Steffani + Dominick | Autumnal Southern Charm Wedding

Novenas, roses, and a fateful road trip to Wisconsin. Steffani knew, coming back from a trip in 2012, that Dominick would be her future husband. But they wouldn’t be married until six years later. 

Their love story is a beautiful reflection of patience, prayer, and deep friendship that poured over into marriage. At their gorgeous autumn wedding, in true southern style, they made their vows before God and joyfully waltzed the night away with family and friends. 

From the Bride: Dominick and I met in 2012 during my senior year of college. We were on a road trip with a group of friends to Wisconsin for a mutual friend's wedding. Dominick was an altar server and I was a bridesmaid. 

When we arrived in Wisconsin, we all spent an evening outdoors at a quaint house settled in the middle of acres of land and corn fields. Dominick gave me his shoes to sit on in the grass, and we immediately clicked over a mutual love of beauty in nature, books, music, art, and theology. 

We spent the rest of the trip like this: escaping to take nature walks to talk about life and each other, dancing, and star gazing. It all sounds so cliché, but it really was adventurous, romantic, and sweet. 

It was exactly what I had been praying for after a couple relationships that left me feeling hopeless. I had been writing letters to my future spouse since 2010 about how God was converting my heart. I said countless novenas to St. Joseph for the grace to prepare me and the husband I did not yet know. I also prayed the novena to St. Therese of Lisieux frequently, in which it is said she will deliver a rose as an affirmation of her intercession. 

When we returned from Wisconsin I knew, perhaps from intuition, that Dominick was the man I was going to marry. Perhaps it was Divine Providence that he asked me to be his girlfriend with a single rose he picked from the garden at the University of St. Thomas, Houston. I took it as a blessing delivered by St. Therese. 

I didn’t know it was the same garden where he would ask me to be his wife almost six years later, and I would present him with the letters I had been writing and holding on to for almost eight years. God and his saints have a way of planning things better than I ever can, and I kept this reality present and true while preparing for our wedding day. 

Preparation for the vocation of marriage and not just the wedding day was the heartbeat of our engagement. That was the most common advice shared with us by married couples, and we took that very seriously. We went to confession and Mass often, prayed together more, and read books like Three to Get Married by Venerable Fulton Sheen and By Love Refined by Alice von Hildebrand for discussion. We reminded each other often of the wise words from our sponsor couple: “marriage is not about you, it’s about God.” 

The highlight of our engagement was our betrothal ceremony, which we performed on the Nativity of Mary to dedicate our sacramental engagement to her Immaculate Conception. We did it with the prayer that Mary might help purify and perfect the “giving of our troth” to each other.

We wanted our nuptial Mass to be an expression of God’s gift of beauty. This was our goal, to give back to God what he had given abundantly to us. My husband is a liturgist, and I am a theology teacher and Catholic event planner, so liturgy is a common topic in our relationship. It would no doubt be our top priority and the longest part of our planning. 

Dominick and I spent much of our relationship going to Mass at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, a Dominican parish filled with gorgeous, detailed architecture, woodwork, and stained glass, so we knew we wanted to get married there. In fact, this was where Dominick would have proposed to me, but it took him too long to get the words out. And so we ended up at the rose garden instead. Coincidence? Not likely! 

We both love the Traditional Latin Mass, which Dominick grew up with. I was drawn into it during a major conversion through youth ministry and was more accustomed to the Novus Ordo (the most commonly used form of the Mass after Vatican II, usually spoken in the vernacular), as were many of our guests. After we considered doing the Traditional Latin Mass, we decided to use more traditional elements within the Ordinary Form such as chanting the Mass parts in Latin and singing the antiphons with more contemporary songs as the preludes. It was the perfect package of old and new. 

We wanted to pick readings that were truly expressive of our shared faith, so I picked the Old Testament reading, and he picked the New Testament reading. As a romantic, I chose lines from the Song of Songs which have always spoken to my heart. It is the story of the lover and the beloved, of God pursuing me and my relationship with Dominick being a delightful reflection of that. Dominick chose Ephesians 5, a tough passage, but a reading that we reflected and prayed with throughout our engagement with the help of the deacon who led our marriage prep. It is a reading we encouraged each other to live out, and one that we wanted our guests to hear and hold us accountable to. 

