A Catholic Jeweler Shares the Scriptural Heritage of Precious Metals in Wedding Jewelry



The average American spends an average of about $6000 on an engagement ring. As a third-generation jeweler, I designed my own wedding ring about fifteen years ago, using precious metal and diamonds, and being in the business I was able to spend considerably less than this figure.

But this isn’t about how much to spend on a ring. The reality is that your budget determines that for you. If the cost of your wedding jewelry seems steep, consider this perspective into why we should use precious metals, which are particularly significant for sacramental Catholic marriage.

In Exodus, the Lord gives Moses very specific instructions on how to create the vestments, the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, and more. The Lord’s chosen materials? Gold. Silver. Bronze. In fact, gold and silver are each mentioned approximately 200 times in the Old Testament. Similarly, wife is mentioned 228 times.

What does this mean for us? To start, it means the inherent value of certain physical materials is something that the Lord pays attention to. It is part of his vocabulary of creation.

This is because he created everything. And among those created things are the chemical elements of silver and gold. An entire star has to explode in a supernova for Him to make them! When speaking to Moses, God chooses these materials specifically and calls them by name, in Exodus. He even gave the artisan Bezalel the special talent of creating “artistic designs in gold, silver, and bronze.”

In Genesis, after Abraham’s wife Sarah died and their Isaac had yet to be married, Abraham must have experienced tremendous considering that Isaac was the son of whom God had promised countless descendants. So Abraham sent a servant to his own land in order find a wife for Isaac. The servant followed dutifully and took 10 camels to the city of Nahor.

The servant prayed to the God of Abraham:

...if I say to a young woman, ‘Please lower your jug, that I may drink,’ and she answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels, too,’ then she is the one whom you have decided upon for your servant Isaac. In this way I will know…”

Enter Rebekah, carrying a jug on her shoulder with which to draw water. The servant “ran toward her” and the prayer was answered in exactly the way he asked God to make it clear, at which point he presents her with a ring. Of course, it’s made of gold.

That’s the depth of the heritage of wedding rings in precious metal.

Deep down, we all know precious metals mean something. That some things are sacred.

A Styrofoam cup, for instance, isn’t used for a chalice during the liturgy of the Eucharist, but silver or gold. We participate in the sacrament of Eucharist regularly; it is sacred yet it is commonplace. We honor and revere this sacrament, and our choice in materials shows this. As Catholics, our marriages are first and foremost a sacrament. So similarly, our choice in wedding ring materials is an opportunity to honor and revere this everyday sacrament.

Admittedly, the cost of precious metals can certainly be a financial sacrifice. Yet marriage itself is a sacramental sacrifice. The precious metals we choose allow us a unique way in which to offer thanks and praise to God for our spouse. The metals we choose can reflect a fitting expression of our view of this sacrament.

They allow us to look at the meager 118 elements God created and choose the same precious materials he chose. To co-create alongside him something that is both old and also new, a precious symbol of love and honor and tradition. Something universally precious.

About the Author: After a consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Jesse Ross was filled with the Holy Spirit "to create artistic designs in gold, silver, and bronze," as prescribed in the Book of Exodus. He decided to leave a tenured position to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather as a jeweler. Jesse and his wife, Angie, are Co-Founders of 31:Four Artisan Jewelry, an all-Catholic design and manufacturing studio based in the Orlando area. They are teaching the trade to their four children, who will be fourth-generation jewelers.


Our Favorite Quotes on Fruitful Love, on the Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

This week, the Church commemorates 50 years since the publication of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter Humanae Vitae--translated as ”Of Human Life.” Drawing from the hundreds of years of Scripture and tradition on which the Church was founded, the letter was composed in response to a commission whose purpose was to evaluate the effects of newly and widely available contraceptives on society.

The Pope’s words praise the goodness of married love: he calls it “fully human,” involving both body and soul--the whole person--and imaging Christ’s free, faithful, total, and fruitful gift of self. Love like this reserves nothing and bears real fruit, ending not in death but in eternal life.

Life. Whether physically, spiritually, or both, all married couples are called to be abundant and allow new life to flow forth from their love.

Amid social pressure and speculation over whether the encyclical would “reverse” the Church’s directive that contraceptives are contrary to the nature of authentic love, Paul VI courageously maintained that artificial means of birth control are never in keeping with a sincere, unreserved gift of the self and exchange of persons.

After all, as he pointed out, the nature of love itself; the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary, hadn’t changed since before the commission--how, then, could human beings change their imitation of this love, without changing the definition of love entirely? His appeals to logic--and his recognition that every person desires to be loved without conditions or limitations--draw attention to the high, yet attainable, calling of our path to heaven.

