Abby and Joe had been Spanish classmates, co-retreat planners, and even sat with friends at the same table for meals, never speaking, for their first three years at Notre Dame University. It was on a bench in the football stadium that they first officially met and, in Abby’s words, “that we truly saw each other for the first time.” By the end of the game, they both wondered why they’d never talked before.
Early on in their dating relationship, they both knew the Lord was calling them to marriage. They spent a semester apart as Abby studied abroad in London and Joe in Chile, then were reunited for their senior year.
The fall after graduation, they returned to Notre Dame for Abby's birthday, where they headed straight for the campus grotto. It led to their favorite tree, a site of many late-night conversations. There stood a group of their friends, candles in hand. Along the path from the tree to a nearby lake where they first began dating, friends and family were gathered; at each stop, they read a line from a poem Joe had written for Abby.
Finally, at the final stop at the lake, Joe asked Abby to marry him. Even without any lights, and though Joe forgot which hand the ring goes on, “it was perfect.”
From the Bride: The two years between graduating college and getting married were joyful, but tough. Joe was in a Master’s program that required him to live in community and delayed marriage, so we spent those years long-distance. Since we had a long engagement, we were able to dive into marriage preparation--reading books, praying together, having so much fun dreaming about our future, and continuing to learn about each other and ourselves. We also, however, really struggled to be grateful for this time of preparation in our desire to just be married. Looking back, the distance was incredibly difficult, but through God’s grace it brought us closer to him and to each other.
When envisioning our wedding, the word we kept returning to was joy. We were so excited to be entering into the sacrament of marriage, and we wanted that joy to permeate the day. There were tons of stressful moments (I could never be a wedding planner!), but joyful ones, too: picking out my dress with my mom, designing my ring from my great-grandmother’s wedding band, practicing our vows and first dance, and spending time with our family and best friends at all the pre-wedding festivities.
Joe and I decided to do a first look for a couple of reasons. I thought I would be super nervous, since I don’t like being in front of crowds, I hoped seeing him first would help with that. While, miraculously, I wasn’t a bit nervous, it was incredible to start our wedding day by walking to the church hand in hand.
We wanted to do a Marian devotion, but didn't have time during our ceremony. So we did our first look at the Notre Dame grotto, a place where we have prayed with Mary many, many times--both together and as single people before we met. We left flowers in the hands of Saint Bernadette’s statue: a rose for Saint Therese of Lisieux and a lily for Saint Joseph, two of our favorite saints.
The Mass was our favorite part to plan, and the absolute best part of our wedding day. We were married at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Notre Dame’s campus, a church where both of us had come to know Christ’s love during our time at as students. The Mass was full of music, joy, and celebration. During the ceremony, I kept thinking this is what heaven would be like.
We are blessed by friends with musical gifts, and our music was unreal. We had an organ, violin, cello, and a whole choir lifting their voices in prayer. For our preludes we chose “Song of Ruth,” “Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring,” and a Litany of the Saints. Our wedding party walked down the aisle to “Gabriel's Oboe,” and then my dad and I walked to “Arise, My Love.” Our readings were Jeremiah 31:31-34, and 1 John 4:7-12, and our Gospel was John 15:9-12.
We had talked with our friend and celebrant, Fr. Pat, during marriage preparation about how many of our friends and family are not Catholic. He made sure to explain parts of the Mass so everyone was involved. He gave an incredible homily (you can hear a little of it in our wedding video), and laughter filled the Basilica when a giant fly flew on Joe’s face in the middle of our vows.
One of my favorite moments was during the preparation of the gifts. The choir sang “The Servant Song” while we sat and soaked up the reality that we were finally married. We administered communion as our first act as husband and wife, and then exited the church to “O God Beyond All Praising,” our favorite hymn. It was more joyful than we could have ever imagined.
Since we were married in the summer and love the outdoors, we chose the Blue Heron at Blackthorn for our reception venue because it has an outdoor tent attached to the ballroom. I adore flowers, so I gave our florist, Poppies by Polly, and our wedding planner, Belle Behind the Ball, the reins to cover the space in an abundance of flowers. The best moments were the toasts, the dances, and witnessing our friends and family mingle and get to know each other. It was such a gift being surrounded by so much love.
From The Groom: Our wedding Mass was amazing. We just had so much fun. From standing at the altar seeing our favorite church fill with our favorite people, to crying as I alternated between looking at Abby and being overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s love for us, my heart was filled with joy.
Something that stands out to both of us is how often other people have said they felt the same way. Months after our wedding day, friends and family members still bring up moments from the liturgy: everyone crying during the Litany of Saints; three of my groomsmen standing up and belting the psalm, “I Will Praise Your Name”; how close Abby and I continuously tried to sit next to each other during the readings and homily. One of the most common statements we heard upon leaving the church was, “I didn’t know how much fun it could be to be Catholic.”
God visibly worked inside the hearts of others on our wedding day. People felt comfortable picking the brain of our priest at the cocktail hour. A friend who is dating a Catholic woman, but is not Catholic himself, found me during the reception to tell me he was considering having a Catholic wedding ceremony after attending ours.
I share these stories to point to the work that God did on our wedding day. We became a sacrament of God’s love for the world the moment we exchanged our vows. Our Mass, our marriage, is not just for us. It is for everyone who was in the church that day, and everyone we will meet going forward.
To close, our advice would be to worry over the little details. We stressed over a lot of the wedding planning, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what food you eat or what colors you choose. What matters is the sacrament you are entering into. And trust us: when you give him the space to work in you, God will show up and amaze you with his love.
Photography: Soul Creations Photography | Church: The Basilica of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana | Wedding Reception Venue : Blue Heron at Black Thorn, South Bend, IN | Rings: Diamond Gallery - Hers, Fred Meyers Jewelry - His | Florals: Poppies by Polly | Rentals: Burns Special Event Rentals & Pro Show | Transportation: Royal Excursion | Caterer: Blue Heron at Blackthorn | Bridal Gown: Bridal Gallery in Grand Rapids | Shoes: Nordstrom | Bridesmaids' Attire: Vow to be Chic (https://www.vowtobechic.com/)
Bridesmaids' Gifts: Hatch Prints | Groom's Suit: Louie’s Tux Shop | Groomsmen Gifts: Louie’s Tux Shop | Groomsmen Attire: Louie’s Tux Shop | Cake: C’est La Vie Cakes | Hairstylist: Bethza Professional Makeup Artist Studio | Makeup Artist: Bethza Professional Makeup Artist Studio | Choral Ensemble: Folk Choir of Notre Dame | Cocktail Music: Samantha Kasmer | DJ: 27 Entertainment (https://www.27e.co/) | Coordination: Belle Behind The Ball Wedding & Event Planning, bellebehindtheball.com | Photobooth: EA Pro Music (https://www.eapromusic.com/) | Ice Cream Sundae Bar: American Espresso Catering Co.