Mary + James | Sacred Heart Cathedral Wedding

Mary and James first connected online, and it quickly became obvious that they were both looking for similar qualities in a spouse.

Although circumstances kept them long distance, their relationship remained strong, and the Lord blessed them with an unexpected grace: a wedding on the solemnity of his Sacred Heart.

From the Bride: James and I met on Catholic Match. We were both looking for someone who shared our faith and way of life--the most important things to us. After that, we dated long-distance between Jefferson City and St. Louis for a year and a half.

Before boarding his train back home one day, James asked if I wanted to go visit St. Peter’s church nearby. Next to the statue of Saint Louis, James told me that our time in the city had taught him that the world was not enough. He wanted to give me more than this world could offer, just like Saint Louis himself who lived his life not for this world but the next.

He proposed to me at St. Peter’s in Kirkwood, Missouri. Needless to say, I said yes!

Shortly after getting engaged James left to Army JAG (Judge Advocate General) Training in Fort Benning, Georgia, and Charlottesville, Virginia for five months. During this time, our Pre-Cana classes were put on hold while he completed his training and I finished grad school.

When he returned we hit the ground running with our Pre-Cana courses at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis under the supervision of Deacon Todd.

A month before our wedding we were told it fell on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. This meant we would not be able to use any traditional wedding readings or psalms. Although we did not realize it when we picked the date, we were now presented with a great opportunity.

It was a chance to show our guests the love of Christ found in His Most Sacred Heart and the reflection of this love found in the marriage of a husband and wife.

Our wedding mass was special in many ways. The biggest grace was celebrating our big day on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart in the beautiful Cathedral Basilica. Another fun and unique bonus was when the Archdiocesan Handbell Choir volunteered to play for the wedding, since I am a member! Hearing the beautiful bells ring throughout the cathedral was such a wonderful gift to us.

Additionally, even though James and I both have big families, we wanted everyone to have a part in the Mass if possible. Every member of the family was either in the wedding party or had a role as a lector, usher, or gift-bearer. Our photographer told us that our Mass was the most spiritual that he has ever witnessed.

Right before I walked down the aisle my bridesmaids and I began to pray, I could not hold back the tears of joy because I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude for the wonderful ladies in my life. As the tears began to flow my future sister-in-law took over the prayer, somehow taking the words right out of my mouth. It was such a special moment I will always remember.

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Photography: Mirage Photo | Church: Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, Saint Louis, MI | Reception: The Christy, Saint Louis, MI | Music: Archdiocesan Hand Bell Choir | Reception Music: DJ Connection | Hair & Makeup: New Seasons Hair Spa | Flowers: Carol’s Corner Florist & Gifts

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

Alana + Stephen | California Air Force Wedding

Alana and Stephen met through a mutual friend during their college years in San Diego. They quickly fell in love, though with a major difference between them: Alana was a Non-Denominational Protestant, and Stephen was Catholic. The Lord was about to draw them into his heart.

From the Bride: Throughout our relationship, I prayed asking God what to do and--if Stephen was the one--how would our interfaith marriage work. I ended up finding a book written by a Catholic Priest, Robert J. Hater: When A Catholic Marries A Non-Catholic. It answered so many of my questions and I was even able to contact Fr. Hater! He became my spiritual counselor, and later that year I converted to Catholicism.

My faith has grown immensely since converting and having Stephen by my side to answer any questions and support me has only made our love for each other grow. We became engaged on December 23, 2016 and later found out Stephen's report date for pilot training moved up for the Air Force. We had a short engagement, yet God was looking out for us and provided us with a church and reception venue.

When we found an available church, we fell in love. Not only was it beautiful and in a great location, but we had a priest, Fr. Mark, who was a family friend of Stephen's. My mother-in-law is involved in Opus Dei and told us amazing things about Fr. Mark. We met with him once before the wedding and told him of my conversion story and more about our relationship. During our wedding liturgy, he gave an amazing homily that nodded to Stephen’s Air Force career, comparing flying to marriage.