If you’ve never read Humanae Vitae, engagement and new marriage are ideal times to contemplate the love spouses are called to imitate; to be the human face of the Father’s love to one another in the particular way only they, as individuals, can.

What’s more, if the demands of love, and the Church’s reasoning on contraception, are difficult for you, take time to turn inward in prayer and ask the Lord if he’s calling you and your beloved to deeper understanding or a lifestyle change. He is merciful in all things and desires nothing less than our deepest happiness.

When the love of husband and wife mirrors the Father’s love as closely as possible, we are drawn more deeply into the heart of God and that much closer to the fulfillment and true flourishing on earth that he intends for us, his children.

This list of resources, including prayers, studies, and media, from the U.S. Bishops is a rich and accessible starting point. For your further contemplation and inspiration, we’ve compiled a selection of passages, from holy men and women past and present, that make us excited and motivated to live out love’s demands.

On authentic love

As a passion sublimated by a love respectful of the dignity of the other, [the relationship between spouses] becomes a “pure, unadulterated affirmation” revealing the marvels of which the human heart is capable. - Pope Francis

Self-discipline...is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character...it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace. - Humanae Vitae

For the Lord has entrusted to [spouses] the task of making visible to men and women the holiness and joy of the law which united inseparably their love for one another and the cooperation they give to God's love, God who is the Author of human life. - ibid

On the love of God

All love ends in an incarnation, even God’s. Love would not be love if it did not escape the limitation of individual existence by perpetuating itself...wherein death is defeated by life. - Ven. Fulton Sheen

The liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands. - Saint John Paul II

Do you want to see the difference [between NFP and contraception]?...There’s nothing to fear. Trusting him is only threatening if he’s a tyrant. He’s not. He’s perfect love. Let go. Let him in. Trust him. - Christopher West

On family size, discernment, and infertility

The number is not in itself the decisive factor. The fact of having few or many children does not on its own make a family more or less Christian. What matters is the integrity and honesty with which married life is lived. True mutual love transcends the union of husband and wife and extends to its natural fruits — the children. Selfishness, on the contrary, sooner or later reduces love to a mere satisfaction of instinct and destroys the bond which unites parents and children. - St. Josemaria Escriva

I would therefore like to remind spouses in a condition of infertility, that this does not thwart their matrimonial vocation. Spouses are always called by their baptismal and matrimonial vocation itself to cooperate with God in the creation of a new human life. The vocation to love is in fact a vocation to the gift of self, and this is a possibility that no physical condition can prevent. Therefore, whenever science finds no answer, the answer that gives light comes from Christ. - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

On sacrifice and its fruits

...the seeking [of Jesus]  is a going out from ourselves. It is a going out from our illusions, our limitations, our wishful thinking, our self-loving, and the self in our love. - Caryll Houselander

Want to be happy?…Lose your life in love and you will find it. Give your life away as a gift, and you’ll come to resurrection. - Bishop Robert Barron

The various forms of sacrifice include one positive similar meaning: Life is surrendered in order to be transformed and shared.” - Scott Hahn

On charity with regard to Church teaching

We are fully aware of the difficulties confronting the public authorities in this matter…"the only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values." - Humanae Vitae

Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. - ibid

On human nature

Our body is a cenacle, a monstrance; through its crystal the world should see God. - Saint Gianna Molla

Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning. - Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. - Humanae Vitae

As always, we at Spoken Bride are here for you. No matter where you’re coming from, no matter your opinion or experiences with this aspect of Church teaching, we’re committed to truly seeing and hearing you. We welcome your thoughts, your questions on married love and Natural Family Planning, and even your reservations and respectful disagreements, so know that you have the freedom to share them in the comments and on our social media. Consider this an invitation to conversation, with our hopes of living out our mission of truth, goodness, beauty, and authenticity with charity and productive dialogue.

Photography: Alyssa Michelle Photography, seen in How He Asked | Danielle + Jeff


An Introduction to the Annulment Process



To our brides discerning the vocation of marriage for not the first, but second time, we see you and are here for you. Divorce and separation are wrenching for all involved, and the road to annulment might seem like an unlit path through the dark. We hope this resource, written from a lovingly pastoral viewpoint, helps illuminate the first steps in this process and plants the seeds of self-examination and healing. Jesus, Divine Physician, be with us.

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Are you planning a Catholic wedding for a second marriage?

