Melissa and AJ met in 2016 at the same church they would get married in two years later. During their courtship, it only took a couple months for them to both discern a call to marriage.
As they traveled the road to the altar, one constant remained in their relationship: the intercession of the Blessed Mother. They consecrated themselves and their relationship to Jesus through Mary the December after they met.
They consecrated themselves again on their wedding day.
And since then they have renewed that consecration a third time.
Their wedding day would be marked by abiding peace, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and a joy shared by everyone who attended.
From the Bride: I was introduced to AJ one night at church by a good friend who knew both of us well. A few weeks later on the solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, after a Latin Mass at the oldest and most beautiful Catholic church in Miami, he asked me on our first date.
Kneeling together during the Eucharistic liturgy during that Mass, AJ says an image came to his mind of his cousin’s wedding, when she and her husband presented flowers to Mary. It was then he decided he better ask me out.
We began seeing each other regularly and from the very beginning prayed together each night.
Two months later we had already started talking about marriage and the good things the Lord might have in store for our future.
After that, on the days leading up to the feast of the Immaculate Conception, we made our first consecration to Jesus through Mary, using Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory.
The next January, our first trip together was with friends from our community to Washington, D.C. for the March For Life; it was an incredible weekend to experience and passionately defend life in the womb together.
And following my graduation from my master’s program, we set off to explore the national parks and celebrate finishing school. AJ proposed at Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, on the feast day of Sts. Anne and Joachim: the parents of the Blessed Virgin, patrons of marriage, and now our personal patron saints.
It was time to plan a wedding.
While I was in charge of the logistics, aesthetics, and reception planning, AJ took the initiative planning our Mass. There were many precious aspects included in this, and he thought through each detail with love and care.
We had four priests concelebrate our wedding Mass: one from AJ’s dormitory at the University of Notre Dame, one who served AJ his first communion, another who has been his spiritual director over the years, and one involved with our young adult community.
We knew from the start that we would include the presentation of flowers to Mary in our Mass. In fact, it had been at that same church, in front of that same statue of Mary almost two years earlier that AJ and I received the Eucharist kneeling together before he asked me on a date.
I think back now to our wedding day, entrusting ourselves to Jesus through the intercession of our beautiful Blessed Mother, when we brought her flowers and consecrated ourselves for the second time.
Another addition we both felt strongly about was a foot washing ceremony. This was something we had never seen during a Catholic wedding Mass, but after getting the approval of our priests, we were thrilled to include it.
For us, marriage is about a willful choice to love and serve the other by giving the gift of ourselves. In order to display that gift of self, service, and humility we each got down on our knees in front of the altar and washed each other’s feet.
This was just as Jesus said:“So if I, your Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done for you.”
The two of us have also served as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion in the past. We knew that in addition to serving each other throughout our marriage, we also desired to serve our family, friends, and community on our wedding day. Thus, we decided to serve as Eucharistic ministers at our nuptial Mass and distribute communion to our guests. This was a beautiful moment, getting to serve the Bread of Life to those that we loved most.
Our nuptial Mass was not only the best part of our wedding day; it was the most special event of our lives.
It meant so much to us to hear similar sentiments not only from those attending our wedding who were practicing Catholics, but also from those who did not regularly attend church or who may not even believe in God. Each person we spoke with shared that our Mass was special, deeply meaningful, and touched them in a unique way.
My sister-in-law sang two songs during our Mass. One of our lectors was the same friend who first introduced AJ and I. We were able to include so many loved ones, aunts, godparents, grandparents, cousins, nieces, nephews, and others in our wedding day.
The music was absolutely beautiful, the church was stunning, the flowers added a feeling of life, and our guests filled the place with joy. And yet, more than all that, the Holy Spirit was what illuminated our nuptial Mass and made it the divine event it was.
We both truly felt it was just the two of us there with Jesus, vowing ourselves to the other on the most important day of our lives.
Before the event, I was concerned I would be distracted with so many loved ones there to celebrate or by trying to remember what came next. I was afraid I would not be able to appreciate living in each moment during the wedding ceremony.
But that could not have been further from how I felt during those ninety minutes. I have never been so fully present to any event, Mass, or moment in my life.
I was filled with more peace than I have ever felt. On my way down the aisle, my eyes locked with AJ’s and did not wander away.
During the Mass the world seemed to become still and present with us, to allow us peace to soak in every second of this time. I was completely present in each moment, not paying attention to what anyone else was doing. It was such a gift.
The rest of the day absolutely flew by.
With so many family and friends visiting from out of town, and even out of the country, we tried to enjoy them all while remaining focused on each other.
Now, we are so thankful to live around the corner from Gesu Catholic Church, where it all began at that Latin Mass on the feast of the Assumption several years ago. We were married there, and it is currently our home parish where we serve as Eucharistic ministers and lectors.
This year, on August 15, 2018 we consecrated ourselves for the third time to Jesus through Mary during the Latin Mass of the Assumption at Gesu, now as a joyfully married couple in our home parish.
We have our families to thank for raising us to be who we are, supporting our decisions and desires, helping us plan our big day, and hosting the most wonderful wedding for us.
Looking back as a bride, planning a wedding can be extremely stressful and overwhelming. As a marriage and family therapist, I know the engagement period is typically the most difficult time in a couple’s lives. The pressure of such a big life event and the constant input they get from everyone around them can be overwhelming.
My takeaway is that it all would have been meaningless without Jesus.
He brought us together, made our relationship good, and helps us to love each other in a life-giving way. I am so thankful for my husband’s faith and dependence on God. Without that, our marriage would not be the good, selfless, sanctifying one that it is.
Although AJ and I have different interests and strengths, we use those differences to compliment one another, just as we did with our styles on our wedding day to create our perfect aesthetic.
When we experience difficulties, as every couple will, we have a greater understanding of how to handle those times and tackle them together because of our faith. I am so thankful our wedding day set us up for a lifetime grounded in the rock-solid foundation of Christ.
Photography: Tara McGovern | Church: Gesu Catholic Church, Miami, FL | Reception Venue: Club of Knights, Miami, FL | Videography: Creative Fox Films | DJ: Miami DJs | Vintage Furniture Rentals: Mi Vintage Rentals | Day-of Coordination: Le Blanc Events | Makeup: Cristal Allure | Dress: Belissima Bridal | Flowers: Simple Rustic | Hair: Styles by Renee