Bridget + KC | Traditional Christmas Octave Wedding

During a carpool to a retreat at a dinnertime pit stop, Bridget and KC met in a Wendy's checkout line as sophomores in college.

During the retreat, they bonded over The Food Network, dishwashing, and prayer. These conversations sparked a wonderful friendship. They looked forward to running into each other at their St. Paul University Catholic Center, and KC walked Bridget to her car each evening to make sure she was safe.

One afternoon after daily Mass, KC asked her on a date. Bridget thought about how much she appreciated him asking in person, and specifically "on a date" before enthusiastically saying yes. They went to a pumpkin patch and corn maze and were amazed to spend six hours together without a single lull in conversation.

After some prayer and discernment, they officially started dating a few weeks later.

From the Bride: For the next two years our “ongoing date” was trying to visit as many churches as we could. At each location we prayed in, we picked up a rock from outside the church and numbered it. Looking back on these rocks, we like to think about the churches and the prayers they represent. They are the rocks we have built our relationship with, like the reflection in Matthew 7.

During this time, I was able to spend two weeks visiting KC while he studied abroad. We went to Italy for Holy Week and spent Good Friday in Assisi. We even attended the Easter Vigil in St Peter's. Being in Rome for Easter was such an amazing opportunity for prayer, joy, and discernment for our relationship’s future.

While we were long-distance, we also scheduled holy hours together, taking into account the time difference, so that we could still pray together. Being united in prayer made the distance more bearable.

KC proposed in September 2016 at St Mary’s of Pine Bluff church. The proposal was at the end of a scavenger hunt for letters that each included a puzzle piece. When I found him in front of the altar he said, "I think you have some puzzle pieces. We work best together as a team, will you help me put it together?"

The puzzle read "Will you marry me?" and KC asked me, "Bridget, would you do me the honor of allowing me to love you into heaven?" I obviously said "yes!

Our engagement seemed like a long one, but the whole time it was apparent that Christ was still working on our hearts and helping us to become better versions of ourselves so we could be the best spouses for each other. Every aspect of our marriage prep highlighted areas we still needed to grow personally and spiritually. We named Sts. Francis and Claire patrons of our engagement.

Planning a wedding together was so much fun, and I was very excited to have KC's enthusiastic help in the process, especially with the nuptial Mass.

Our main goal and theme of our Mass was "verso l'alto" (an Italian phrase made famous by Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that means “to the top” or “towards the heights”). We wanted everything to point to Christ and to give glory to God.

When meeting with our main celebrant, Fr. Eric Sternberg, he asked us, "What is our goal here? Have a beautiful Mass and a fun party, or knock everyone’s socks off by being a tool of evangelization and praise the Most High God?" We laughed a little, not really seeing the difference, and said "both?" He chuckled a little and responded, "right answer, I am so excited."

We knew we were lucky to be married at St. Paul’s, the university chapel where our relationship began and grew. Additionally, we told Fr. Eric the more smells, bells, and gold we could incorporate, the better. Our wedding was planned to take place within the octave of Christmas, so why not? Not only were we receiving a sacrament, we were also celebrating Christ's birth!

My family has been blessed to have many priest friends, several of whom are godfathers to my siblings, so naturally they had to be included in the Mass. The total number of celebrants came to seven, plus a deacon. We had hoped to have Bishop Morlino there too, a good friend of my family, but we were not able to extend an invitation before his passing in November. Our Mass was served by several seminarian friends and two of my brothers.  

KC and I wanted to make sure there was a lot of symbolism and tradition in the Mass, even if only the two of us noticed or knew about it.

For example, both of our rings are custom-made. KC’s ring was crafted with a band of gold from his mom's old wedding ring and set between two bands of silver from her purity ring. His growth and spiritual life was kindled by his mother. Now it is my responsibility to support and care for him in this vocation.

My engagement ring has his mom's diamond from her same old wedding band, and my wedding band has fifteen tiny diamonds that I associate with a number of spiritual references: the fifteen prayers of St Bridget, my patron saint, the fifteen original mysteries of the rosary, and the fourteen stations of the cross, plus the resurrection.

My bridal colors we also chosen for religious symbolism: burgundy for the bridesmaids’ dresses and groomsmen's ties with gold as an accent. Not only was our wedding within the octave of Christmas (and those are both great Christmas colors), it was on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and we decided on red for those precious martyrs. Shades of red also symbolized devotion to the Sacred Heart, which runs through our family and social circle.

KC and I had a candle lit in the sanctuary with Bishop Morlino's photo in memory of him, and our recessional hymn, “O God Beyond All Praising,” was partially chosen with him in mind, since it was one of his favorites.

We also memorized our vows, rather than repeating after the priest. KC and I wanted to make sure our vows were ones that we knew forward and backward and fully understood what they meant. It was a little weird to practice our vows with each other in the months before our wedding, so we replaced "husband" and "wife" in the first line with "friend" while we practiced.

At our wedding, we both almost said “friend,” and it was funny for the two of us, even though no one else knew! But it was very worth it, and we still hold hands once in a while and repeat our vows to each other.

The Mass was celebrated ad orientem, and we incorporated many Latin responses. Readings were chosen with Theology of the Body in mind and as much foreshadowing of the heavenly wedding feast of the Lamb as possible. The gospel reading (Jn 2:1-11) is one of our favorites because it contains the last recorded words of Mary: "Do whatever He tells you." They are a good command for us to remember as we begin our life together following God's plan.

We each had a holy hour the morning of the wedding and went to confession the night before. My father walked with me to the bride and groom’s "first look." KC and I wanted to process into the church together, so in order to still give my dad the opportunity to "give the bride away," we had him escort me then.

After our first look, my parents gathered with us to share a prayer they had written for us. KC and I read our letters to each other and prayed together for a brief, special moment. Then, just before starting the processional, my bridesmaids prayed over me.  

The Mass was a dream. Everything went smoothly; our musicians (all music majors and two opera/musical theater majors) were phenomenal.  KC says that our friend Ben put Andrea Bocelli to shame with his Ave Maria for our Marian consecration, which was the final day of our 33 Days to Morning Glory renewal. There was so much joy, peace, and excitement for both of us as we knelt and prayed after communion.