You want to get married, but you have been married previously. You know that the Catholic Church will consider you bound to your first marriage until an annulment is granted. Beside the doctrinal foundations of the Catholic faith that are relevant to any possible second marriages, there are also a million “what if?”s that have a practical impact on each person’s situation after being civilly divorced from a previous marriage.

This guide will only answer a small handful of these “what ifs." I hope it will also provide some primary considerations, offered in a spirit of charity and understanding in difficult circumstances, as a great starting point to answer questions for your own situation as you move forward.

First consideration: your parish priest

A parish priest is likely to be a key source of information and answers about all the elements involved in this process. Your local parish priest is going to be your first contact for the official annulment process, and likely the one who submits your official petition for annulment to the tribunal office of your Diocese. Perhaps you have a good personal connection with a priest in another parish; you might do well to speak with him about an annulment. Perhaps your own parish priest will direct you to work with another priest in your Diocese. Regardless, a parish office, working with a local parish priest, is likely the only place to get the official application for an annulment. You typically cannot send an application for annulment to your Diocese without the signature of the priest who arranged your application.

Second consideration: your history with your former spouse

The annulment process will ask about the whole history of your marriage. The Church needs to know this history, and not just the immediate circumstances of the divorce. While you will need to provide all the documented information about your prior marriage, and also the civil decree of divorce, much more information will be needed. The Church requires the whole story of the previous marriage in various written formats. It is rather standard that an autobiographical narrative is written out, from the time of your first meeting with your former spouse, through engagement and marriage, and into the subsequent married life, up until your civil divorce.

It can be like writing out a five-page confession. It can take a while to re-visit and re-process it all. It can be difficult. But this is essential according to the Church’s doctrine on what an annulment is. It is not “Catholic Divorce,” but the Church’s judgment as to whether a key element of the sacrament of matrimony was missing at the time of the marriage, and therefore whether the wedding, presumed-to-be-sacramental, should only be held as binding in its mere civil effects. The civil effects of marriage can, and do, end in divorce decrees. But the sacrament cannot end, except by the death of one of the spouses.

Third consideration: children

The third consideration is an extension of the civil effects. Here let us first clear up a misconception: the Church does not designate  children from previous marriages “illegitimate” if the previous marriage gets annulled.

Say an annulment is granted. Some combination of factors and choices, along with the lack of the sacramental grace, led parents to divorce civilly. The Church has no need--or desire--to bring any retribution upon any of the children. The previous marriage was judged to be binding civilly, but not sacramentally. Therefore, the laws of the Church affirm that the societal status of children is still entirely legitimate, and that the children of the family should not lose any of their proper status and dignity in society.

This would be true even if the Church still used the designation of “illegitimate” in any circumstances. But, again, the term has been removed from church law. For the practical consideration, it is obviously of great concern to the Church that children still be given a healthy upbringing in faith and morals, and we hope that after the tragedy of divorce, both parents would remain supportive of nurturing the Christian faith in their children. Such unity of religious practice does not always happen when former spouses arrange their relations with children from the previous marriage. We pray for these difficulties encountered by co-parenting Catholics, but we also affirm that there should be no concern about this when applying for an annulment.

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Fourth consideration: witnesses

It is very important for the Church to be objective about the intentions and dispositions of the former spouses at the time of their wedding. Such detailed insistence is not for the purpose of dwelling on personal fault or blame. We assume that whatever personal faults or insufficiencies were a factor in undermining the first marriage “from the get-go” are already the source of sufficient guilt and sorrow for the divorcees. While the Church would like to facilitate healing and growth in a renewed life of virtue after divorce, it also needs to have testimony, objectively, that there was something wrong or something lacking in the first marriage.

To do this the Church insists that witnesses to the relationship, those who knew you and/or your former spouse before and after your wedding, provide statements. These can be compared to, and added to, the testimonies of the former spouses. Be prepared to provide the contact information for family members or friends who knew you and your spouse, especially during your courtship and engagement. Here it often comes up that one former spouse is no longer in  contact with the other. Know that an attempt truly must be made to inform him or her that the marriage is under consideration for annulment. However, know also that if there are serious reasons to avoid any direct contact, your Diocese could proceed with the annulment without providing to your former spouse your current address and phone number.

Fifth consideration: finances

It used to be widely believed  that a significant amount of money was needed to be paid in fees in order for a Diocese to process an annulment petition: hundreds, if not over a thousand, dollars. While a full annulment process can require extensive time, most Diocesan fees were probably never that exorbitant. You may inquire of your parish priest if there is a fee.

