Behind the Scenes | Andi's Insider Look at the World of Catholic Wedding Planning

Andi Compton, our Business Director, planned her own birthday parties as a girl, spent hours making wedding collages as a teenager, and worked at the largest bridal store on the West Coast during college. She eventually answered the call to turn her organization and creativity into a business, Now That’s a Party, wherein she coordinates weddings primarily for Catholic couples.

Today, we’re excited to share with you an inside look at a wedding coordinator’s responsibilities--and how you, as the bride, can have the best experience with your coordinator, if you’ve chosen to hire one, and to anticipate the details that make for a smooth wedding day. Read on for Andi’s testimony, her advice for a joy-filled marriage--the fruit of 10 years with her husband, Matt--and the #1 piece of information to share with your coordinator.


You've loved weddings and had a creative streak for a long time! How did you get started in the wedding industry?

I've been planning parties since my fourth birthday, when I told my parents we were having it at Chuck E. Cheese! Each year my parties got increasingly complex. My parents were very supportive of my ever-growing love of crafts, taking me to the store for classes and demos and letting me take over a cabinet (then a closet) for all of my supplies.

Then at 15, I saw the movie The Wedding Planner. I had no idea people could earn a living getting to help others with parties! This is long before Pinterest, so I’d save my allowance to subscribe to any bridal magazine I could get my hands on, then cut and paste together mock weddings.

In college I worked at Mon Amie, the largest bridal store on the West Coast. I learned so much about the wedding industry and even got to model dresses on the weekends.

When my husband proposed, we came up with a budget and I finally got the chance to learn exactly how to put together the ideas I’d been reading about for so long. After our wedding we were blessed with a bunch of babies (and lots of birthdays to plan!), and I would occasionally help a friend with her wedding.  

Soon I was being asked to essentially coordinate these weddings. I felt a pull towards making things official with a name, website, and branding. Then came networking and coordinating styled shoots, where I could meet other local vendors and build a relationship.

Do you work mostly with Catholic couples, or with others, as well? What, to you, sets a Catholic wedding apart?

The majority of the couples I work with are Catholic, and I would really enjoy that being my focus. I still work with secular couples, but they are mostly family friends or referrals.

Jesus Christ is what sets a Catholic wedding apart! Having the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord truly present at a wedding is just beyond phenomenal.

Do you have any stories of seeing the faith come alive in the couples you've worked with?

I arrived to the church an hour early before one wedding and prayed in the Adoration chapel until the wedding party arrived. At that time, I noticed the groom was nervous. I told him to go and sit in front of our Lord for awhile, and it was beautiful to see him, his brother, and their friend in prayer.

Now That's a Party offers services from basic wedding day timelines to full-on coordination from start to finish. What aspects of wedding planning are your brides most surprised by?

I think the biggest surprises are the little details that can easily be overlooked--like ordering meals for your vendors, packing an overnight bag if you're staying with your new husband in a hotel, and designating plans for cleanup and taking gifts home.

Here’s an example of unexpected details it’s important to plan for: one wedding I did was in a park overlooking the ocean, and the bride had ordered rose petals. I had her look over city regulations, pack a rake for after the ceremony, and schedule the petals into the timeline.

Brides have so much access to visual inspiration, message boards, and dozens more resources when planning their weddings, often before they even meet their vendors. As a coordinator, have you noticed pros and cons to this?

Pinterest can be an awesome tool to visualize your ideas and discover what trends you’re drawn to. On the flip side, it can make everything seem overwhelming; almost paralyzing. The biggest downside for me is having clients say, "Sorry, this isn't really going to be Pinterest-worthy wedding," as if that were the goal.

Becoming a Pinterest trend or getting featured on a wedding blog should never be your focus. Viewers will care about it for a day or so, then move onto the next thing. But the man you're engaged to wants to be your husband for the rest of your life.

Another disadvantage of inspiration overload is that so many wedding images on Instagram, Pinterest, and blogs are simply unattainable to the average couple, yet it can tap into our vanity because we want to fit in. Few wedding blogs feature simple receptions in church hall, yet I've happily coordinated those; and truly, the couples are so filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit from their wedding. It is just beautifully infectious to all their guests.

What's the most helpful thing a couple can do for you, as their coordinator, before and during the big day?