For the readings, we wanted to include our family. Since I don't have grandparents, I asked Stephen's father's mother, and Stephen asked his mother's mother. It was such a lovely moment seeing both grandmothers holding hands up as they walked up to the altar. My only uncle and his family offered the gifts, and I loved including them even though they are not Catholic. Stephen's uncle, who had sung at each of Stephen’s sibling’s weddings, did the music.

We had decided early on that we would have a moment to thank the Virgin Mary during the Mass. I realized right before that I didn't have the flowers to offer her! Stephen, being the nice man he is, didn't want to go over there empty-handed. He squatted down and grabbed the large pot of flowers that were by the altar! Everyone got a little laugh out of that! He thankfully put them back down and we saw that the flowers were already there by Our Lady. I don't think anyone will ever forget that moment.

We wanted to start a tradition at our wedding. Stephen received a sword from his commissioning for being the top of his class, and we cut our cake with that sword. We hope to pass it down to our children.

It is also a family tradition that "Rain King" by the Counting Crows is played at weddings. I think you have to know all the words before becoming a part of Stephen’s family!

God always has a plan. When we started planning our wedding and Stephen’s report date changed, it really took us for a spin. But God provided for us with a church, venue, and priest. The day that I had to move out of my studio apartment was the day before our wedding--that's providence right there!

Early on, we struggled so much with being different faiths and spent so much time concentrating on the negatives. Little did I know that God brought us together to make us better Christians. Without Stephen, I would've never been exposed to Catholicism. I think for him, growing up Catholic was seen as a routine. Through my conversion, he was really brought to the basics and fell deeply in love with his faith all over again.

Photography: Kelli Seeley | Nuptial Mass or Engagement Location: Church of Santa Maria, Orinda, California | Reception: Orinda Country Club | Rings: Exclusive Diamonds by Carter  | Flowers: Clayton Sonset Flowers | Dress: BHLDN | Tux: The Black Tux | Cake: Susie Cakes | Catering: Orinda Country Club | Invitations and table signs: Minted |  Guest Sign In Book: Artifact Uprising

Chelsy + Ben | Feast of the Annunciation Wedding

Chelsy and Ben were both newcomers to Washington, D.C. the night a mutual friend introduced them at a Mass in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Their first conversation didn’t take place until, that same evening, they waited for a table at dinner with friends. Chelsy sensed a spark and invited Ben to the upcoming housewarming she and her roommates were hosting. In the weeks that followed, they got to know each other on several more occasions in groups.

For their first official date, Ben took Chelsy hiking, followed by lunch at his forever favorite, Chick-fil-A.  It was a perfect casual day that gave us plenty of time to get to know each other as we both tried not to twist an ankle,” says Chelsy, and a few months later, after a weekend ski trip with friends that involved Ben assisting Chelsy down the bunny slopes, they were both left thinking they might have found the one.

Within about six months, they knew it was love, and the desire to share one life grew continually stronger. “When you look forward for Friday night grocery shopping dates,” says Chelsy, “you know you’ve found the person you can spend your whole life with. We continued to pray and discern, but the Lord revealed His will in subtle ways as it became harder and harder to imagine life without each other.”

A year and a half later, on the backyard swing where he’d first asked her out, Ben popped the question on Chelsy’s birthday.

From the Bride: The night before our wedding, following our rehearsal dinner, we gathered with family and friends for a special Holy Hour. One of the Deacons serving at our wedding Mass led the hour of prayer, while our celebrant was available for confession. Ben's uncle generously led us in song, and we were both able to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. We spent much of that hour in silent prayer preparing our hearts to enter into marriage together. It was such an essential time to reconnect with one another and our Lord in the midst of all the craziness of wedding week. We both still had long to-do lists to accomplish, but for that hour we were able to refocus, put all our tasks aside, and remind ourselves of the reason behind the whole celebration.