The annulment process is more and more considered an essential area of pastoral service, meriting funding by other means. It so happens that my own Diocese is one of many (though not all) that have eliminated any and all fees for the annulment process. If any fees are  financially unreasonable to handle, speak with a Catholic Charities office in your state and see if they have any grant programs or assistance in cases where a fee for annulment applications is a true financial hardship. If your Diocese has already removed all fees for annulment applications, then in gratitude consider donating a bit, within your means, to their Catholic Charities programs, to the diocesan annual fund, or to your local parish. It might help someone in a similar situation.

Sixth consideration: the peace of Christ

The last consideration is the big picture. Applying for an annulment is not an absolute guarantee that your future hopes for a second marriage will work out. Here we move forward in faith, knowing that the Catholic Church is a “big picture” kind of Church. Because by “big picture” we mean eternal life, the forgiveness of eternal debts, and the remitting of eternal punishments in the grace of Christ our Lord and personal Savior.

All our considerations of marriage should keep their connection with Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is a very good sign, that despite all the discomfort of divorce and annulments, a person desires to keep their contact with the Church. Jesus Christ is the only lasting source of peace. In light of eternity, even life-defining events such as marriages and careers are still short term considerations.

We take great consolation in the fact that Christ wants to be with us in all our short-term considerations. If we are meant to “get through them,” he wants to guide us through them. If we are meant to “live” in marriage and family, or in any other vocation in life, he wants to be the life in the middle of it.

Images by Horn Photography & Design

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About the Author: Fr. Naples is a cradle Catholic from upstate New York. He worked for the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, in the summer of 2003 and was accepted to seminary for the diocese that fall. He completed six years of study at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and was ordained a priest in 2009. He began giving scripture centered marriage instructions for the Diocese of Burlington in his first year as a priest, and remains involved in marriage preparation as a pastor.


4 Scripts for Explaining Catholic Wedding Traditions to Friends + Family

As you plan your Catholic wedding, you might find friends and family inquiring about the reasons underlying particular marriage traditions in the Church. We’ve been there, and want to be here for you. Often, the default response might be to answer in a defensive way--we defend that which we fiercely love--as we assume anyone asking a question is asking from a place of skepticism or judgment.

While that might be true in some cases, you might find yourself surprised by how many individuals simply have a spirit of curiosity about the Catholic faith and its rituals. Modeling your love after the crucifixion, holding an hour-plus ceremony, and including formal prayer in your wedding are, in many ways, countercultural. To those whom Catholic weddings are unfamiliar, the spirit of inquiry is often genuine. Their questions provide a unique opportunity: to explain these matters with charity, candor, and with an invitation to know more and let the goodness, beauty, and natural reason of the Church speak for itself.

Below, four common questions regarding Catholic wedding liturgies, and how you might answer. We hope you find these points help you articulate why you’ve chosen to marry in the Church, what sets it apart, and most importantly, that they provide the seeds of truly fruitful conversation.

Or perhaps the spirit of curiosity is where you, yourself, are. Questions about the Catholic faith are good; an opening of a new door, not a closing off to inquiry, and an opportunity to learn and contemplate. We hope the questions and answers below offer you the start of greater understanding and critical thought.

Why do you have to get married in an actual church?

It’s not that a a beautiful garden, hotel, or oceanfront venue is an unromantic or insignificant place to profess your lifelong commitment to each other. When Catholics say marriage is a sacrament of the Church, they’re saying they believe earthly things--in this case, the vows spoken by the bride and groom--can literally be transformed by God into something different than what they once were. Once the marriage is consummated, the words spoken at the altar are transformed into a permanent bond breakable only by death.

Because of that belief in sacramental realities, which take place in God’s presence, it makes sense that the sacrament needs to actually take place in his presence. Where is the Lord really, truly present? It’s true that he is all around us in the created world and that prayer can happen anywhere. Yet for Catholics, who believe bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, he is there in a real, metaphysical way in the tabernacle of every church--there resides the Eucharist and there, we believe, resides the living Jesus. It’s amazing to consider that he is there in such a tangible way from the first moments of a bride and groom’s life together.

Speaking of vows, why can’t you write your own?

Every sacrament of the Church has a specific rite that must be followed in order for the sacrament to be valid. If a priest doesn't follow the prescribed language of consecration, for instance, the Eucharist for that Mass is invalid. Getting married is the same: in order for the sacrament to take place; that is, for the couple's bond to literally be transformed and suffused with grace, the bride and groom need to speak the language of the Rite of Marriage. It's more than just inputting certain words and getting out a certain result. It's allowing yourselves and your love to take on something entirely, sacramentally new and humbly inviting God into your life together, knowing it takes three, not two, to live out your promises.