Hands down, send me copies of every single signed contract and give me contact info for each vendor, friend, or family member who will be there for setup, as well as emergency contacts. Once I have all of that info, I can contact each vendor and helper so I know what to expect and can construct a timeline for each person involved, so we are all on the same page. That timeline is gold on the day of!

We’d love to hear stories from some of the weddings you've worked on! Are there any particularly profound moments that stand out to you? Any funny or otherwise memorable ones?

One of the most fun moments at a wedding was when a bride and groom surprised their families with a belly dancing ensemble. One of the groom's cousins came out and played drums with the drummer, and everyone there was really into it. They even danced with swords! Another couple went all out smashing cake into each other's faces. That was rare for me; in my experience, most couples are nice and don't want to make a mess.

Does being immersed in weddings and, by extension, marriage, influence your relationship with your husband and family, and vice versa?

Yes! A big trend I've seen in the past several years is elaborate, showy proposals. They are featured on blogs, go viral on YouTube, and are all over Pinterest. Though I, of course, cherish my husband, he absolutely did not stage a "dream proposal," and I've had to try really hard to develop humility, accepting the reality of what happened and growing in gratitude for who he is. A proposal is all of five minutes, but having someone by your side, someone who constantly chooses to love you in sickness and in health, in bad times and in good…well, that's real love.

Lastly, what distinctively Catholic planning secrets can you share with brides-to-be?

First, before booking any vendors, book your church. Many dioceses require 6-9 months of preparation before the wedding. Second, develop an openness to Natural Family Planning. For many couples, it's their first time delving into the technical aspects after years of just hearing about it. No matter where you’re coming from, learning about the body God gave you is truly empowering.

Photography: Leif Brandt Photography, as seen in Sara + Calvin | Sophisticated Handcrafted Wedding, coordinated by Andi.

Andi Compton is Spoken Bride's Business Director. She is the owner of Now That's a Party where she coordinates weddings, fundraising galas, and social events. Read more


3 Tips for Choosing Your Mass Music



Picking the readings and the music for your wedding Mass is an opportunity to show the beauty of the sacrament. And while it can be fun to choose the music, it can also be a daunting task. There is no end to options for liturgical music and if you haven’t grown up singing in a Church Choir, you may not know where to begin. Here, some helpful tips and suggestions to get you started.

Talk with your fiancé.

Do you imagine all the Mass parts sung in Latin? Do family members have strong opinions about what instruments belong inside a Church? Many of our Church music preferences have been deeply ingrained in us from our Mass-going days throughout our lives. You may assume your fiancé wants, for instance, to walk down the aisle to a guitar Matt Maher song like you do, when in reality he envisions Gregorian chant. You never know until you discuss it! If your tastes differ, be willing to compromise, like opting for a traditional Ave Maria along with a more modern Offertory hymn.

Get on the same page with your Music Director.

While it’s good to have some idea what music you and your fiancé like, having your parish’s  Music Director on board will ease much of the selection process. Many parishes have a guide with certain rules about what pieces you’re permitted to use--for example, did you know Wagner’s “Heres comes the Bride” is not used at Catholic Weddings? It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the rules beforehand to prevent any conflict. Then, have an open mind! Chances are, the director has been doing this a long time and will have great advice and suggestions.

Research, research, research.

Once you know what the both of you are drawn to and have guidelines from your Music Director, it’s time for the fun part: actually choosing the music. If you don’t even know where to start, think back to your experiences at Mass: Are there any songs that particularly move you? Ones you love grabbing the hymnal and singing along to? You might also consider asking recently married friends about their selections. Put together a Spotify list of any potential songs, and once you have lots of options, take a day to go through the list together and pick some favorites. If you are still stuck, below is a list of suggestions:


In the end, your wedding Mass, including the music, is a prayer you are offering to God. The beauty of music lifts our souls higher. If you approach your selections with that in mind, you will not fail.

About the Author: Clare Smillie works in development for her diocese's local social service. She is passionate in her work for the Church and enjoys volunteering with her parish and Young Adult Group, and is looking forward to her Summer 2018 wedding. Clare and her fiancé, both graduates of Thomas Aquinas College, bonded over their love of Aquinas, G.K Chesterton and C.S Lewis. Her current favorite saint is Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, a.k.a. Edith Stein, and is inspired by Theresa's love of the intellectual life and pursuit of truth. Clare loves her home state of Montana and is a (very) amateur wedding cake baker.