One of the priests told us afterwards that seeing the joy and radiance on our faces as we prayed gave him so much hope for the future and deepened his flame of love for his own bride, the Church.

We didn't share our first kiss at the altar. Rather, we snuck off for a few moments alone in one of the spiritual direction rooms in the basement of the Newman Center. Those moments were so important for us to share our joy, prayers, and thoughts from Mass and to take a deep breath before family photos and being passed around from guest to guest the rest of the evening.

Our honeymoon was in Italy, where we made another pilgrimage to Assisi to thank Sts. Francis and Claire for their intercession in our engagement and to Rome for the Sposi Novelli blessing.

Wedding planning can be a lot of fun if you are striving to have a celebration that reflects goodness, truth, and beauty. KC and I encountered our own share of spiritual warfare, but because God always comes through on his promises, we received many, many comments from our priests and our guests about how peaceful everything and everyone was.

We could feel that peace too. When we trust the Lord, really trust him to take care of things and to have a better plan than we have, everything works out, and it brings joy and light to other people's personal and spiritual lives.

Photography: Wild Elegance LLC | Church: St. Paul's University Catholic Center | Reception: St. Paul's University Catholic Center | Rings: Diny's Diamonds (Madison, WI) | Dress: Brides N Belles (Reedsburg, WI) | Veil: JJ's House | Shoes: Amazon, Overstock | Brides Jewelry: Handmade | Groom's Suit: JC Penney | Cake: To Di For (Stoughton, WI) | Hair and MU: The Posh Beauty Bar, done by Katrina (Stoughton, WI) | Caterer: Blue Plate Catering | DJ: Midwest Sound DJs | Flowers: DIY, purchased through Costco floral | Girls dresses and mens suits were purchased on their own. Men's ties were from Amazon. | Invitation Suite: By the bride

Natasha + Tim | New Year's Winter Watercolor Wedding

We are honored by the opportunity to walk alongside you in this marriage ministry, from Yes to I Do and beyond, and we love returning to our couples' stories as they continue to unfold. If we've featured your love story in our How He Asked engagement series and you now feel called to share your wedding with us, as well, submission details can be found here.

Read more here for the story of Natasha and Tim’s engagement story, previously featured on the blog. 

Community is an essential part of the celebration of marriage. Although it is a sacrament conferred between two people, marriage is always meant to point outward, to be open to life and service in a myriad of ways, and to become the foundational unit of the larger community.

Natasha and Tim celebrated this communal aspect of marriage by intentionally inviting their friends and family into the preparation. Whether it was wearing her aunt’s fifty year old wedding dress or teaching her family the art of watercolor for the invitations, Natasha and Tim’s love ignited the joy of their community.

May all engaged and married people embrace this beautiful sacrament that calls the bride and groom to always serve the other as well as their community of love around them.

From the Bride: Tim and I met junior year at the University of Minnesota, through the Catholic community of Saint Paul’s Outreach. Our time spent as friends during undergrad was filled with a lot of discernment and growth in our personal relationships with Christ.

Looking back, it is exciting to see how God was preparing our hearts as singles in ways that were going to allow us to be more "free" in a romantic relationship.

A strong theme throughout our relationship has always been community. We have been blessed with a community of faithful friends and family that Christ used to guide us through this initial period of discernment.

We officially started dating two and a half years after we met, right before I left for grad school, so the majority of our romantic relationship was long distance. Even though the distance was difficult, it forced us to be intentional with our relationship, and the time spent as friends gave us the confidence to pursue marriage. We had to become quite creative with ways to invite Christ into our relationship such as praying together over the phone nightly.

A little over a year into dating, Tim asked me to marry him over-looking the central square of our alma mater on New Year’s Eve.

We must have a thing for romantic events in the freezing cold, because almost exactly a year later on December 30, 2017, we said our vows.

The high temperature on our wedding day was an aggressive 14 degrees below zero. Such is the gamble with a New Year’s wedding in Minnesota! But despite the cold, we had an amazing, Christ-centered day with those we love--and everyone’s cars started the next day.

We were fortunate enough to do a majority of our marriage preparation with Father Mike Schmitz, and one of the ideas he brought up early on was how marriage and holy orders are the two sacraments that are intended to be sacraments for “others."

He challenged us to take this to prayer, and it sparked a larger conversation between us about what it meant for our marriage to be something that was to be shared with others, to help reveal something about Christ to the world.

We felt Christ was placing on our hearts the importance of community and marriage as a unique mission field for evangelization. As a result of this conviction, we spent a lot of time discerning unique ways in which we could invite our guests into the celebration in an intentional way.

To start, we saw the personal touches the Church allows couples to incorporate into the wedding liturgy as an opportunity for our guests who were either not Catholic or fallen-away from the Church to be welcomed and invited to witness the beauty of our faith. As Saint Pope John Paul II says, the liturgy would be our “profession of faith.” Father Mike was able to provide us with a really great template for our wedding programs to help explain the Mass to our guests and encourage participation.

Tim’s parents are both music teachers, so it was an easy choice to have his family create a choir that did a phenomenal job setting the tone for the liturgy and leading the congregation in participation with hymns. As it was the octave of Christmas, the bridal party and myself processed in to “O Come All Ye Faithful” and we recessed to “Joy to the World.” It was such a joy to see guests with their hymnals open, belting out a favorite Christmas hymn. I felt like they were singing my dad and I down the aisle!

Continuing in the theme of community, we wanted our guests to feel welcome and enjoy the reception. For us, this meant hiring a great DJ who shared our faith and vision of the day, but who could also MC well, inviting our guests into the celebration.

We chose a round head table for us and our wedding party that sat in the center of the room among our guests. It was one of my favorite elements because we felt surrounded by those we loved rather than set apart from them. One of our favorite memories of the reception was dancing the night away with our guests, many of whom stayed until the final song!

I was able to design our invitations, programs, table numbers, and place settings. I even got to teach the ladies of my family about watercolors as they helped me finish all the invites. My mom and mother-in-law are crafty too, so I set them to work on the flowers, and together we created all the bouquets and the gorgeous fern chandelier that hung above our round head table.

