Anna + Mike | Downtown St. Paul Wedding

Anna and Mike met in ROTC early on in college, but didn’t become friends--and begin seeing the truth of one another’s hearts and character--until a few years later on a camping trip with mutual friends. In the months that followed, Anna felt herself falling hard for Mike, but didn’t think he was interested.

On her friend’s advice, Anna offered her and Mike’s relationship back to the Lord, asking that whether as spouses, friends, or even mere acquaintances, their interaction glorify Jesus. “The day I finally felt myself relent and let go of how I wanted the relationship and accepted what God had in store,” she says, ended up being the very day Mike expressed his romantic interest, and they began dating.

From the Bride: We dated for two years, including two long-distance summers--one of which was “letters only” while Mike attended field training. These months were trying, yet truly beautiful and formative times in our relationship. Marriages in which both spouses are members of the military present a unique set of challenges--these summers provided a taste of what such a marriage could like. We clearly saw our relationship was something special and worth defending.

We discussed marriage early on. By God’s grace, Mike and I had both spent a considerable amount of time as single individuals prayerfully considering the type of person we’d like to marry someday. As the months passed, it became more and more clear the this relationship fulfilled both of our desires.

I expected Mike would propose around the start of our senior year of college, but as the school year started with no signs of one, I began getting disheartened and frustrated. By a stroke of luck, I found myself at a Praise and Worship event at our campus parish one Sunday night after Mass. On a whim, I met with one of the religious brothers there and offered my relationship back to the Lord. Walking home, I felt overcome with a wonderful sense of peace. No matter what happened, I felt confident of the Lord’s presence in my life and knew I had no real reason to fear. The next day--our anniversary--Mike proposed. I was caught completely off guard and absolutely thrilled.

Mike and I envisioned our wedding day being a gift of joy, love, and excitement for as many people as possible. I pictured a wedding aesthetic that would be unique, but also timeless and classic.

I spent the night before the wedding with my bridesmaids. I was nervous for the big day, and it was such a comfort to be surrounded with wonderful, loving, generous, women; dear friends who had prayed with and comforted me back when Mike was just a long-shot crush of mine. One of my favorite memories was showing my bridesmaids my dress, which I’d kept secret, for the first time.

We invited many non-Catholic, and even non-Christian, guests, and felt it was important to portray the essence of the Church through our nuptial Mass. We knew that for many, this would be their first--and maybe only--glimpse of the Church and aimed to utilize our readings and music to describe our faith to the wedding guests. Tobit 8, Romans 12, and John 15 painted a picture of the love we will strive for in our marriage and our lives as Catholics. The opening song we chose, Here is My Life by Ed Conlin, powerfully describes the gift of self we were humbly offering that day. Remembrance by Matt Maher during Communion helped convey the holiness of the sacrament to guests unfamiliar with the Eucharist.

We honored dear family and friends throughout our nuptial Mass. Mike’s mom, a talented musician, wrote the music for the Psalm. Friends served as lectors and Eucharistic ministers, and a married couple who mentored us through our engagement were gift bearers, along with their son. We honored deceased family members in the Prayers of the Faithful.

The Mass was filled with special moments, but the homily was particularly moving. To hear our priest, Father Jon, say he was proud of us and would be there for us throughout our marriage was profoundly humbling and touching. Such statements, made by a man standing as the representation and authority of Jesus, carry a deep implication: that God himself is pleased with the relationship that has brought us to this point, and he will stand by us through every trial we will face.

After the Mass, we had a receiving line, which I definitely recommend to couples who will Once the reception starts, it is much more challenging to keep track of everyone and interact with guests individually.

Our reception was held at the Minnesota History Center in downtown St. Paul. It is a beautiful museum with soaring ceilings and enormous windows, with a lovely terrace that was perfect for the outdoor cocktail hour we both wanted, and a two level dinner-dance location that provided the element of uniqueness I had been hoping for.

My mom came up with the idea of paying tribute to our relationship with nature-inspired centerpieces featuring letters Mike wrote to me during his field training. The wood and vines nodded to our love for the outdoors and the camping trip that started everything, and the letters were a way to share our journey to the altar with our guests.

Our first dance was like a dream. Looking around, surrounded by flashing lights and loud music, and seeing people from every community we are a part of: family, church, college, the military, childhood…it was sort of bizarre, but in the best way possible! Since we’ll probably never have all those people in the same room again, it was important to just be present in the moment and acknowledge how special it was.

One of my favorite parts of the entire day was taking portraits with Mike. Our relationship has often conveyed more through expressions and body language than through speaking. Taking portraits was a delightful, private time for us to be physically close and revel in the emotions of the day. We genuinely felt so close to one another in those moments, and I’m blown away by how well our photographer captured that feeling. I vividly remember the feel of Mike’s arms around me and am grateful for such a powerful sensory memory of our wedding day. We said more to one another in those embraced than we probably ever could have in words or letters.

The love the Lord calls us to is a sanctifying love. While beautiful and awe-inspiring, this love is also self-denying and at times, terrifying. Preparing and fully giving the complete gift of oneself is not easy. Yet it isn’t necessarily meant to be easy; it’s meant to draw us deeper into a relationship with the person of Jesus. Beautiful gifts are often hard-earned.

It is, as St. Teresa of Calcutta said, a paradox: when you love until it hurts, you’ll find the hurt stops and you’re left with only love. I’d encourage every bride and groom to pursue sanctifying love in their relationships. Surround yourselves with people who will call you on to the Church’s mission of love, and be brave in the face of the new ways the Lord asks you to love your partner and those you encounter each day.

Photography: Leslie Larson Photography | Church: St. Lawrence Catholic Church Minneapolis, MN | Wedding Reception Venue: Minnesota History Center St. Paul, Minnesota | Rings: Brilliant Earth, Avenue Jewelers, and King Will | Flowers: Family friend | Invitations: Wedding Paper Divas | Caterer: D’Amico Catering | Bridal dress: David’s Bridal | Bridesmaid dresses: David’s Bridal | Groom’s tux: Men’s Wearhouse | Groomsmen tuxes: Men’s Wearhouse | Cake: D’Amico Catering | Hairstylist: Taj Salon and Spa | Make up: Taj Salon and Spa | Music: Northern Lights DJ | Pre-marital counseling: Quo Vadis Therapy Center