The morning of our wedding we arranged to have gifts delivered to one another. In the Lord’s providence, we both had chosen to gift each other a crucifix. Ben gave me a delicate, golden crucifix to wear around my neck, the most perfectly unplanned wedding day accessory. I gave him a nuptial crucifix that now hangs on our bedroom wall. We both wanted to acknowledge that in marriage we were giving our lives to one another: pouring out our very selves in sacrifice for God’s glory, as Christ has done for us. The sanctuary of our parish Church is dominated by a gorgeous crucifix, under which is written, "As I have done, so you must also do." These words, such an important reminder during the weeks and months of preparation for our wedding day, were the perfect backdrop as we made our vows to one another.

Before the Mass began, we took time to pray together. As is the case for most wedding days, things hadn’t gone exactly according to plan that morning. But all the worries and anxieties melted away when I was finally able to hear Ben’s voice and join our hands in prayer.

Our wedding Mass took place on March 25, the day the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation. This has long been my favorite Marian feast day, having great significance in my spiritual life. To begin our marriage on the day the Church celebrates Mary's sweet fiat, and the Incarnation of our Lord himself, had such profound meaning for us and for our future family.

In taking one another as husband and wife, we were indeed giving our own fiat to the Lord, allowing Jesus to be incarnate in our marriage. It was such a powerful lens through which to view the marriage covenant.

We chose to have the Mass celebrated ad orientem. For those unfamiliar with this liturgical custom, ad orientem is a Latin phrase meaning "to the East," symbolizing the Church’s waiting in joyful anticipation of Christ’s coming.

The main difference in this celebration of the Mass is the orientation of the priest. During parts of the liturgy in which the priest and the congregation are joined in prayer addressed to God, the priest and the congregation all face the altar together in unified prayer. Alternatively, when the priest is directly speaking to the congregation, he turns and faces them, addressing them directly. This practice serves as a visual reminder of the moments we are united in prayer to our Lord and highlights the unity of the priest and the people. We found it so incredibly moving to celebrate our wedding in this ancient orientation, with all our family and friends gathered together, joining us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

We presented a bouquet of roses to Our Lady before the Mass concluded. We honored her on the feast of her great fiat which changed all of human history, asking her intercession as we began our life as husband and wife.

Since Ben and I met, dated, fell in love, and would start our family life together in D.C., it was really special to be able to celebrate our wedding in the place that has very much become home for us. Ben serves in the Air Force, so like other military families we will call many places home, but we know D.C. will always be a special place for us. Our family and friends came from all over, and it was such fun to share with them a place we love so much. Since it was Spring, the city was really showing off as the Cherry Blossoms were in peak bloom! The location and season definitely contributed to our classic, Capitol-inspired wedding and reception. Our entrance into the reception was marked by an Air Force saber arch, and aviation-inspired details were sprinkled throughout, including gliders for all the kiddos--and kids at heart.

We began our honeymoon by celebrating Easter in the Eternal City. On Holy Saturday, we stood in St. Peter's Square as the Holy Father celebrated the Easter Vigil. The bells rang out and the whole square was filled with overwhelming light, proclaiming the Resurrection of Christ.

In marriage, we accept the Cross and all its sacrifice, knowing that in doing so we are promised the joy of the Risen Christ! That promise had never felt so real and so new as it did standing in the square that evening as newlyweds. A few days later we were present for the Papal audience to receive the sposi novelli blessing, and were able to personally greet the sweet Holy Father. The rest of our honeymoon was spent journeying through Rome, Venice, Bavaria and Austria, visiting the most gorgeous Churches and asking for the intercession of each Church's patron, and those of its altars and artworks, all along the way. It was like one giant, geographic Litany of the Saints!

When I think back on our wedding day, I am consistently drawn to our vows and to the parallels between the marriage covenant and Mary’s great yes that led to the Incarnation of Christ.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary as a young girl, she--much like a young bride--had been preparing for her vocation. Mary may not have known she would be the Mother of God, but by nurturing an intimate relationship with the Lord, she had been preparing her heart to receive this great honor.

