Sally + Matthew | Southern Elegance Wedding

We are honored by the opportunity to walk alongside you in this marriage ministry, from Yes to I Do and beyond, and we love returning to our couples' stories as they continue to unfold. If we've featured your love story in our How He Asked engagement series and you now feel called to share your wedding with us, as well, submission details can be found here.

Read more here for the story of Sally and Matt’s courtship and engagement, marked by total joy, certainty, and peace.

When Sally’s friend told her she knew a man who was tall, handsome, and serious about his Catholic faith, she jokingly suggested Sally marry him. Sally was intrigued, yet hesitant; her job required a significant time commitment, and Matt had just begun medical school. At the time, he had made a decision not to date until he was done with his studies. The Lord has a way of changing our plans for the better.

When they met, spending time together among their local Young Adult ministry, the attraction was mutual. Despite the other obligations in their lives, Sally had the boldness to ask Matt out! A sense of trust and certainty about their call to marriage was clear from the beginning, and Matt proposed, with Sally’s grandmother’s ring, the following year.

From the Bride: I was talking with a few girlfriends recently about how important, but also difficult, the season of engagement tends to be. At least in my experience, it was difficult to balance planning a wedding with preparing for marriage.

Matt and I had such a desire to be together--to be fully united as husband and wife, to live in the same house, to make all our decisions together--but the reality was that we weren't there yet.

We were also learning how to build our relationship with each other and Christ, alongside the very real and often overwhelming responsibility of planning a wedding. In all of it, we received great advice from another young couple and from dear priest friend that helped us tremendously during our year-long engagement: first, focus on planning the Mass. When we felt overwhelmed by cake flavor choices or dress colors, we remembered to keep our focus on the sacrament of marriage itself.

Second, a priest told us to be at peace, because ultimately, it was Jesus who would be there on the altar with us on our wedding day.

How could we be afraid, nervous, or overwhelmed knowing that the Lord of the universe loved us so much that he would be there to unite as husband and wife, and to accompany us in our married life?

The day before our wedding, Matt and I went to confession and then Mass, just the two of us, before a flurry of family and friends arrived. I remember walking out of Mass hand in hand with a sense of peace just washing over me. We had spent the last two years falling deeper in love with each other and with Christ. We had grown in patience and trust, practiced chastity even when it was difficult, learned to pray as a couple, and finally our wedding had arrived. From that moment on, the weekend was filled with joy.

We decided to take pictures before the Mass because we wanted to spend as much time as possible at the reception with our friends and family. We took pictures at a nearby park, first just the two of us, and then the bridal party joined for group pictures. I was a little apprehensive that seeing each other before the wedding would somehow ruin the big reveal as I walked down the aisle, but it ended up being the only real opportunity Matt and I had all day to just take a deep breath and be together.

We spent a lot of time thinking through the details of our Nuptial liturgy. We were blessed to have four priests concelebrate; all of them, along with the bridal party, processed in behind the raised Cross to the hymn "O God Beyond All Praising." An unexpected benefit of choosing hymns instead of more traditional instrumental pieces for the procession is that every time one of these hymns is played at a regular Sunday Mass, it brings back all the great memories from our wedding day.

We provided wedding programs since not everyone who attended was Catholic. By including the music and major Mass parts in the program, we hoped people would feel more comfortable participating in the liturgy. One of my bridesmaids and dear friends designed the front of the program. She did an ink drawing of the altar from our home parish, where the ceremony took place. She had the original print framed, and it now hangs in our home as a beautiful reminder of our wedding day.

We chose Matthew 22:35-40 for our Gospel reading, in which Jesus teaches that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. That really is what this whole Christian life is about. In marriage, God has given us the immense responsibility to help get our spouse and children to heaven, and we do this by learning to love God more perfectly.

After communion, we approached Mary and asked for her intercession in our marriage. While we spent a quiet moment at the foot of her altar, our family and friends sang the Salve Regina.

My favorite part of the whole Mass was getting to say our vows and slipping a ring over my husband's finger. I thought I would be nervous in that moment, but the Holy Spirit was so present to us. I'll never forget looking into Matt's eyes and being overwhelmed with gratitude for what God had done for us.

The reception passed by in a flash. We were lucky enough to have a wedding coordinator who snuck us into a back room of the venue for a bite to eat before we made our entrance on the dance floor. I can't recommend this enough to friends who are engaged!

Once we entered the reception, every moment was spent either dancing or hugging all of our dear friends and family who had traveled to be with us. We wouldn't have eaten anything if it weren't for those first 15 minutes in the back!

We knew that we wanted to have a fun, family-friendly reception. We decided to forego the bouquet toss, but did a traditional first dance as well as Father/Daughter and Mother/Son dances. We had a simple wedding cake from a local bakery we both love, and also offered two other passed desserts.

Matt felt really strongly about choosing to wash my feet at the reception in place of a garter toss. I still remember what he said before he knelt down to wash my feet:

"Tonight, I promised you, Sally, that I would spend every day of the rest of my life loving you and serving you. So as my first act of service to you as my wife, I would like to wash your feet."

The moment was brief, but so sincere and I think speaks volumes about the kind of man my husband desires to be.

As reception favors, we gave out 4x6 watercolor prints by the talented Katrina Harrington of Rose Harrington Art that read, "The human heart is always drawn by love." We hoped this quote by Saint Catherine of Siena would be a small reminder to our guests of how much we love them.

We also had a lot of fun planning the smaller details of our day. My engagement ring was originally my grandmother's ring, which she generously gave to Matt before he proposed. His wedding band was his grandfather's; I had it engraved on the inside with totus tuus, meaning “totally yours.” This phrase was Saint John Paul II's apostolic motto and referred to his total devotion to the Blessed Mother Mary. To us, the phrase reminds us to entrust ourselves fully to Mary and, ultimately, to Jesus--but also completely to one another.

Marriage is such a precious gift from God because it reveals--albeit inadequately--the mystery of God's love.

I marvel at the fact that in marriage, God invites me to love as he loves.

In our vows we promised "to be faithful to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honor you all the days of my life." It is our job to try to live that out each day since.

We love imperfectly because we're human, but the experience of Matt loving me completely and unconditionally is truly the biggest gift I have ever received. I cannot begin to comprehend how much more God must love me. Instead, I try to simply give thanks to God daily for his abundant blessings and to serve him unconditionally.

Photography: Kelly Ginn Photography kellyginnphotography.com | Church: St. Peter Catholic Church in Memphis, TN | Wedding Reception Venue : The Atrium at Overton Square | Wedding Coordination: Michael Doyle of Lynn Doyle Flowers
Flowers: Lynn Doyle Flowers (
https://www.lynndoyleflowersandevents.com/) | Catering: CFY Catering (http://cfycatering.com/) | Make-up: Kasey Acuff | Hair: Salon 387 (http://salon387memphis.com/) | DJ: DeepBlu Entertainment (http://www.deepblu.net/) | Cake: | Muddy's Bake Shop (https://www.muddysbakeshop.com/) | Wedding Favors: Rose Harrington Art (https://roseharrington.com/)  | Wedding Dress & Veil: BHLDN (https://www.bhldn.com/) | Bridesmaid Dresses: Bella Bridesmaids (https://bellabridesmaids.com/) | Tuxes: American Tuxedo (http://www.americantuxedomemphis.com/)  | Invitations: Shine Wedding Invitations (https://www.shineweddinginvitations.com/)

Victoria + David | Antique Glamour Wedding & a Conversion Story.

Victoria and David were a 100% match for religious values on an online dating site. And yet, she was a faithful Catholic who worked for the Church and had spent many years discerning religious life, while he was the minister of a Non-Denominational Evangelical community. Though each wondered if their differences could lead to a successful relationship, they were intrigued by their many similarities, and decided to at least go on a date.

“I thought it would be fascinating to talk about Jesus with a devout, joyful Protestant minister,” says Victoria. “I was right! We had incredible conversations, deep and very spiritually energizing, as one date led to another and another. David's theology seemed very close to Catholicism, and I was surprised how his own study and prayer had led him away from certain doctrines typically associated with Protestantism.

Hesitation took over, however, as their theological differences posed obvious barriers that would make marriage problematic. Victoria and David broke up as the difficulty of how they’d raise future children became increasingly evident.

“We both felt like martyrs,” Victoria says, “laying our growing love for each other at the Lord’s feet in order to be faithful to him.”

She continued to marvel, though, at how wonderfully paired they seemed in every other way. The Lord wasn’t finished working in their relationship.

From the Bride: A short time after our breakup, I contacted David with a high stakes invitation that seemed doomed to fail: perhaps we could date if David earnestly explored the possibility of becoming Catholic.

At first, David rejected the offer as impossible, but later agreed, believing that by seeking the truth we would land on the same page (he was convinced I would become Protestant). He also asked that I pray to see the beauty in Protestant communities. Over the next weeks and months, God did bring us to the same page, and answered both of our prayers!

David’s prayer and study, particularly of the Catechism and the Church Fathers, led him to the decision to enter full communion with the Catholic Church. God had also brought me to see beautiful workings of the Holy Spirit in Protestant communities, and to long even more for the unity of the Church.

We see our marriage as a sort of microcosm of the call to Christian unity. Our relationship is a source of great joy and growth as we are strengthened by the gifts we each bring.

Before meeting, John 17 was a favorite Scripture passage of each of us individually. It contains Christ's prayer to the Father for the unity of all who believe in him: “...that they may be brought to perfection as one…” This passage now has a double meaning for us in marriage as we allow the grace of Christ to make us more perfectly one, as husband and wife. We chose this passage the Gospel reading at our Mass, and David had ut sint consummati in unum engraved in his wedding ring.

David and I are both musicians, so the Nuptial Mass music was a high priority for us. We hired a professional choir and a few instrumentalists. Since David is not accustomed to Latin, we opted to seek out beautiful English settings and pieces. We chose a mixture of motets (including a beautiful Magnificat by Chris Mueller), the Heritage Mass sung in parts, a polyphonic introit, alleluia, and communion antiphon, and several congregational hymns. It turned out gloriously! David and I also made our vows over a crucifix that now hangs in our home.

