Erica | Wedding Day Tribute to Her Beloved

Erica and Christopher’s love story is powerful. It is a real-life tale of love, hope, loss, grief, and supernatural joy in the midst of unimaginable suffering. 

When they first met over ten years ago, Erica did not know the ending of their story, or that God would use their love to show, in the most radical way, that even “through death there is joy in the resurrection.”

This was the reflection their wedding photographer had Erica and Christopher answer in their couple questionnaire. Erica remembers asking him to go on a date night to work through the questions together. Their response is below, and it is followed by, in Erica’s words, how Christ continued to be the center in Christopher’s remaining moments: 

Photo courtesy: Erica Damler

Photo courtesy: Erica Damler

“After Christopher and I met in 2007, we kept in touch long-distance between Indiana and North Carolina. We spent many long hours on the phone and visited each other a couple times. At this point, Christ was not yet a central part of our relationship. 

After ending our relationship in 2008, we each dated other people, but we kept in touch and saw each other a few times in those in-between years. In 2016 we reconnected over the internet and became friends, but I was adamant we would remain only friends. I was not interested in entering a relationship while I was trying to “find myself” and improve my spiritual and emotional life. 

But alas, when we saw each other at Christopher’s birthday in 2016, I knew I couldn’t imagine my life without him in it. I prayed about moving, and everything for my move seemed to fall into place. So I left Indiana to be in Raleigh with him in February 2017. Best decision we ever made--besides our later decision to make going to church and prayer part of our lives. 

We have definitely grown in our relationship with God as a couple and as individuals. St. John Paul II is the patron saint of our relationship. When things began to get serious last year, Christopher started the annulment process. So we lit a candle in our parish asking for St. John Paul II’s intercession to help us with patience, chastity, guidance, and healing as we moved through this time. And we asked people to continue praying for JPII’s intercession in our marriage by including prayer cards in our wedding invitations.”

From the Bride: After Christopher was diagnosed in the emergency room with cancer, the only thing I could think to do was pray. I prayed with him and for him continuously over the less than 48 hours between his diagnosis and his eventual passing. I prayed myself to sleep the second night and awoke in prayer the next morning. 

The foundation we had built, as well as my devotion to Mary, gave me the strength to get through those unfathomable times. I knew Christopher was going to be okay, and I continuously repeated that to everyone. I knew whether he lived on this earth or continued his life in Heaven, he would be okay. 

Mary showed me that in her sorrow the greatest joy she received was in her son’s resurrection. I held on to that then and still do today.

The day of our wedding came after Christopher passed, and it was one of the most beautiful and spiritual experiences I have ever had. My hope for the day was to honor the love that Christopher and I shared, that we could be a witness of deep, genuine love for all who were in attendance, and how special we were to one another. 

Getting ready with my mom, sisters, and bridesmaids, taking photos in the sanctuary, praying a decade of the rosary with our photographer in the Marian chapel, and the time before Mass really set the tone for the day. It truly honored the love shared between Christopher and I--the love that had been given to us by the Lord. 

Every moment of picking out our wedding details was a whirlwind, but we were very intentional. Christopher and I wanted our day to be about the sacrament and joining our lives together as husband and wife, with God as our witness. For us, it wasn’t about a big party or “glitz and glam.” It was about being together “until death do us part”. 

We chose every vendor because they were the best reviewed and the first to respond, except our florist and photographer. I knew hiring people who understood the beauty of the Mass and the sacrament was imperative. In the end, we could not have chosen better, because each of these vendors showed up for me in more ways than I ever could have asked for. Not only did they provide great products, but they prayed with me, talked with me, and shared in my sorrow too.

I remember when I picked out my dress (the day after I got engaged!), and I knew it was going to be perfect. The gown was full but fitted with an off-the-shoulder detail that Christopher would have loved. When I chose it as my dress at the store, I closed my eyes, imagining his face when he would see me walking down the aisle for the first time, and it brought tears to my eyes. 