The highest point of the entire nuptial Mass was receiving the Eucharist with my husband. My soul experienced something in that moment that was beyond understanding. It was an elevation that brought me to tears, and I was fully aware that I was now united to this man in a way I would never be united to any other human being--by sharing Jesus’ Eucharistic sacrifice in an intimate way as husband and wife. 

My entrance song was “Eternal Source of Light Divine” composed by Handel. We coordinated a schola choir with our musically-talented friends who gifted us with their voices and sang the Ode, which was a heavenly piece as Dominick and I saw one another for the first time. We decided not to do a first look to preserve this moment, but had a private moment of prayer instead and said the last day of our St. Josemaria Escriva novena for a faithful and happy marriage. 

We were married in November, so we decided on an “autumnal southern charm” styled wedding. The décor was filled with deep, rich gem tones and mauve and gold accent colors. Being very much a southern girl, I knew I wanted a Gone with the Wind, antique, grand feel to our wedding and reception--but on a budget. We found a large plantation-style venue tucked away on a pecan orchard to capture the look we wanted. It was so dreamy. 

We were extremely fortunate that many of our friends and coworkers donated items we needed like printing, invitations, and decorations. I did a few DIY projects like floral lantern toppers, grand entrance bell wands, and “bride” and “groom” chair wreaths. We splurged here and there on antique pieces, like the mirror we used for our seating arrangement and frames. 

Our nostalgic invitations echoed our theme as well with mauve calligraphy and deckled edge paper. Our guest book was a poster of two characters made to look like us, and it now hangs nicely in our home. Since my husband is Italian-American, our sweets table was filled with some of our favorite treats made by my mother-in-law. We added Catholic touches by incorporating saints that played important parts in our lives on our table numbers. 

I got ready before the wedding at Link Lee Mansion, where we also had our rehearsal dinner. It is such a stunning location at our alma mater. I soaked in time with my best friends and listened to their stories about marriage and motherhood while drinking mimosas and being pampered by our hair and make up team. They also gifted me with a basket of wine; one bottle from each of them for a major moment in our marriage with handwritten cards fit to make a bride cry. 

My favorite moments after Mass were filled with dancing! Our first dance was a waltz to “La Vie En Rose.” My husband and I love to ballroom dance, so we showed each other off with our practiced waltz step. At every Aquila wedding his family circles up and sways back and forth, singing at the top of their lungs, and kicking their legs to the song “New York, New York.” My husband is one of eleven, so the evening was filled with lots of people, joy, and laughter. 

We also had a private last dance. I stole this idea from a wedding I had worked a couple years before. While people lined up to see us leave, we shared a dance alone in the ballroom to a Glen Hansard song that we sang to each other in our first year of dating. As the song goes, “maybe I was born to hold you in these arms.”

Our wedding day was the start of a journey I believe I was truly meant for. Taking time to spiritually prepare the way we did only made our transition into married life that much better. It's not always easy, but knowing that we set a strong foundation of prayer and receiving the sacraments together gives us the graces we need. 

Savoring all the joy-filled moments of the day and not getting caught up in details I could no longer change put the emphasis back on us, our vocation, and God. We were supported in every step of our engagement by our parish community, family, and friends who constantly poured love and laughter upon us. Dominick and I both believe a relationship is not meant to turn in on itself but is meant to be shared with the Christian community. My cup has run over from the many blessings this provided to us.

Photography: Ten23 Photography | Church: Holy Rosary Catholic Church Houston, TX | Reception: The Estates at Pecan Park | Flowers: Mary Tran | Invitations & Stationary- Pax Paper (Dominika Ramos) | Bride's Dress: Allure Bridal | Veil: Custom Cathedral Veil (Cindy Rose) | Bridal Shoes: Badgley Mischka | Hair and Makeup: BP Artistry | Rings: Helzberg Diamonds | Groom and Groomsmen Suits: Men's Wearhouse | Cake: Magical Memories Made Simple | DJ: Dave Clark Events

Emily + Jose | Romantic Candlelit Rose Wedding

There is something so beautiful about the nuptial Mass and the heavenly celebration of two lives becoming one. There are graces in engagement and the marriage sacrament that transform broken hearts. 

