Jackie + David | Desert Sophistication Wedding

One Valentine’s Day at Arizona State University, students at the Catholic Newman Center put on a service event distributing donations and cards to the local homeless population. Jackie met David for the first time, and a group of new friends organically grew from that event, culminating in a road trip to Sedona, Arizona. “David had taken the lead in helping make this trip a reality,” says Jackie. “My parents had bought their wedding and engagement rings there, and I had always heard of its beauty. We drove up with two other friends, hiked Cathedral Rock, and had a blast exploring the local shops. It was a memorable day trip for all of us, but I had no idea just how special it would be to me and David later in life.”

Returning to school in the fall as sophomores, David, Jackie, and their group of friends drifted apart and they saw each other less frequently. “In all honesty,” Jackie admits, he got on my nerves! Looking back, we later realized God had a lot of work to do on our individual hearts. We both confronted a lot of challenges that year.”

Slowly, patiently, the Lord was preparing them for each other.

Jackie found herself beginning to look at David with renewed wonder, seeing in him a great gentleness and concern for others and desiring to know him more and more. Once again, they began regularly running into each other at the Newman Center, service events, and pro-life work. He got involved in the prolife club again, and we ran into each other at service events and Newman Center social events regularly. At the Catholic sorority fall formal, David looked at Jackie across the dance floor after talking casually throughout the evening, and it all came together in his mind. They danced, and he asked her out a few days later.

Months after, David took Jackie on another road trip to Cathedral Rock; this time, to propose.

From the Bride: Saint Patrick is David’s confirmation saint, and his feast, Saint Patrick’s Day, is exactly halfway between our birth dates. It was also the only Saturday available in March, one of Arizona’s most beautiful months.

My only stipulation about a Saint Patrick’s Day wedding was that the theme not extend to any of our aesthetic and décor. David easily agreed. We chose a springtime desert theme: soft pinks and greens, with a pop of mango in the bouquets. I fell in love with the desert’s unique beauty when I moved to attend ASU, so I wanted to surround ourselves with it and delight all of our out-of-state guests. There were cacti illustrations on our invitations and table numbers, and I bought nopales to create hand-lettered signs--I practice hand-lettering because I think it’s whimsical, romantic, and deeply personal.

Our wedding program was actually inspired by Christina Dehan Jaloway’s. My favorite element was including the reasons David and I chose each of our Mass readings. I really hoped to counter the idea that Catholic weddings aren’t as personalized or meaningful as secular ones with custom vows and varied locations.

For David and me, a Catholic wedding in this place, on this day, with these readings and traditions, was the most intensely personal and meaningful ceremony we could dream of.

We were married in the intimate Newman center where we had met and grown throughout college. I was overjoyed to share this church with my friends who had never seen it. David really experiences the Mass through traditional music, so we hired his home parish’s choir to sing. Their arrangements were so heavenly I was brought to tears.

I was afraid I’d be self-conscious during the ceremony, but I felt so grounded. I was filled with the deepest peace, gratitude, and radiant joy. I knew God was there, waiting for me, excited to bond me forever to my husband and lavish his grace upon us. I felt completely alive and able to take in every passing, precious moment. We smiled and looked at each other during nearly the entire ceremony.

We involved friends and family as vendors because we knew they could do great work. Our readers, gift bearers, and altar servers were all friends from Newman; our college friends also did our photography, table numbers, and my hair. David’s mother, a talented baker, made our wedding cakes, and his family made all the food and decorations for the rehearsal dinner.

David and I danced our first dance to “Amazed” by Lonestar. We surprised our guests with a choreographed dance that built from slow dancing to nightclub two-stepping, to Arizona two-stepping, to country swing. It was a joy to showcase the love of dance we developed in college!

We also chose to do a garter throw, but with a twist. Pulling up my dress in front of family was a little beyond our comfort level. Thankfully, David has a goofy sense of humor! We opted to have him seductively approach me, only for me to sit him down in my seat, and then pull up his pant leg to reveal the garter on his ankle! It worked for us, and it was hilarious when David’s 10-year-old brother caught the garter, hoisted in the air by one of David’s friends.

Besides getting sacramentally married to the love of my life, the most meaningful part of the nigh twas the presence of my out-of-town family. All of my dad’s six siblings, their spouses, some cousins, and my grandmother flew out for the big day--she is 96 years old and stayed near the dance floor until the DJ closed it down at 11 PM!  My family had never hosted all of our relatives at once—we were usually the ones flying back East to visit them and dance at their weddings. They welcomed David with such open arms. Some of my fondest memories are seeing David arm-in-arm with my cousins in a huddle, talking enthusiastically with my aunts and uncles, and impressing them all with his dance moves.

The evening ended with all the remaining guests circling up around us, arm-in-arm, singing “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks. The last chorus, we were all in one massive group hug. It’s truly a night I will never forget.

Being surrounded by the ecstatic joy and presence of my husband, family members and friends, was the most vivid experience of heaven I’ve ever had.

People have often remarked on the sense of peace I carry with me. Throughout wedding planning, often vendors noticed how at ease I seemed during our meetings, saying many couples were already stressed by the first meeting! However, don’t get me wrong—this peace was tested and hard-earned. There were experiences of fearing we would never find a venue, fearing we would lose our venue, having vendors back out, and stepping on boundaries as we merged family traditions and expectations. This process drew me deeper into God’s involvement in a Catholic wedding day.

It started with finding a way to use Pinterest well. Sometimes I would get caught in a spiral of comparison. When I contemplated the virtues I hoped to radiate on my wedding day, the words joy, peace, and surrender all arose. I searched those words and pinned my favorite results right on my “Bride’s Look” board alongside my hair and makeup inspiration, to remind me of some essential truths:

Joy: My friends and family are looking to see that I’m happy, not that everything’s perfect. Seeing a happy bride is what really is beautiful and gives joy to others’ hearts.

Peace: God the Father is in control of the day. He led me to my husband, and he has called us to receive the sacrament of marriage. He will be there on the big day. It’s his show! He is the one providing the grace uniting us together for life. He is the one who will provide, not me.

Surrender: “Mistakes” will inevitably happen. In those moments, I wanted to go with the flow.

I wanted to receive the day as God was delivering it, pondering everything in my heart like Mary did at Jesus’ birth.

I wanted to laugh lightheartedly about whatever happened and see it as a good story to tell later. The human experience of the event was all in the emotions felt, not the visual details or the perfect timeline.

Collecting and pondering these quotes stabilized me. It helped me internalize these truths and prepare spiritually and practically. On my wedding day, my bridesmaid printed some of the quotes from my board and distributed them. We gathered in quiet place before the ceremony. I led us in prayer and each girl read three of my handpicked quotes to center us, reminding us what was most important on this day.

I can't tell you how relieved I felt to hear my dear friends speaking those words back to me. As I waited alone to join the procession, I felt as grounded as the strongest and tallest tree in the forest. My heart overflowed in thanksgiving to God for bringing me to this day.

I remembered I was the receiver of this day, and God was the giver.

There is this pressure to provide “magic” as the bride and groom; the event planners. That’s why the details can be so stressful. You may feel like if a detail is imperfect, it will ruin the illusion of heaven you are trying to create for yourselves and the guests. The details are meant to elicit joy… but it really helped me to remember that they are not the true source of the joy. Ultimately, the union of two people together, to be married for life, can only be done by one being, the Almighty God. A celebration of what He has done in the lives of these two people.

I found a quote that said, “A wedding is a celebration that God loves his people.” And at our wedding, there was a real sense of supernatural joy. It pervaded everything, from the ceremony to the photo-taking to the reception. That, I could not have planned or pinned. Only God could provide that.

Photography: Kylee Ann Photography | Church: All Saints Catholic Newman Center serving Arizona State University | Reception Venue: Sheraton Crescent Hotel | Wedding rings: Shane Co. | Engagement ring: Jewlr | Invitations: Minted | Flowers: Fred’s Flowers
Bride’s Dress, veil, jewelry, and accessories: Brilliant Bridal | Bride’s necklace: vintage | Bridesmaid’s attire: Vow to Be Chic | Groom and Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Wearhouse | Cake Baker: Rose Hacker, mother of the groom | Hairstylist: Haley York, friend of the bride | Makeup artist: the bride | Music: Arizona Music Force