We’d agreed early in our relationship to save our first kiss on the lips for our wedding day. This decision was always left open to discussion and revisiting if needed, but we continued to discern that we wanted to wait. To be clear, it’s not something we think is necessary for all couples, but it was something we prayerfully determined. Both of us had past relationships in which kissing was permitted, but we now desired to keep this special level of intimacy reserved for a lifelong commitment. We had a very affectionate relationship otherwise, and most people didn’t know this was a choice we had made.

Since some close friends were unable to attend the wedding, we decided to keep our bridal party simple, with one Matron of Honor (my sister) and one Best Man (David's brother). Our beloved nieces and nephews were the flower girls and ring bearers, and one nephew was an altar server.

We wanted the style of the wedding to be floral and antique-inspired, with burgundy, dusty rose, ivory, deep greens, and antique gold. The men’s vests and bow ties were burgundy, with David’s being champagne. My sister wore burgundy and gold.

As for my dress, I’d originally bought a more vintage-looking dress that needed substantial lace additions, but at the last minute, the wrong lace came in and I had to get a back-up dress! My second option was more of a princess style, which I had first avoided, but I couldn’t shake how beautiful I felt in it. By a providential turn of events, I was able to return the first dress and purchase the other for a discounted sample price. It turned out to be lovely and matched our flower girl dresses beautifully.

It was important to us that we honor my mother at the wedding, who passed away 9 years ago. I had a 10th anniversary ring of hers (from the year I was born) made into a cross necklace and into my wedding band. For the bridal procession my uncle (my mom’s brother) processed in holding a rose to represent my mother. At the reception, we also had an “in loving memory” table, and David and I sang a duet in her honor.  

We wanted a reception venue with lots of light that was big enough for a larger number of guests. We found a lovely one, where the owner even had a small chapel on the premises with a crucifix and stained glass window of the Wedding at Cana. For our first dance, we had a friend choreograph a waltz to “Clair de Lune.” Other fun details included a singing flash mob David planned with many of his performer friends. It was a medley from Fiddler on the Roof ("Sunrise, Sunset," "Wonder of Wonders," and "To Life L'chaim")! David and his mother also sang Andrea Bocelli's "The Prayer." It was a joyful and entertaining evening.

I look back and reflect on how beautifully marriage is celebrated by the Church, and how even one couple’s marriage is a special blessing to the whole Body of Christ. I was so moved by the way the Church prayed for us in the prayers of our Nuptial Mass, and simply desiring us to be deep vessels to receive all the graces of the sacrament. We were also touched by how our wedding was a source of joy--not only for us but for our friends, family, and even the priests who celebrated the Mass. We now pray for the grace to live our vocation faithfully and grow continually in love for God and one another.

Photography: Stephanie Messick Photography | Church:  Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville, VA | Wedding Reception Venue : Morais Vineyards in Bealeton, VA | Day-of wedding coordinator: MayJune events ; Rings and cross necklace: Yas & Co. Jewelers in Fairfax, VA | Flowers: Bella Floral in Front Royal, VA | Catering: Caroline Street Catering in Fredricksburg, VA | Hair and makeup: Yiselle Santos in Bristow, VA | Cakes: Gateau cakes in Warrenton, VA |  DJ: Voss Weddings | Music Conductor/Organist: James Senson from St. John the Beloved in McLean, VA

Coleen + Matt | Airy Elegance Wedding

Coleen and Matt were friends for a year at Franciscan University before their first date at a coffee shop. After six years of dating that included hours spent at Mass and reading spiritual literature on marriage, Matt invited Coleen on a walk one Sunday morning. On a hilltop, he got down on his knees and asked her to spend forever with him.

From the Photographer: Coleen and Matt’s springtime wedding day was warm and gorgeous, set for three in the afternoon--the hour of mercy--at the Historic St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

They looked so in love and overjoyed during the Mass! Coleen's brother, who is a priest, was the celebrant and delivered a beautiful homily that left us all wanting to hear more--myself included. The bride and groom welcomed their guests to the reception at Mulberry Art Studios in downtown Lancaster. They chose a book theme, with centerpieces that showcased their mutual love for reading. Everything was so intentionally chosen to reflect their personalities.

Instead of a garter toss, Coleen and Matt opted to wash each other's feet as a sign of service to each other. And they got it right. A wedding lasts one day, but a marriage lasts forever; that's only possible when we serve each other.

After the foot washing, all their guests, from kids to elders, got up and danced.

I was emotional countless times throughout the day--it was entirely centered on God. When I saw Matt and Coleen washing each other's feet I could no longer fight back my tears, and I let them stream down. That touched me so deeply, as I had never before seen a bride and groom perform this ritual in person. Such a sign of service and love for the other. A reminder that to have a strong marriage we have to put the other first; serve and love first. Then God himself fulfills our hearts.