When she was told she would bear Christ, the Son of God, as a child in her womb, she couldn’t have known exactly what her acceptance would entail. She asked, “How can this be?” clearly knowing there would complications explaining how she—a virgin—was with child, all while betrothed to a man. Not only was it complicated; it could actually cost her her life. Yet she embraced all the possible suffering that lay ahead with her faithful response: “May it be done to me according to your word.”

In that moment, Mary may not have foreseen Calvary, but she trusted God to provide for her through whatever trials were to come. In much the same way, bride and groom cannot know the challenges and sufferings that await them in marriage. While they may have an idea, they don’t know what their specific Cross and Calvary will be, yet they enter a covenant—“for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”—for love of the other and love of Christ.

They say yes to one another, trusting in God’s plan, willing to sacrifice their very lives. Through this dying to self, the spouses come to know the joy of life with Christ. For Mary, it was only through her embrace of the Cross that she came to wear her Crown and reign as the Queen of Heaven. As spouses, we pray that our marriage will sanctify one another and lead us to experience the joy of Heaven—and even begin to taste its sweetness while here on Earth.

Photography: KT Crabb Photography | Church: St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, Fairfax, Virginia | Reception: St. Francis Hall at the Franciscan Monastery, Washington, D.C. | Bride's Dress: Stella York | Bride's Shoes: Betsy Johnson | Groom and Groomsman Attire: Jos. A. Bank | Cake: Wegmans | Rings: Personal Touch Jewelers | Stationary: Vistaprint

Anna + Mike | Downtown St. Paul Wedding

Anna and Mike met in ROTC early on in college, but didn’t become friends--and begin seeing the truth of one another’s hearts and character--until a few years later on a camping trip with mutual friends. In the months that followed, Anna felt herself falling hard for Mike, but didn’t think he was interested.

On her friend’s advice, Anna offered her and Mike’s relationship back to the Lord, asking that whether as spouses, friends, or even mere acquaintances, their interaction glorify Jesus. “The day I finally felt myself relent and let go of how I wanted the relationship and accepted what God had in store,” she says, ended up being the very day Mike expressed his romantic interest, and they began dating.

From the Bride: We dated for two years, including two long-distance summers--one of which was “letters only” while Mike attended field training. These months were trying, yet truly beautiful and formative times in our relationship. Marriages in which both spouses are members of the military present a unique set of challenges--these summers provided a taste of what such a marriage could like. We clearly saw our relationship was something special and worth defending.

We discussed marriage early on. By God’s grace, Mike and I had both spent a considerable amount of time as single individuals prayerfully considering the type of person we’d like to marry someday. As the months passed, it became more and more clear the this relationship fulfilled both of our desires.

I expected Mike would propose around the start of our senior year of college, but as the school year started with no signs of one, I began getting disheartened and frustrated. By a stroke of luck, I found myself at a Praise and Worship event at our campus parish one Sunday night after Mass. On a whim, I met with one of the religious brothers there and offered my relationship back to the Lord. Walking home, I felt overcome with a wonderful sense of peace. No matter what happened, I felt confident of the Lord’s presence in my life and knew I had no real reason to fear. The next day--our anniversary--Mike proposed. I was caught completely off guard and absolutely thrilled.

Mike and I envisioned our wedding day being a gift of joy, love, and excitement for as many people as possible. I pictured a wedding aesthetic that would be unique, but also timeless and classic.

I spent the night before the wedding with my bridesmaids. I was nervous for the big day, and it was such a comfort to be surrounded with wonderful, loving, generous, women; dear friends who had prayed with and comforted me back when Mike was just a long-shot crush of mine. One of my favorite memories was showing my bridesmaids my dress, which I’d kept secret, for the first time.

We invited many non-Catholic, and even non-Christian, guests, and felt it was important to portray the essence of the Church through our nuptial Mass. We knew that for many, this would be their first--and maybe only--glimpse of the Church and aimed to utilize our readings and music to describe our faith to the wedding guests. Tobit 8, Romans 12, and John 15 painted a picture of the love we will strive for in our marriage and our lives as Catholics. The opening song we chose, Here is My Life by Ed Conlin, powerfully describes the gift of self we were humbly offering that day. Remembrance by Matt Maher during Communion helped convey the holiness of the sacrament to guests unfamiliar with the Eucharist.