My mom baked the wedding cake, and a family friend made over three hundred cupcakes in our favorite flavors for the guests. Meanwhile, my aunt sewed all the bridesmaids’ custom robes for a comfy gift the morning of the wedding, and my sister did my hair and make-up. It was such a joy to stay in my pajamas for as long as possible on such a cold morning!

My wedding dress was my aunt's, who celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary with my uncle this year. She was so honored to have me wear it, and it was truly my dream dress. My mom, who is a handy seamstress, helped to make it my own with a modern take on the back.

Some advice I would give to other Catholic brides is to use your resources well. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and don’t believe the lie that you have to spend a ton of money to have a beautiful wedding. Find centerpiece items at thrift shops or trade expensive favors for a creative, late-evening snack bar (we brought out popcorn halfway through the evening as an inexpensive dancing snack that the guests loved).

Use the gifts and talents of your friends and family--they are itching to help, and you will make some beautiful memories. It is also a great way to foster community and share your faith by showing others the beauty and depth of the marriage sacrament.

Above all, have confidence that if you and your fiancé are focused on the right stuff (Jesus Christ), your friends and family who understand the true purpose of your day will create an environment where you feel loved and everyone is having a good time.

St. John Paul II discusses the importance of community and the mission of marriage in his exhortation to the family when he says,

“The celebration of the sacrament of marriage is the basic moment of the faith of the couple. This sacrament, in essence, is the proclamation in the Church of the Good News concerning married love. It is the word of God that "reveals" and "fulfills" the wise and loving plan of God for the married couple, giving them a mysterious and real share in the very love with which God himself loves humanity. Since the sacramental celebration of marriage is itself a proclamation of the word of God, it must also be a "profession of faith" within and with the Church, as a community of believers, on the part of all those who in different ways participate in its celebration.”

One of my favorite memories of the wedding ceremony was singing "Tantum Ergo" shortly after communion as Tim and I knelt in front of the cross. The entire church, filled with people of all faiths and from all elements of our lives, was oriented toward the cross with us as we prayed together, and Tim and I's love for one another had brought them there! It felt like a precursor of what Heaven may be like, standing at the foot of Jesus, praising him.

I glanced over sideways at Tim and had to fight back tears at the realization that this man wasn't just willing to bring me to the cross, but kneel with me humbly before Jesus. It was in that moment that no amount of stress or seating charts or color swatches could have ever mattered.

Tim and I were saying “yes” to a lifelong mission of walking toward the cross together and reminding each other of our true identity as a son and daughter of God when we forget. We are building a foundation in which we can bring Christ to any person we encounter along our journey.

I cannot wait to see what God does with our “yes.”

Photography: Sarah Ascanio Photography | Mass: The Church of Saint Mark, Saint Paul, Minnesota | Reception: The Pavillion at Lake Elmo, Lake Elmo, Minnesota | Bride's Engagement Ring: Shane Co. | Wedding Rings: Etsy | Bride and Bridesmaids bouquets: Bloominous | Table Flowers, Boutonnieres: Bought in bulk from Hy-vee Floral | Invitations/Stationary/Programs: Handmade by the Bride | Bride's Dress and veil: Family Heirlooms, Aunt's dress/Sister's veil | Bride's Earrings: Edina Jewelry Store | Groom and Groomsmen attire: The Black Tux, The Steinbeck Outfit | Bridesmaids' Attire: Revelry Dresses in Better Together Blue and Lavender Colors | Bridesmaids' Jewelry: Target | Cake: Homemade by Mother of the Bride | Cupcakes: Homemade by Family Friend | DJ Services: DJ Bill Lage | Rehearsal Dinner Food: DarBar Indian Restaurant | Rehearsal Dinner Location and Beverage: Bad Weather Brewery

Finding Your Wedding Style + Planning Your Liturgy: A Look Back on Spoken Bride Weddings

Are you recently engaged and just beginning to identify your wedding aesthetic? Did you know Spoken Bride weddings are indexed by color, style, and state?

Click the tags at the bottom of each wedding feature to see similar celebrations. It’s our honor to be invited into the unique, singular beauty of each of our couples’ special days and to share the distinctively Catholic elements that elevate their wedding days and point their guests’ senses heavenward.

Here, a collection of our past features. For our new brides, we hope they help you find your own style and introduce you to some of our incredible couples whom you might not have encountered before. For longtime readers, enjoy this look through the archives! Wherever you’re coming from we desire above all that like us, you’ll take in these stories and step back with nothing but awe, reverence, and gratitude for the Father’s fathomless love for his children.

Cultural traditions

Maria and Santi’s Buenos Aires wedding and bilingual nuptial Mass | Edith and Bomani’s Kenyan Catholic wedding | Elisabeth and Salvador’s El Salvadorian wedding | Lisa and Steve’s elegant resort wedding ,celebrating the bride’s Polish heritage

For the classic bride

Blair and Jordan’s fireside black-tie wedding | Jamie and Seth’s Baltimore wedding with astronomy-inspired details, designed by the bride | Sarah and Christopher’s Kate Spade-inspired wedding | Maggie and Ryan’s walk from literal blindness to true seeing, and their vineyard brunch wedding

Holiday weddings

Emily and Daniël’s Praise and Worship-filled Christmas season wedding | Christina and Kristian’s Austin wedding, with holiday colors and Christmas hymns | Genevieve and Dalton’s festive celebration at Rock ‘N Bowl | Caroline and Matt’s elegant cathedral wedding, rich with family heritage | Kaitlyn and John’s New Year’s wedding in blue, gold, and white | Becca and Phil’s Christmas picnic wedding

For the vintage-lover

Emma and Mark’s 1920s-inspired Arkansas wedding | Ada and Greg’s Texas celebration with her grandmother’s dress and other family heirlooms

Regional-inspired weddings

Fatima and John’s Tuscan-inspired celebration and Italian honeymoon | Brooke and Tim’s taste of Southern Virginia hospitality | Emily and Bradley’s & Katherine and Jonathan’s Louisiana weddings, inspired by French and New Orleans traditions | Erin and Andrew’s relationship guided by Our Lady of Perpetual Help, their Notre Dame Basilica wedding and reception football game | Cynthia and Chad’s Midwestern traditions and the beautiful significance of the Holy Land in their relationship | Sarah and Joseph’s Chesapeake Bay wedding with preppy and nautical details

For the rustic bride

Emily and Ben’s elegant evening on 40 acres of Nashville farmland | Chloe and Joseph’s winter farmhouse weddings and tips for spending as much of your wedding day together as possible | Jamaila and Andy’s NYC courtship and wedding filled with elements from nature

Ever ancient, ever new: unique Catholic devotions

Joan and Matt’s summer wedding, with original music composed by the bride | Kelsey and Jacob’s personal marriage prayer, and tips for writing your own | Susanna and Brad’s vineyard-inspired wedding and reflections on marriage, the priesthood, and religious life | Beth Anne and Tom’s beautiful alternative to a bouquet and garter toss | Robyn and Greg’s Divine Mercy weekend wedding and the role of this devotion in their relationship | Janae and Ryan’s foot-washing during their first look | Rosanna and Matthew’s Norbertine liturgy in English and Latin | Erica and Chris’s decision to say their vows over a crucifix | Laura and Alexandre’s fully sung Mass at a California mission | Bridget and David’s hometown Mass and decision to memorize their vows

For the DIY bride

Angela and Lucas’s farmhouse-chic Indiana wedding | Katherine and Ian’s handmade floral arrangements and reception catered by family | Amy and Jake’s Colorado Springs celebration with hand-lettered details, homemade centerpieces, and a custom crossword

City weddings

Anna and Mike’s Minneapolis nuptials | Maggie and Eric’s downtown Denver wedding | Chelsy and Ben’s portraits at the Washington, D.C. monuments during the Cherry Blossom Festival | Chelsea and Nick’s Pittsburgh black-tie evening

For the boho bride

Kelly and Peter’s high school sweethearts story and outdoor California reception | Heather and Jude’s transatlantic romance and bayside wedding day

Military weddings

Alana and Stephen’s conversion story and Air Force wedding | Hannah and Jared’s sophisticated Pittsburgh wedding, with the groom in Captain’s dress

Special circumstances and non-Roman rites

Andrea and David’s convalidation ceremony and powerful conversion story | Julia and Francis’s Byzantine liturgy | Dominika and Joseph’s & Gabrielle and Vince’s Ordinariate weddings | Victoria and David’s journey of discernment and conversion | Jenna and Michael’s Italian family-style wedding | Heather and Matthew’s witness to divine love’s healing power and their family-centered wedding with their daughters | Ashley and Ashbee’s black and white WVU wedding and advice for accommodating non-Catholic guests

For the romantic bride

Julie and Rudy’s elegant blush wedding and a love story that began in Fatima | Katherine and Dominic’s hometown wedding and rainy night reception | Elise and Hunter’s long-awaited celebration in the Maryland countryside

Feeling a call to share your proposal or wedding day with our community? Submission info can be found here.

Images by Spoken Bride Vendor Horn Photography & Design, seen in Melissa + Antonio | Springtime Ballroom Wedding

Victoria + David | Antique Glamour Wedding & a Conversion Story.

Victoria and David were a 100% match for religious values on an online dating site. And yet, she was a faithful Catholic who worked for the Church and had spent many years discerning religious life, while he was the minister of a Non-Denominational Evangelical community. Though each wondered if their differences could lead to a successful relationship, they were intrigued by their many similarities, and decided to at least go on a date.

“I thought it would be fascinating to talk about Jesus with a devout, joyful Protestant minister,” says Victoria. “I was right! We had incredible conversations, deep and very spiritually energizing, as one date led to another and another. David's theology seemed very close to Catholicism, and I was surprised how his own study and prayer had led him away from certain doctrines typically associated with Protestantism.

Hesitation took over, however, as their theological differences posed obvious barriers that would make marriage problematic. Victoria and David broke up as the difficulty of how they’d raise future children became increasingly evident.

“We both felt like martyrs,” Victoria says, “laying our growing love for each other at the Lord’s feet in order to be faithful to him.”

She continued to marvel, though, at how wonderfully paired they seemed in every other way. The Lord wasn’t finished working in their relationship.

From the Bride: A short time after our breakup, I contacted David with a high stakes invitation that seemed doomed to fail: perhaps we could date if David earnestly explored the possibility of becoming Catholic.

At first, David rejected the offer as impossible, but later agreed, believing that by seeking the truth we would land on the same page (he was convinced I would become Protestant). He also asked that I pray to see the beauty in Protestant communities. Over the next weeks and months, God did bring us to the same page, and answered both of our prayers!

David’s prayer and study, particularly of the Catechism and the Church Fathers, led him to the decision to enter full communion with the Catholic Church. God had also brought me to see beautiful workings of the Holy Spirit in Protestant communities, and to long even more for the unity of the Church.

We see our marriage as a sort of microcosm of the call to Christian unity. Our relationship is a source of great joy and growth as we are strengthened by the gifts we each bring.

Before meeting, John 17 was a favorite Scripture passage of each of us individually. It contains Christ's prayer to the Father for the unity of all who believe in him: “...that they may be brought to perfection as one…” This passage now has a double meaning for us in marriage as we allow the grace of Christ to make us more perfectly one, as husband and wife. We chose this passage the Gospel reading at our Mass, and David had ut sint consummati in unum engraved in his wedding ring.

David and I are both musicians, so the Nuptial Mass music was a high priority for us. We hired a professional choir and a few instrumentalists. Since David is not accustomed to Latin, we opted to seek out beautiful English settings and pieces. We chose a mixture of motets (including a beautiful Magnificat by Chris Mueller), the Heritage Mass sung in parts, a polyphonic introit, alleluia, and communion antiphon, and several congregational hymns. It turned out gloriously! David and I also made our vows over a crucifix that now hangs in our home.