Emily didn’t know what would happen next. Recovering from a previous relationship and loss of a job, she fell back on prayer. Then, through the intercession of St. Joseph and the courage to jump into community, Emily met Jose. The rest is history.

From the Bride: I made one of the hardest decisions of my life when I called off my engagement to an emotionally abusive fiancé and moved back home with my parents at 27 years old. And despite having amazing colleagues at work, I was not feeling fulfilled at my job either, which made the transition harder. 

During the following fall, I prayed constant novenas to St. Joseph asking for a purposeful, meaningful job. A few months later in December, I found out I was being laid off, and my last day would be in January. Even though I wasn’t in love with my job, I knew I needed to work, but nothing piqued my interest. 

So I kept praying. My mom knew I was developing a special devotion to St. Joseph and gave me a special bracelet with his icon on it as a little gift to cheer me up.

Around the same time, I found a new parish and began attending their young adult group. I’m a natural introvert, but I knew I needed to be around other people my age for support. I decided to sign up as a volunteer for a new event held at a local, historic theatre that recurred monthly,  because I knew the accountability meant I wouldn’t bail last-minute (a bad habit of mine). After the event I left on “Jesus high.” I loved feeling like I was a part of a community, of something greater than myself.

I was surprised to get a phone call the next day from a guy I had talked to the night before, asking me out to dinner, and I accepted! I had enjoyed talking to him and figured it wouldn't hurt to get to know him a little better--and yet I did not want a boyfriend. It sounds cheesy, but I didn't think I could find anyone who would make me happy and feel loved without any hidden agenda.

Jose brought the smile back to my face and the sparkle back into my eyes. We were very open and honest with each other from the start, since I learned just how important communication was from my last relationship. Most importantly, I looked forward to going to Mass with him on Sundays, something that I never thought would be so meaningful to me. 

A few weeks after I started dating Jose, I realized that Jose means Joseph in Spanish. Coincidence?

Several months later, I was hired by the organization that put on the young adult ministry event and ironically became one of the main people in charge of running it. Since Jose and I met at the theatre and spent a lot of time there, he decided it would be the perfect place to propose.

He contacted one of my colleagues who put him in contact with the event manager at the theater. The event manager then contacted me to come in and go over event details on a Sunday afternoon. I arrived for the “meeting” at the adjoining restaurant, and my manager asked if I wanted to go inside to listen to a band while they were doing their sound check. I thought, “sure, but won’t it be a little loud to talk?” After a few minutes inside the theatre, we headed back out where Jose was anxiously waiting.

He nervously turned me around and showed me the marquee where “Emily, will you marry me?” was written and got down on one knee. His whole family and my parents (along with restaurant diners across the street) were there to witness the joyous occasion. A champagne toast at the restaurant’s rooftop followed, and then we all went to the restaurant where we had our first date to celebrate our engagement! 

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As a former secular wedding coordinator, I hate to admit it, but I was hesitant to have a full Mass. Only about a third of our guests were Catholic and wouldn’t know what was going on. I also worried they would complain about the length of the ceremony. I spent twelve months of our fifteen-month engagement wrapped up in other details like most brides do: flowers, color palettes, catering, and on and on.

I felt like once I had my dress, the aesthetic details would fall into place. One of my old colleagues, Brittany, worked at a bridal boutique and told me about a trunk show they were having. I sent her pictures of dresses I liked and told her what I did not want. I wanted something not as “traditional” that reflected my personality, so when my guests saw me in my dress they would say, “that’s so Emily!” 

I have heard of people (or while watching too much “Say Yes to the Dress”) trying on twenty or more dresses, so I was expecting to visit several shops before I found “the one.” I must have been an exception, because it didn’t take me long to find my dress. In fact, it was the first one I tried on! The dress was not normally for sale, but it was brought in specifically for the trunk show that weekend. It had a crocheted lace top and a loose, chiffon bottom that had vertical panels of the same lace all around. It was meant to be. 

I never imagined wearing a long veil--I thought they were for royalty getting married in castles--but the church we were getting married in had the most beautiful, long aisle. I felt it would be a disservice not to have a long veil. The one I tried on when I bought my dress wasn’t long enough, so I chose to have it custom made to the cathedral length I wanted. It was an unexpected expense, but even my frugal mother felt it was worth it for my special day. 

One of my favorite details was the broach I pinned on my bouquet. It was given to my maternal grandmother from my grandfather on their wedding day and also worn by my mother when she married my father.

Then, a few months before the wedding, something unexpected happened. All of the superficial details and feelings of self-consciousness about the ceremony went on the back burner as Jose and I began planning our liturgy. We both became enamored with choosing the readings and music. We didn’t want it to feel “predictable,” and we wanted to make it our own, which I worried would be difficult with the pre-selected readings and music limitations to choose from. So we took our time, carefully studying each of the readings and psalms to decide which ones reflected our relationship with God as a couple.

Two weeks before the wedding I was at my parent’s house, and my mom, feeling nostalgic, pulled out a few things from her own wedding. As I scanned over the program, I thought the Gospel reading looked familiar. It turned out the Gospel reading we chose (John 15: 12-16) picked up from the verse where my parents had left off (John 15: 9-12). It was such a special surprise from the Holy Spirit.

I sprained my left wrist a week before the wedding. Other than the bruising, I worried how I was going to get everything done before the big day. No matter how prepared you are, there are some things you just can’t do in advance (like buying fresh popcorn for hotel welcome bags). 

I feel like God was telling me to slow down and ask for help, two things I am not good at. So instead of dwelling in pity, I made the situation as comical as I could. My dad and I joked about buying a brace to match my dress, and my mom told me I got all the “day-of mishaps” out of the way early. 

It was such a lesson in humility. Having your almost-husband tie your shoes and people open bottles for you really puts little things into perspective. As much as my naturally independent spirit wants to believe it, I can’t do everything alone. A beautiful representation of this was stated in our first reading, Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.”

It also reminds me that marriage is not something I can do on my own. You need the love and support of others. You need God. You need to sit back and listen to him when the world is loud, and you want to give in to what is popular, which is often not from him.

When the big day finally arrived, we were married at the church where we met almost two years before. Jose and I opted out of a first look, but exchanged hand-written cards and prayed together before the ceremony. 

Though “Canon in D” is a very common bridal processional, I got chills when the organist first played it during our engagement. I was reminded of how I had always pictured myself walking down the aisle to that song, and I didn’t care how many other brides made it their grand entrance. Other pieces that added meaningful touches to our ceremony were “I am the Bread of Life,” “Oh God Beyond All Praising,” and “Ave Maria” when we offered roses and prayers to Mary.

Meanwhile, Jose was persistent that we would have the full sacrament, and for that I am forever grateful. I designed our programs to note when to sit, stand, and kneel, and our deacon helped explain different parts of the liturgy to our guests. 

Throughout the whole ceremony, I felt like it was just the two of us on the altar, and my last thought was what others were thinking.

One of the biggest blessings of the day was that Jose’s uncle, a bishop from Mexico, was able to celebrate our nuptial Mass. He spoke of his brother, Jose’s father, who passed away several years ago from cancer. His mother carried a rose in remembrance of him and placed it where he would have sat during the ceremony. Even though nothing could replace him being there physically, we felt his presence during the Mass and throughout the day.

Everyone says that weddings go by fast, and it did. It felt like an out-of-body experience. We were surrounded by family, friends, and most importantly, Jesus. The day was a true celebration of joining two vastly different lives and cultures into one. It wasn’t just the end of my countdown app, but the beginning of a beautiful, God-centered life together.

Photography: Megan Eidson | Church: St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church | Dallas, TX | Reception: Howell & Dragon | Dallas, TX | Videographer: Chevy Chey Photography  | Flowers: Lizzie Bee’s Flower Shoppe  | Caterer: CN Catering | Invitations: Vista | Bride’s Dress (Pronovias)/Veil (Bel Aire): Lulu’s Bridal Boutique  | Bride’s Earrings: PeonyandPearlWedding | Bridesmaid’s Attire (bill Levkoff): Molly’s Bridal  | Groom & Groomsmen Attire: Jos. A. Banks | Rings – engagement: Shapiro Diamonds  | Rings – wedding bands: Zales  | Cake Baker: Arielle Pastry Works | Hair: Brittainy Boggs | Music – Ceremony: Michael Conrady | Music – Reception: Vida Weddings and Events  | Coordination: Stacey Williams

Jenny + Sam | Summertime Texas Wedding

“Through desire, [God] enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity for receiving him.” These words from Pope Benedict XVI echoed in Jenny’s heart as she prepared to marry her beloved Sam.

Jenny and Sam’s love story is one of virtuous patience and beautiful triumph, the rich fruits of Jenny’s trust while suffering a deep desire and longing to begin her vocation--for marriage.

Through their mutual devotion to their faith and love of Mother Mary, Jenny and Sam were married on a bright, summertime day in Texas.

From the Bride: It was a struggle for me to deeply desire marriage and not enter my vocation until I was 34 (and 1/2) years old. I had already watched many of my friends get engaged, married, and start a family. I did not know why God would have me suffer with such a deep desire for the vocation of marriage and not fulfill it.

I didn’t know it, but he was working out everything for the good--it just wasn't time yet. Through my suffering, my relationship with God became stronger and stronger. I even traveled to be a missionary teacher abroad for two years in the hope that maybe God wanted to work in me more before he revealed my husband to me.

When I returned from missionary work, I dated a little and put myself out there, going to young adult retreats and social functions at my church. But it seemed that many times, as most singles will complain, "the good guys are all gone."

Finally, after a summer of getting my heart broken and many unsuccessful dates, I decided to try one last round of online dating. I had joined an app when I came across Sam's profile. I thought he was cute, and he made some funny comments. He also said he was Catholic. What?! We connected and hit it off.

I quickly discovered that our morals and values as well as our devotion to our Catholic faith aligned perfectly. We also found out we had many common interests, like running. On our first date, he told me he was looking to get married. Wow, I thought. This was a first. I knew he was special, and we quickly prayed about the next steps. Before long, we knew the Lord was bringing us together for a purpose.

What I loved about Sam was his patience with me. Throughout our courtship he showed me the man he truly was. Although we lived across town from each other, we made it a point to attend Mass together every Sunday. We enjoyed attending confession and both had a devotion to Mary, Our Mother, and prayed the rosary often. We truly believe she helped guide us on our journey.

Sam planned the perfect proposal; it was just him and I. We had gotten coffee, and I was getting stressed with work and felt unsure where our future was heading. He told me that Mary would make it all better and show us the way, so we prayed the rosary together. In that moment I knew Sam was truly the one the Lord had planned for me. I prayed “not my will but your will, Lord, but I really like him!” When I opened my eyes, Sam was on his knees, and he asked me to be his wife. God's perfect plan was unfolding in front of me, and I was overjoyed to start the next chapter with this man.

Our engagement was a whirlwind since I was a teacher who was off work in the summer. We were eager to start our lives together, and we knew we wanted a summertime wedding.

But that meant we had only six months to plan a wedding for three hundred guests! Although it was stressful at times, Sam and I really enjoyed our Pre-Cana classes and preparing for marriage. We learned so much about each other and our faith, and we know it prepared us for the sacrament.

Our wedding day was the best day of our lives.

Pope Benedict XVI, said “Man was created for greatness–for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. By delaying his gift, God strengthens our desire; through desire, he enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity for receiving him.”

My entire life has been a process of God enlarging my soul and increasing my heart’s capacity to receive the gift of my marriage on July 21, 2018.

Through suffering, a lot of waiting, prayer, brokenness, redemption, and through the Eucharist, Christ was preparing me for Sam. He was preparing me to say my own “fiat” like Mary did (Luke 1:38) when he offered me the wonderful gift of my husband and our new journey together.

My mom was in charge of most of the planning for the reception, and Sam and I planned the ceremony. We wanted a beautiful, holy Mass and a joyful reception with all our family and friends. We were married in Sam's childhood church and included many Catholic traditions such as the lazo in the liturgy. We knew from the start we would also include the presentation of flowers to Mother Mary. After we prayed together and laid flowers at the foot of Mary, we gave a special rose to our mothers.

Sam and I found out during the wedding process that we have many of the same favorite Catholic hymns, like the communion hymn “Taste and See,” and incorporated them into the Mass. The priest gave a wonderful homily about the love of Jesus and the great sacrament of marriage.

When I saw Sam standing at the altar, all I remember is thanking Jesus. And as I walked with my father down the aisle, carrying my new mother-in-law’s rosary as my “something borrowed,” I smiled as I gazed at Sam, who was crying. It was a beautiful moment, and I felt so close to Christ.

The reception afterwards was a night to remember! We had delicious food and great entertainment. We did the Grand March (a German tradition) that got everyone out on the dance floor. Then came our first dance. Sam and I love to two-step to country music, and it was a special moment as all of our family and friends surrounded us to watch us have our first dance as husband and wife.

There was pure joy and peace the whole day of our wedding, and it remains even now in our marriage. Christ is so good and faithful!

Photography: Meeker Pictures | Church: Saint Mary Catholic Church-Plantersville, Texas | Bridal Portraits- Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church- Houston, TX | Reception: The Brownstone Reserve- Bryan, Texas | Food: City View Catering | Cake: Cakes by Gina | Gown: Stella York @ Whittington Bridal | DJ: DJ Mark Bobo | Florist: Trica Barksdale Designs | Hair/Make-up: Naturally Flawless | Bridesmaid Dresses: KFbridal | Flower girl dresses: Pink Princess | Men's suits: Men's wearhouse | Wedding planning: Ashley &Co. | Invitations: Dromgooles | Bridal portrait flowers: Lambrie Floral designs

Megan + Josh | Romantic Hacienda Wedding

Megan and Josh met at a Catholic grade school in Houston where both of them were teachers and coaches.

They initially met in the environment of other coworkers and friends, and over time they grew to mutually respect and appreciate each other’s morals and values. It became increasingly evident that they complemented each other well.

Megan describes their relationship as a fertile ground where virtue could flourish: “We pushed each other to be the people that God created us to be: sainthood-seeking, evangelizing disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Upon realizing that in each other, there was no turning back. It was love at first realization.

From the Bride: On our wedding day we had all of our loved ones, role models, and loyal friends by our side. All of my family either flew in or drove the long sixteen hours to Houston to celebrate with us.

We even flew in my grade school parish priest from Cleveland, Ohio. He was a role model to me and had been an integral part of my formation as a teen.

During the wedding planning process, the Mass was all we cared about. Our primary desire was to minister the sacrament of matrimony to each other, so that is where our focus remained.

Every reading, every song, every participant mattered more to us than the cake, flowers, food, and dancing combined.

For example, the Ave Maria was a must for our us. My uncle sang it beautifully while we honored Mary during the Mass and asked for her intercession.

Josh and I were also Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion that day. Despite planning this detail far in advance, ministering still brought us both to tears: how could we be any more blessed than to give the precious blood of Jesus Christ to our closest family and friends on our wedding day? I can't think of a more beautiful moment.

The Mass was a sheer foretaste of Heaven.

Josh and I know we are called to bring as many people as we can to Heaven. Through matrimony and all of the sacraments, we experience Jesus Christ in both a spiritual and tangible way, and we longed to share this with our guests.

We hoped that bringing as many people as we could to celebrate our marriage would inspire them to become disciples of Jesus Christ, just like my husband and I continue to inspire each other.

