Becca + Phil | Christmas Picnic Wedding

In the past, Becca and Phil had both discerned religious vocations. By the time they both felt ready to date and pursue marriage, they met online. Becca shared in her profile that her dream man wouldn’t be unlike Ebeneezer Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, in A Christmas Carol.

A few days later, she received a message from Phil, sharing that he was an actor currently playing the role of Fred. Their conversations began flowing nonstop. One week later, they met face to face, and began officially dating the following month on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has since become their patroness.

From the Bride: We both knew pretty quickly that this was serious and we began to talk about marriage and family a few months in. During our courtship, we, who are both teachers, were both directing theatre shows at the same time that I was working and in grad school. Through all of the hectic scheduling and stress, we were still able to support each other through prayer and were able to attend every one of each other’s events.

After our engagement, things were crazy: I got a new job, Phil took on summer work to help with our expenses, and we decided to do all of the wedding planning ourselves. Yet through it all, there was so much growth and so many insecurities in us uncovered, so many new steps taken in our faith and so much joy shared in the chaos. With every step, we were extremely blessed. So many times we thanked the Lord for someone who was willing to help us or do something for the wedding for manageable rates. God continued to pull people out of the woodwork that consistently blessed us with financial gifts, emotional support or practical help. The Lord was so present there with us, and our celebrant and Pastor, Fr. Dan Leary, was a vital part of showing us or leading us into God's presence.

We got engaged at the Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg, Maryland, a place rich with meaning for us. We both feel very devoted to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and still visit the Shrine often. During our dating and courtship, we prayed the St. Andrew Novena and Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory Consecration to Mary. We followed that with Fr. Gaitley’s Consecration to Merciful Love. Right before our wedding, we wrote a novena that included all of our patrons.

The Mass was the most important part of planning for us. Though we were frequently told we needed to focus more on reception items, attire, or favors, both of us felt strongly that the Mass shouldn’t be on the back burner. We wanted the day to be focused on the sacrament and desired that the Mass would draw our friends and family closer to the Lord and the Church.

As musicians ourselves, the music for the liturgy was very important to us. We were blessed by eight of our close friends singing as a choir and by 3 priests who concelebrated the Mass. The liturgy opened with "Jesus, All for Jesus" and ended with "God, We Praise You," because this was the reason we decided to get married: to offer ourselves as a gift to God, to do His will, love Him and love each other.

The readings were from Song of Solomon 2:8-10, 14, 16; Psalm 34, Romans 12 and John 17. Fr. Dan's homily was focused on the reality of the sacrament, not just the symbolic gesture. His theme was 1+1=1, which quickly became our wedding hashtag. He focused "this body, broken for you" and our sacrifice for one another, in flesh and spirit. One of the most moving moments of the Mass was during the Communion meditation, set to the song "Even Unto Death" by Audrey Assad. It was, and is, our continued commitment to God and each other. There was a great witness during that moment that has been echoed by several of our guests, some of whom are not even Christians. We are confident that their testimony is the fruit of prioritizing the liturgy above everything else.

The day was full of trust and peace. We both took the morning pretty slowly and enjoyed some quality time with friends and in prayer. The celebration itself was also pretty simple. Because we paid for most things ourselves, we kept expenses to a minimum.

We used the December Christmas season to our advantage, calling our reception our "Christmas Picnic". We used chalkboards, biodegradable snow, white lights, curtains, pine and holly to decorate. We used pine and cedar disks as centerpieces, with lanterns on top. Phil even built a s'mores bar where guests could roast marshmallows. The meal featured picnic items: sandwiches, salads, lemonade, and chips, followed by hot chocolate, tea, hot cider and coffee. The casual theme allowed for a peaceful and fun atmosphere, where everyone could really relax and celebrate.

My dress was a beautifully unexpected choice. I went shopping with ideas in my head, but ended up with something totally different than I’d originally imagined.

At the reception, people continually came up to us raving about the ceremony. That was so wonderful after our frequent prayers that our Mass would be the focus of the day.

Despite cake getting on both of us (Phil had asked me not to, but some seminarians sitting by the cake pressured me into it at the last minute!), we were both overjoyed. We made lots of rounds to see everyone and remember the reception flying by. It truly was everything we thought it would be.

It was truly so meaningful as Catholics. The Mass was a milestone and because I'm a convert, it was so beautiful putting the whole thing together and seeing every part's meaning; the intention behind every word and motion. Our day was so special because the highlight, truly the "source and summit" was the Mass, the Eucharist and the sacrament of Matrimony. Having almost 200 people there to share this amazing occasion was so overwhelmingly beautiful and moving. We feel so blessed by Fr. Dan, by our family and what our wedding was and is for us now.

Photography: Amy Leigh Horan Photography Church: St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Emmitsburg, Maryland | Reception Venue: Thurmont American Legion, Thurmont, Maryland | Engagement ring by Wholesale Diamond Consultants:, Flowers by Freesia & Vine:, Invitations designed by the Bride and printed by Vistaprint:, Decor Rental by I Do, You Do Wedding Decor Rentals: and Freesia & Vine:, Catering by Wegman's:, Bride's dress from I Do I Do:, Bride's veil from Your Heirloom Veil:, Bride's shoes from Cinderollies:, Bride's jewelry from Lizardi Bridal:, Bride's fur bolero from Meshka Bridal:, Groom and Groomsmen tie clips from SiBelle Jewelry:, Bride's Ring from Pompeii3:, Groom's Ring from Manly Bands:, Groom's suit, tie and shoe, and groomsmen ties by JcPenney:, Cake baked by Kelly Clabaugh, Fairfield, PA; Bride's makeup by Kim Sykes, Mary Kay Rep; DJ by Greffen Audio Visual:; Reception Coordinator: Linda O'Brien, Mass Music provided by local musician friends, Cake Topper by Momo Rad Rose: