Elise's Wedding | The Big Day!

Our Social Media Coordinator, Elise Crawford, married her college sweetheart Hunter, on August 12! We're overjoyed for them and are thrilled to share their wedding day with you today as Elise concludes her series of wedding reflections. Join us in congratulating and praying for Elise and Hunter as they begin their life together!

I know it seems cliche, but Hunter's and my wedding day was a taste of heaven! As stressful as the weeks and days leading up to the wedding were, I was so blessed to feel calm and present on our big day. There was so much preparation and effort on both sides of our family to make this day happen: we had an aunt who hosted family from out of town, my mom and sister were with me running errands and ticking of my to-do list and friends flew in to town early to help with preparations. We felt so completely surrounded with love and support!

We were told in the months leading up to our wedding that the day goes by in a blur and that it's easy to let it go by without taking a moment to soak it all in. With that in mind, Hunter and I made sure to take small moments during our wedding day to pause, pray and just be with one another. I remember several times throughout the day taking in the scene in front of me and committing it to memory thinking, "Lord, You are SO good!". After so many years of waiting, I can not describe the joy that comes with being united with your love in the Holy Sacrament of Marriage in front of your family and friends. Our wedding day is truly a testament to the fact that the Lord provides and is faithful to His promises. 

I hope you enjoy the photographs below taken by the beautiful Sarah Price. Thank you for journeying with Hunter and I over the last year as we prepared for this moment in our lives. Your prayers have been fruitful and meant so much to us! I will leave you with the quote that we placed in our wedding mass program:

"Beloved, you do not know how deeply you are mine, how much you belong to my love and my suffering-because to love means to give life through death; to love means to let gush a spring of water of life into the depths of the soul, which burns and smolders, and cannot burn out." -Karol Wojtyla (Pope Saint John Paul II), "The Jeweler's Shop"

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Photography: Sarah Price Photography | Church: St. Augustine- Elkridge, MD | Wedding Reception Venue: Cattail Creek Country ClubFlorist: Corner Florist | Signs + Table Numbers: Custom Crafted Calligraphy  | Caterer: Cattail Creek Country Club | Bridal Gown: BHLDN | Bridesmaid Dresses: Global Bridal Gallery | Partial Wedding Planner: Cedar and Lime Co | Cake: Graul's Market | Hairstylist + Make Up Artists: Up-Dos for I-Dos | Music: Chris Laich Music Services | Groomsmen Tuxes: Cys

Elise's Wedding | 5 Ways to Thrive During the Last Few Weeks of Your Engagement



Save the date ...our Social Media Coordinator, Elise Crawford, is marrying Hunter, her college sweetheart, on August 12, 2017. We're overjoyed for her and are thrilled to share with you a peek into one bride's real-life wedding planning. Over the next year, we'll feature monthly pieces from Elise on marriage prep, choosing wedding details, and her spirituality as a bride-to-be. Join us in praying for Elise and Hunter during this sacred time of anticipation!

Photography by Meaghan Clare Photography

I'm writing this at 11:30pm after a full day of work in D.C. with clients, calls with my team and giving a talk this evening to a group of women business owners. I'm tired. Physically, yes but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Wedding planning can be fun and full of exciting adventures, but what happens when it's....not? I think every woman who has gotten married can identify a moment in their planning process when she's thought to herself, "I'm so ready for this to be all over with and just be married already!"

There's no doubt when preparing to enter into the sacrament of marriage that you will experience some sort of spiritual battle; the Enemy trying to keep you from becoming the woman God has made you to be. I've been engaged for almost four years: that's a long time to be engaged in a singular battle! There are so many ups and downs when it comes to wedding planning and as your wedding day draws even closer, those waves of overwhelm can seem to come in faster and even more ferociously. 

No matter how long you've been engaged, I'm sure you can relate to the feeling of fatigue and burnout during the last few weeks leading up to your wedding. Below I'm sharing my five tips for thriving during your final days of engagement. Enjoy and feel free to leave your own tips in the comments!