When You and Your Sister Are Both Engaged



Do you have not just your own wedding drawing near on the calendar, but that of someone else you’re close to?

Kat and Genevieve are sisters who got engaged within three days of each other and were married in the same year. “Wedding planning together was one of the sweetest experiences of our lives,” shares Kat, “but it can also come with some challenges.” For other women planning their weddings at the same time as their own sisters, family members, or close friends, we’re honored to share the fruits of these ladies’ wisdom.

Practical Considerations

In Kat’s words: One of the more obvious benefits to being engaged at the same time as your sister is the mutual experience of planning for one of life’s biggest moments. You get to giggle over wedding magazines and dream about the future together. It’s like that time you marched down the aisle of your shared bedroom together, humming “da da da dum” and wearing veils made of curtains, only it’s real. Take some time together to go to lunch and let it sink in that this is really happening. Take pictures. Toast each other. Soak it up.

A great practical benefit of getting married around the same time as my sister was familiarizing ourselves with vendors in the area. You might consider working with wedding vendors who offer referral packages, should you both choose to book with them. We used many of the same vendors, not only because we liked what they had to offer, but also because many of them had referral offers in exchange for spreading the word about their businesses.

One possible downside: we were concerned since our weddings were in the same year, our guests would have déjà vu once they went to the second wedding. The key when using the same vendors is to stay true to your own taste. It was very tempting for me to just copy all of Gen’s décor, simply because I knew she had great ideas and her wedding would be beautiful. But even though I loved everything about Gen’s wedding and the details she chose, I would have been untrue to myself if I hadn’t gone with my own choices. Never compromise your own style, even when your bestie’s is temptingly gorgeous.

In Genevieve’s words: Kath and I even had some of the same bridesmaids, so we tried to be conscious of cost when making choices for our bridal party. That's at least two dresses, showers, and bachelorette parties your favorite girls might feel pressure to pay for, so consider what investments could be optional. For example, does it really matter that all of your bridesmaids are in heels? No. So request that your girls wear nude shoes, but don't specify a style. If you want everyone in the same kind of jewelry, provide that as your bridesmaid gift.

Lots of these little things won't actually matter to you in the end, but they can provide big savings for some of the most important women in your life. I actually wish I hadn't been so firm on the color of bridesmaid dress for my wedding, because I now love the trend of mismatched but coordinating gowns. This cost consideration goes for wedding guests, too. If you have a registry, include a wide range of items and price points. Whether you’re getting married in the same year as your sister or not, this is a considerate thing to do.

Things to Do Together and Apart

Kat: One of the best decisions Gen and I made was to scheduling our own individual dress appointments, as opposed to trying to find our dresses at the same time. The first time we ever tried on dresses, we decided we’d go and both look together. It would kill two birds with one stone, right?

Wrong. We ended up not really being able to shop well, each wondering if our sister was going to want the same dress or bringing dresses off the racks for each other while forgetting to look for ourselves. We hated every dress we tried on that day and felt discouraged after leaving. This may not be how everyone experiences shared dress shopping dates, but both of us highly recommend making separate appointments. The main reason is it takes the pressure off and allows you to better dote on your friend or sister as she shops for her gown.

Genevieve: Ultimately, this day is about you, your future spouse, and your marriage. It can be easy to forget about that when you’re covered in bridal magazines and fabric swatches. Some things, like choosing shoes or wedding jewelry, are naturally going to be better sister activities.

Most wedding decisions and preparation, however, should be focused on you and your spouse. You probably will be able to identify which wedding tasks your fiancé won't care too much about, but give him the opportunity to make decisions with you before assuming he won't be interested. For example, I knew my fiancé cared not at all about flowers, so this was one aspect of planning Kath and I had a great time tackling together.

Keeping It Prayerful

Kat: We suggest saying a novena together in preparation for your weddings. Obviously this can be done with your fiancé, but it can also be done with your bestie. Nothing is more important in the wedding planning process than spiritual preparation. And when you know you have the spiritual support of your best friend, it can be a real source of grace and inspiration during a potentially stressful time.

Gen and I both took different routes for marriage prep within the Church. It’s good to recognize that your relationship and your sister’s are different, and that no one option is a “best” choice; there’s only a best choice suited to you and your fiancé as a couple.