We’d agreed early in our relationship to save our first kiss on the lips for our wedding day. This decision was always left open to discussion and revisiting if needed, but we continued to discern that we wanted to wait. To be clear, it’s not something we think is necessary for all couples, but it was something we prayerfully determined. Both of us had past relationships in which kissing was permitted, but we now desired to keep this special level of intimacy reserved for a lifelong commitment. We had a very affectionate relationship otherwise, and most people didn’t know this was a choice we had made.

Since some close friends were unable to attend the wedding, we decided to keep our bridal party simple, with one Matron of Honor (my sister) and one Best Man (David's brother). Our beloved nieces and nephews were the flower girls and ring bearers, and one nephew was an altar server.

We wanted the style of the wedding to be floral and antique-inspired, with burgundy, dusty rose, ivory, deep greens, and antique gold. The men’s vests and bow ties were burgundy, with David’s being champagne. My sister wore burgundy and gold.

As for my dress, I’d originally bought a more vintage-looking dress that needed substantial lace additions, but at the last minute, the wrong lace came in and I had to get a back-up dress! My second option was more of a princess style, which I had first avoided, but I couldn’t shake how beautiful I felt in it. By a providential turn of events, I was able to return the first dress and purchase the other for a discounted sample price. It turned out to be lovely and matched our flower girl dresses beautifully.

It was important to us that we honor my mother at the wedding, who passed away 9 years ago. I had a 10th anniversary ring of hers (from the year I was born) made into a cross necklace and into my wedding band. For the bridal procession my uncle (my mom’s brother) processed in holding a rose to represent my mother. At the reception, we also had an “in loving memory” table, and David and I sang a duet in her honor.  

We wanted a reception venue with lots of light that was big enough for a larger number of guests. We found a lovely one, where the owner even had a small chapel on the premises with a crucifix and stained glass window of the Wedding at Cana. For our first dance, we had a friend choreograph a waltz to “Clair de Lune.” Other fun details included a singing flash mob David planned with many of his performer friends. It was a medley from Fiddler on the Roof ("Sunrise, Sunset," "Wonder of Wonders," and "To Life L'chaim")! David and his mother also sang Andrea Bocelli's "The Prayer." It was a joyful and entertaining evening.

I look back and reflect on how beautifully marriage is celebrated by the Church, and how even one couple’s marriage is a special blessing to the whole Body of Christ. I was so moved by the way the Church prayed for us in the prayers of our Nuptial Mass, and simply desiring us to be deep vessels to receive all the graces of the sacrament. We were also touched by how our wedding was a source of joy--not only for us but for our friends, family, and even the priests who celebrated the Mass. We now pray for the grace to live our vocation faithfully and grow continually in love for God and one another.

Photography: Stephanie Messick Photography | Church:  Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville, VA | Wedding Reception Venue : Morais Vineyards in Bealeton, VA | Day-of wedding coordinator: MayJune events ; Rings and cross necklace: Yas & Co. Jewelers in Fairfax, VA | Flowers: Bella Floral in Front Royal, VA | Catering: Caroline Street Catering in Fredricksburg, VA | Hair and makeup: Yiselle Santos in Bristow, VA | Cakes: Gateau cakes in Warrenton, VA |  DJ: Voss Weddings | Music Conductor/Organist: James Senson from St. John the Beloved in McLean, VA

Becca + Phil | Christmas Picnic Wedding

In the past, Becca and Phil had both discerned religious vocations. By the time they both felt ready to date and pursue marriage, they met online. Becca shared in her profile that her dream man wouldn’t be unlike Ebeneezer Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, in A Christmas Carol.

A few days later, she received a message from Phil, sharing that he was an actor currently playing the role of Fred. Their conversations began flowing nonstop. One week later, they met face to face, and began officially dating the following month on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has since become their patroness.

From the Bride: We both knew pretty quickly that this was serious and we began to talk about marriage and family a few months in. During our courtship, we, who are both teachers, were both directing theatre shows at the same time that I was working and in grad school. Through all of the hectic scheduling and stress, we were still able to support each other through prayer and were able to attend every one of each other’s events.

After our engagement, things were crazy: I got a new job, Phil took on summer work to help with our expenses, and we decided to do all of the wedding planning ourselves. Yet through it all, there was so much growth and so many insecurities in us uncovered, so many new steps taken in our faith and so much joy shared in the chaos. With every step, we were extremely blessed. So many times we thanked the Lord for someone who was willing to help us or do something for the wedding for manageable rates. God continued to pull people out of the woodwork that consistently blessed us with financial gifts, emotional support or practical help. The Lord was so present there with us, and our celebrant and Pastor, Fr. Dan Leary, was a vital part of showing us or leading us into God's presence.

We got engaged at the Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg, Maryland, a place rich with meaning for us. We both feel very devoted to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and still visit the Shrine often. During our dating and courtship, we prayed the St. Andrew Novena and Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory Consecration to Mary. We followed that with Fr. Gaitley’s Consecration to Merciful Love. Right before our wedding, we wrote a novena that included all of our patrons.

The Mass was the most important part of planning for us. Though we were frequently told we needed to focus more on reception items, attire, or favors, both of us felt strongly that the Mass shouldn’t be on the back burner. We wanted the day to be focused on the sacrament and desired that the Mass would draw our friends and family closer to the Lord and the Church.

As musicians ourselves, the music for the liturgy was very important to us. We were blessed by eight of our close friends singing as a choir and by 3 priests who concelebrated the Mass. The liturgy opened with "Jesus, All for Jesus" and ended with "God, We Praise You," because this was the reason we decided to get married: to offer ourselves as a gift to God, to do His will, love Him and love each other.

The readings were from Song of Solomon 2:8-10, 14, 16; Psalm 34, Romans 12 and John 17. Fr. Dan's homily was focused on the reality of the sacrament, not just the symbolic gesture. His theme was 1+1=1, which quickly became our wedding hashtag. He focused "this body, broken for you" and our sacrifice for one another, in flesh and spirit. One of the most moving moments of the Mass was during the Communion meditation, set to the song "Even Unto Death" by Audrey Assad. It was, and is, our continued commitment to God and each other. There was a great witness during that moment that has been echoed by several of our guests, some of whom are not even Christians. We are confident that their testimony is the fruit of prioritizing the liturgy above everything else.

