Note: A version of this feature was previously published on Style Me Pretty.
Elizabeth and Matthew met on a study abroad program through Christendom College. Elizabeth was a student from the University of Dallas, and Matthew went to Christendom.
Their story revolves around the beautiful country of Ireland and its many ancient landmarks. They met at the top of Bunratty Castle during their studies, were engaged at Ashford Castle, and had their wedding reception at Dromoland Castle.
Their special day was a “taste of the eternal wedding feast” that Elizabeth and Matthew aspire to journey towards together. It was a time of celebration not only for the bride and groom, but of all the loved ones who had prepared prepared them to give themselves wholly to each other in marriage.
From the Bride: My middle name is ‘Anne,’ and the summer I met Matt for the first time I said a St. Anne novena for my future husband. I met Matt in Ireland, in a castle, on the last day of that novena. I didn't tell him until we were engaged.
Our faith was very important to both of us from the outset, but as we started dating it became clear that God intended us to be together to help us grow in our faith. Matt is brilliant and knows theology well, so as we dated, I fell more and more in love with the Church herself--with her teachings, history, and tradition. Matt always says that I helped him fall more deeply in love with the person of Christ, and that I encouraged his relationship with the Father. Looking back, I am very grateful for these complimentary gifts.
Matt and I were long distance on and off during our dating relationship, so a huge part of our faith journey became praying together over the phone. Whether it was saying a rosary or nightly prayers, it was very unitive and foundational to the success of our relationship. We also became huge fans of the Nine Month Novena to Our Lady. We have said it several years in a row and try to never miss a night of prayer together. St. Joseph has also been a great advocate and intercessor for us. Before the wedding, we asked close friends and family to say a novena to St. Joseph for us.
After we were engaged (in Ireland!), Matt made sure that we went to Knock Shrine for daily Mass. He wanted the Eucharist to be the heart of our day. When he proposed, he said many beautiful things that made me well up with happy tears, but the one I can remember exactly is when he said:
"Thank you for truly helping me to be a better man. Your love of Christ has changed me and made my own relationship with God stronger. I want to spend the rest of my life loving and serving him as I love and serve you.”
Matt and I wanted to get married in Ireland to encourage people to come and truly enjoy time away and being together, almost like a spiritual retreat. This is why we hosted events for the week leading up to the wedding, like providing two days of tours for our almost 220 guests! We wanted to shower our guests with love and spoil them. They all played pivotal roles in our life and formation, so this was our way of saying thank you. A marriage is made between two people, but it takes the love and sacrifices of many people to prepare a husband and wife to fully, joyfully, and selflessly say yes to the other.
We believe that God gifted us with a special meeting and a sweet story in Ireland because he knows our hearts well; we both love the power of story and seeing the meaning in small details. We wanted to finish one chapter of our life and begin a new one in the place that held sweet memories for us. Memories like the early days of “falling into friendship,” as Matt says, and getting engaged. It only seemed fitting that we should get married in Ireland!
The wedding Mass was truly the heart of our wedding day. We strove to highlight the beauty of the liturgy and the magnificence of the music. We decided on a Latin Mass with Mozart for the wedding parts, along with a full choir and five instrumentalists--everything from oboe to organ! I spent hours and hours creating a program which would offer the translation of the Mass, the lyrics of the music, and other responses. We also included meditations in the program. A favorite was the “I Thirst For You” meditation we included after communion.
We saw our nuptial Mass as a potential moment of invitation for people who had never experienced the richness of the Catholic liturgy. For some of our dear friends, this was the only time they would ever step into a Catholic church.
A very important part of the Mass for us was the kissing of the crucifix. After we had said our vows and before we kissed each other, we had our priest bless a special crucifix that my brother brought for us from Rome.
The prayer is powerful, saying that while we are each other's joy and path to heaven, we are also each other's cross. In moments of suffering or anger, we were to look at this cross and remember that we vowed these promises before God, who would sustain us.