We honored dear family and friends throughout our nuptial Mass. Mike’s mom, a talented musician, wrote the music for the Psalm. Friends served as lectors and Eucharistic ministers, and a married couple who mentored us through our engagement were gift bearers, along with their son. We honored deceased family members in the Prayers of the Faithful.

The Mass was filled with special moments, but the homily was particularly moving. To hear our priest, Father Jon, say he was proud of us and would be there for us throughout our marriage was profoundly humbling and touching. Such statements, made by a man standing as the representation and authority of Jesus, carry a deep implication: that God himself is pleased with the relationship that has brought us to this point, and he will stand by us through every trial we will face.

After the Mass, we had a receiving line, which I definitely recommend to couples who will Once the reception starts, it is much more challenging to keep track of everyone and interact with guests individually.

Our reception was held at the Minnesota History Center in downtown St. Paul. It is a beautiful museum with soaring ceilings and enormous windows, with a lovely terrace that was perfect for the outdoor cocktail hour we both wanted, and a two level dinner-dance location that provided the element of uniqueness I had been hoping for.

My mom came up with the idea of paying tribute to our relationship with nature-inspired centerpieces featuring letters Mike wrote to me during his field training. The wood and vines nodded to our love for the outdoors and the camping trip that started everything, and the letters were a way to share our journey to the altar with our guests.

Our first dance was like a dream. Looking around, surrounded by flashing lights and loud music, and seeing people from every community we are a part of: family, church, college, the military, childhood…it was sort of bizarre, but in the best way possible! Since we’ll probably never have all those people in the same room again, it was important to just be present in the moment and acknowledge how special it was.

One of my favorite parts of the entire day was taking portraits with Mike. Our relationship has often conveyed more through expressions and body language than through speaking. Taking portraits was a delightful, private time for us to be physically close and revel in the emotions of the day. We genuinely felt so close to one another in those moments, and I’m blown away by how well our photographer captured that feeling. I vividly remember the feel of Mike’s arms around me and am grateful for such a powerful sensory memory of our wedding day. We said more to one another in those embraced than we probably ever could have in words or letters.

The love the Lord calls us to is a sanctifying love. While beautiful and awe-inspiring, this love is also self-denying and at times, terrifying. Preparing and fully giving the complete gift of oneself is not easy. Yet it isn’t necessarily meant to be easy; it’s meant to draw us deeper into a relationship with the person of Jesus. Beautiful gifts are often hard-earned.

It is, as St. Teresa of Calcutta said, a paradox: when you love until it hurts, you’ll find the hurt stops and you’re left with only love. I’d encourage every bride and groom to pursue sanctifying love in their relationships. Surround yourselves with people who will call you on to the Church’s mission of love, and be brave in the face of the new ways the Lord asks you to love your partner and those you encounter each day.

Photography: Leslie Larson Photography | Church: St. Lawrence Catholic Church Minneapolis, MN | Wedding Reception Venue: Minnesota History Center St. Paul, Minnesota | Rings: Brilliant Earth, Avenue Jewelers, and King Will | Flowers: Family friend | Invitations: Wedding Paper Divas | Caterer: D’Amico Catering | Bridal dress: David’s Bridal | Bridesmaid dresses: David’s Bridal | Groom’s tux: Men’s Wearhouse | Groomsmen tuxes: Men’s Wearhouse | Cake: D’Amico Catering | Hairstylist: Taj Salon and Spa | Make up: Taj Salon and Spa | Music: Northern Lights DJ | Pre-marital counseling: Quo Vadis Therapy Center

Six Tips for Catholic Military Spouses

SOPHIE WHEELER

 

If you know anything about military life, you know it can lend itself to a lot of time away. We’ve been lucky that thus far in our relationship, my husband Daniel has never been deployed. But I can tell you that within the four and a half years we’ve been together, there have certainly been large chunks of time spent apart. This was the first Easter in three years, for example, that we will be able to spend together. And we are grateful for this, because it also happens to be the first Easter with our baby.