My fiancé and I met regularly with the deacon at the church where we got married, along with about a dozen couple-to-couple meetings. I couldn’t recommend this more, especially if you know a couple you admire and if you have the time to meet. This brought up so many difficult questions that we were able to answer before getting married, and we had tons of fun with the couple who guided us. The downside to this route is if you don’t know the couple leading you or have trouble relating to them, this could be a very dull, drawn out, and frustrating process, so the Engaged Encounter weekend may be better if you don’t have a mentor couple in mind.

Genevieve: My husband Dalton and I chose to do an Engaged Encounter instead of a mentor couple. We liked the idea of being isolated in a retreat-type setting for our marriage prep, away from distractions.

I could probably write an entire book on the pros and cons of that weekend. Overall, it was very meaningful. We learned a lot about each other, ate bad retreat food, prayed for our future family, learned an overview of NFP (luckily we had our own Creighton instructor to fill in the rest), and generally felt a lot more prepared for marriage. If you have some hurdles to overcome prior to your wedding day--differences in faith practices, family of origin issues, or questions about Church teaching, the couple to couple option might be a more fruitful experience for you.

Finally, try to resist the temptation to compare your engagement, wedding, or relationship to that of your sister and her fiancé. We have found the best way to overcome this is to simply love and want the best for each other. Prayer can help with this, and so can open communication with your future spouse and your sister.

I found that my biggest point of comparison with Kath was actually our rehearsal dinner speeches. Her toast was the perfect blend of humor and emotion, and even as she was delivering it, I was regretting that mine wasn’t as good. I had to try to let that feeling go quickly because I wanted to enjoy the moment, but I’m still kind of jealous, even now! That girl can give a speech.

The joyous swirl of wedding planning is made even better when you are experiencing it with your sister. No one can better understand why you might feel the need to burst into tears when you finally find the perfect cake topper after hours of browsing on Etsy. No one is better at letting you know when you might be veering off into Bridezilla territory. No one's smile will be bigger when you finally walk down the aisle. Well, your fiancé's smile should probably be bigger, but yours might be almost as big.

Visit, or revisit, Kat and her husband Jonathan's wedding here and Genevieve and her husband Dalton's, both rich with New Orleans traditions, here.

About the Authors: Genevieve and Katherine are sisters and best friends from New Orleans, Louisiana. Gen is the older sister, a nurse and lactation consultant living in Louisiana. Kat is a former high school religion teacher who now stays at home in Pittsburgh with her daughter. Gen loves to stay inside and cozy up to a good book; Kat loves to be outside and to do karaoke with her husband. Gen is the introvert; Kat is the extrovert. Since they live far away from each other, they use their blog, The Sister Post, as one way to keep up communication lines and to share ideas and stories with each other and their readers. The purpose of their blog is to empower women to share in a common sisterhood; they see each other as their best resource, and they hope by sharing their own ideas, tips, and stories, other women will be uplifted by the online sisterhood they've created.



A DIY Bouquet for Literature-Loving Brides



"Can you give me your bouquet for a moment?" asked the Lorax-mustachioed priest at our wedding Mass. I was surprised and a tad embarrassed; I don't love attention, even on my wedding day.

Photography:  Jocelyn's Photography , from the author's wedding

Photography: Jocelyn's Photography, from the author's wedding

My bouquet had caught many eyes, including our priest's, because it wasn't made of flowers. I’d created it from the pages of books. Our priest asked for my bouquet during the homily. I handed it over and he started to ad lib about how the novels whose pages I included were symbolic of my husband and I. These books, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (barring its problematic ending), reminded me of how open my husband and I are with each other and how we love doing unusual things together. We each make the other better and are always working at our relationship. Books, said our priest, can already be good as their own entitiesu. But when transformed by marriage and by God, they can become something even more beautiful--like my bouquet.

Two people, their own individuals, become one new entity in marriage, better than they could be alone. How much more beautiful and meaningful could marriage get?

Truthfully, I didn’t think anyone would really care about my bouquet. In fact, when friends and family members heard about the DIY project I’d planned, they did the polite head nodding thing while saying “Oh, that sounds interesting,” which almost always actually means, “Okay, good luck with that.” I continued anyway, a sucker for meaningful things.

Practically, I created this bouquet because I was getting married in February in the Midwest, where fresh flowers would have cost an arm and a leg. But I also did it because my husband and I read The Fault in Our Stars together in our early days of dating. We both identified with the characters' interactions. I love personalizing everything I can and creating meaningful moments. I chose my bouquet as an opportunity to personalize our wedding liturgy.