Photography: Juliana Tomlinson Photography | Church: Historic St. Mary Catholic Church | Reception Venue : Mulberry Art Studios | Getting Ready Location: Eden Resort and Suites | Hair: Master Hair Designs by Beth K. Mitchel at Hair Cuttery | Florist: Jackie (Bride's aunt) | Cake Artist: Oregon Dairy | DJ: Garvo Music & DJ Services | Wedding Dress: Country Threads by Gail, Alfred Angelo

Kelly + Peter | California Museum Wedding

Kelly met Peter at fifteen and seventeen, respectively, as youth group and Confirmation leaders at their parish. They spent their time going to football games, instant messaging, attending Mass, and secretly liking one another. Peter revealed his feelings on Kelly’s sixteenth birthday, when she was permitted to start dating. Kelly remembers the Mass she attended that day: “I prayed especially for my new dating life, my future spouse, and also prayed that perhaps my first boyfriend would become my husband.” The Father heard and answered these desires of her heart.

Eight and a half years later, Peter wrote and performed a song on guitar entitled, “This Love was Made by God.” After singing it to Kelly, he proposed. 

From the Bride: We went to World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland for our honeymoon and got to see Pope Francis. We are living our happily ever after.

My wedding gown was the second one I tried on, and I knew it was meant for me. It was from 2006, designed by Oleg Cassini. I had it altered by removing the original ribbon and adding a transparent ribbon with rustic flower details to replace it. I purchased a second dress in hopes we’d receive a blessing from Pope Francis, but I forgot to bring it with me to Krakow. Instead, I bought a $8.00 white dress from a thrift shop in Poland!

I knew I wanted a traditional-looking veil that would cover my head. I was thrilled to find my traditional mantilla veil, with modern flair featuring polka dots and rose gold details.

Our central goal for our wedding Mass was that it be filled with the God’s presence and that each guest to feel his power and love. Our guest list was very diverse and included people from all walks of faith, including fallen-away Catholics. We hoped they’d experience God throughout our Mass. It was so special being married at the church where we first met.

For music, we chose contemporary worship and a band at the ceremony. We were blessed to have our friends' band, Lang Station, play at the Mass, and the music was one of the highlights. I walked down the aisle to "Messiah/You're Beautiful" by Phil Wickham. Every time I listen, it gives me butterflies and takes me back to our wedding. Peter cried when I walked down the aisle! The bridesmaids walked to Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons," and the other songs included "Oceans" and "How He Loves."  

While we professed traditional Catholic vows, we were also invited to include personal messages to read out loud during the ceremony. The night before our wedding, I accidentally took Peter's note card with his message to me, so he had to try to remember what he wrote. The rest he made up on the spot! Our priests were Father John, the priest from my college parish, and Father Matt, who was our youth minister and who watched Peter and I grow together. Our wedding was the first he presided at, as a newly ordained priest! We had our friends and cousins present the gifts. It was very special having our loved ones included in the Mass.

 After the Mass, Peter and I went to Jamba Juice in our wedding attire. It’s  where Peter first told me he liked me and asked me out on our first date. We sat at our table to enjoy a few moments alone before the reception.

Our reception was held at Rancho Camulos Museum, a National Historic Landmark that holds an old (not currently used) Catholic chapel. We had an outdoor reception that included market lights above the dance floor and big tree with a chandelier above our table. The meal was catered from the same restaurant where Peter and I went on our first date, and guests enjoyed listening to Lang Station during the cocktail hour and dinner.  

My favorite part of the night came at the end, when most of guests had departed. Those remaining included our very close friends, some family, and neighbors whom I’m very close to. Two friends recalled that as a child, I’d wanted to dance to Train’s "Drops of Jupiter" at my wedding, and they requested it as the last song of the evening. Peter and I danced with unkempt hair, his jacket over me, through a scene of bubbles provided by a couple of people. We then slowly walked away to our cars, talking with our friends like it was just another ordinary night. But it was perfect.

Although it’s very easy to get caught up in all the wedding details--decorations, music, the timeline--the most important thing is to be present and enjoy the moment. Let go of all the things that don't matter, breathe deeply, and take notice of all the blessings around you. During your wedding day, reflect on how God got you to where you are and be thankful. Remember the insanely amazing spiritual things that are happening to give you a new sacrament!

Lastly, know that sometimes it’s easy to become disappointed in certain aspects of your wedding. Remember those feelings are fleeting, and you get to look forward to an adventure of a lifetime with the man God provided for you.

Video produced by Forestry Films

Photographer: Worden Photography | Reception Location: Rancho Camulos Museum; Piru, CA | Church: Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church; Santa Clarita, CA | Bride's Wedding and Engagement Rings: Jewelry Couture in Ventura, CA Groom's Wedding Ring: Na Hoku | Flowers: Yamaguchi Nursery in Santa Paula, CA | Invitations: Download and Print | Save the Dates: Shutterfly | Rentals:  AV Party Rentals in Santa Clarita, CA | Caterer:  Stone Fire Grill | Bride's Dresses: The White Dress for Less in Newhall, CA, Dress designed by Oleg Cassini | Veil: SmithaMenonBridal on Etsy | Bride's Shoes: Step! Shoes in Santa Monica, CA, Shoes: Sabrinas Juliet 34910 in Bone Nappa Leather | Bridesmaid Attire: Various dresses chosen by bridesmaids | Groom and Groomsmen Attire: Men's Warehouse | Cake: Jills Cake Creations in Santa Clarita, CA | Hairstylist: Amy Wolf | Ceremony Music/ Cocktail Hour/ Dinner Music: Lang Station | Reception Music: Crowd Theory Entertainment | Reception Planning/Coordination:  Lalonde Events; Christine Lalonde | Videography: Forestry Films

Sarah + Brian | Country Chic Wedding

Sarah doesn’t even drink coffee, but when a young man casually asked her to join him and a friend after one Sunday Mass, she said yes. The friend--Brian--joined them at the coffee shop, and he and Sarah discovered their common interests and shared Catholic faith. They began chatting via Facebook, and went on their first date son after.

From the Bride: At the time we met, Brian was finishing a Marian consecration. I had made my first one a few years earlier in college, and I warned him that his life would definitely change for the better. It is a powerful prayer! Early on in our relationship, we both expressed our desires to remain fixed on Christ and to save sex for marriage. Though these commitments were, at times, very hard, by grace we stuck to them.

We soon found out our similarities and differences. Brian has an engineering-oriented mind, while I am more creative and emotional. These differences really compliment each other, helping each of us keep the other’s concerns in check. We both love the outdoors, camping, running, and biking. We even ran a mini marathon together. 

As our we got to know each other more and more, Brian also grew deeper in his faith. He began to see and realize the need for healing in certain areas of his life. This was frustrating and very hard for me at times, but I knew God desired this experience for Brian. I never stopped praying for him, and never stopped supporting him.  

During our first year of dating, we were blessed to travel to Lourdes, where Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette. It was such a beautiful experience. After that trip, Bernadette took on a special place in our hearts and we have since asked her often to intercede for us. We also made plans to hike the Camino together, which is a 500 mile hike on foot from St. Jean, France to Santiago, Spain. However, I ended up not going, which was God's perfect plan: Brian had a beautiful opportunity for reflection and alone time with God. The pilgrimage took him 23 days, which equals hiking about 21 miles a day to complete it. That was probably the biggest turning point in our relationship. It has made Brian a better spiritual leader, our relationship stronger, and has truly opened his heart for a deeper conversion with God. Our Lady knew what she was doing!

Two and a half years after our first date, Brian proposed on a pond dock with bouquets of daisies surrounding us.

From the moment I said yes, I knew we were in for the most beautiful, messy, vulnerable, and love-filled adventure.

Marriage can be taken lightly these days. The overall vision and expectations can be greatly skewed and may cause great heartache. The beauty of marriage is not just waking up to your best friend whom you love so deeply, but also seeing beauty in the vulnerable moments you share. It is quite a profound thing to see a person's heart with their strengths and gifts, but there is also something truly beautiful and intimate in knowing the other's weaknesses.

Marriage is about getting the other to heaven. It is about truly desiring the good for the other. It is walking with them through their joys and their sufferings. It’s transparency; and knowing everything about your spouse and still choosing to love him or her deeply. Sacrificial love shines forth, reflecting our wedding vows.

That's why on our wedding day we were filled with joy, gazing at each other at the altar, with God as our witness along with our families and friends. Two people at the altar, tears in their eyes, knowing we were making the most beautiful covenant to each other.

I'm sure you’ve heard Dostoyevsky’s quote, "beauty will save the world." True beauty is a reflection of God. In fact, he is beauty. We hoped to bring his divine beauty to our wedding day.

Growing up, I absolutely loved the cello. I even started cello lessons at 27 years old! The first song I learned was “Be Thou My Vision.” For as long as I can remember, this song has captured my heart. Since high school, I’d dreamed of entering into the church to that hymn on my wedding day. God had even more beautiful plans.

He put a wonderful cello teacher in front of me, a retired second chair from the Indianapolis symphony. He taught me how to play the song and ended up playing it as I walked down the aisle.

When I was little I had a lot of anxiety. I would sometimes walk in my parents backyard in a nearby grassy field where horses grazed. I remember seeing daisies everywhere. They were so simple, yet beautiful and free. I longed for that freedom in Christ and the daisies in that field almost become a symbol of that beauty and freedom. From then on, daisies have always been my favorite flower; a reminder of the freedom that I attained through Christ. I chose to wear a simple, flowing gown, and carry daisies in my bouquet.

For our honeymoon we were able to go to Rome and have our marriage blessed by the Pope!

Shortly after our wedding, we were blessed with little baby, which sadly ended in miscarriage. We named her after our beloved saint of Lourdes, and now we know we have two Bernadettes interceding for us. We can't wait to grow our family and are hoping to do foster care in the near future. Another desire of ours coming true!

Praise you, God, for all you have done for me and all you have done for Brian.

From the Groom: The night before our wedding, Sarah and I had the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

I was really excited when I found out our priest, Fr. Whittingto, was offering this to us, so we could be purified before committing our lives to each other.

I felt a reminder that, to be a good husband and father--to lead my wife and children to God--I first have to humble myself, admit my faults, and be in a right relationship with God.

Being humble can be a difficult thing, especially for men, who desire to be their family's ultimate protector and example. I’m often tempted to emphasize my virtue and dismiss my failures, thinking I need to show my wife and future that I’m a role model whom they should look up to. I'm glad I had this reminder, through reconciliation, that the best leaders are humble and seek forgiveness for their failures.