The day was full of trust and peace. We both took the morning pretty slowly and enjoyed some quality time with friends and in prayer. The celebration itself was also pretty simple. Because we paid for most things ourselves, we kept expenses to a minimum.

We used the December Christmas season to our advantage, calling our reception our "Christmas Picnic". We used chalkboards, biodegradable snow, white lights, curtains, pine and holly to decorate. We used pine and cedar disks as centerpieces, with lanterns on top. Phil even built a s'mores bar where guests could roast marshmallows. The meal featured picnic items: sandwiches, salads, lemonade, and chips, followed by hot chocolate, tea, hot cider and coffee. The casual theme allowed for a peaceful and fun atmosphere, where everyone could really relax and celebrate.

My dress was a beautifully unexpected choice. I went shopping with ideas in my head, but ended up with something totally different than I’d originally imagined.

At the reception, people continually came up to us raving about the ceremony. That was so wonderful after our frequent prayers that our Mass would be the focus of the day.

Despite cake getting on both of us (Phil had asked me not to, but some seminarians sitting by the cake pressured me into it at the last minute!), we were both overjoyed. We made lots of rounds to see everyone and remember the reception flying by. It truly was everything we thought it would be.

It was truly so meaningful as Catholics. The Mass was a milestone and because I'm a convert, it was so beautiful putting the whole thing together and seeing every part's meaning; the intention behind every word and motion. Our day was so special because the highlight, truly the "source and summit" was the Mass, the Eucharist and the sacrament of Matrimony. Having almost 200 people there to share this amazing occasion was so overwhelmingly beautiful and moving. We feel so blessed by Fr. Dan, by our family and what our wedding was and is for us now.

Photography: Amy Leigh Horan Photography http://www.amyleighhoran.com/ Church: St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Emmitsburg, Maryland | Reception Venue: Thurmont American Legion, Thurmont, Maryland | Engagement ring by Wholesale Diamond Consultants: http://www.wdc14k.com/, Flowers by Freesia & Vine: https://favflowers.com/, Invitations designed by the Bride and printed by Vistaprint: https://www.vistaprint.com/?rd=1, Decor Rental by I Do, You Do Wedding Decor Rentals: http://www.facebook.com/idoyoudo.wedding.rentals and Freesia & Vine: https://favflowers.com, Catering by Wegman's: https://www.wegmans.com/, Bride's dress from I Do I Do: https://www.idoidoweddinggowns.com/, Bride's veil from Your Heirloom Veil: https://www.etsy.com/shop/YourHeirloomVeil, Bride's shoes from Cinderollies: https://www.cinderollies.com/, Bride's jewelry from Lizardi Bridal: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LizardiBridal, Bride's fur bolero from Meshka Bridal: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MeshkaBridal, Groom and Groomsmen tie clips from SiBelle Jewelry: https://www.etsy.com/shop/SiBelleJewelry, Bride's Ring from Pompeii3: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Pompeii3, Groom's Ring from Manly Bands: https://manlybands.com/, Groom's suit, tie and shoe, and groomsmen ties by JcPenney: https://www.jcpenney.com/, Cake baked by Kelly Clabaugh, Fairfield, PA; Bride's makeup by Kim Sykes, Mary Kay Rep; DJ by Greffen Audio Visual: https://www.facebook.com/Greffen-Audio-Visual-232231706827995/; Reception Coordinator: Linda O'Brien, Mass Music provided by local musician friends, Cake Topper by Momo Rad Rose: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MomoRadRose

Genevieve + Dalton | Holiday Rock 'n' Bowl Wedding

Genevieve and Dalton met through mutual friends, in a van on a group trip to Disney World. After a bathroom break, the group members chose new seats. A copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce sat on Gen’s new seat and she asked who it belonged to. “This is a great book,” she said.

Dalton’s deep voice answered form the front: “Mine.”

From the Bride: I knew right then that I was in trouble.

Dalton and I were the only two on the trip who drank coffee in the morning. Each day, we walked to the food court alone before going out to the parks with everyone else. One morning, after making small talk while pouring the coffee, I looked at him and impulsively said, “You’re a good human being.” It was a very out-of-character move for my normally introverted self. He looked surprised and embarrassed. I just made this awkward, I thought to myself.

Things were indeed awkward for a while. We got home from the trip and began communicating in typical millennial fashion: over text and Facebook. Our first date was to see a production of The Screwtape Letters.

I learned over time that Dalton was indeed a good human being, perhaps the best I had ever met. He was kind and thoughtful. I never had to wonder if he liked me, or if I might do something to make him suddenly lose interest in me. From the beginning, he made it clear that he dated with the intention of finding someone to marry. I found his openness to be highly attractive, very masculine, and utterly refreshing. We started dating on March 19th, St. Joseph’s feast day. Dalton proposed on my birthday at St. Joseph’s Church, the place we would be married about one year later.

From the Groom: For me, I think it was the Boba Fett headphones Gen was wearing on the way to Disney World that had me smitten when we first met. There's a whole canyon between that first feeling and getting engaged, but in the interest of brevity, I'll just say we had lots of coffee dates and stargazing in my red truck, making it the best seven months of my life to that point.

I was so nervous the day I proposed. My brother was helping me orchestrate everything, and he went to the wrong church. St. Joseph really came through for me. I proposed in front of a statue of him, and the basket of petitions at the statue’s feet gave me a great segue into the proposal. All of my nerves quickly went away after she said yes. (continued below)

Genevieve: At our rehearsal dinner, I looked around at our family and friends laughing, eating, and talking with one another. Jesus' comparison of the kingdom of God with a wedding banquet suddenly became so real to me, and I was overcome with a desire for heaven.

That joy and peace continued into the day of our wedding. I wore my godmother's Juliet cap, which my grandmother had carefully saved. My mom gave me a pair of opal and blue topaz earrings--my birthstone and Dalton's, respectively. After a beautiful morning spent getting ready with most of the closest women in my life, I arrived at St. Joseph's Church and walked down the aisle to "The King of Love," a song which has been special to me in moments of great joy and of great sadness.