I bought the books and began tearing out their pages, cutting out petal shapes, and wrapping them around floral wire. It was a long process, yet incredibly worth it--it is something I can keep forever. After the wedding, a friend asked if she could write about it for Reader's Digest in an article about alternative wedding bouquets. I was honored, and sort of stunned that my simple bouquet would reach the amount of people it did.

But isn’t this like marriage? A marriage is hard work: lots of menial tasks, yet so full of sacred meaning. A marriage starts with something ordinary, like a book or like two independent people, and makes it into something extraordinary, like a bouquet or one in the eyes of God. And then these two people go out together and serve. So without trying to, or seeking it, God taught us and our wedding guests the meaning and the call of marriage: to join together and create something extraordinary.

Let God work through your creativity. After all, he is the creator of all life.

About the Author: Lauren Henderson is a newlywed and convert to the Catholic faith who loves cooking, baking, reading, and singing in the car. She studied Psychology in college and enjoys guessing whodunit in mystery shows. A lover of children, she cannot wait to be a mother someday. Lauren and her husband host the podcast God Winks and the Kitchen Sink.


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.

Have you ever wished there were a “script” for how to pull that opportunity off? 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.

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

5 Ways to Incorporate Ethically Made + Eco-Friendly Products into Your Wedding



Pope Benedict XVI said, “Purchasing is always a moral—and not simply economic—act.” As an newly engaged couple, you and your fiancé have a unique opportunity to many options for including service to others in the material preparations for your wedding and marriage.

The purchases you make for your wedding and reception reflect your values. From your dress to the flowers, there is a person behind each product. And just like you, they have a story to share. These creators' stories become part of yours. So, consider choosing ethically made, fair trade, vintage and local sources to carry out your commitment to service in your celebration.

Here, five ways to incorporate ethically made and eco-friendly products into your wedding and reception:

Jewelry: vintage, fair trade and conflict free

Vintage rings are great for those who love stories from the past. When you buy a vintage ring—or, if you’re lucky—have one handed down to you, you preserve past memories and prevent the ring from being tossed out or forgotten. If you prefer a new engagement ring or wedding bands, consider purchasing rings that are certified fair trade and conflict free. Either way, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re not unintentionally funding child labor or violent conflict—and you’ll be helping to protect the environment from pollution caused by conventional mining practices.

Wedding gowns: vintage, fair trade, and repurposing 

Like vintage rings, vintage gowns are a great eco-friendly option. You can have fun searching for just the right gown that reflects your style or pays homage to a particular era. I personally love the style of Grace Kelly’s iconic gown and was thrilled to see that Kate Middleton, now the duchess of Cambridge, chose a similar style when she got married.

Fair trade wedding dresses are growing in popularity. Handmade by artisans in developing countries who are paid fair wages, these dresses are crafted in safe conditions that also respect the environment.

After the wedding, it might be hard to imagine parting ways with your beloved gown, so consider these ethical alternatives to preserve it: upcycle your dress into christening gowns, or donate it  to an organization that provides for brides who might not be able to afford a new (or even a used) gown. Which brings me to my last idea: you can sell your dress to a consignment shop to be loved by another bride.  

Bridesmaid dresses: fair trade

We all want our closest friends—our sisters—to feel confident, comfortable and beautiful in their bridesmaid dresses. My friends have always been so thoughtful when choosing dresses, and I’m grateful for the time and energy they put in to choosing a dress that would flatter me and work for my budget. Fair trade bridesmaid dresses are becoming easier to find and, just like fair trade wedding gowns, are handmade by artisans in developing countries who earn fair wages. And their prices are very comparable—and sometimes less—than similar bridesmaid dresses.

Flowers: local, seasonal and fair trade

I’ve always enjoyed seeing seasonal flowers at weddings: sunflowers in late summer, daffodils in early spring, or flowers not native to my Maryland home when I’m attending a wedding out of state. Local farms and florists will let you know which blooms are native to your region and will be available during your wedding month. By choosing native flowers that are in season, you support your local economy.  

Fair trade flowers are another option worth considering. Although they may be shipped from overseas, fair trade flowers can set your arrangements apart. They are produced by workers who earn fair wages, and come from farms that use sustainable practices.