But it’s understandable that a couple might want to express their hopes for how they’ll love and serve each other in marriage in their own words. Those who wish to do that can write down these hopes and intentions in letters to each other or can talk together about them.

What about Mary? Why is a part of the Mass dedicated to her?

When you really want something, it can be helpful to have another person helping you get it. Job referrals and references, personal trainers, and therapists fall into this category.

When Catholics pray for something, they believe the saints--men and women from throughout history who were heroically faithful, in ways large and small--can provide the gift of intercession, which means joining in our prayers and offering them to God alongside us. We hold Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the highest regard among the saints for her making her entire life an unreserved yes to God’s will. In praying to her, therefore she brings us to the Lord. We, and our prayers, grow closer to Jesus, through Mary.

That’s not to say every prayer of a person’s heart is answered in exactly the way and time they hope, simply because they prayed for Mary’s intercession, but that her prayers for us, her children, are a great gift. When husband and wife kneel before her during their wedding Mass, they bring their lives to her, asking her to pray for them like any other mother might pray for her children, and to strengthen them in love.

Who’s walking you down the aisle? If not your dad, why?

Although a priest celebrates a couple’s wedding Mass, marriage is actually the only sacrament of the Church wherein the bride and groom, not a priest, actually administer the sacrament. The minister of the sacrament typically processes into the church last, so for couples who choose to acknowledge this, they walk into the church together. For those who do a first look, or who choose to meet for the first time before the procession, it can beautifully signify the bride and groom’s shared role in the sacrament and promises they’re about to enter into.

Couples are also free to choose the tradition of walking in with both parents, or for the bride to process in with her father, which in no way diminishes the couple’s role in the sacrament or their equality as people.

If these outlines for your conversations are helpful, we’d love to know! Share with us, in the comments and on our social media, any other areas of Catholic weddings and marriage for which you’d welcome talking points.

Read more apologetics-related matters:

Explaining the Eucharist to your guests | Talking with friends about cohabitation, Part I | Part II Navigating the revised Rite of Marriage

How to Include Non-Catholic Family in Your Wedding Preparations



There you are: scrolling through Catholic wedding resources, reading, taking notes on the best ways to incorporate your faith into your big day. But there, in the back of your mind, a voice is saying, what if this doesn’t go over well with my family?

Planning a wedding can be a stressful experience in any family situation, but when your family or your fiancé's don’t share your faith, it can be even trickier.

Everyone brings their own set of expectations to a wedding. As a bride, the hardest thing you will have to do is to balance all of these expectations with the reality that it is your wedding. And when you add in family who may not share or entirely understand your enthusiasm for having a Catholic wedding, you might feel like you're kissing your sanity goodbye.

Here, a few ways to make your family feel included in your big day, even if they aren’t Catholic or don't share your faith:

Be open.

Surprises are fun at birthdays. But when it comes to your big, fat, Catholic wedding, surprises should be avoided. Let your family know what to expect on your wedding day. Depending on your family's openness, this may or may not be a great time to delve into the mysteries of the Church. Regardless, letting family know what is expected of them at the nuptial Mass is never a bad idea. Consider including a detailed Mass rubric in your program so that guests know exactly what to do throughout the Mass. Eliminating guesswork makes everyone feel more at ease.

It is also a good idea, and powerful (and sometimes unspoken) witness, to share with your non-Catholic family your reasons for choosing to have a Catholic wedding at all. Sure, you could have had your wedding on the beach or while skydiving, but you chose to get married in the Church because it's important to you. Don’t be afraid to share which parts of your wedding liturgy are most meaningful to you or the reasons behind the readings you've chosen.

Find common ground.

Although a Catholic wedding may be different from what your family is used to, there are probably areas where you can find common ground. Most religious groups, for example, include readings from their foundational texts at weddings, and nearly all cultures throughout the world have wedding receptions of some kind, so you should be able to find at least a few commonalities when it comes to including family in your plans.

Consider making a list of these common areas and designating those as the tasks where you can seek assistance from non-Catholic family and friends.

Incorporate family traditions.

You aren't going to be able to live up to every guest’s expectations for your wedding. This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t include some elements of your family’s history and traditions into the celebration, especially if getting married in the Church means breaking with family tradition.

To honor your families, consider adding heirloom jewelry to your wedding ensemble or meaningful touches to the décor to commemorate members of your family. There is no need for grand gestures, but small tokens assure your family know that you love them and that their traditions are important to you, particularly on your wedding day.

