husband was a feeling I will never forget. Dinner and dancing followed, along with Blair and I greeting each and every one of our guests. It was so special to be able to personally speak to everyone who attended our wedding.

After we got a few dances in, it was time to head out for the night. Before hopping into the limo, we found our both families and gave them enormous hugs. It was such an exceptional day, and we couldn’t have done it without them. Overall, our wedding day was filled to the brim with memories, emotions, smiles, and faith. It was absolutely perfect and everything I had ever dreamed of and more.

I know that without God, our marriage would mean nothing. We strove to make our special day all about Jesus, and I feel that is exactly what we did.

From the Groom: In the months leading up to our wedding, we were constantly reminded that our wedding day would be life-changing, and nothing would ever be the same after we both said "I do". Whether we heard it from friends and family, discussing the sacrament during our Pre-Cana classes, or in everyday preparation for the wedding, we were always aware of how sacred and serious our marriage would be.

But it didn't really settle in until I saw Abby walk down the aisle.

As she walked to me, remembering all the times I failed her during our courtship and engagement, I knew our union would be a holy imitation of Christ's love for the Church. From that moment on, we would begin to base our lives on the life of Christ, sacrificing ourselves for the good of each other.

From the Photographer, Sinikka Roher of Soul Creations Photography: As a photographer, I have learned that when you enter into a wedding day, there are a multitude of points where things can go wrong. However, on Abby and Blair’s wedding day, I doubted those points would come to pass.

I noticed the powerful presence of the Lord’s peace when Blair genuflected before entering the church, said a prayer to our Blessed Mother, and was prayed over by the priest prior to the ceremony. And as I spent time with the bride, she reminded me of both Martha and Mary. 

There was a hustle and bustle to get ready around her, but Abby stood patient and peaceful, waiting for her time just as Mary had. Then, moments before the Mass began, her preparation mindset took over, and I saw Martha in her too. 

Brides tend to be either a Martha or a Mary, but Abby beautifully embodied both before, during, and after her ceremony. She blissfully walked down the aisle, laughed carelessly at the cold air that chilled her wedding party in the winter weather, and delicately checked in now and then on the timeline of the day.

Abby and Blair's big day was one of perfect harmony between the celebratory environment of a wedding and the sacramental beauty of their marriage covenant. It was incredible to capture it in it's entirety.

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Photography: Soul Creations Photography, Spoken Bride Vendor | St. Patrick Catholic Church, Kokomo, IN | Reception: Bel Air Events, Kokomo, IN | Ceremony Venue: St. Patrick Catholic Church | Reception Venue: Bel Air Events | Cake: Create-A-Cake | Makeup Artist & Hairstylist: Revive Salon | Dress: Marie Gabriel Couture | Florist: Diane Richey | DJ: DJ Sound Solution | Bridesmaids Dresses: Nancy’s Bridal Boutique | Menswear: Men’s Warehouse | Videography: Josiah Duncan Videography

Elizabeth + Matthew | Ethereal Irish Castle Wedding

Note: A version of this feature was previously published on Style Me Pretty.

Elizabeth and Matthew met on a study abroad program through Christendom College. Elizabeth was a student from the University of Dallas, and Matthew went to Christendom.

Their story revolves around the beautiful country of Ireland and its many ancient landmarks. They met at the top of Bunratty Castle during their studies, were engaged at Ashford Castle, and had their wedding reception at Dromoland Castle.

Their special day was a “taste of the eternal wedding feast” that Elizabeth and Matthew aspire to journey towards together. It was a time of celebration not only for the bride and groom, but of all the loved ones who had prepared prepared them to give themselves wholly to each other in marriage.

From the Bride: My middle name is ‘Anne,’ and the summer I met Matt for the first time I said a St. Anne novena for my future husband. I met Matt in Ireland, in a castle, on the last day of that novena. I didn't tell him until we were engaged.

Our faith was very important to both of us from the outset, but as we started dating it became clear that God intended us to be together to help us grow in our faith. Matt is brilliant and knows theology well, so as we dated, I fell more and more in love with the Church herself--with her teachings, history, and tradition. Matt always says that I helped him fall more deeply in love with the person of Christ, and that I encouraged his relationship with the Father. Looking back, I am very grateful for these complimentary gifts.