Stay close to the Eucharist.

 As I mentioned before, I've definitely noticed an increase in spiritual battle or struggle as my wedding day draws near. They can be identified as small or feelings of discouragement and overwhelm or an increased tendency to lose your temper. The Enemy plays on your weaknesses, particularly as you are about to enter into the sacred bonds of marriage. Spend some extra time alone with Christ during the last few weeks of your engagement in order to remain focused. Although you are about to give yourself completely and freely over to another in marriage, Jesus will always be your first Love. Let him nourish you, love you and sanctify you as draw closer to Him. Amp up your prayer life. Although it might seem impossible to fit in anything else in your schedule, it's important to prioritize daily Mass, confession and quiet prayer even more intensely as your big day draws near. 

Write everything down.

 This might seem like an obvious task, but I didn't even think about mapping out the next couple of months leading up to my wedding until I was complaining to a friend about how I didn't even know where to start when it came to everything that still needs to get done. Of course I had thought about having a day-of timeline for my wedding, but now that August 12th is just weeks away, it's been incredibly helpful to take time to write out every little thing that needs to get done before our wedding day, then share it with my bridesmaids, mom and whomever else is helping us prepare. That way, I don't feel like all of the weight of wedding planning is on just my shoulders, and I can breathe knowing there are others who know what needs to be accomplished.

Spend more intentional time together as a couple.

Protect your relationship as a couple. This might sound defensive, but unless you intentionally schedule time with your beloved during these busy weeks, it's not going to happen. It's important to cling to one another during this time. You are both about to experience a life-changing moment together. Engagement is a time of new challenges and maybe unexpected difficulties. Whatever stresses, worries and fears that you are experiencing, these are opportunities for you to grow stronger as a couple. But you can't do that unless you spend time together! Set apart time each week where you do not plan or talk about your upcoming nuptials (or at least keep the wedding chatter to a minimum) and just enjoy each other's company. Take time to still get to know your fiancé and fall even more in love together. Cherish this special time.

Take time for self-care.

 As Nicole Caruso mentioned in our Bridal Makeup Tutorial, it's incredibly important as a bride to take time for self-care. It might be the last thing on your mind, but when you don't take time to prepare yourself, mentally, emotionally and physically, for your new life as a wife, you can fall into the trap of losing perspective. Make sure to schedule time for not only prayer, but doing things that you love. That can be working out, taking a yoga class, reading a book from your favorite genre, attending counseling, taking a bath with your favorite bath salts or getting a massage. I'd highly recommend journaling during this time as well. Journaling helps me assess where I am emotionally and spiritually. Whatever self-care means to you, take time to do something just for yourself and relax. 

Let it go.

 In the words of Elsa, let it go. During your final weeks of engagement, remain focused on why you're getting married in the first place. You are being called into a sacred union with your beloved and Jesus Christ. Along with your to-do list, create a list of things that you are okay with not getting done before your wedding day. These might be last-minute DIY projects or fun ideas that just aren't getting executed. It's okay if not everything comes together as you had imagined. Your wedding day is just one day and at the end of it, you'll be married, which is all that matters!

Let go of any pressure that others, or you, are putting on yourself and go with the flow. If the florist doesn't get your order quite right or the ring bearers' suits aren't the perfect color, it's still going to be a beautiful day. Enjoy these last days of being a bride and soak up every moment. It only happens once! 

About the Author: Elise Crawford is Spoken Bride's Social Media Coordinator. She is the owner of Ringlet Studio marketing. Read more


Elise's Wedding | How to Have an Intentional Lent as a Couple

SAVE THE DATE ... our Social Media Coordinator, Elise Crawford, is marrying Hunter, her college sweetheart, on August 12, 2017. We're overjoyed for her and are thrilled to share with you a peek into one bride's real-life wedding planning. Over the next year, we'll feature monthly pieces from Elise on marriage prep, choosing wedding details, and her spirituality as a bride-to-be. Join us in praying for Elise and Hunter during this sacred time of anticipation!