Daniel and I met as the result of a mail mix-up. My family and I had just moved to the area, and Daniel’s family lived two streets down. The new high school I was attending sent a welcome package that ended up in the hands of Daniel’s mom. At the time, his youngest brother attended the same school, and we can only assume the mailman made an honest mistake. So our moms swapped mail, met for coffee and a year later I was offered a summer job from his dad. Daniel and I finally met, and the rest is history!

Everyone’s experience with marriage is different, and it’s no different for couples in the military, with maybe some added roadblocks. And a few moves. Daniel and I have been apart at critical times in our relationship: the summer we started dating, he was away for six weeks, with limited communication aside from a few short letters here and there. A few months before our wedding he was sent across the country. He was thankfully able to come back for our wedding and a five-day honeymoon, but we were separated soon after since I had to finish up my degree.

If your other half is in the military, distance and time apart is commonplace. Planning a wedding while apart, with sometimes little to no communication, is not the best scenario, but these are the types of struggles military families--and families-to-be--work through. We had to prepare for marriage while apart, and to navigate our newfound status as husband and wife in the same way. All difficult, but not impossible.

Here are a few things that helped us:

Communicate.

I know this comes up on every relationship advice listicle ever. But no matter how much we read about it, it’s still not always put into practice. Communication is key in every relationship, but its importance cannot be emphasized enough—especially in relationships involving stressors beyond your control, such as inconsistent schedules and extended time apart. Military life lends itself to all these things.

If you don’t put effort into talking to your spouse on a daily basis, or however often you’re able while he or she’s away, about even everyday occurrences, things can quickly deteriorate and you’ll end up with a pile of misunderstandings and frustrations. Try sharing even mundane moments with your spouse. For example, I usually text Daniel whenever I leave the house to go to the grocery store, and text him again once I am back home. Not that it’s necessary for him to know exactly when I go to the store, but it often results in further conversation about our days that wouldn’t come about otherwise. Daniel does the same for me whenever he goes out, which helps keep my day running smoothly and shows me that he's thinking of me and being considerate of my time.

You don’t have to fight.

This is something that has helped our marriage immensely. We have never fought. Please don’t misunderstand and think that we don’t ever disagree! We do. But we have never allowed our differences to escalate into a fight, despite numerous people telling us throughout our marriage prep that “You need to fight! It’s unhealthy if you don’t.”

Every couple has different personalities, but it’s not that we don't fight because we aren't confrontational. My husband and I both have tempers (our families can tell you that). The reason we don’t fight is because our goal is always to control immediate emotional responses, not to suppress our thoughts or feelings--that would be useless, and would achieve the opposite effect. Many times we do this by acknowledging the situation and allowing each other time and space before continuing the conversation.

I want to be extremely clear about this: we would never have made it through two and a half years of dating and more than two years of marriage if we were were in the habit of ignoring our thoughts and feelings simply in favor of not fighting. There would have soon been an explosion.

Don’t talk badly about your spouse.

This is a favorite piece of advice from my mom. It helps in so many ways. Because of Daniel being in the military, most of our time spent apart has been both involuntary and with limited communication.  If you have to spend time away from your husband or wife, the tension only increases when you vent your frustrations to your friend or family member about every little annoying thing that your spouse does.

Instead, spend your time away from each other reflecting on your marriage and thinking of ways to make the most of your time together, while serving one another. This advice most definitely applies even when your spouse is not away. It gives your thoughts room to breathe before you choose whether or not to voice them.

Make sure your spouse has a good connection with your children.

 My grandmother should be given an award for the amount of patience and kindness she has managed to keep after years and years of being married to a military man (if you haven’t deduced this already, our family is going 3 generations strong in making military families). In any case, what this point means is don’t pass off the punishments to the parent the kids rarely see. Don’t make them the bad guy. Make time for children to bond with their parent. After my grandfather came back from a long time away in Okinawa, he and my grandmother spent two days together to reconnect while their children were looked after by family friends. After they got back home, they set up a candlelit dinner for the two older children to enjoy time with their dad, without the littler ones. The day after, the littles got the same chance.