The morning of our wedding seemed to stretch on for ages. It felt like the time for Mass to begin would never come. I remember trying to fill the time of anxious waiting with prayers for God to prepare my heart and to allow me to see all the beauty in this day. While God still has plenty of work to do in my heart, I look back on my time in prayer that day and see yet another moment where God was calling me to himself.

Though Sarah and I both had times while dating when we weren’t certain if we’d be led to marriage, we always turned toward God and trusted in him to lead us and to give us the grace to be who he made us to be. As I was waiting for our wedding mass to begin I found myself praying almost the same prayer, only without any uncertainty this time:

Lord, thank you so much for this huge blessing, for putting this beautiful woman in my life. Give me the grace to be the husband she deserves throughout our whole marriage.

Photography: Soul Creations Photography | Church: St. Nicholas Catholic Church, Sunman, IN | Reception: St. Anthony Hall, Morris, IN | Florals: Roberta Haas (Family Friend) | Bridal Gown: Bridal and Formal in Cincinnati | Shoes: David's Bridal | Bridesmaids' Attire: David’s Bridal | Groom's Suit: Express | Groomsmen Attire: Express | Live Music: Brother Smith Band | Photobooth: Picture Perfect Photo Booth | Videography: Vibe Video Productions 

Kaitlyn + John | Southern New Year's Wedding

A few months before her freshman year at Notre Dame, Kaitlyn’s aunt showed her a newspaper article about a local young man’s involvement with campus ministry on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. On her first day of Philosophy 101 at school, she quickly recognized “the Mississippi kid from the article.” It was John, who, it turned out, had grown up only 20 minutes down the road from where Kaitlyn was born.

Kaitlyn introduced herself on that first day of class, and John sat behind her. Midway through the semester, they began studying and attending daily Mass together. John asked Kaitlyn out, and before they knew it they were falling in love.

From the Bride: Little did we know, while we were busy falling for each other our parents were doing some behind-the-scenes research! My dad called his best friend, a priest who happened to be on a school board with John’s father. When asked about John’s family, Fr. Paddy--who later concelebrated our wedding--replied, “Oh they are cream of the crop!” My dad was sufficiently satisfied, and apparently so was John’s family in their discoveries about me.

Our friendship, and subsequent romantic relationship, was founded on our mutual love of Christ. After Mass, we’d often discuss our faith lives and pray.

I knew from the first time we prayed together that I could trust my heart with such a man. His devotion to the Lord and our Blessed Mother were so clear, and they continue to be.

John asked me to marry him next to the Sacred Heart statue in front of Notre Dame’s famous Dome, as our family watched via webcam and our friends stood nearby.

Our wedding Mass was the main focus of our planning and where we devoted most of our energy. Between getting married close to New Year’s Eve and being ND grads, it was an easy decision to choose gold as a central wedding color. Our colors were inspired by my engagement ring, which belonged to John’s great grandmother and is gold with an aquamarine stone (my birthstone).

We wanted the natural beauty of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where we held the ceremony and reception--including the beach, old Southern oaks, and a nearby lighthouse--to influence the general aesthetic of the day. We incorporated cream and soft blue details to reflect these local features.

My dress and bouquet were influenced by our traditional style and the setting of the gorgeous cathedral where the Mass was celebrated. My sister got married three months before me, and we actually bought our wedding dresses on the same day! We decided to share the veil, so it could be our “something borrowed” and signify the closeness we share.

Our wedding date, December 30th, is often celebrated as the Feast of the Holy Family depending on the liturgical calendar. This seemed incredibly apt, as we want the family we created, starting at our wedding mass, to be an image of the Holy Family, reflecting their love in all we do.

We wanted to find a way to dedicate our marriage to the Holy Family during the Nuptial Mass. We searched for statues and images online to whom we could pray and present flowers during the Mass, but never found exactly what we were looking for. So John came up with the idea of “commissioning” my dad to paint us an icon of the Holy Family, featuring the many devotions we have developed as a couple.

The finished icon includes the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a nod to our engagement location, Saint Joseph, to whom my family has a longtime devotion (my parents met on his feast day, which is also my birthday), and Our Lady, who is particularly precious to John’s parents. We asked for the artwork to depict Joseph with his trademark lilies and Mary with the image found on the Miraculous Medal. At our Mass, my mother handed us a lily to present to Saint Joseph, and John’s mother and father gave us a rose to give to Our Lady and the Holy Family. Inviting our families into these dedications, alongside this image my dad had painted, symbolized a blending together of families and our devotions to create a new family.

The Nuptial Mass was truly grace-filled, with so many friends and family members serving through readings, gift bearing, altar serving, and music. It was especially beautiful seeing how all of this love and grace was only possible through the love of the Holy Family.

Our reception was a wonderful celebration highlighting the many people we are so blessed to have in our lives. It took place at the Biloxi Visitors Center, with a gorgeous view of the gulf and Biloxi lighthouse. A jazz band from New Orleans played many of our favorite songs. John was a section leader in the Notre Dame Band, so many of his fellow band members helped us select jazz pieces for background music. They, along with many of our ND friends, family members, and childhood friends hit the dance floor after a delicious traditional coastal meal of jambalaya and gumbo.