Photography by: Meaghan Clare Photography

Lent can seem like a very solitary time in the Liturgical calendar: we are called to examen ourselves and work on our habits that might not be the most helpful in our spiritual lives. However, Lent is an excellent opportunity for you to develop new, healthy spiritual habits as a couple as well as individuals.  Since Hunter and I are tying the knot this year, we decided to be more intentional about Lent 2017 than we have been in the past. 

I have to say, I don't have the best Lenten record...usually I falter in my Lenten resolution within the first couple of weeks! However, this year, I was determined to make Lenten goals that were 1.) Actually achievable 2.) Brought me closer to the Lord and 3.) Brought both Hunter and I closer to one another and deepen our faith together. We can all passively try to make a Lenten resolution while consuming way to much sugar on Mardi Gras (maybe I'm just speaking for myself here), but the key to a fruitful Lent isn't just to give up something for the sake of doing so. Lenten observance isn't for God, He doesn't need our sacrifices. Rather, Lent is for us, as Christians, to become more attuned to God in our daily lives and refocus our gaze upon His love. 

Below I've listed six ways to enter into a fruitful Lent with your signifiant other. You can choose as many items from the list as you'd like, just make sure to do so intentionally. Take some time to pray and listen to how the Lord is drawing you closer to Him this Lent. We've also included a beautiful download from The Anchor Theory that you and your beloved can use to plan your Lent. 

1. Sacrifice Something Together as a Couple: Hunter and I decided to sacrifice extra spending this Lent: no eating out or nights at the movies for the next few weeks. Sacrificing something as a couple is a great way to come together and offer something to the Lord, even if it seems small. It's an opportunity to replace something in your normal routine (eating out) with prayer and time spent together with the Lord. Make sure to intentionally set alternatives to the thing that you are giving up: instead of spending time in front of the TV together, resolve to say a rosary each week.

2. The Examen: Since "intentionality" is our theme for this Lent, we really wanted to make it a point to reflect on our daily habits and to become more aware of how we are making, or failing, to keep God as the center of our lives. The Examen is a prayer developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola and is a method to reviewing your daily routines and practices. I'd encourage you and your significant other to pray the Examen each night together. Take time for silence and individual prayer and then if you feel comfortable, share with one another your reflections for the day and how you plan to improve for the following day.

3. Liturgy of the Hours: It is important as lay people to participate in the life of the Church on a daily basis, beyond just Sunday mass. The Divine Office is a fantastic way to raise your heart and mind to God throughout the day. "The purpose of the Divine Office is to sanctify the day and all human activity" (Apostolic Constitution, Canticum Laudis). There is morning prayer, evening prayer and night prayer. Decide with your partner which time of day works best for the both of you to pray the Office. Hunter and I like to say night prayer to conclude our days together by surrendering the day's happenings to God. 

4. Bible Study and Stations of the Cross: I always cringe when I hear the joke made that Catholics don't know their Scripture! Lent is an excellent time for you and your beloved to delve into the Bible. There are great Bible studies available online but it doesn't have to be too complicated: decide to devote 10-20 minutes each day reflecting on the daily readings and or turning to a passage in the Bible and praying with Scripture. You can even practice Lectio Divina if you feel called to delve deeper into the Lord's words this Lent. Most parishes host Stations of the Cross each Friday during Lent. This practice is another great way to enter into the Lord's Word, especially as we anticipate His Passion and death. 

5. Service: As Catholics, we are called to the Corporal Works of Mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, and giving alms to the poor. Set some time aside in your calendar in the next few weeks to donate your time and resources to those less fortunate. Look to your local food bank or decide to put a few extra dollars each week in the poor box each Sunday for the remainder of Lent.

6. Blessed is She: Although this practice might be geared more towards a Bride, the Blessed is She Lenten journal is still a great way to intentionally grow in your faith this Lenten season! I have used Blessed is She's journals in the past and plan to do so this Lent. Their workshops are also awesome resources for you to deepen your relationship with God.  

