In the vocation to marriage, blindness is overcome by a true seeing and removal of the veil.
At a fundraising gala on the feast of All Saints--aptly named the Night of Hope--Maggie saw Ryan for the first time. But it wasn’t the first time he’d seen her: a few hours earlier, she’d been the reader at the Mass he’d attended. As she began reading, says Ryan, “everything closed in around me.”
He could hardly believe it when they were seated next to each other at the gala. They talked that night about Maggie’s hopes of becoming a FOCUS missionary and about Ryan’s childhood blindness that had influenced his feeling of being called to optometry. Both of them heard the Lord speaking to their hearts that night: Ryan called his father on the way home, telling him he’d just met the girl he would marry. At the same time, Maggie told her mother she knew who her future husband was.
Several months later, Maggie invited Ryan to her senior thesis defense, which prompted so many questions he insisted on taking her out to coffee to ask them all. They soon began a long-distance relationship, Maggie serving in Nebraska with FOCUS and Ryan studying optometry in Arizona.
The first year of Maggie’s mission, however, required a dating fast. This was to be a time of putting the Lord first, being radically available to her students and teammates, and praying seriously in discernment of her vocation. Knowing Christ would provide the strength and grace for their new relationship to endure this time of purification, Ryan joyfully joined her fast. They entrusted their relationship to the prayers of Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, and their first year of dating unfolded over handwritten letters, weekly FaceTime calls, the counsel of good friends and spiritual directors, and prayer and fasting on each other’s behalf.
While watching a brilliant sunset in Ryan’s hometown, days after their fast ended, he and Maggie were able to fully discuss all the Lord had revealed during that year spent far apart--including their desire to pursue the vocation of marriage together. A few months had passed when Ryan invited Maggie to get her first eye exam at his school clinic. When she reached the smallest line on the vision charts, it read, Maggie Elizabeth, will you marry me?
From the Bride: Our early-morning wedding took place in Lincoln, Nebraska, where I had served two years with FOCUS. Many of our guests joked that Nebraska wasn’t quite what they pictured when they heard the words “destination wedding,” but we were excited to bring my family from Arizona, and Ryan’s from North Dakota, to the place where our relationship had unfolded.
When we started planning our wedding, one question drove our decisions: when else will we be able to invite all those we know and love to Mass, and to show them the faith we love as fully as we can?
We wanted to share the beauty, truth, and goodness of our faith to our guests through a beautiful liturgy, with the hope that Christ could use our wedding day not only to pour sacramental grace upon us, but to lead our guests to encounter him anew.
Ryan and I prayed a 54-day rosary novena before our wedding day, entrusting the conversion of our family and friends to the Blessed Mother. We chose a morning Mass and a brunch reception so we could celebrate in the daytime. The warm sunshine of early spring was so fitting for the Easter season. The Resurrection takes place in the light and joy of the morning.
When we woke up to pouring rain the morning of the wedding, I guessed that God might have other plans than sunshine. I will never forget feeling so much peace as we prepared and the surreal joy that filled my heart when we prayed together moments before the Mass, realizing the day we had hoped, prayed, and waited for was here. A gift from the one who had planned it all.
I remember ascending the steps to the altar (precariously! Ryan moved much quicker than I could in my dress) and being overtaken by being so close to the Tabernacle. It was as if the Lord was speaking to me in the first moments of our nuptial Mass, I’m right here. Be at peace, be at rest in this time. This is a gift I have prepared just for you.
I took in the beautiful music Ryan had planned--he’d even written new arrangements for our favorite hymns, offered by friends with whom he’d played and sung with in choirs and bands throughout college.
We said our vows while holding a crucifix, a gift from our priest the evening before. It’s a miniature replica of the crucifix in a chapel on Ryan’s college campus, where he had spent so much time in as a student. It was a sweet way to honor the sacred place where he had prayed in hope for his vocation, while standing in the place where I had spent hours praying for mine.
As the liturgy of the Eucharist began, a beam of sunlight seemed to burst through the stained glass image of Christ, brightening the entire church. The morning light of the Easter season t came in God’s timing. We brought a dozen white roses to Mary, and I remember asking her to bless us with 12 children! Growing up, I always wanted 12 kids, and had 12 as my number in sports. Ryan wore the number 12 on his jerseys, as well, and has always considered it his lucky number. He also put twelve diamonds total in my wedding and engagement rings. We’ll see if that wedding-day wish comes true!
We wanted the style of our wedding to reflect the light and joy of Easter. For our colors, we chose a light, almost-neutral blue, white, and gold, complementing our vineyard brunch. All of our flowers were white with lots of greenery. I loved the simplicity and light they brought to the day. I can’t recommend our florist, Avant Garden floral, enough!
I wanted big windows and natural light to fill our celebration, so our wedding party traveled in a trolley with the windows down as we danced, rapped, and sang the entire way to the reception! I loved being able to see the Nebraska countryside on our way to the vineyard. All of that dancing--plus the wind during the drive--definitely wreaked havoc on my updo, but ended up being one of my very favorite memories from the day.
We feasted on brunch foods with a waffle bar and bacon sampling, as well as delicious white and red sangria. Our cake topper and the on our dessert table reflected the lyrics of our first dance song, Ed Sheeran’s “Tenerife Sea.” It was one of the first songs Ryan sang and played for me on his guitar.
Our favors were cards featuring a quote by St. John Paul II: “There is no place for selfishness - and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.”
We wanted to share with our guests that sometimes love looks like bright mornings, dancing, and eating mini fruit-tarts, but we know the Lord will also give us challenges, ask us to sacrifice, and to be courageous in the face of what will attempt to eat away at our love for him and for each other.
It was an incredible day, and in the months since, we have been amazed at how those graces have been continually renewed and poured out upon our relationship with God and with each other.
The one thing Ryan and I were both overwhelmed with on our wedding day was how close the Lord was to us, in so many different ways. We felt the fulfillment of the promises he had made throughout our entire courtship: all of the days of long-distance brought to an end, his presence in the holy priests who had sacrificed and prayed for us as we prepared for marriage, the gift of saying our vows just feet from the tabernacle and receiving Christ immediately in the Eucharist. We saw him in the countless family and friends who traveled to celebrate with us. It was such a gift and blessing to experience intimacy with the Lord filling every moment of the day. Our memories have become a fountain we can always return to and draw from as we face new challenges in our life together.
Photographer: Mel Watson Photography | Church: St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Lincoln, NE | Wedding Reception Venue : Junto Wine, Seward, NE | Floral: Avant Garden | Catering: Chef au Chef Catering | Dessert: Butterfly Bakery | Rentals: Uptown Rentals | Hair: Sweet Jane Salon | Bridesmaid Dresses: Azazie | Bride Dress: Ellynne Bridal | Groomsmen Attire: Halberstadt's, Fargo, ND | Rings: Golden Harvest Jewelry, Grafton, ND