Matt and I were long distance on and off during our dating relationship, so a huge part of our faith journey became praying together over the phone. Whether it was saying a rosary or nightly prayers, it was very unitive and foundational to the success of our relationship. We also became huge fans of the Nine Month Novena to Our Lady. We have said it several years in a row and try to never miss a night of prayer together. St. Joseph has also been a great advocate and intercessor for us. Before the wedding, we asked close friends and family to say a novena to St. Joseph for us.

After we were engaged (in Ireland!), Matt made sure that we went to Knock Shrine for daily Mass. He wanted the Eucharist to be the heart of our day. When he proposed, he said many beautiful things that made me well up with happy tears, but the one I can remember exactly is when he said:

"Thank you for truly helping me to be a better man. Your love of Christ has changed me and made my own relationship with God stronger. I want to spend the rest of my life loving and serving him as I love and serve you.”

Matt and I wanted to get married in Ireland to encourage people to come and truly enjoy time away and being together, almost like a spiritual retreat. This is why we hosted events for the week leading up to the wedding, like providing two days of tours for our almost 220 guests! We wanted to shower our guests with love and spoil them. They all played pivotal roles in our life and formation, so this was our way of saying thank you. A marriage is made between two people, but it takes the love and sacrifices of many people to prepare a husband and wife to fully, joyfully, and selflessly say yes to the other.

We believe that God gifted us with a special meeting and a sweet story in Ireland because he knows our hearts well; we both love the power of story and seeing the meaning in small details. We wanted to finish one chapter of our life and begin a new one in the place that held sweet memories for us. Memories like the early days of “falling into friendship,” as Matt says, and getting engaged. It only seemed fitting that we should get married in Ireland!

The wedding Mass was truly the heart of our wedding day. We strove to highlight the beauty of the liturgy and the magnificence of the music. We decided on a Latin Mass with Mozart for the wedding parts, along with a full choir and five instrumentalists--everything from oboe to organ! I spent hours and hours creating a program which would offer the translation of the Mass, the lyrics of the music, and other responses. We also included meditations in the program. A favorite was the “I Thirst For You” meditation we included after communion.

We saw our nuptial Mass as a potential moment of invitation for people who had never experienced the richness of the Catholic liturgy. For some of our dear friends, this was the only time they would ever step into a Catholic church.

A very important part of the Mass for us was the kissing of the crucifix. After we had said our vows and before we kissed each other, we had our priest bless a special crucifix that my brother brought for us from Rome.

The prayer is powerful, saying that while we are each other's joy and path to heaven, we are also each other's cross. In moments of suffering or anger, we were to look at this cross and remember that we vowed these promises before God, who would sustain us.

That same crucifix now hangs across from our bed. It is the first thing we see in the morning and the last thing we see at night. It has given both of us the joy and strength to get through difficult moments and is a true reminder of the the calling to “die to oneself.”

For my “something old,” my mom and grandma cut parts of their wedding dresses and had a special message embroidered on it for me. They sewed it into my gown, and it was a sweet surprise.

For “something borrowed,” I put my baby brother Gabriel’s hospital bracelet in a sewn-on pocket. He passed away a few hours after birth, and we wanted to honor him. We also played “Gabriel’s Oboe” during the processional in memory of him.

For “something blue,” I cut part of a pink and blue sock that was my little sister, Bella’s, who has Trisomy 18, and had it stitched into my gown. She loves pink, and blue is the color of Trisomy 18 awareness. At the reception, we had a special dance with Bella, the light of our life. Everyone in my family held her and danced with her for part of the song.

Our wedding favors were handmade rosaries crafted by a friend. We put them in little muslin pouches that had our custom wedding crest on them and included a card that asked our guests to pray for us as we lived out our vows. My signature drink was ‘The Golden Rose’ which was a nod to Our Lady of Knock in Ireland who is also called the Golden Rose.

From the time I was little, my dad and I have watched the 1990s Pride and Prejudice miniseries every year because he always said I was “his Lizzie” and completely alike Elizabeth Bennet. In many ways, Matt is my generous, principled, and kind Darcy. When we were picking our first dance song, we wanted something simple and poignant, so we picked “The Secret Life of Daydreams” by Jean-Yves Thibaudet from the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack. It was perfect.

The best way I can describe the bliss of our wedding day is to recall a moment of that night. As Matt and I were sitting at the table, married, and “incandescently happy” he whispered in my ear:

“This is the last time, on this side of heaven, that these people we love most in the world will be together in one room. This is a taste of the wedding feast.”

He was completely right. It captured the joy, the tears, and the sanctity of the moment. it was a taste of the eternal wedding feast.

The last thing our priest friend said to me before he celebrated our nuptial Mass was, “You are about to receive one of the greatest gifts of your life.” I said, “I know it, I love him!” Father smiled and said, “Yes, that is true. He is your gift. But the gift I was referring to specifically was the heavenly treasure chest of graces that is inexhaustible and which you will receive today. God will never leave you. His grace will always be there to strengthen your marriage, you just need to call upon that grace.”

Looking back a year later, I can't believe how quickly the time has flown. I am grateful for such a blissful, meaningful wedding day, and I wouldn't change a thing. When people used to tell me it was the “best day of their lives,” I don't think I ever really believed them. Now I do!

Photography: Laura Gordon Photography | Church: Holy Trinity Abbey, Adare Ireland | Reception: Dromoland Castle, Ireland | Officiant:Fr. Anthony Sortino | Wedding Planner: Lauryn Prattes | Gown by: Custom Gown Designed by the Bride  | Purchased at: White Swan Bridal | Headpiece by: Jennifer Behr | Bridesmaids dresses by: BHLDN and Nordstrom | Jewelry by: Engagement Ring – KC Designs, Wedding Bands – custom made from grandparents and parents wedding bands by Jorge Adeler | Tuxedos/Groomsmen Attire by: Canali Tux for the groom, The Black Tux for groomsmen  | Make up Artist: Astrid Fix for makeup and Hair was Gabrielle Rogers from Salon Audrey | Caterer: Dromoland Castle Hotel  | Wedding Cake: MM Cookies (Handled Cake and Dessert Table)  | Invitations by: Appleberry Press | Flowers by: Holly Chapple | Rentals/Tent: Perfect Details Ireland
Entertainment by: The Bentley Boys | Photography by: Laura Gordon | Videography by: Story of Eve | Transportation (limos/carriages, etc.): Carrig Coaches and the carriage for some of the photo shoots was provided by the hotel


Christine + Mark | Traditional Chinese Wedding

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Christine and Mark’s Washington, D.C. wedding was a beautiful intertwining of traditional Catholic nuptials and Chinese customs.

Their relationship began when Christine stumbled upon Mark’s profile on CatholicMatch. It had been months since Christine began praying to Blessed Karl of Austria for her future husband. Even though she had seen many interesting profiles on CatholicMatch, she felt there was something special about Mark’s.

Christine didn’t start a conversation, but instead waited to see what Mark would do, since the site allowed a him to see who had visited his profile.

She didn’t have to wait long.

From the Groom: From the first moment I saw Christine’s profile picture, I couldn’t believe my eyes. And after reading Christine’s profile, I was even more certain she was too good to be true. This was the internet version of love at first sight, and I sent a message right away.

From the Bride: Every time Mark talks about this, I can’t help but laugh. He is always so sweet. When I first saw Mark’s profile on CatholicMatch, I felt there was something special about him. And ever since then, I kept him in my daily prayers and waited for God to do the rest.

Mark: After exchanging a few messages on CatholicMatch, I invited Christine to pray together over the phone. She only had thirty minutes for our first call, but we spent most of that time praying the rosary together.

After that we started a tradition which we have continued even when in very different time zones: praying daily Compline (Night Prayer) together, usually over the phone.

Christine: Praying together always reminds me God is at the center of our relationship. I’m always excited to pray with Mark because it is such a powerful experience for us.

A few short weeks after we began speaking, May—the month of Our Lady—arrived, and it was time for me to graduate from my master’s program. My parents and sister came to D.C. to attend my graduation ceremony.

I had been telling my parents a lot about Mark, and they really liked him, or at least my descriptions of him. On May 11, a couple days before my family would return home to China, my mom suggested we set up a meeting with Mark. Although I felt a little uncertain, knowing Mark’s busy work schedule, and, more importantly, that Mark and I had never met in person, I reached out to him to see whether he would be able to meet the next day.

Mark: That was a very busy time for me at work, but I pulled a very late night and managed to meet Christine and her family for coffee the next day. Luckily, I was too tired to be nervous! I was overjoyed to meet Christine’s family and moved by how genuinely kind and joyful they were.