What are your Lenten goals for the next 33 days? Share in the comments below! 

Download your Intentional Lent Guide HERE.

About the Author: Elise Crawford is Spoken Bride's Social Media Coordinator. She is the owner of Ringlet Studio marketing. Read more


Elise's Wedding | Two Become One: How to Combine Your Spiritual Lives



SAVE THE DATE ...our Social Media Coordinator, Elise Crawford, is marrying Hunter, her college sweetheart, on August 12, 2017. We're overjoyed for her and are thrilled to share with you a peek into one bride's real-life wedding planning. Over the next year, we'll feature monthly pieces from Elise on marriage prep, choosing wedding details, and her spirituality as a bride-to-be. Join us in praying for Elise and Hunter during this sacred time of anticipation!

Photography by: Meaghan Clare Photography

When Hunter and I met in college, we were both undergoing a deep spiritual renewal in our faith. We were studying theology and philosophy at the Catholic University of America and fell in love with St. Thomas Aquinas, the Patristic Fathers and the wide variety of spirituality possessed by the saints.

My sophomore year, I helped establish a charismatic prayer group at CUA. Hunter attended and became a part of the community. We also had the blessing of living across the street from the John Paul II Shrine and the Dominican House of Studies, which hosted various talks and events. Needless to say, we were both greatly enriched spiritually during our college experience.

As we've moved on from Brookland to graduate school and into our careers, our spiritual lives have continued to develop and change. We've noticed over the last few years that Hunter and I tend towards varying forms of spirituality. I've continued to love charismatic prayer and meet the Lord most deeply when using the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Hunter encounters the Lord through intellectual pursuits and quiet meditation in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Through the busyness of life in our early twenties, we've had to work through our developing faith practices and decide what they looked like with our changing and filled schedules. It has by no means been easy or perfect, but we've figured out several ways to blend our spiritualities so that we both feel like we are being spiritually fed. Below is a list of steps you and your future (or current!) spouse can take towards building a spiritual practice together that fits both of your personalities and needs. 

Assess Your Own Spirituality.

Our spiritual tendencies change over time. What you once enjoyed a couple of years ago, or even a few months ago, might not be how you encounter Christ now. Through the lay and married vocations, our roles in life are almost constantly changing. You might have taken a new job or become a mother. 

Take some time to evaluate your current spiritual needs: do you have less time for reading than you used to and need something that isn't quite as time-intensive? Have you moved and no longer live as close to an Adoration chapel as you once did? I found that after college I no longer was within my regular charismatic community, so I had to adjust to my circumstances. I became comfortable with praying by myself for shorter periods of time at the beginning of my day and found a group of young adults who occasionally gathered for praise and worship. Before you and your spouse try to combine spiritual practices, first know your own spirituality. 

Discover What's Out There.

There are as many ways that one receives Christ as there are as people on this earth. We each encounter Christ in our own unique hearts in a personal manner. The Rosary and Liturgy of the Hours are incredibly powerful spiritual practices, but there are many others out there as well! You and your spouse could join a lay community, begin the practice of reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet or discern serving your local parish through volunteering.

Invest time in exploring the possibilities of how you two can practice your faith together. Take a look at your Diocesan website and see if there are groups or events you can attend to meet new people in your surrounding faith community. There's more out there than you think!

Find Spiritual Directors.

It is your responsibility as a fiancée to assist your soon-to-be spouse on his journey to heaven. This means learning of his struggles, joys, best qualities and worst qualities. As much as we are meant to walk alongside our significant other, it's also wise to note that sometimes you both need guidance from an older, more spiritually developed mentor.

Take some time to find individual spiritual direction for the both of you. You can ask a local friary, religious community or your parish, if there is a religious or priest who would be willing to be your spiritual director. Don't be intimidated! Start off by meeting once a month, get to know each other see if you are a good fit, and take it from there.

Learn Where Your Hearts Intersect.

Once you and your fiancé have spent some time getting to know your own spiritual tendencies and where you'd like to improve in your faith life, it's time to see where your spiritualities intersect and differ. Hunter and I joke at times that if we had turned to the religious life instead of married life, I would be a Sister of Life and he would be a Benedictine monk. I'm all about the spirituality of John Paul II, and Hunter loves monastic spirituality. I prefer community prayer, and Hunter likes solitude. However, over the years we've learned that we both love the Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary. Our prayer life together has also been enriched through prayer over one another, something we do before we part ways. It's a beautiful way to bless your beloved with God's grace and pray for his or her intentions. 

Attend Mass Together.

Of course, attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist together is the most important part of creating a shared spiritual life. Even if you are not able to physically attend Mass together every weekend, there is a unity that you will find with your fiancé in the Eucharist. No matter if your spiritualities are very similar or they differ greatly, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. It's the perfect common ground where you and your fiancé can worship the Lord as a couple and be enriched by his body and blood. Although Hunter and I strive to attend Mass together every Sunday, I always offer the Mass for our relationship and our future marriage even when we aren't able to attend together. 

What about you? Do you and your fiancé have similar spiritualities or are they polar opposites? Are you married and have discovered ways that you and your beloved have connected in your spiritualities?

About the Author: Elise Crawford is Spoken Bride's Social Media Coordinator. She is the owner of Ringlet Studio marketing. Read more


Elise's Wedding | Strategies for Choosing Your Wedding Vendors

SAVE THE DATE ... our Social Media Coordinator, Elise Crawford, is marrying Hunter, her college sweetheart, on August 12, 2017. We're overjoyed for her and are thrilled to share with you a peek into one bride's real-life wedding planning. Over the next year, we'll feature monthly pieces from Elise on marriage prep, choosing wedding details, and her spirituality as a bride-to-be. Join us in praying for Elise and Hunter during this sacred time of anticipation!

Photographers, planners, caterers. Oh my! When Hunter and I started the wedding planning process, I was lucky enough to know a handful of wedding vendors as business acquaintances. They were able to offer me their own services or direct me to other wedding vendors. However, we have wanted to choose our vendors carefully and intentionally, so the search has been fun but also a challenge. I want to share with you my thoughts on how we've gone about hiring our vendors so far and what tips have been helpful to us. I'm also including questions for you to ask potential vendors to help you discern the individuals who will help your big day come together. 

Wedding Planner:

Truly, our biggest win so far in wedding planning has been hiring a partial-planner. We knew we couldn't afford a full-time planner--someone who can hire vendors for you and help come up with your wedding vision--but I know I'd appreciate assistance with logistics and day-of-coordination. It's been extremely important to me that I don't feel rushed on my wedding day. I don't want to be responsible for making the trains run on time or making sure that everything is set; I want to be prayerfully focused on entering into the sacrament of marriage and being surrounded by the people I love. Look into the wedding planners in your area and inquire about partial planning packages. I promise you, it will be money well spent! 

Questions to Ask: How many weddings have you planned? What will your level of involvement be? How often can I expect to interact with you during the wedding process? Do the weddings you plan usually have a certain style? 


There are so many ways to approach florals for your wedding. You can arrange them yourself, buying the flowers from a wholesalers (friends have raved about Costco!). You can hire a farm-to-vase florist who sources only local and organically grown flowers. I have found it helpful to interview and get a quote from florists in each category. I spoke to one vendor who only used naturally grown flowers; I talked with wholesalers about the logistics of designing and assembling my own florals; then I talked with several florists in our area. We ended up going with a wonderful woman who owns her own small floral business, is just starting out and had more than reasonable prices. It was important to me to support local businesses owned by women through my wedding, so hiring her was the best decision for us. 

Questions to Ask: What can I expect from you on the day of the wedding? Will you deliver and set up the florals? Where do you get your flowers from? What type of weddings have you styled for in the past? Do you handle take-down, and where do the florals go after the wedding day? Do you donate them? Can you create a sample piece for me before we sign a contract?


We have consistently heard the advice to not skimp on our photographer. Our wedding day is so exciting and will happen so quickly. We might not be able to remember every single moment of the day, but we will be able to look back on the day through photos. When it comes to wedding photography, simply put: you generally get what you pay for. Yet that doesn't mean your wedding photography has to push you above your budget! The key to finding a good fit is finding a photographer who has been in the business 2-3 years, has a portfolio that shows their skill and suits your style, and, if possible, offers competitive pricing. (Join your local Rising Tide Society Facebook group, even if you aren't a creative entrepreneur. In the group, you can post a call for photographers in your area and price range). 

Questions to Ask: Can I see some examples of past weddings you've shot? What equipment do you use? When is the last time you've updated your equipment? Could you give me an outline of the day and what you'll be shooting when? How far in advance do I need to book you? Can I give you a list of specific shots that I'd like? How do you deliver the photos post-wedding day?

Hair & Makeup: 

Some women want to do their own hair and makeup on the day of their wedding and that's totally fine! For brides who prefer professional services, there are several options. You can go to a salon the day of or you can have hair and makeup artists come to the place where you're getting ready. There are plenty of wedding-specific stylists and makeup artists, just make sure to check out their online reviews to make sure you're hiring someone who is experienced. 

Questions to Ask: Will you do a trial run with me before my wedding? Can you work off of photos that I like? Are you familiar with my particular hair and skin types? Do you use your own makeup and hair products? Are there any day-of expenses I should be aware of?

DJ or Band:

Music sets the tone for your wedding Mass and reception. Consider: will you have your Church's music minster provide mass music? Who will be your cantors? Hunter and I are lucky to have wonderful, musically gifted friends who will be providing our Mass music. For our reception, we opted for a D.J. over live music. We valued hiring someone who will set a fun tone at the reception while keeping things classy and respectful. 

Questions to Ask: How many D.J.s are in your company? How do you cater to both younger and older generations at the reception? Will you play a list of songs if we give them to you? Do you use your own equipment? Will you coordinate with the planner or bride and groom at the reception if any questions arise? How do you arrange announcements for key points at the reception (first dance, cake cutting, etc.)?


Yummy! Our reception venue provides food and drink in-house, but I know the caterer is a big vendor for most people. Make sure you are hiring a caterer who not only provides great food, but also awesome service to your guests. Take your preferences into account as you seek out a vendor. For instance, are you leaning towards a buffet or sit down dinner? Want to get creative? Consider asking family members to pitch in with creating a dessert table or baking your wedding cake.

Questions to Ask:  How many weddings do you do per year? Have you done events at my location? Will I need any permits for my events? What about bar permits? How many servers will be provided at my reception? How will the servers be dressed? Can you show me pictures of food you've created in the past? What kind of alcohol will be served?

I'd love to chat with you about your own planning. Tell me; what vendors have you hired so far in your wedding planning? What has your experience been like? If you were already married, what advice do you have to share about hiring vendors?

About the Author: Elise Crawford is Spoken Bride's Social Media Coordinator. She is the owner of Ringlet Studio marketing. Read more


Elise's Wedding | Our Favorite Marriage-Prep Resources

SAVE THE DATE ... our Social Media Coordinator, Elise Crawford, is marrying Hunter, her college sweetheart, on August 12, 2017. We're overjoyed for her and are thrilled to share with you a peek into one bride's real-life wedding planning. Over the next year, we'll feature monthly pieces from Elise on marriage prep, choosing wedding details, and her spirituality as a bride-to-be. Join us in praying for Elise and Hunter during this sacred time of anticipation!

(Photos: Meaghan Clare Photography)

Over the last few years, Hunter and I have developed our own library of favorite marriage and engagement-focused resources. I'm excited to share them with you today in anticipation that they bless you and your significant other, as well. 

The Temperament God Gave You/ God Gave Your Spouse by Art and Laraine Bennett: These books by a Catholic married couple, one a licensed marriage therapist and one with a Masters in philosophy break down certain tendencies, virtues, and weaknesses particular to the four temperaments of classical philosophy, with a solid spiritual element added in. They were so eye-opening to me! Although Hunter and I both agreed not everyone fits perfectly into the four temperament profile, it's is definitely a great place to start understanding yourself and your significant other in a deeper manner. 

The Jeweler's Shop by Karol WojtylaNot to be dramatic, but this is, hands down, my favorite piece of literature of all time. I first saw this play performed during my sophomore year in college and have read it at least five times since. I even wrote a paper on it in graduate school! The future JPII's play focuses on three different couples, all at different stages of their relationships. I can't recommend it enough! 

Three to Get Married by Fulton SheenThis was also a very formative book for Hunter and me. Fulton Sheen taught at our alma mater, Catholic University, and was a brilliant priest. He talks about the ins-and-outs of marriage in a down to earth way while still communicating the mystery of the sacrament. 

Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis: Hunter and I are currently reading this encyclical with our marriage mentors. After reading just the first chapter, I was completely blown away. The Pope definitely gathers the wisdom of the Church while also discussing the hardships and challenges that couples and families encounter as they live and breathe their vocation.  

Theology of the Body Institute: I haven't attended a course at the TOB Institute yet but I've had several friends attend and they have raved about it.

Through the Bible and Catholic tradition, Theology of the Body explains that our bodies reveal the deepest mysteries of God and humanity. 

Wherever you are in your faith journey, the Theology of the Body Institute is an awesome way for you and your fiancé to grow in your understanding of God's design for your marriage. 

Called to Love by Carl Anderson: I read this book while attending the John Paul II Institute, and it's incredible. If you don't have the means to attend the Theology of the Body Institute, I highly recommend Called to Love as a great alternative. Carl Anderson is the Supreme Knight of Columbus and makes St. Pope John Paul II's teaching on Theology of the Body applicable and accessible. 

By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride by Alice von Hildebrand: This book has made me feel much less alone during my engagement! The format is an older Alice writing to a new bride, Lily. Lily pours out her heart to Alice about newly married life. Lily's problems, fears and excitement are relatable, Alice's words refreshing and encouraging. 

Beloved by the Augustine Institute: Beloved is a 12-week DVD and study guide series for engaged or married couples. This is a great resource for education if you are your fiancé are looking to go a bit further in preparing for marriage or improving your relationship. Although Hunter and I haven't gone through the program personally, it's come highly recommended by several friends. It looks incredible and I'd love us to go through it eventually. 

The Little Oratory By Leila Lawler: One of my favorite books that I've read during marriage preparation! Leila is the mother of a college classmate and runs the successful blog Like Mother, Like Daughter. In The Little Oratory, Leila discusses how families can incorporate liturgical living into their everyday lives through prayer and intentional living. There are also beautiful icon images included with the book that make for a beautiful beginning to your own oratory. 

I'd love to hear your additions to this list! What are your favorite resources for marriage preparation? Share them in the comments below!

About the Author: Elise Crawford is Spoken Bride's Social Media Coordinator. She is the owner of Ringlet Studio marketing. Read more


Elise's Wedding | Why It Matters That We're Marrying in a Church, and Choosing Our Mass + Reception Locations



SAVE THE DATE ...our Social Media Coordinator, Elise Crawford, is marrying Hunter, her college sweetheart, on August 12, 2017. We're overjoyed for her and are thrilled to share with you a peek into one bride's real-life wedding planning. Over the next year, we'll feature monthly pieces from Elise on marriage prep, choosing wedding details, and her spirituality as a bride-to-be. Join us in praying for Elise and Hunter during this sacred time of anticipation!