Be at peace.

Finally, be at peace. You are getting married, and preparing to partake in a beautiful sacrament. You and your fiancé are  starting a new and amazing chapter in your life. Is everyone going to be perfectly happy with your wedding? Probably not, but that’s okay.

Take time to enjoy the process of planning your weddings, and to enjoy the aspects of it that reflect your faith. Pray that your non-Catholic guests will not only feel welcomed, but inspired by the beauty of your wedding Mass.

About the Author: Ada Thomas studied English at the University of Dallas and currently teaches elementary school. She will be marrying her college best friend in November. When she is not wedding planning or teaching, Ada can be found contemplating classical education, redecorating her apartment for the hundredth time, and reading British novels.


NFP: What It Is, How It Works, and Why It Is a Blessing to Married Couples


It is NFP Awareness Week worldwide, and here at Spoken Bride, we couldn't pass up an opportunity to share the beauty of the Church's teaching on marriage, sexuality, and openness to life. We hope this post will be a helpful introduction or refresher for those of you are preparing for marriage, especially if your diocese or parish does not require an extensive course in NFP. Note that this is NOT an exhaustive resource on the Church's teaching or NFP. Please feel free to email us if you'd like any more information or want to hear about our personal experiences with NFP.

One of the most maligned and misunderstood teachings of the Church is her teaching on sexuality and chastity, specifically within the context of marriage. Some Catholics are under the impression that the Church requires everyone to have as many children as possible; some balk at the prohibition against contraception because it seems so unreasonable in the modern world; and some assume that since chastity is required before marriage, it must no longer be needed after a couple says, “I do.”

These misconceptions are completely understandable considering our current cultural climate, and the confusion that surrounds sexuality in general. The Church seems like a lone voice crying out in the wilderness of secular society, and it's often difficult for couples to hear that voice in the midst of the craziness of wedding planning. 

Erik Bello Photography.

Erik Bello Photography.

The Church’s teaching on marital sexuality

In reality, the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality is both beautiful and challenging--just like the Christian life in general. According to the Church, all men and women, regardless of their state in life, are called to practice the virtue of chastity. Chastity is the virtue (spiritual strength) that helps us to integrate our sexuality into the entirety of our being, in order to  truthfully love those we are sexually attracted to instead of using them.

The practice of this virtue looks different depending on one’s state of life. For married couples, chastity means respecting the reality of sex and sexuality: that God designed sexual intercourse to be a unitive and procreative expression of love between a husband and wife. Marital love should be freely given, faithful (emotionally and sexually exclusive), total (the gift of one’s entire self, including fertility), and fruitful (open to having biological children, if able, and adopting/making marriage fruitful in some other way if biological children are not a possibility). Chastity for married people also means avoiding any lustful thoughts or actions: using others (even their wife/husband) as a means of getting sexual pleasure.

This means that anything that thwarts either the unitive or procreative aspects of marital love-making is contrary to God’s design for marriage and sex, and must be avoided. Contraception (both hormonal contraceptives and barrier methods), pornography, adultery, and the like all fall into the “sins against chastity within marriage” category.

Most people can see why pornography and adultery are on the list...but contraception? Isn’t this the 21st century? Doesn’t contraception help marriages by giving couples and easy way to avoid having a child if it wouldn’t be convenient or good for the family to do so? How can the Church expect so much of couples?

The Church can ask married couples to be open to life for the same reason she can ask us to love our enemies, or care for the poor, or put the needs of others before our own: Christ entrusted the Church with the ability to dispense divine life (grace) via the Sacraments, and marriage is a Sacrament.

God never leaves us alone in our attempts to follow his will--he always provides us with the grace to grow in virtue and practice self-control.

Yes, it is easier (in some ways) to take a birth control pill or have an IUD inserted or use a condom each time you have sex than it is to practice Natural Family Planning, in which couples prayerfully discern whether or not to avoid or postpone pregnancy by abstaining from sex during the wife's fertile cycle. But the Christian life is not about what is easy, it’s about what is true, good, and beautiful. And once the physiological and spiritual differences between avoiding pregnancy via contraception and avoiding pregnancy based on Natural Family Planning methods becomes clear, it is evident that the Church, like any good mother, only wants what’s best for her children.

If this is the first time you’re learning this information, you (or your fiancé) may have some questions, which is great! The first step to trusting Christ and the Church is to be open to learning the reasons behind Catholic teaching. Below are the answers to several frequently asked questions (based on my experience as a theology teacher, RCIA instructor, and marriage prep catechist).