Always do date night.

 Well…whenever you can anyway. Why wouldn’t you want to? Date night refreshes your relationship, especially when you have children. It gives you the chance to communicate in a different setting than your usual day-to-day, gives you something to look forward to together, and will likely lead to joyful conversations about past dates.

Trust.

Through all of our experiences Daniel and I have repeatedly learned the lesson that we should always trust in God’s plan and timing. This is especially important when it comes to all of the seemingly ill-timed training away from home or possibility of upcoming deployments. These situations are the best reminder of this fact: you have little to do with what happens in your life, but you have everything to do with how you deal with it.

Feeling like you have no control over your life or plans comes often in the military, and the only solution is to trust.

Trust God and trust your spouse. Lean on each other, even while you are apart. Maintain loving and encouraging communication when it's possible. When it isn’t, pray for each other and your marriage.

Photos by Spiering Photography.


About the Author: Sophie Wheeler is a wife, mother and artist. She grew up in a military family and as a result has lived in five different countries: the United States, Panama, Spain, Argentina and Venezuela. After settling back in the U.S. and finishing high school, she graduated from George Mason University with a BFA in Arts and Visual Technology. She now runs The Anchor Theory, a freelance graphic design and illustration business. She lives with her husband, Daniel, and their 8-month-old son in North Carolina. 

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Hannah + Jared | Elegant City Wedding

Despite her skepticism, hearing of a FOCUS missionary's success story on the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel convinced Hannah to give the app a try. Within a few days, Jared popped up as a match, and he soon asked her out on a real date, willingly making the trip to meet her from his Army base in Biloxi, Mississippi. At the time, Hannah was studying Theology at Spring Hill College not far away, in Mobile, Alabama.

What started as a simple coffee date morphed into lunch, followed by a stop by Hannah's campus chapel, botanical gardens, dinner, and plans for a second date. When they officially declared their relationship a few dates later, both were struck by the ease of friendship and lightheartedness they shared, making the new feel familiar.

Shortly after, when Jared graduated medical school and was relocated near Seattle for residency, Hannah accompanied him on the forty-five hour drive to his new town. After days on the road, discussing life’s big questions and listening to Catholic radio, they knew their friendship had become real love. They saw in each other the desire for a holy marriage and the qualities of mutual love and respect that could make it possible. Three months later, when Hannah returned to Washington for a visit, Jared got down on one knee. 

From the Bride: A long-distance engagement didn't seem ideal, but it helped us focus on communication and was part of God’s plan for our engagement nonetheless. Thankfully, technology provided us with an opportunity to prepare for the sacrament of matrimony online through Catholic Marriage Prep's program. After six months, our endless planning, prayers, reflection, and support from family and friends brought us to our anxiously awaited wedding day. 

Like most Catholic little girls, I always envisioned myself having an elaborate wedding Mass, and upon realizing God’s call for my vocation was, in fact, to be a wife, the desire remained. Now though, I wanted a wedding mass for different reasons than when I was young--most importantly, the Eucharist. I knew now that if we were to have only a ceremony, there would be neither consecration nor distribution of the Eucharist. The presence of the Eucharist, being the “source and summit of the Christian life,” seemed particularly important for our wedding day.

One potential roadblock to having a full nuptial Mass, however, was that my groom was not yet Catholic, nor baptized. Jared was in RCIA at the time, yet until he was baptized we would not be able to celebrate our wedding as a sacrament. A special request was put into the Bishop of Seattle for an early baptism for Jared. On January 21st, one month before our wedding, Jared's long-awaited desire to become Catholic was fulfilled, and he was fully initiated into the Church!