Photography: Meaghan Clare Photography at The Shrine of St. Anthony 

Hunter and I now are in the thick of wedding planning! In the last month, we looked at 10 different reception venues (!) and three different church locations. In the spirit of honesty... this process was much more difficult than I expected.

After viewing all of the venues, we chose a church for the Mass, one five minutes from my parents' home, and a beautiful reception venue located about 15 minutes from the church. We booked both for August 5, 2017. Well, one week after we did so, the reception venue called and informed us that August 5th was no longer available! Long story short, we ended up pushing our wedding back one week and booking another church.

Needless to say, this whole experience was a bit stressful. Coordination between the church and reception venue was not the easiest. So why, as Catholics, do we value the location of our wedding ceremonies? Why do we need to marry in a church? Why couldn't I just get married at my reception location? 

According to Canon Law, a couple who wishes to be married in the Catholic Church must do so according to canonical form. This means a marriage between two Catholics, or between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic, is to be celebrated in a formal church setting. Those who wish to wed someplace else, say outdoors, must obtain permission from their Diocesan Bishop. This is a true possibility, but receiving this permission isn't very easy. In order for a dispensation to be granted, there must be a grave reason why the couple cannot marry within a church. 

So, does the Church just want to cramp our style? Does it just like limiting our choices for wedding locations to make things difficult? Of course the answer is no! But why?

The answer goes back to the fact that marriage, at its core, is a sacrament. At the moment of our vows, Hunter and I will be entering into a sacred bond, something that exists beyond just the two of us. This 'yes' to each other involves not only our decision to marry, but it also involves our Creator, our Redeemer and our Lover, Jesus Christ. The act of having a wedding within the Church is a reminder of our origin as human beings. We were created in Love and it is within the presence of God, Love itself, that we promise a forever love to each other as husband and wife. 

As Catholics, we recognize the sacredness of a physical church. Not only is it a place of prayer and peace, it is the home of the Eucharist. One could argue that yes, we do find God's presence everywhere-- in nature, in every day moments--but it is within a church, in the presence of Jesus' body and blood, that we find him fully: body, blood, soul and divinity. The Catholic Church recognizes the beauty and sacredness of marriage and therefore asks couples to share in that sacredness on their wedding day; to enter into the sacrament of marriage in the presence of God himself ,asking him to be present with them as they begin their life together. 

Paulist Father Larry Rice wrote, "A church isn't just a set or backdrop for a wedding; rather, a wedding is an expression of a faith community's joys and hopes." One of the most humbling parts of planning a wedding is realizing that it's really not all about you and your fiancé. Suddenly everyone, not just the two of you, has an opinion about the photographer, the food, and the bridesmaid dresses! No matter how stressful, this is a good thing. Planning your life with your future spouse should involve your friends and family. It truly is a communal effort. Sacraments, including the sacrament of marriage, belong not only to the person or people receiving the sacrament, but to those they love and who love them. 

A sister once told me that a vocation, either to religious life, marriage or priesthood, is truly for the whole Church, the whole world. She is so right. Holding your wedding in a Catholic church is a beautiful act of surrendering your marriage, not only to God in asking for His guidance, but to the Church as a whole. By getting married in a church, you are making a statement to your community that says, 'Our marriage belongs to God, our Church, our families and our friends." Like the Eucharist, a married couple is meant to be broken and given. Their talents, love and future family are truly a gift to everyone they encounter. Through good times and bad, the couple will strive to make a gift of themselves to those around them. 

If you're having a difficult time accepting the Church's teaching on your wedding location, take heart. You are not alone! Pray to Our Lady and ask for her to show you the sacred beauty of the Church. Spend time in your local parish praying; open your heart to the beauty of the Tabernacle in front of you. 

Any brides out there that have struggled with finding a reception venue or Church location? Share your experience below in the comments! As always, please pray for Hunter and I as we continue on this journey toward the sacrament of marriage! 

About the Author: Elise Crawford is Spoken Bride's Social Media Coordinator. She is the owner of Ringlet Studio marketing. Read more