Christine: My family and I really enjoyed meeting Mark, too. In fact, Mark and I soon began going on dates: attending Sunday Mass together at St. Mary’s in Washington D.C., followed by lunch and activities like visiting museums and going to concerts. After Mass, we would usually pray together before the image of Blessed Karl.

As we got to know each other better, we hung out more often. We watched the Fourth of July fireworks on the National Mall, went hiking in Shenandoah National Park, and visited the elderly at a nursing home. Through it all, we enjoyed every moment together.

Fast forward to October 2017. We had been discerning engagement and working through a book titled 101 Questions To Ask Before You Get Engaged. This went on until one Saturday when we visited St. Mary’s. Just as we were finishing our prayer before the image of Blessed Karl, Mark proposed.

What a joy that we were engaged in the Real Presence of Our Lord!

A mutual friend played my favorite Chinese hymn on the organ (Mark had remembered I had sung the hymn while we were praying together one evening), and the proposal was filmed by Mark’s best friend and soon-to-be best man.

We learned that our archdiocese required six months of marriage preparation. During this time we would continue to grow in our relationship and discern our vocation. We also found, to our surprise and delight, that May 12, 2018—the one-year anniversary of the first time we met in person—was a Saturday, and we decided to set that as our wedding date.

The wonderful Fr. Martin Yip agreed to meet with us for monthly marriage preparation sessions focusing on the sacramental meaning of marriage. We also attended an Engaged Encounter retreat.

This provided a precious opportunity for us to spend focused time getting to know each other and diving deeply into various practical topics, all under the guidance of experienced married couples and a priest.

One month before the wedding, we visited a couple from our parish who have been married more than thirty years. They warned us of potential challenges in married life and provided advice and insights from the unique perspective of Chinese culture.

We were overjoyed when Bishop Mario Dorsonville agreed to celebrate our nuptial Mass. Another joyful surprise was that Fr. Conrad Murphy was willing to be the Master of Ceremonies when we couldn’t find another deacon available for our wedding day.

From the very beginning, we knew the nuptial Mass would be the most important part of our wedding day. So we spent a lot of time preparing the Mass program in both Chinese and English. It turned out to be very beneficial in helping us and our guests get better acquainted with the various parts of the nuptial Mass.

Our liturgy was celebrated at St. Mary’s in D.C.. Although we belong to the Our Lady of China Pastoral Mission, ours was the first nuptial Mass in ten years to be celebrated at St. Mary’s for a couple in our community. Our parish family was excited for us and showered us with so much love and joy. They celebrated our engagement in the parish hall and supported us through the wedding preparation and our wedding day.

One week before the wedding, my family travelled from Shanghai to Washington. It was so exciting because I hadn’t seen my family for a year. They helped with the wedding favors and decorating the reception venue. Meanwhile, Mark’s parents prepared heart-shaped chocolates for our guests and set up the rehearsal dinner.

In the early afternoon of our wedding day, we had a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, customary for weddings in China.

We knelt before our parents and offered tea to them, showing our respect and gratitude to them for all the years of love and care.

In return, we received gifts in red envelopes from them.

Our nuptial Mass was very beautiful and went quickly, but we enjoyed every moment. My brother and sister did the readings, and our parents offered the gifts. When Bishop Dorsonville introduced us as “Mr. and Mrs. Ma,” we had our first-ever kiss on the lips at the altar. With the violin and organ playing Ave Maria, we prayed before a statue of Mary, offering our marriage to Our Lady.

Our reception was held at Phoenix Park Hotel, a historic hotel in Capitol Hill. The hotel ballroom and our honeymoon suite were lovely. They had been decorated with love and care by our families and friends. My brother made a video using a collection of our photos from childhood to the time we met, which was played at the beginning of the reception. It was received by the audience with lots of laughter and awws.

Right after we entered the ballroom, we played a violin-piano duet of Canon in D. Mark was on violin, and I played piano. My dad presented raffle prizes of his own excellent calligraphy and Chinese traditional painting.

Finding each other and taking our first steps in marriage has been so amazing, and we are excited to continue our journey together!

From the Photographers: Christine and Mark's wedding was such a joy-filled event that uniquely combined beautiful cultural and liturgical traditions.

We loved witnessing and documenting their day, and especially loved how they planned a wedding that really fit their personalities. For example, during their reception they replaced the usual dance party with a talent show and games, which was so fun.