Gifts: fair trade registries and donations

You can include fair trade options on your gift registry, too. From kitchenware to other home essentials, fair trade products add special meaning to gift giving. And if there’s nothing you really need or want, consider giving guests the option of donating to you and your future spouse’s favorite charity, instead. As someone who never knows what to get as a gift, the option for a donation is always welcome, and it gives me a glimpse into my family and friends’ particular hearts for service.

I hope you find these tips helpful as you prepare for your wedding. You truly have an opportunity to be a witness to your guests on your wedding day, and the products you choose to use can be a powerful way of showing your commitment to service and responsibility.

About the Author: Erin Mackey is a young professional who strives to live out her faith by seeking a simple, sustainable and conscious lifestyle. She loves discovering new ethical companies that are changing the world and believes business can be a force for good. She currently serves on the Ethical Trade team at Catholic Relief Services and in her free time enjoys tea dates, exercise and listening to podcasts. Erin has contributed to The Catholic Woman and appeared on The Catholic Feminist and Leah Darrow's Do Something Beautiful podcasts.



When Your Reception is "Just" In the Church Hall

In a culture awash with Pinterest-perfect images, it’s easy to feel inadequate about having a relatively simpler wedding. In a word, don’t.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Soul Creations Photography

PHOTOGRAPHY: Soul Creations Photography

Reception venues, in particular, can help convey the desired theme for your day, from a rustic-chic barn to an elegant ballroom. But what if these locations just aren’t in the cards for you?

Couples on a budget frequently turn to parish halls and event spaces for their receptions, and truly, they are as worthy a dwelling for your joy as anywhere. Even without certain amenities, your church hall reception will be beautiful, because at its heart it will reflect the love between you, your new husband, and your shared love for Christ. Consider these ways to embrace your reception situation.

No need to apologize.

Knowing you and your guests might have attended more elaborate wedding venues in the past, you might be tempted to apologize for “just” having a church hall reception. But there’s no need.

As much as guests might appreciate certain glamorous elements, it’s not the glamour they’re attending your wedding for. It’s you. And being there for you on your big day involves enjoying any and all offerings, from food to favors to music, with gratitude. You, your beloved, and your parents are the hosts of your day, and it’s gracious for hosts to embody poise and self-assurance, rather than self-consciousness, in their choices. Your guests will follow your lead and, in all likelihood, will be so happy to share in your day that anything besides your union with your new spouse will be secondary.

In the mid-twentieth century, many city parishes held weekly dances for young adults, as well as meals and shelter for those going without. The hall was a central part of parish life; in holding your reception in one, know that you’re taking part in a long tradition of Catholic culture. Additionally, there are the benefits of little to no travel time between your Mass and reception, allowing for more time for photos and with guests, and of knowing you’re making a financial contribution to the Church.

Cultivate creativity and confidence.

If your hall is simply arranged, consider it a blank slate and, if it's a priority for you, find ways to maximize the setting. Adding in ambient lighting to offset overhead bulbs, renting pretty chair and table covers, and using blank wall areas for décor can all help enhance your space.

What’s more, trust in your wedding vendors to help you maximize your resources. Coordinators, for instance, are familiar with working in a variety of settings. Photographers have trained themselves in using natural and artificial light to its best advantage and to prioritizing tighter, close-up shots when a location calls for it, all to produce beautiful images that capture the spirit of your day.

Remember it’s the experience that will linger.

Wedding photographers frequently say that no matter how well-dressed their clients are for a session, or no matter how beautiful the shooting location, if the clients feel stressed or awkward they won’t look at their final images with fondness. In other words, people generally remember how they felt more than what their surroundings were like. So strive to create a reception atmosphere that’s relaxed and festive, filled with affirmation, warm greetings, and dancing. When you and your guests look back at your wedding images, you’ll remember that palpable sense of joy more vividly than any other aspect.

The weddings we’re honored to share with you in this ministry range from elaborate to simple, with a variety of aesthetics unique to each of our brides and their beloveds. We love getting a glimpse of your hearts and hearing your stories, knowing you share with us a love for the good, true, and beautiful. And we know that you know it’s not about the material trappings of weddings: what shines forth most brightly, what makes a “Spoken Bride wedding,” and what we are here to share above all, is that a love rooted in Christ is the ultimate source of immense beauty in and of itself.