It took me months to put the dress back on. My sister was sweet enough to call the store and tell them what had happened, asking if they would contact her when the dress came in. After I picked it up, it took a good three months to put it on. I knew I would have to have special strength on that day, but I would know when the time was right, just as I always have when hard trials come along. 

Wearing it on our wedding day was bittersweet, but I felt beautiful. 

All day long on our wedding day, I felt closer to Christopher than I have in a long time. He was there, arms wrapped tight around me, keeping me strong as I prayed for him and celebrated our love. 

I had asked our photographer if it would be okay for us to take photos of me in his suit jacket. I wanted to have a part of him physically there, and I couldn’t think of a better way. His hands had touched that fabric, and he always looked so handsome when he wore it! 

My mom helped me put his jacket on, and I felt an instant, overwhelming happiness which our photographer captured perfectly. Because he was so tall (6’5”), the jacket was huge on me, but that made the moment even better. We could laugh and remember him. The longer I had it on, the more I did not want to take it off. 

To be honest, I remember feeling like I wanted to collapse on the ground and wrap the jacket around me tighter. I didn’t, but I know it would have been totally acceptable, and everyone there would have loved me through the moment, just like they did the whole day. 

I wish I had the exact transcript of father’s homily, because it was perfect. I requested that Fr. Danda make the day about happiness and love instead of focusing on sadness and loss. He chose to do a Mass to St. Joseph and spoke about the love of the Holy Family and how we should live that love in our lives.

Our wedding could have become a day of sadness, but with the love and support of my family, it turned into a day of joy and celebration. I will remember it forever and hold it close to my heart. The validation of love and the close moments that have come from the event mean so much to me. 

I looked out that day from the pulpit while proclaiming the second reading and felt an overwhelming sense of love. I could not have asked for more. But none of it would have been possible except through faith. My faith has kept me strong and has reminded me that through death there is joy in the resurrection which we celebrate each weekend at Mass--or daily if we choose. Keeping Christ the center of my life and building community has been the rock I never knew I was going to need so desperately.

Photography: Soul Creations Photography, Spoken Bride Vendor | Church: St. Malachy Catholic Church, Brownsburg, IN | Wedding Reception: The Alexander Hotel, Indianapolis, IN | Rings: Bailey Box | Shoes: Badgley Mischka | Bridal Gown: Marie Gabriel Couture | Bridesmaid Dresses: Amazon | Stationary / Invitations: Zola | Florist: Graceful Hands Floral Design | Hairstylist, Makeup Artist: B.Buttler Styles

Danielle + Jeff | Latin Mass Fairy Tale 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 Danielle and Jeff’s engagement, a tale of patiently growing attraction after Jeff discerned out of the seminary during their time in grad school.

Shortly after celebrating their first anniversary as husband and wife, newlywed Danielle reflects back on her wedding day with her husband, Jeff.

She says, “The memory of that special day is never far from my mind. I still recall something that our priest said during the homily at our nuptial Mass, which was, "Take this early time, this time in which despite whatever fears and anxieties you have, most everything that you dream of seems possible. And cherish that time."

For Danielle, the whole day felt like a fairy tale come true.

From the Bride: It was finally here! Friday, August 4th 2017. The day I had prayed and waited for my whole life, and it was such a beautiful day, with sun rays beaming brightly through the windows.

The bridesmaids and I got ready in the basement of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, in Vermillion, Minnesota. The girls donned floor-length dresses in a rose-violet shade. My wedding dress was a pure white ballgown with a layered tulle skirt. It had a sweetheart neckline, overlaid with lace, and was cinched at the waist with a crystal belt. I had help fastening my cathedral-length veil and jeweled comb in my hair. The bridesmaids put on their veils and said a silent prayer over me.

Since Jeff and I were having a Solemn High Nuptial Mass, it was fitting for the ladies to also wear a veil, according to the reverence and tradition that we wanted to uphold.

The Extraordinary Form had become something special for Jeff and I throughout our relationship, and it was exceptionally meaningful for us to have it for our nuptial liturgy.

Throughout the morning, my soon-to-be-husband and I made sure we didn’t see each other before the wedding. We wanted to save that moment for the time I approached him walking down the aisle.