Erik Bello Photography.

Erik Bello Photography.

Frequently Asked Questions about NFP

I heard NFP is the rhythm method, and that the rhythm method isn’t reliable. Is that true?

No! NFP is not the rhythm method. You may have heard that it is because many of our parents and grandparents grew up thinking that was the only “natural” way to space children. Unfortunately, the rhythm method was based on the (faulty) idea that all women ovulate on day 14 of their cycle, which is not the case. Modern Natural Family Planning methods can be used by the majority of women, regardless of the regularity of their cycles, and are scientifically proven to be as effective as birth control when used correctly, because they are based on the observable signs of a woman’s fertility each month. Scroll down for a list of resources if you want to learn more about the different methods of NFP and which one would be best for you.

Isn’t NFP just “natural contraception”?

NFP can be used as a natural form of contraception, but that is not how the Church asks couples to use it. The Church teaches that couples must exercise prayerful and prudential judgment regarding avoiding/spacing pregnancy in each season of their marital life. This means that if a couple has a serious reason to avoid pregnancy or space your pregnancies, they may do so by not having sex during the fertile period of your cycle. It does not mean that Catholic couples may use NFP to indefinitely postpone/avoid pregnancy or avoid pregnancy for selfish reasons.

When is it okay to avoid/space your pregnancies?

The Church teaches that spouses should practice responsible parenting, meaning if a couple discerns that it is not the right time to have another child, the couple may avoid having sex during your fertile time until said problem is resolved. There is no obligation for couples to have sex during a woman’s fertile period each month. Therefore, it is not necessarily sinful to avoid pregnancy or space your pregnancies using NFP. However, it is essential that married couples prayerfully discern these decisions together, and, if need be, with a competent spiritual director.

What if I don’t want ten kids?

The Church does not teach that a woman must have as many children as her body can bear. Some couples are called to have large families, but not all. The important thing is, like in all aspects of the Christian life, to be open to the Lord’s plan being different from our plan. I know couples who desperately wanted to have large families and for whatever reason, have not been able to conceive or “only” have two or three kids. I know couples who never saw themselves having big families, but now have six, seven, or eight kids. Regardless of how many children a couple is blessed with, there will be crosses and difficulties and stressful situations. But there will also be the unspeakable joy that only comes when we let go of our plans and ideas and allow the Lord to take over.

WIll NFP ruin our sex life?

Using NFP to avoid pregnancy involves mutual sacrifice on the part of the husband and wife; it’s not easy to abstain from making love when a woman is fertile, nor is it easy to accept a child when he or she wasn’t “planned.” But it also involves increased communication between husband and wife, which can result in more intimacy, not less. The Church maintains that God would not ask something of us without giving us the grace to do it, which is one of the reasons why marriage is a Sacrament. That said, couples who practice NFP need the support and encouragement of like-minded couples, which is why building Catholic community in the local parish (or even online) is so important.

Do I have to learn/practice NFP?

Some couples have a “come what may” philosophy when it comes to family planning. They don’t learn or practice NFP (or use contraception). That is something that each couple must discern. However, it is a good idea to learn an NFP method in case you need it in the future to 1) become pregnant (this is actually one of the primary reasons why many couples practice NFP) or 2) avoid pregnancy should an issue arise later in your marriage. It’s also incredibly helpful for both husband and wife to understand and appreciate a woman’s cycle, especially if it is irregular. So many potential fertility issues can be resolved by practicing basic fertility awareness using NFP, and seeking out an NFP-only OB/GYN to address those issues.

Personally, I’m grateful that I began charting my cycle long before I met my husband, because I discovered that I have a progesterone deficiency, which can lead to difficulties becoming and/or staying pregnant. Thanks to NFP and my progesterone supplements, we are pregnant with our first child, and it only took us two cycles to conceive.

The bottom line:

Our perennial temptation as fallen human beings is to make idols. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we want to be our own gods, to make our own rules, and to live life on our terms. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we know how destructive that way of life is, even though it may seem easier in the short term. What Christ and the Church ask of us isn’t easy: surrender never is. But we’re not surrendering to a capricious God who wants us as his slaves; we’re surrendering to a loving Father who loves us as his children. Choosing to say “yes” to the Church’s teachings on marital chastity is not easy, but because God is the author of marriage and sex, following His commandments is the only true, good, and beautiful way to live out this vocation.