I tried to sing, but I got teary. On my arm, I saw that my dad was teary too (which, of course, made me even weepier.) I also didn't know where to look: at the tabernacle or at Dalton? There was just so much love coming from both places.

Our wedding Mass was a small taste of eternity. We chose familiar, simple Mass parts to encourage our guests to sing. The priests and altar servers were all dear to us, including Fr. Brent Maher, who had been with us on that group Disney trip. Surrounded by our family and friends and in front of God, we said our vows and became husband and wife. Receiving the Eucharist at our wedding Mass was a moment I hope to remember forever. We placed flowers in front of the statues of both Mary and St. Joseph, in the same place Dalton proposed.

Our reception flew by. It was a whirl of dancing, toasting, and red roses. We chose to have our reception at Rock N' Bowl, a New Orleans favorite combining a bowling alley with a live music venue, primarily because we knew how fun it would be. But also because Dalton is a great bowler. Our wedding colors were red, navy, and copper in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season.

I was especially happy with a few particular reception details. The first was a vintage cake topper I found online and re-painted to look like us, Juliet cap and all. The second was a selection of our favorite poems and songs, used as table centerpieces. After our wedding, I arranged all of the papers into a large frame which now hangs over our fireplace.

Our "guestbook" was a Christmas tree covered with wooden ornaments that our guests signed. We now place them on our family tree and pray for our guests as we do so. The cake pulls--a Southern tradition--were small lockets shaped like books. Inside each locket was a quotation about marriage, travel, babies, or friendship.

Dalton's groom's cake was a pile of Mr. Ronnie's Famous Hot Donuts, another Louisiana tradition. Several people confessed to me that they ate one before we did the cake cutting, which, in my opinion, was exactly the right thing to don. The toppers for that "cake" were Superman and Belle, our wannabe alter-egos.

The morning after our wedding, Dalton and I went to Mass and then hopped in the car for another road trip to Disney World. This time was better--it was our honeymoon.

Dalton: The day of our wedding...how can I summarize this in a couple of sentences? I didn't sleep the night before. I picked Gen's brother up from her house where she was getting ready, and I just wanted to run in and grab her and get married already.

Ever since our wedding Mass, I feel like I understand the Eucharist just a little bit more. The sacrificial love of Jesus became even more real that day.

At our reception, I just remember standing in the middle of the dance floor, incredibly happy. It was the best day, but they only get better.

Genevieve: Our wedding was the best day of my life. It’s true that the dress, the dancing, the flowers, the music all helped to contribute to the beauty of the day. But what really made it so wonderful was the glimpse of the eternity it provided. Surrounded by loved ones, full of joy, in front of God--it was a foretaste of heaven. Dalton and I are pilgrims on the road that leads there, bound by the vows that we exchanged on our wedding day. And donuts. There were donuts.

Genevieve's sister, Katherine, also had a beautiful New Orleans wedding! See her celebration here.

Photography: Marroquin Photography | Church: St. Joseph's Catholic Church - New Orleans, LA | Wedding Reception: Rock 'n' Bowl | Videographer: Randy Diddly | Liturgical Music: Kathleen Lee, Eric Wilkes and James Rosenbloom | Reception Band: The Boogie Men | Flowers: The Crystal Vase | Cake: Haydel's Bakery | Groom's Cake: Mr. Ronnie's Famous Hot Donuts | Dress: Willowby by Watters | Shoes: Modcloth | Bridesmaid’s Dresses: Weddington Way | Men’s Suits: Tuxedos to Geaux | Handkerchiefs for parents and grandparents: Larkspur and Linen on Etsy | Bridesmaids’ robes: ComfyClothing on Etsy

Christina + Kristian | Austin Christmas Wedding

As our Associate Editor Christina Jaloway and her husband Kristian celebrate their first anniversary this Christmas season, we're overjoyed to share their wedding day with you!

Revisit Christina and Kristians' testimony and proposal here, then read on for the story of their Christmas season wedding, with beautifully rustic seasonal touches.

Christina and Kristian had a whirlwind courtship that began when Christina's mom met Kristian after Mass on January 31, 2016 and "introduced" them to each other via Facebook. A week later, Kristian flew from Austin, TX (Christina's hometown) to Phoenix, AZ (where Christina was living at the time) to take her on their first date. From almost the beginning of their relationship, both Christina and Kristian had the sense that the other was "the one", but they both felt the need to be prudent. When you're 32 and 40, prudence looks like waiting a few months before deciding to live in the same city and seriously discern marriage. Christina moved back home to Texas in May, Kristian proposed in July, and the couple were married on December 29, 2016--less than a year after they first met.

In Christina’s words: Our nuptial Mass was heavenly. From the moment I heard the preludes begin, I had total peace about entering into the sacrament of marriage with Kristian. As I walked down the aisle to "O Come All Ye Faithful," I had to hold back my tears; I was surrounded by family and friends who had loved and supported Kristian and me throughout our lives. My dad and I tried to keep our pace on the slow side so that I could take it all in, and I did. Kristian was beaming at me as my dad handed me off, and it locking eyes with him at that moment was surreal, to say the least.

I thought my joy was full at that point, but the Lord seemed to expand my heart as the Mass progressed: through the readings (read by our dads), which we had so carefully chosen, the beautiful music, and the gorgeous neo-Byzantine chapel with Christ the Teacher gazing down on us from above. By the time we got to the vows, I was overflowing with the deepest joy and gratitude I'd ever known. I'll never forget pledging my love for Kristian while holding the crucifix, and hearing him do the same for me. I'll cherish the memory of bringing flowers in honor of the Blessed Mother to the Nativity Scene and chanting the Salve Regina with what sounded like the entire congregation joining in.

Before we processed out of the chapel, Kristian and I paused and faced our friends and family as we sang "O God Beyond All Praising" with overflowing hearts. I could hardly believe that after so many years of praying and hoping and crying and waiting that I was finally united to the man who would help me get to heaven. My tears began to flow, but they were the most joyful tears of my life.