At 3 PM the choir chanted Atténde Dómine (Hear Us, O Lord) for the procession of the clergy, and the organist played Canon in D for the entrance of the wedding party. Just before my turn to walk down the aisle, the ushers closed the giant double doors that led into the church.

When the doors swung open again, I saw everyone. The church was incredibly grand and beautiful to behold. I stood there with my blusher draped over my face, holding onto my bouquet of white roses with Grandma Rother’s rosary wrapped around it.

This rosary was special because Jeff’s grandmother received it from her husband. She walked down the aisle with it on her wedding day, just like I was about to do.

My dad and I started walking down the nave of the church, and I saw Jeff standing at the end of the aisle. As we got closer, his smile turned into tears of joy. When we approached the end of the aisle, my dad lifted the veil from my face.

I took Jeff’s hand, and we ascended the stairs into the sanctuary to take our vows. In the tradition of the Latin Mass, the vows are said at the very beginning of the ceremony.

It was very special to be in the sanctuary. Traditionally the sanctuary is reserved for the clergy, but during the sacrament of holy matrimony the bride and groom are permitted to enter beyond the altar rail.

In that moment I felt so close to God.

Once we exchanged consent, Jeff and I joined our right hands, and he made his vow to me. We were asked to release our hands and then join them together again. Then I made my vow to him.

This act of joining, releasing, and joining hands again signified that our vows were made individually. We each had our own responsibility to the other.

At the completion of the sacrament, Fr. Byron Hagan, our celebrant, prayed over us and sprinkled us with holy water. The ceremony continued with the Mass after the Rite of Marriage, and it was absolutely breathtaking.

After the Gospel reading, Fr. Hagan gave an excellent homily and made powerful points about how society has made our generation fearful of marriage; that people today are not rising to the occasion to live out God’s calling in the sacrament of holy matrimony. They fear it is too much of a weight to bear.

“I want to tell you something today,” Fr. Hagan said.

“It is not too heavy for you.”

“Because you are Catholic, because you are confirmed, because you have been living your life with the Church’s faith, in penance, obeying the sacraments, and humbly confessing your sins before God.”

“You now have the power to do something which otherwise cannot be done: which in the deepest heart of hearts all of us desire, and increasingly in our time feel too weak to even approach...This power now is attached to you because of the sacrament.”

He continued, “Danielle, your task is to, in virtue of the priesthood of your baptism, help prepare your husband to see God...And Jeff, you have the responsibility, in a priestly way, by virtue of your baptism, to help prepare your wife to meet God. To help mediate the Lord Jesus Christ…This is your test for one another.”

While he acknowledged that the married state would bring challenges for us, he reminded us we must always remember the Divine Third in our marital union: God Himself.

The Mass continued with chanting and incensing of the altar. During the consecration the priest faced the altar and said the words of consecration silently over the host and chalice.

It was completely silent now in the church except for the bells that were rung three times during the elevation of each of the sacred species.

In keeping with the tradition of the Latin Mass, the altar rail was used for the distribution of Holy Communion. The communion hymn we choose was Adóro Te Devóte (I Adore You Devoutly), written by St. Thomas Aquinas and used as his private prayer during Eucharistic adoration.

After Mass, we got in the car and drove to the reception venue, a golf club.

The day before, our family had gone to the venue and decorated the tables with mirror and bud vase centerpieces. All of our guests had a stick of bubbles by their place setting, which was a fun and interactive way for them to participate in the grand march and the rest of the evening.

The final moment of the night was our first dance. During our engagement, Jeff and I had practiced for hours to master the waltz. And even though we had done it many times before, I was nervous having all eyes on us.

Jeff and I looked at each other intensely, counting the beats of the music in our heads. All of a sudden, the music intensified, and we were off. It was like I was floating on air, even though I was just trying to stay balanced in my high heels. I had never danced in my wedding dress before either, so it was quite a new experience.

But it was magical. It twirled around me gracefully across the dance floor, and I truly felt like a princess.

After dancing for a few seconds, I realized we were actually doing it. All of those hours of practice had paid off. We were dancing a beautiful waltz, and everyone applauded. It only increased their desire to get out on the dance floor later that night.

Although there were a few things that could’ve gone better, the vast majority of our wedding was a fairytale-come-to-life. It was a dream come true!

To all single women out there, waiting for their prince charming, please remember that this story is a testimony of years and years of prayers finally answered. God hears your prayers and knows the desires of your heart. He will answer them in his, time in a better way than you could ever possibly imagine.

In our first year of marriage, we developed a special devotion to Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria and his holy wife, Servant of God, Empress Zita. We look to them for their intercession in our marriage and for all married couples.

A quote we both appreciate from Blessed Karl was when he told Zita on the day after their wedding, "Now, we must help each other to get to Heaven." I am very blessed and thankful to have found a husband who also desires to lead me closer to Christ each and every day.

Blessed Emperor Karl and Empress Zita, ora pro nobis!

Photographer: Amy K Photography | Church: St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Vermillion, Minnesota | Reception: Dakota Pines Golf Club in Hastings, Minnesota | Rings: Gittelson Jewelers in Minneapolis, Minnesota | Flowers: Flowers For All Occasions by Ginny Majeski in Hastings, Minnesota | Wedding Attire: Raffiné Bridal in Woodbury, Minnesota | Invitations / Save-the-Dates / Wedding Program: Created by the Bride, Danielle Rother | Caterer: Nicole Sindelar with Rudy’s Redeye Catering in Rosemount, Minnesota | Wedding Attire: Raffiné Bridal in Woodbury, Minnesota | Designer for Bride’s Dress: Stella York | Designer for Bridesmaid Dress: Kenneth Winston | Designer for Groom & Groomsmen Tuxedo Attire: Savvi Formal Wear | Bridesmaid Veil: The Veiled Woman | Cake / Cupcake Baker: Emily’s Bakery & Deli in Hastings, Minnesota | Hairstylist: Michelle Wilcox | Salon for Manicure and Pedicure: Spalon Montage in Woodbury, Minnesota | Disc Jockey: C & C Sound

Jenna + Michael | Italian Family-Style Wedding

Jenna had just finished her waitressing shift when she went to a bar in Providence, Rhode Island for a Catholic young adult event. There was one spot left at the table, next to a handsome newcomer to the group. They chatted and exchanged numbers at the end of the night.

Jenna and Michael’s friendship blossomed soon after, as Michael began a new journey of discernment after departing from religious life and as Jenna began the annulment process from her previous marriage. Though both sensed the Father’s hand at work in a special way, they agreed to postpone dating until the annulment decision was finalized, one way or another.

On December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Jenna received word that her annulment had been granted. Two months later, Michael asked her to be his girlfriend, and on another Marian feast, the Feast of the Annunciation, he proposed at the Shrine of Our Lady of LaSalette in Attleboro, Massachusetts.

From the Bride: We knew from the beginning that the Nuptial Mass was the most important part of our wedding. Both of us have sentimental hearts and love for details that we tried to incorporate into the day. Our Mass, for instance, was held at the same parish where my parents were married. This was particularly special to me, as my father passed away at a young age. Choosing to be married in the same location he was made me feel connected to him in a special way. The Maid of Honor was my best friend, and the Best Man Michael’s cousin.

We are in our early 30s and wanted to keep things simple, yet joyful and beautiful, for the Mass and reception--a true representation of our relationship. For the Gospel reading, we chose the Parable of the pearl of great price, a nod to my pearl engagement ring. Pearls are my favorite gem and have particular significance in Michael’s Portuguese culture. I also carried and decorated with my favorite flowers, sunflowers.

Our mothers did the readings, and my close friend sang during our dedication to Our Lady, for which we made a special consecration to her. The bright July afternoon felt so visually fitting for who we are as a couple.

Our reception was held at a family-style Italian restaurant, where we served a casual, delicious chicken dinner. Our friends Ryan and Elizabeth sang our first dance selection, “Oceans” by Hillsong United. By the time our guests joined us on the dance floor, we stayed there all evening, and it’s a time we’ll always remember.

As a new bride, I can honestly say that surrendering to God's will through dating and engagement has shaped a truly beautiful foundation for our marriage.

Pray together always, and seek his will above all. Continue to pray together once you’re married, and don't forget to laugh and forgive one another often!

Photography: Andrea Van Orsouw Photography | Church: St. Agatha Parish- Woonsocket, RI | Wedding Reception Venue : Savini's Pomodoro Italian Kitchen & Bar | Engagement Ring: Piette Jewelers- Woonsocket, RI, Wedding bands: Kay Jewelers | Bridal Hair: Hair Stage 5- North Smithfield, RI | Music Mass: Sarah Moore (friend of the bride), Vocalists Reception: Ryan & Elizabeth Tremblay (friends of the bride and groom) | Videography- Steven Jordao (cousin of the bride) of Gue Productions | Flowers: Whole Foods | Cake: Kelly St. Gelais (friend of the bride), Bridal Gown and Maid of Honor's Dress: David's Bridal, Centerpieces and other décor- DIY by the bride and family/friends.

Emily + John | Classic Virginia Wedding

Her freshman year at James Madison University, as Emily prepared to leave for a retreat called Arise, a young man approached and shook her hand, saying, “You may not know me, but I know you’re Emily. I’m John.” A friendship was formed that weekend, yet until their final semester of college, Emily only thought of and referred to John as her “Catholic guy friend.”

That Lent, Emily and John both decided to dive deeper into their faith before graduation. On Ash Wednesday morning, they sat in a Starbucks and decided they’d both attend Adoration as often as possible over the next 40 Days.

John had a key to the campus ministry building, and early in the mornings they’d sit before the Lord in silence, praying and growing in their individual relationships with him. Afterward, they’d share coffee and reflections. Unknowingly...

From the Bride: ...all the while, God was forming a rock solid bond between our two souls. It wasn't until the end of Lent--Easter Sunday to be exact--that we realized we were seriously in love.

Exactly one year later, John brought me back to the same chapel where we had prayed side by side throughout Lent. He started praying out loud, which was weird to me. I kind of tuned out because I hadn't had coffee, but I snapped out of it when I heard, "... and I pray she says yes."

He asked me to marry him, and as we drove to our favorite spot to watch the sun come up, it started snowing!

There are no words to express my gratitude to God for allowing such deep relationships to exist between people on earth and for giving us the gift of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. We were beyond excited to profess our vows to God and each other, to uphold the sanctity of marriage, and to embrace this vocation as our pathway to heaven.

My maternal grandmother passed away one week before the wedding.On the day of, I realized I’d never chosen a bracelet to wear. My mom brought my grandmother's rosary beads to the hotel where we were getting ready, and without thinking twice I wrapped them around my wrist. I held the crucifix from her beads in my hand the whole day, from getting ready through the ceremony and reception. Her beads kept me ever-mindful of the cloud of witnesses above me and the realness of the presence of Jesus Christ that day--and every day since.

We got married in John's home parish by our good friend and spiritual leader, Father Thomas Cavanaugh. Two priests from my hometown of Jacksonville flew in to concelebrate. The image of the three of them genuflecting before the altar will never leave my mind. It was unreal to see all of my worlds come together for the day and to kneel before the Lord with John beside me, our family and friends behind us, and the unseen presence of all the angels and saints around us.

John and I had consecrated our lives to Jesus through Mary the previous year, and my good friend sang the Ave Maria as, together, we processed to Mary to ask for her intercession as we began our marriage. Mary is a huge part of our story: John asked for roses from Mary to signify it was "time" to propose. She gave them to him within a few months, when the timing was perfect. We strive to trust God by way of Mary.

A dear friend's mother handcrafted 250 rope rosary bracelets that were carried down the aisle next to our rings. The bracelets were blessed just before the end of the Mass and given to each guest as they left the chapel, along with an insert of how to pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet.

My mother gifted us a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, which sat next to our guest book. Each guest got to sign next to a prayer of the rosary. So when everyone prays the one prayer they signed next to in the book, a perpetual living rosary is prayed! This still gives me goosebumps.

Each table and place card at our reception featured the icon of a saint instead of a number. We chose these holy men and women whom we have a connection with and carefully selected whose table got which saint. We also provided a personalized description of each saint, who they are and why we selected them for each table. We wanted our reception to be tied to our ceremony and for each guest to feel intimately invited into the love of our Church, not outside of or confused by it. John and I feel called to be missionary disciples; our wedding was the perfect opportunity to begin to share the love we are blessed to enter into.

Nothing was missing from our wedding day, because Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist. He was there. Not just in my mind, my heart, or in the people around me. But there. Physically. Fully. Truly. No doubt in my mind. For his love is so full and so true it's not possible for him to remain hidden in our hearts and minds and friends.

He has to pour himself out and enter us, for there's no other way he--or we--can be satisfied.

Our openness, our conscious consumption of him into ourselves, our yes, our acceptance, is only truly possible by receiving the Eucharist. Exactly like how married love must be consummated. Not because it has to, but because it wants to be made complete. Lovers feel a lacking until the moment their love is made complete. It is no different with God, our first love.

He can dwell with us in many countless ways but only in Holy Communion can our love be complete while we're separated from heaven. It's not a requirement, but an abundance of an out of control love that can't stay small; can't hide; can't blend into the background. His love is powerful, unique, strong and physical. It's his body and his blood that are alive and with us always.

Photography: Jen Harkleroad Photography | Church: St. Theresa Catholic Church - Ashburn, Virginia | Reception: Lansdowne Resort & Spa - Leesburg, Virginia | Rings: Ketterman's Jewelers | Bridal Gown: Love: A Bridal Boutique Jacksonville, FL (Dress: Essence of Australia) | Cake: Connie's Cake Creations  | Flowers: Rick's Flowers  | Planner: Lynn Iannizzi -The Finer Points  | DJ: Kurtis Cross | Video: Vu Nguyen - nVu Films  | Favors: Jill's Jellies and Jams | Rentals: Imperial Decor | Hair/Makeup: Alison Harper & Company - Ali (makeup) and Ilda (hair)

Bridget + David | Summer Picnic-Style Wedding

 

David and Bridget grew up in the same town, lived in the same neighborhood, and went to the same high school. They met during a high school theater production of Little Women, but didn’t fall in love until several years later. Once these two decided to date, the common response from friends was, "FINALLY!"

On June 27, 2015, David proposed to Bridget by incorporating one of Bridget’s favorite plays, The Jeweler’s Shop by St. John Paul II, and a little over a year later, the couple was married in the neighborhood where their love story began.

From the Bride: During the year of planning, David and I intentionally focused on the preparation for our marriage. David was in his senior year of college and living in household with Saint Paul’s Outreach, and I was in my first year of my master’s program and had recently joined events with the Catholic Advance Movement through Pro Ecclesia Sancta. Due to our busy schedules, we had limited time and wanted to use it well to spiritually prepare ourselves for marriage, but we still participated in half-day retreats once a month for engaged and newly married couples, which introduced us to a wonderful parish community and friends. We looked forward to the meetings each month and watched the Beloved DVD series by the Augustine Institute, which was very helpful in our preparation.

I put together a document of resources and information that I found online for us to do as a couple. We read books together and would go out for coffee to discuss and check in with each other, prayed together, and generally tried to do more than the basics of marriage preparation.  

In planning the wedding, we took care of the details with input from our parents, who were a tremendous help and so understanding throughout the process. David and I wanted to have a beautiful Mass to highlight the importance of our vocation and a fun, relaxing ceremony that everyone could enjoy. We decided on blush, light green, and gold for outfits and decor. We were blessed with generous family and friends who offered their time and help in putting together everything so we could stay on budget. The wedding flowers were faux and put together by my mom, aunt/Godmother, and sister. My bridesmaids' dresses were purchased at Target. One of the bridesmaids mom’s purchased beautiful pearl jewelry on a trip to gift to all the women, which matched everything perfectly. The men wore black suits and ties and were gifted with fun-colored socks to add some pizzazz to their outfits and photos. Music was done by a friend of ours. The cake was purchased at Byerly’s, and the topper was from a local artist on Etsy. David and I tried to find local artists and venues to purchase items and kept everything simple for the day.