More than anything, we loved seeing how tangible their love was and how joyful they were to be husband and wife. It felt so real during their portrait session at the Jefferson Memorial. We wish them all the best for their marriage!

Photography: An Endless Pursuit - SPOKEN BRIDE VENDOR | Church: St. Mary Mother of God Catholic Church, Washington DC | Wedding Reception: Phoenix Park Hotel | Ceremony Site: St. Mary Mother of God Catholic Church | Florists: Louisa Sun | Reception Site & Tea Ceremony Site: Phoenix Park Hotel | Videographer: Onyxx Communications LLC | Cake: Fluffy Thoughts | Reception: MC
David Hu | Hair & Make-up: Iris Zou

Renae + Steven | Winter Clubhouse Wedding

Renae and Steven met shortly before Renae entered into a dating fast. During this time, she grew to know and love Steven as a brother in Christ, sparking a desire in both of them to get to know each other on a deeper level.

And so their courtship began. Through the intercession and guidance of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, Steven and Renae were engaged and then married in God’s peaceful and perfect timing.

From the Bride: Steven and I met in a young adult church group. We got to know each other better over the next year--during which I began a dating fast. I knew at the time that I needed to start treating the men in my life as brothers in Christ instead of potential suitors. This profoundly changed the way I interacted with the guys around me.

Just days after my dating fast ended, I returned to the young adult group. I was still treating the men in the group as brothers in Christ, confident my new perspective was both healing and consistent. Steven later told me this was the time he started desiring to know me better.

It truly is by God’s grace that we grew interested in each other when we did. Once we started dating, we quickly discovered our confirmation saints, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, worked together. This led to great discussions about our individual spiritualities, which greatly aided our relationship discernment.

On April 10th, I began my preparation for consecration to Jesus through Mary using 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley.

I didn't know that in just twelve days, my future fiancé would be driving to my parents' house to ask their permission for my hand in marriage.

After thirty three days of prayer, I made my consecration to Jesus through Mary. That same day, May 13th, Steven and I finished our novena to Our Lady of Fatima. It was the 100th anniversary of the famous Marian apparitions in Portugal.

Steven chose that day to propose, in an antique mall from our first date.

Our engagement showed how in tune Steven was with my spirituality.

His loving awareness and connectedness allowed us to intentionally pray through the discernment process. And while I waited for a proposal, God taught me to trust in his timing.

I received the engagement ring Steven intended to propose with weeks after he’d initially asked. He had created a design of three infinity symbols merged into a cross. This was etched into the inside ridge of the ring. The main diamond came from my mother’s engagement ring, which originally came from my grandmother’s engagement ring. It has become a family heirloom.

We knew weddings traditionally took place in the bride’s hometown church, but Steven agreed to a wedding in the church that has spiritually impacted me the most: St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Anderson, Indiana, connected to the school where I worked for four years. During my career, I have spent many days of prayer there at school Masses and in Adoration.

Even the building itself reflected who we are as a couple: the old church had been well worn over time, just like the times Steven and I had fallen and turned to God’s grace. Likewise, St. Mary’s has long relied on the intervention of caring parishioners to keep it a living and growing parish.

My classroom was where the bridal party got ready the morning of the wedding. I was ecstatic to see that my students had written “Congrats, Mrs. Cox” on the the chalkboard! The groom and groomsmen got ready in the library. Spending this precious time with our bridal parties before the ceremony calmed our nerves and allowed us to be in community with those who truly cared about our future. Steven played a board game with his groomsmen, and my sister brought tea and scones for the ladies.

Taking time for prayer with my bridesmaids before the ceremony allowed me to deeply understand the support they desired to give me, on our wedding day and throughout all the years to come.

They are still my rock when grief strikes because they are so firmly rooted in Christ.

The Blessed Mother and St. Joseph played a huge part in our courtship. Our Lady of Fatima was present and represented in my handkerchief, and my sister brought a small statue of her for the time before the ceremony.

I had a family friend design a choker necklace with the Miraculous Medal attached to the clasp. For me, this represented how Mary has always “had my back.” The idea came from a friend who always wore a Miraculous Medal on the clasp of her cross necklace.

I wore my sister’s veil. She was the first of the girls in my family to get married. My twin sister also wore the veil on her wedding day; it has quickly became a family tradition.