That same crucifix now hangs across from our bed. It is the first thing we see in the morning and the last thing we see at night. It has given both of us the joy and strength to get through difficult moments and is a true reminder of the the calling to “die to oneself.”
For my “something old,” my mom and grandma cut parts of their wedding dresses and had a special message embroidered on it for me. They sewed it into my gown, and it was a sweet surprise.
For “something borrowed,” I put my baby brother Gabriel’s hospital bracelet in a sewn-on pocket. He passed away a few hours after birth, and we wanted to honor him. We also played “Gabriel’s Oboe” during the processional in memory of him.
For “something blue,” I cut part of a pink and blue sock that was my little sister, Bella’s, who has Trisomy 18, and had it stitched into my gown. She loves pink, and blue is the color of Trisomy 18 awareness. At the reception, we had a special dance with Bella, the light of our life. Everyone in my family held her and danced with her for part of the song.
Our wedding favors were handmade rosaries crafted by a friend. We put them in little muslin pouches that had our custom wedding crest on them and included a card that asked our guests to pray for us as we lived out our vows. My signature drink was ‘The Golden Rose’ which was a nod to Our Lady of Knock in Ireland who is also called the Golden Rose.
From the time I was little, my dad and I have watched the 1990s Pride and Prejudice miniseries every year because he always said I was “his Lizzie” and completely alike Elizabeth Bennet. In many ways, Matt is my generous, principled, and kind Darcy. When we were picking our first dance song, we wanted something simple and poignant, so we picked “The Secret Life of Daydreams” by Jean-Yves Thibaudet from the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack. It was perfect.
The best way I can describe the bliss of our wedding day is to recall a moment of that night. As Matt and I were sitting at the table, married, and “incandescently happy” he whispered in my ear:
“This is the last time, on this side of heaven, that these people we love most in the world will be together in one room. This is a taste of the wedding feast.”
He was completely right. It captured the joy, the tears, and the sanctity of the moment. it was a taste of the eternal wedding feast.
The last thing our priest friend said to me before he celebrated our nuptial Mass was, “You are about to receive one of the greatest gifts of your life.” I said, “I know it, I love him!” Father smiled and said, “Yes, that is true. He is your gift. But the gift I was referring to specifically was the heavenly treasure chest of graces that is inexhaustible and which you will receive today. God will never leave you. His grace will always be there to strengthen your marriage, you just need to call upon that grace.”
Looking back a year later, I can't believe how quickly the time has flown. I am grateful for such a blissful, meaningful wedding day, and I wouldn't change a thing. When people used to tell me it was the “best day of their lives,” I don't think I ever really believed them. Now I do!
Photography: Laura Gordon Photography | Church: Holy Trinity Abbey, Adare Ireland | Reception: Dromoland Castle, Ireland | Officiant:Fr. Anthony Sortino | Wedding Planner: Lauryn Prattes | Gown by: Custom Gown Designed by the Bride | Purchased at: White Swan Bridal | Headpiece by: Jennifer Behr | Bridesmaids dresses by: BHLDN and Nordstrom | Jewelry by: Engagement Ring – KC Designs, Wedding Bands – custom made from grandparents and parents wedding bands by Jorge Adeler | Tuxedos/Groomsmen Attire by: Canali Tux for the groom, The Black Tux for groomsmen | Make up Artist: Astrid Fix for makeup and Hair was Gabrielle Rogers from Salon Audrey | Caterer: Dromoland Castle Hotel | Wedding Cake: MM Cookies (Handled Cake and Dessert Table) | Invitations by: Appleberry Press | Flowers by: Holly Chapple | Rentals/Tent: Perfect Details Ireland
Entertainment by: The Bentley Boys | Photography by: Laura Gordon | Videography by: Story of Eve | Transportation (limos/carriages, etc.): Carrig Coaches and the carriage for some of the photo shoots was provided by the hotel