Resource List:


Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla (St. John Paul II)

Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI

Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler (not Catholic, but a good resource on fertility awareness)

The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher

Articles/Blog posts:

Contraception: Why Not? By Dr. Janet Smith

Why not just use birth control? Some possible right answers. & NFP in real life: hard, but worth it. (both by Jenny Uebbing of Mama Needs Coffee)

When Natural Family Planning doesn’t go according to your plan (by Christy Isinger of Fountains of Home)

NFP should be a part of parish life (by Haley Stewart of Carrots for Michaelmas)

Dear Newlywed: you’re probably worried about the wrong thing. (by Kendra Tierney of Catholic All Year)

Podcast: Uncharted Territory: Getting Real about Natural Family Planning (Jenny Uebbing, Haley Stewart, and Christy Isinger)

General fertility education:

Natural Womanhood

Indy Fertility Care Blog

In Touch Fertility

NFP Methods:

The Couple to Couple League (Sympto-thermal NFP)

The Billings Method of NFP

The Creighton Method of NFP

The Marquette Method of NFP

NFP-friendly Medical Providers:

The Guiding Star Project (holistic women’s health clinics)

NaProTECHNOLOGY Practitioners in the United States


About the Author: Christina Dehan Jaloway is Spoken Bride's Associate Editor. She is the author of the blog The EvangelistaRead more



4 Ways Your Wedding Website Can Be a Means of Evangelization



Aside from details like the who, the where, and the RSVPs, directing guests to your wedding website offers a unique occasion to share your faith with your family and friends. If you and your fiancé have chosen to create one, it's certain nearly everyone invited to your big day will visit your site as soon as they see the address online or in their Save the Date. So, consider your website your letter to family and friends--a large, and possibly varied, audience. Pray together about what message you hope to convey as you introduce your guests to who you are as a couple and to what your wedding day will be all about.

Stating why you believe what you do, in your own words and in a way that's truthful, casual, and aimed at the heart, can go a long way in making your Catholic wedding an invitation to deeper understanding and a witness to the beauty of marriage in the Church. You might consider adding any or all of these elements to your site:

Tell the story of a saint who's had a hand in your relationship.

If the Father and the communion of saints have written your love story, consider saying so. True stories of virtue and holiness speak for themselves, and they also provide an opportunity to break down why and how Catholics call upon the saints' intercession.

Include explanations of parts of the Mass, like communion and the Rite of Marriage, for guests who might be unfamiliar.

Briefly and charitably discussing modest dress in the chapel, guidelines for who can receive communion and why, and reasons the Rite of Marriage matters for the sacrament can all go a long way in making your guests--particularly non-Catholics or those who've been away from the faith--feel at ease and not experience surprises that could be misperceived as exclusive or judgmental, like a non-Catholic not being permitted to receive the Eucharist.

Host an open-invitation holy hour after your rehearsal.

One of the most treasured moments of my life was praying with my college best friend moments before her wedding rehearsal, in the chapel on our campus where we'd both, at some point, alternately smiled and wept thinking about our future husbands, babies, and marriages over the years. The tears poured down as we knelt shoulder to shoulder and as I marveled at how the Father had answered each of our hopes and prayers so specifically and abundantly in the men he gave to us.

At another wedding I was invited to, the bride and groom had their priest and a few friends help lead an hour of Adoration, confession, and Praise and Worship the night before the wedding for any guests who wished to attend. Heaven touches earth during those moments of hope and anticipation. Following suit, by planning a holy hour and sharing the details with your guests via your wedding site, is amazing for both you and your beloved and for friends and family who will share in your joy and intercede for your marriage.

Invite guests to leave their intentions on your wedding site, and pray for them.

Online guestbooks and song requests are fun, standard fare, but have you considered additionally including an Intention Box on your website for your guests? Create a page for family and friends to privately submit their prayer requests to you and your fiancé. Prayer for those you've invited to share in your day, whether they're attending or not attending, is a lovingly specific act of generosity. 

I hope these ways of evangelizing to your guests sincerely call your family and friends into communion with you and express what you stand for in a loving way, particularly if there are sensitivities among them where faith is concerned.

Above all, though, I truly think the best, most important witness of all is one that doesn't even need to be typed and posted--quite simply, the joy of entering into marriage with a pure heart, radiant, evident joy, and desire for complete self-gift is impossible to ignore.

Don't worry about it being your personal responsibility to change anyone's mind about the Church. Pray for each of your guests as you address their invitations or plan your reception seating, and place them in the hands of Our Lady and her son. Be yourselves--the selves who so clearly wear their love for all to see--knowing your love flows from Love himself, and what you value and what sets your marriage apart will be crystal clear. I promise!

About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more