On the morning of August 20, 2016, David and I were both nervously pacing our childhood homes as we excitedly got ready for our wedding. My friend Andrea graciously offered to do my hair and that of the bridal party; she did a stellar job! Everyone did their own makeup and helped each other with the finishing touches.

As I put my dress on, all the ladies present gathered together, including my aunts who came to help, to pray over the bride and to join together in faith. It was such a beautiful moment that brought tears of joy and hugs.

David got ready with his brothers and family, enjoying his final moments as a single man in his childhood home.

We met our photographers at Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church (which is right across the street from my house) and it was raining. It’s said that a rainy wedding day is good luck! We did first look photos in the church and took photos with our family and wedding party.

David and I wanted intentionally involved family and friends in the preparations of the wedding, Mass, and festivities of the day. The Mass involved friends and family in readings, music, handing out programs, bringing up the gifts for Holy Communion, and ushers. One of our friends organized the decor at the reception hall and my girlfriends helped in putting together the space. It was absolutely stunning and couldn't have been accomplished without all of their help! 

We were blessed with seven priests on the altar. The priests involved in the wedding had touched our lives in many ways, and we were grateful to have such holy men on the altar to celebrate and share our vocation with our guests.

David and I wanted to be sure to have three elements added to their ceremony: roses for the Blessed Mother, the Litany of Saints, and the blessing of a crucifix from Jerusalem. The Mass was beautiful and we memorized our vows. It was an absolutely beautiful and humbling day for both of us!

After the wedding Mass, we held a reception line and greeted our many guests. It was so incredible to see individuals from so many facets of our lives and to and share our joy with so many neighbors and friends David and I both grew up knowing.

The reception was held at Silverwood Park, which is also in our hometown. It is a beautiful wooded park that boasts a gorgeous events facility, grounds, and lake. The sun was shining by the time the party arrived and photos were taken with all the guests. After photos, the grand entrance took place with a little help from Justin Timberlake (“Can’t Stop the Feeling!”). The meal was blessed by Fr. Alvaro Perez, a dear priest and friend from our current parish, Saint Mark’s in Saint Paul. The meal was catered by The Lookout Bar and Grill and was picnic style, with burgers, brats, beans, chips, coleslaw and fruit.

The evening consisted of beautiful speeches by family and friends, a sweet video that David put together for me, dancing, drinking, and long conversations. The reception hall had an outdoor space with a bonfire that allowed guests to chat outside while others could be dance indoors. David and I stayed until it was time to clean up and danced and talked with family and friends; it was a beautiful night!

The biggest thing I have learned is that you can prepare and know so many different aspects of marriage, but it is in surrendering and entrusting yourselves to God to and the mystery and graces of marriage that you begin to enter into the vast love and deep knowledge that this vocation brings.

Photography: Dan Zeller Photography | Church: Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Saint Anthony Village, MN | Wedding Reception Venue : Silverwood Park, Saint Anthony Village, MN | Wedding dress: The Wedding Shoppe, Saint Paul, MN | Belt: Etsy | Shoes: DSW | Bride's Jewelry: Grandma's pearls | Bridal party dresses - Target | Rings: Wedding Day Diamonds (bride), Etsy (groom) | Hairstylist: Andrea Stalewski | Cake: Byerly's | Cake top: Etsy | Invitations: Online invitations designed via Paperless Post | Caterer, bartender: Lookout Bar & Grill | Music: Mitchell Gutenberg | Decor: Emma Strub, Mary Pokorny

Sarah + Christopher | Kate Spade-Inspired Wedding

Sarah and Christopher first encountered each other on a charismatic retreat at Franciscan University, where they both were students at the time. For two years after that, they were best friends, spending hours watching movies, going to Mass and praise concerts together, and having breakfasts with friends.