We met in the annex of the church before the ceremony, with Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Pieta both in the room with us. These moments felt powerful and prayerful, even as I also felt the jittery nervousness of the morning.

At the reception, we had our father/daughter and mother/son dances. My father and I danced to a Dean Martin song--one I always remembered my dad dancing to when he felt happy. Steven had tissues prepared for his mother, and they still joke about the joyful tears she shed as they danced together.

Throughout the entire process, Steven and I strove to understand that our marriage wouldn’t be all sunshine and roses.

So we gathered an amazing support system filled with the Christ-centered people in our lives.

We truly felt the love of Jesus in those around us during our engagement and on our wedding day. Now that we are united in Christ through the sacrament of matrimony, we feel we can endure whatever life throws at us.

We both feel peace knowing the other will keep each of us focused on God. And I often remind Steven our marriage is a means to help each other to heaven. We strive for this through the hardships we experience together, forgiving the sins of the other, enduring the selfishness we both exhibit, and being thankful for the beauty we witness in our marriage.

Photography: Soul Creations PhotographySPOKEN BRIDE VENDOR | Church: St. Mary's Catholic Church, Anderson, IN | Reception: Indianapolis Yacht Club, Indianapolis, IN | Cake: A Slice of Heaven | Bridal Gown: A Moment in Time Bridal | Engagement Ring: Reis Nichols | Wedding Bands: Shane Co. | Bridal Necklace: Brenda Jarrett | Shoes: Modcloth | Florist: Joann Ryan | DJ: Midwest Sound | Bridesmaids Dresses: Azazie | Menswear: Jos A. Banks | Videography: Fiat Films

Mary + James | Sacred Heart Cathedral Wedding

Mary and James first connected online, and it quickly became obvious that they were both looking for similar qualities in a spouse.

Although circumstances kept them long distance, their relationship remained strong, and the Lord blessed them with an unexpected grace: a wedding on the solemnity of his Sacred Heart.

From the Bride: James and I met on Catholic Match. We were both looking for someone who shared our faith and way of life--the most important things to us. After that, we dated long-distance between Jefferson City and St. Louis for a year and a half.

Before boarding his train back home one day, James asked if I wanted to go visit St. Peter’s church nearby. Next to the statue of Saint Louis, James told me that our time in the city had taught him that the world was not enough. He wanted to give me more than this world could offer, just like Saint Louis himself who lived his life not for this world but the next.

He proposed to me at St. Peter’s in Kirkwood, Missouri. Needless to say, I said yes!

Shortly after getting engaged James left to Army JAG (Judge Advocate General) Training in Fort Benning, Georgia, and Charlottesville, Virginia for five months. During this time, our Pre-Cana classes were put on hold while he completed his training and I finished grad school.

When he returned we hit the ground running with our Pre-Cana courses at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis under the supervision of Deacon Todd.

A month before our wedding we were told it fell on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. This meant we would not be able to use any traditional wedding readings or psalms. Although we did not realize it when we picked the date, we were now presented with a great opportunity.

It was a chance to show our guests the love of Christ found in His Most Sacred Heart and the reflection of this love found in the marriage of a husband and wife.

Our wedding mass was special in many ways. The biggest grace was celebrating our big day on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart in the beautiful Cathedral Basilica. Another fun and unique bonus was when the Archdiocesan Handbell Choir volunteered to play for the wedding, since I am a member! Hearing the beautiful bells ring throughout the cathedral was such a wonderful gift to us.

Additionally, even though James and I both have big families, we wanted everyone to have a part in the Mass if possible. Every member of the family was either in the wedding party or had a role as a lector, usher, or gift-bearer. Our photographer told us that our Mass was the most spiritual that he has ever witnessed.

Right before I walked down the aisle my bridesmaids and I began to pray, I could not hold back the tears of joy because I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude for the wonderful ladies in my life. As the tears began to flow my future sister-in-law took over the prayer, somehow taking the words right out of my mouth. It was such a special moment I will always remember.

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Photography: Mirage Photo | Church: Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, Saint Louis, MI | Reception: The Christy, Saint Louis, MI | Music: Archdiocesan Hand Bell Choir | Reception Music: DJ Connection | Hair & Makeup: New Seasons Hair Spa | Flowers: Carol’s Corner Florist & Gifts