I think we will always treasure our first dance to "Fly Me to the Moon," and the dances we shared with our parents. The band led us in an Anniversary Dance where my grandparents, who celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year, won for longest marriage. When asked their advice for a long and happy marriage, my blessed grandfather said something along the lines of, “She’s always right.”

Immediately after John proposed, our friends serenaded us with “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” I helped John conduct our friends in another rendition of the song, and we finished the night with a second line taking us down the stairs and out to our car, covered in shaving cream courtesy of John’s brothers and groomsmen. Our families sent off fireworks from the beach across the street!

There is a poetic line in Luke’s Gospel that has often struck me in times of great joy: “And Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Our wedding day was filled with graces and moments of true joy that, like Mary, I have treasured in my heart.

We not only felt the peace that comes from fulfilling the vocation God had in mind for us; we also felt a taste of that heavenly wedding feast where love and joy have the final word over sin and death.

To feel the support of so many incredible people, including those loved ones who joined us only through the mystical communion of the Eucharist, was a reminder of the abundant and gratuitous love God has for each of us. Since John and had dated for over five years and been engaged for two, there was no doubt remaining about the call to love and devote ourselves to each other’s spiritual and physical well being that God placed on our hearts.

When I said my vows out loud, it felt as natural as the sun rising each morning.

It was just a day, but also a sacrament that has given us the strength to live every day after, for the rest of our lives, in fidelity and selflessness. That doesn’t mean that now we bend over backwards to empty the trash or fold the laundry, but there is a grace through the sacrament to face this crazy world as a team, bound together.

The image of the Holy Family which now hangs in our bedroom reflects the truth that God uses the family to bring about salvation. That it is through the sacrifices we make within that unit, and together as a unit for the outside world, that God’s mercy is shown. The sacrament of marriage, and the graces that come from responding to the call God places deep in our hearts, fill us with joy and strength to be images of that mercy.

Through prayer we continue to discover the beauty of our vocation to love each other for life, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and for better or for worse.

Photography: Julie Holmes Photography http://www.julieholmesphotography.com | Church: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral, Biloxi, MS https://nativitybvmcathedral.org | Wedding Reception Venue : Biloxi Visitors Center, Biloxi, MS, https://www.biloxi.ms.us/visitor-info/museums/visitors-center/ | Liturgical Music: Jacqueline Coale and Terry Maddox | Reception Band: Dr. Jazz and the New Orleans Sound http://www.drjazzmusic.com  | Flowers, Catering & Wedding Coordination: Fountain Events http://www.chezcharlesevents.com | Cakes: Torta Dulce Bakery http://www.tortadolcecakesandmore.com/ | Makeup: Ashley Mills http://www.makeupbyashleymills.com | Hair: Salon Rouge https://www.salonrouge-ms.com | Dress: Marie Gabriel Couture https://mariegabrielcouture.com | Bridesmaid dresses: Bella Bridesmaids https://www.bellabridesmaids.com | Suits: Studio Suits https://www.studiosuits.com  | Bridesmaid shirts: Lettermix Studio on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/shop/LettermixStudio | Rings: Windsor Jewelry https://windsorjewelry.com | Invitations: Minted https://www.minted.com

Maggie + Ryan | Vineyard Brunch Wedding

In the vocation to marriage, blindness is overcome by a true seeing and removal of the veil.

At a fundraising gala on the feast of All Saints--aptly named the Night of Hope--Maggie saw Ryan for the first time. But it wasn’t the first time he’d seen her: a few hours earlier, she’d been the reader at the Mass he’d attended. As she began reading, says Ryan, “everything closed in around me.”

He could hardly believe it when they were seated next to each other at the gala. They talked that night about Maggie’s hopes of becoming a FOCUS missionary and about Ryan’s childhood blindness that had influenced his feeling of being called to optometry. Both of them heard the Lord speaking to their hearts that night: Ryan called his father on the way home, telling him he’d just met the girl he would marry. At the same time, Maggie told her mother she knew who her future husband was.

Several months later, Maggie invited Ryan to her senior thesis defense, which prompted so many questions he insisted on taking her out to coffee to ask them all. They soon began a long-distance relationship, Maggie serving in Nebraska with FOCUS and Ryan studying optometry in Arizona.  

The first year of Maggie’s mission, however, required a dating fast. This was to be a time of putting the Lord first, being radically available to her students and teammates, and praying seriously in discernment of her vocation. Knowing Christ would provide the strength and grace for their new relationship to endure this time of purification, Ryan joyfully joined her fast. They entrusted their relationship to the prayers of Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, and their first year of dating unfolded over handwritten letters, weekly FaceTime calls, the counsel of good friends and spiritual directors, and prayer and fasting on each other’s behalf.

While watching a brilliant sunset in Ryan’s hometown, days after their fast ended, he and Maggie were able to fully discuss all the Lord had revealed during that year spent far apart--including their desire to pursue the vocation of marriage together. A few months had passed when Ryan invited Maggie to get her first eye exam at his school clinic. When she reached the smallest line on the vision charts, it read, Maggie Elizabeth, will you marry me?