From the Bride: Fast forward to the spring of 2012, after a couple starts and stops of not wanting to ‘ruin’ our friendship, Chris asked me to be his girlfriend after the 7:00 AM daily Mass at one of our favorite spots. We should pause our story here to note that this Mass was the end of a 12+ hour third date that included a trip to the ER. We knew from then on that we were in this for the duration. We each moved back to our respective hometowns after graduation a month later. After two years of dating long distance, traversing between Dallas and Dunedin for weekend visits, Chris moved to Florida. Ten months passed, we added Bosco the husky to the mix, and Chris proposed.

Back on that retreat where they first met, Chris had given Sarah her first brown scapular, a sacramental given to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite priest, by Our Lady. He proposed on the Feast of Mount Carmel.

From the Photographer: For Chris and Sarah, the Mass was the most important part of their day. Our Lady of Lourdes in Dunedin, FL, where the ceremony was held, is Sarah's home parish where she currently serves as the Director of Faith Formation. It is a more modern church with a lot of natural light, which added to the airy feel of the entire day. The two priests who presided at the wedding are close with both the bride and groom. Sarah and Fr. Chuck became friends on a retreat a few years back, and he actually made the kneeler that Christopher and Sarah used during the Mass as a wedding gift. Fr. Chuck also delivered a touching and personal homily and presided over the vows. Fr. Gary, who serves as the pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes has a tradition of taking a selfie with his couples...and Sarah and Chris were no exception! 

Sarah and Christopher are both from close-knit families with five children each. All of their siblings were included in the wedding party. Sarah and her sisters are particularly close, sharing matching tattoos even! Both of her sisters were honored as the Maid and Matron of Honor. Sarah also wore her older sister Mandy's pearl earrings.

Sarah has a love for bright colors and the Kate Spade brand. Her natural choice for a wedding day scent was Kate Spade's Live Colorfully, and she also wore sequined Kate Spade Keds that Chris gave her as a gift. She donned her signature bright red lipstick, which made her beautiful blue eyes pop against her fair skin. This couple has style for miles! Chris wore a slim fit gray tux from J. Crew to compliment Sarah's timeless dress from Athena's Bridal. 

In between the mass and the reception, the wedding party explored downtown Dunedin for photos. We stopped at Rosie's Tavern, a favorite watering hole for Chris and Sarah, as well as the marina and park off of Main street. 

At the reception, Sarah and Chris incorporated a wealth of personal details, including their own wedding coloring book and custom caricature cookies of themselves! For place cards, they alphabetized guests' names on post cards with some of their favorite destinations, including various towns in Florida, places in Chris' home state of Texas, and Franciscan University, where they met.

Photography: Elizabeth Mahon | Church: Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Dunedin FL | Reception: The Conmy Center | Florist: Carrollwood Florist | Stationary: Minted | Catering: Delectables Catering | Bride’s Dress/Veil - Athena's Bridal | Bride's Shoes: Keds x Kate Spade New York | Jewelry/Accessories - Something Borrowed-Sister's pearl earrings, Tiffany's pearl bracelet (gift from Chris), Something Blue - Godmother's Ring | Rings: International Diamond Center | Bridesmaids' Attire: David's Bridal | Groom's Suit: J. Crew | Groomsmen Attire - Combatant Gentleman | Cake Baker- Publix Bakery | Hairstylist: Jenna Donovan | Makeup Artist - Jessica Montalvo, Makeup by Jess | DJ: Grant Hemmond Disc Jockeys

Dominika + Joseph | English Garden-Inspired Wedding

Dominika + Joseph | English Garden-Inspired Wedding

When Dominika first spoke to Joseph at a college Christmas party, she immediately fell for the kind, gentle, well-dressed graduate student she'd just met, but he didn't have romance in mind at the time. The following May, Dominika checked out a book from the campus library where Joseph worked, solely with the intention of talking to him more. Soon after, Joseph asked her out to a poetry reading picnic. A woman approached them at the picnic and asked if they were married! At that moment, Joseph thought, "Oh, that I would have such a wife!"

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