Later, at the reception, one of my aunts, who works at a Catholic church and has coordinated many wedding Masses, told me I was the happiest bride she'd ever seen. To which I replied, "How could I not be?" It took many years of single life for the Lord to bring Kristian and me together, but I can confidently say now that it was entirely worth the wait, and that the wait made that day so much sweeter and more profoundly beautiful than either of us could have imagined. I have to give major credit to our photographer for capturing the joy of the day so well: thank you, Leah!

In terms of the look of the wedding, I took advantage of the fact that we got married during the Octave of Christmas, which also happens to be my favorite time of the year, especially in Texas. Instead of picking one or two colors, I just went with rich jewel tones and gold accents, and let my bridesmaids (who are all family) pick their own dresses. The fact that they all ended up wearing long dresses in some iteration of navy was their doing entirely; I knew I didn’t have to worry about what the girls would pick as they all have excellent taste.  

Gretchen O’Neil and her team at Petals, ink. did a fantastic job on the florals: my bridesmaids and flower girls wore flower crowns (because...why not?) and I carried the most delicious-smelling bouquet of gardenia, ranunculus, roses, and winter greenery, wrapped with a beautiful white rosary that my sister Elisa bought for me. I also carried my deceased grandmother Flora's prayer book with me down the aisle, which all of my aunts and married cousins have also done. At the reception, I wore a wreath (also made by Gretchen) which was the perfect accent to my tulle ball gown and made me feel like queen-for-the-day.

Our beautiful and delicious cakes were designed by my brother Sean and his artistic team of bakers and decorators at Sweet Treets Bakery. The bride’s cake had three different flavors (my favorite was the almond) and was decorated in the “nearly naked” style that I prefer since I’m not a big icing person. Gretchen and Sean worked together to make the cake even more beautiful with florals and greenery. The groom's cake (a tradition in Texas) is a nod to two of Kristian's great loves (flying and the mountains), three of the places where he's lived/gone to school, and the fact that he reminds me of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, whose famous saying was "Verso l'alto!" or, "To the heights!"

Our invitations, seating chart, programs, and table numbers were all designed as a gift by one of my former students, Jenny, who is a talented graphic designer. She spent hours working on everything so that it would all look cohesive and beautiful, and I can't thank her enough.

The wedding favors (which I don't have a full photo of) were small Rose Harrington Art Prints of one of my favorite St. Augustine quotes, "Love is the beauty of the soul." I can't recommend her beautiful work highly enough!

Although the farm-to-table food at Barr Mansion was insanely good, my two favorite parts of the reception were by far the dancing and the toasts. My family loves to dance and our wedding reception was no exception (see photographic evidence below). Kristian and I took dance lessons for a few months before the wedding so that we could do a polished waltz to "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Lady Antebellum. It was so much fun and a great bonding experience for both of us. The toasts, especially the Holy Spirit-inspired one given by my sister Elisa were eloquent reminders of how blessed Kristian and I are to have such incredible families.

Speaking of families: there were a lot of them at our wedding. We had over 50 children under ten in attendance, and made sure they (and their parents) had a great time by providing coloring books, supervision during dinner--courtesy of my obliging college-age cousins--lots of outdoor space, and plenty of room on the dance floor. I loved seeing my nieces playing with my friends’ kids and watching my supermom friends dance with their babies in tow. The number of children at the wedding and reception was a reminder to everyone present that one of the two purposes of marriage is the procreation of children; plus, kids make dance floors more fun!

As Kristian and I got into our getaway car and headed to our honeymoon suite at a little B&B, I had one of the lines from "O God Beyond All Praising" stuck in my head: "blessings without number, mercies without end."

From the Groom: I have never experienced such a fast Mass as at our wedding; it literally seemed to fly by. Maybe part of it was the long wait to get to that day, or maybe it was just that Christina prepared the Mass with so much attention to detail, but it seemed like everything was in fast forward. Well, everything except for the twenty-one petitions Christina wrote for the prayers of the faithful.

We got to the vows in no time. My heart was bursting with joy the entire Mass. My friends knew how long my discernment had been, and how close to the priesthood I got, but I must say that not even serving at the Papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica could compare to this Mass. At the end of this Mass, I would be united to the most amazing woman in the entire world for the rest of my life.

A priest buddy of mine says discernment is where your will and God’s will meet. For me, that happened when I met Christina Grace. There we were, less than a year after our first meeting, standing before the Church, with several priest friends, with our parents and siblings and buddies and everybody else--all knowing full well what was going to happen that night--saying with their presence that this is good. God is good and he loves us so much, and we could feel it as he looked down from heaven and from the altar upon us, his little children. He continues to look down from the crucifix that hangs on the wall as I write this, with Christina snuggled up next to me on the couch. God’s will is mysterious, because she is a woman (dolcemente complicata or "sweetly complicated" as the Italians say), but it is so beautiful.

Advice from Christina: I don't think Kristian and I would have had such a blessed wedding day had we not prepared so much for our marriage through prayer, reading, tough conversations, and counseling--but especially prayer. During our engagement, we prayed every night, out loud, and extemporaneously. I think it makes a big difference in your relationship with Christ and with each other if you speak to the Lord together without the comfort of memorized prayers (those have their place, of course).

The fruit of this kind of prayer became clear to me at our pre-rehearsal Holy Hour: all I could pray the entire time was, "thank you, Jesus." Because despite the stress of engagement and wedding planning, I had complete peace about marrying Kristian. Kristian and I also met before the Mass in the confessional (so we wouldn't see each other) and prayed together, which I highly recommend. Prayer is the foundation of the spiritual life, and praying with your fiancé or spouse builds intimacy in a way that nothing else does.

Photographer: Leah Muse Photography  | Church: St. Louis King of France Catholic Church  | Reception & Catering: Barr Mansion | Flowers: Petals, ink.  | Dress: Second Summer Bride | Cakes: Sweet Treets  | Lighting: Ilios Lighting Design  | Alcohol: Trader Joe's  | Bridal party hair: Blo Blow Dry Bar| Programs and seating chart: Designed by a friend, printed by Miller Printing  | Invitations and table numbers: Designed by a friend, printed by Paper Place | Wedding Favors: HatchPrints | Band: Jumpstart