In a spirit of thanksgiving, we planned our wedding Mass right away. Incorporating our guests was an influential factor--our friends and family in attendance would be from varying faith backgrounds. For some, it would be their first Mass experience; for others, it would be their first time in church after many years away. With that in mind, we wanted the songs and readings we chose to reflect our personal preferences, but more importantly, to reflect our experience of God as a loving and merciful Father. 

We chose John 15 for our Gospel reading, which includes the famous verse, “there is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Seeing in this verse the complementary nature between the love of Jesus and the love of husband and wife, it seemed to encompass the perfect ‘love triangle’ our marriage prep had been talking about. The rest of the passage was also a good fit for our congregation, and we hoped it would particularly speak to those who were unfamiliar with the Word of God: “You are no longer slaves if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from my father I have made known to you.” 

The beauty of our wedding also served as a means of evangelization, both for our guests and in our own hearts as the bride and groom. The church itself where we were married, Holy Family Parish, is beautiful yet understated and about a hundred years old. The traditional design and larger-than-life wooden crucifix call one’s attention to Jesus. I had been confirmed in this parish, my many aunts and uncles had also made their sacraments there, including some of their own weddings.

Jared and I strove to dress up as gifts for one another. I'd only tried on a few dresses before choosing the long-sleeved, beaded gown that I hoped would compliment Jared's fancy Captain’s dress uniform. Other small details also had lasting impact: my grandmother handmade a dozen gold bows for the pews; white lilies, my favorite flower, flanked the altar; on top of that, sun poured through the stained glass windows during Mass and despite the February date, the day was warm.

Remembering loved ones who couldn't be physically present at the wedding was also important to us. Jared's father passed away a few years prior due to cancer; his mother had a picture and tribute made for him displayed at the front of the church. We also remembered him during the Prayers of the Faithful, as well as my deceased grandparents who'd attended the church for nearly sixty years. Being able to lift their souls up in prayer was a comfort, as well as a reminder of everyone’s true, eternal home. 

At the culmination of the celebration, we were both joyfully able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. The hymn, “Here I Am, Lord” was sang during communion, a childhood favorite of mine, followed by “Amazing Grace,” a beloved song to Jared. Once again, the complementary nature of the songs seemed to symbolically encompass our new union as husband and wife, as well as the union of each individual with Christ in the Eucharist. It was truly a sublime moment, one that leaves a lasting impact on the soul.

Time. My only sadness on my wedding day was time. It was the fastest thing to go; I loved every minute of that day. I loved it so much so I wished I could pause the moments, store them away, and walk back into them whenever I wanted. As a finite creature, I know it just cannot be. But as a hopeless romantic, I nonetheless long for an eternal love story.

My wedding helped me realize something my ten-year-old self would gasp at: marriage itself still does not satisfy my deepest longings, which are for God. Upon saying I do, though joyful and full of love, I did not magically feel complete. Perhaps it was the recognition that even spouses and fathers, though dearly loved, are not ours to keep. Time is part of the human condition, and one day God will come calling for all souls, which truly belong to Him.

While I wished to somehow pause our wedding day and make it last forever, I also realized the wedding wasn't the end, but the beginning of something much greater. It was amazing to tangibly celebrate our covenant together, surrounded by loved ones. However, like all earthly things, the cake, dancing, and merriment had to come to an end. We’re left now with each other and the gift of each day. Like our wedding, my greatest desire going forward is that we simply invite Him in, letting the Prince of Peace reign in our hearts and marriage.

Photographer's Business Name: Steven Dray Images  | Church: Holy Family Parish - New Brighton | Wedding Reception Venue: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh | DJ/Host and uplighting: Kelli Burns Entertainment | Flowers: Blossoms by Jillian | Dress: Justin Alexander | Dress/Veil: One Enchanted Evening, Zelienople, PA | Dessert table: Lauren at Sweet Boots Baking Co., Pittsburgh, PA  | Cake: Bethel Bakery, Bethel Park, PA | Maid Of Honor Dress: Jenny Yoo | Flower girl: Wrare Doll Custom | Bridemaids: Weddington Way | Card box: Steven and Rae