From the Bride: Our early-morning wedding took place in Lincoln, Nebraska, where I had served two years with FOCUS. Many of our guests joked that Nebraska wasn’t quite what they pictured when they heard the words “destination wedding,” but we were excited to bring my family from Arizona, and Ryan’s from North Dakota, to the place where our relationship had unfolded.

When we started planning our wedding, one question drove our decisions: when else will we be able to invite all those we know and love to Mass, and to show them the faith we love as fully as we can?

We wanted to share the beauty, truth, and goodness of our faith to our guests through a beautiful liturgy, with the hope that Christ could use our wedding day not only to pour sacramental grace upon us, but to lead our guests to encounter him anew.

Ryan and I prayed a 54-day rosary novena before our wedding day, entrusting the conversion of our family and friends to the Blessed Mother. We chose a morning Mass and a brunch reception so we could celebrate in the daytime. The warm sunshine of early spring was so fitting for the Easter season. The Resurrection takes place in the light and joy of the morning.

When we woke up to pouring rain the morning of the wedding, I guessed that God might have other plans than sunshine. I will never forget feeling so much peace as we prepared and the surreal joy that filled my heart when we prayed together moments before the Mass, realizing the day we had hoped, prayed, and waited for was here. A gift from the one who had planned it all.

I remember ascending the steps to the altar (precariously! Ryan moved much quicker than I could in my dress) and being overtaken by being so close to the Tabernacle. It was as if the Lord was speaking to me in the first moments of our nuptial Mass, I’m right here. Be at peace, be at rest in this time. This is a gift I have prepared just for you.

I took in the beautiful music Ryan had planned--he’d even written new arrangements for our favorite hymns, offered by friends with whom he’d played and sung with in choirs and bands throughout college.

We said our vows while holding a crucifix, a gift from our priest the evening before. It’s a miniature replica of the crucifix in a chapel on Ryan’s college campus, where he had spent so much time in as a student. It was a sweet way to honor the sacred place where he had prayed in hope for his vocation, while standing in the place where I had spent hours praying for mine.

As the liturgy of the Eucharist began, a beam of sunlight seemed to burst through the stained glass image of Christ, brightening the entire church. The morning light of the Easter season t came in God’s timing. We brought a dozen white roses to Mary, and I remember asking her to bless us with 12 children! Growing up, I always wanted 12 kids, and had 12 as my number in sports. Ryan wore the number 12 on his jerseys, as well, and has always considered it his lucky number. He also put twelve diamonds total in my wedding and engagement rings. We’ll see if that wedding-day wish comes true!

We wanted the style of our wedding to reflect the light and joy of Easter. For our colors, we chose a light, almost-neutral blue, white, and gold, complementing our vineyard brunch. All of our flowers were white with lots of greenery. I loved the simplicity and light they brought to the day. I can’t recommend our florist, Avant Garden floral, enough!

I wanted big windows and natural light to fill our celebration, so our wedding party traveled in a trolley with the windows down as we danced, rapped, and sang the entire way to the reception! I loved being able to see the Nebraska countryside on our way to the vineyard. All of that dancing--plus the wind during the drive--definitely wreaked havoc on my updo, but ended up being one of my very favorite memories from the day.

We feasted on brunch foods with a waffle bar and bacon sampling, as well as delicious white and red sangria. Our cake topper and the on our dessert table reflected the lyrics of our first dance song, Ed Sheeran’s “Tenerife Sea.” It was one of the first songs Ryan sang and played for me on his guitar.

Our favors were cards featuring a quote by St. John Paul II: “There is no place for selfishness - and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.”

We wanted to share with our guests that sometimes love looks like bright mornings, dancing, and eating mini fruit-tarts, but we know the Lord will also give us challenges, ask us to sacrifice, and to be courageous in the face of what will attempt to eat away at our love for him and for each other.

It was an incredible day, and in the months since, we have been amazed at how those graces have been continually renewed and poured out upon our relationship with God and with each other.

The one thing Ryan and I were both overwhelmed with on our wedding day was how close the Lord was to us, in so many different ways. We felt the fulfillment of the promises he had made throughout our entire courtship: all of the days of long-distance brought to an end, his presence in the holy priests who had sacrificed and prayed for us as we prepared for marriage, the gift of saying our vows just feet from the tabernacle and receiving Christ immediately in the Eucharist. We saw him in the countless family and friends who traveled to celebrate with us. It was such a gift and blessing to experience intimacy with the Lord filling every moment of the day. Our memories have become a fountain we can always return to and draw from as we face new challenges in our life together.

Videography: Oculi Cordis Media

Photographer: Mel Watson Photography | Church: St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Lincoln, NE | Wedding Reception Venue : Junto Wine, Seward, NE | Floral: Avant Garden | Catering: Chef au Chef Catering | Dessert: Butterfly Bakery | Rentals: Uptown Rentals | Hair: Sweet Jane Salon | Bridesmaid Dresses: Azazie | Bride Dress: Ellynne Bridal | Groomsmen Attire: Halberstadt's, Fargo, ND | Rings: Golden Harvest Jewelry, Grafton, ND