Photography: Cedar & Sage Studios | Church: Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Houston, TX | Wedding Reception Venue : La Tranquila Ranch in Tomball, TX | Bridal Bouquet: H.E.B. Floral | Wedding Dress: Radiant Bride | Wedding Dress Designer: Essense of Australia | Bridesmaid Dresses: Kennedy Blue | Groomsmen Tuxes: Men’s Wearhouse | Make-up & Hair: Amanda Hayley Hair Co. | Cake: Ashley Wetwiski

Ada + Greg | Texas Vintage Wedding

Ada and Greg met at seventeen while attending an admissions event at a Catholic college, where neither of them ended up going. Ada recalls Greg ignoring her when she tried to talk to him. He doesn’t remember their first meeting at all. But when they found themselves together during freshman orientation at a different school that Fall, the Lord began revealing his plans for them.

Greg and Ada became friends--inseparable friends, but nothing more. They studied and spent time together, went to the same parties, and were there for each other during significantly difficult and happy moments.

One of the latter took place during a semester in Rome. Amidst seasons of individual personal discernment, Ada and Greg witnessed Pope Benedict’s last public Mass on Ash Wednesday and prayed a rosary outside Castel Gandolfo as the gates closed on the last day of his papacy. When Pope Francis was elected, they were both there in Saint Peter’s Square.

They began dating their last semester of college, approximately a week after Ada accepted a job in another city. From early, they knew dating would either make or break their friendship. Ada also knew she was serious about Greg, who rearranged his life to stay near her in Texas.

Shortly after graduation, however, their careers took them long-distance for two years. While apart between weekend visits, they wrote letters and made phone calls to stay connected.

From the Bride: In addition to our long-distance relationship, we were also undergoing the major transition of leaving college and moving into the workforce. We often questioned whether our relationship was worth the time, effort, and stress we put into it. But despite our doubts, we ultimately believed our relationship was growing into something bigger, and probably better, than anything we could build alone.

We decided to get married before we officially announced our engagement, and we spent a month in challenging discernment. We don’t make decisions lightly, so we needed time for honest introspection, discussion, and prayer before we were ready to share our news. On a cloudy February Sunday, Greg asked me to be his wife and presented me with a gorgeous antique ring. Our friends and families were overjoyed, and the enthusiasm that greeted us offered confirmation that we were making the right decision.

Because we had a short engagement, we knew we needed to spend our time of preparation wisely. We spent time reading and discussing books on the sacramental and relational aspects of marriage and even met with a Catholic marriage counselor, in addition to the required preparation at our parish. For us, engagement was a period of even deeper discernment, and there were still many doubts and struggles to be overcome before the wedding day.

Something I struggled with in wedding planning was a nagging doubt that my wedding wouldn’t be good enough. I felt discouraged even in the midst of all of the joy and excitement. My mom, however, put things in perspective, saying, “We are going to have Mass and a party. It’s just a Mass and a party.” Knowing my wedding day wasn’t about perfection or glamour allowed me to enjoy more of the planning process.

Although our families were on opposite coasts while we planned our Texas wedding, they were still intimately involved in the planning.

My dress had been worn twice before by my grandmother and her sister, who were married ten weeks apart in 1963.

My veil was new, but similar to the one they and my mother had all shared. The necklace I wore belonged to my great-grandmother. In many ways, these heirlooms set the overall theme for our vintage-inspired wedding.

My bridesmaids were Greg’s three sisters, as well as mine. We asked our parents to proclaim the readings at our Mass, which was particularly meaningful: Greg and I had both been homeschooled, so our parents had truly been the ones to teach us the word of God. I also carried a small Holy Family medal that my dad had given to me as a toddler after he attended a retreat at a Trappist monastery. It has gone nearly everywhere with me, and it was important to me to have it with me on the day Greg and I created a new family.

Beautiful music for our Mass was a major priority. Because the chapel where we were married didn’t have an organ, we chose to have a string trio, pianist, and vocalist. We wanted our wedding liturgy to be particularly beautiful because it was, after all, the main event. We were also very lucky that many of our friends are musically gifted; their singing supported many of the hymns we chose.

As I entered the church with my dad, the congregation sang “O God, Beyond All Praising.” This has been a favorite hymn of mine since I was a teenager, but the lines, “And whether our tomorrows be filled with good or ill / We’ll triumph through our sorrows and rise to bless You still” had stuck with me throughout our engagement as the perfect motto for married life. Greg and I pledged ourselves “for better or for worse,” and despite the difficulties that may arise, God will always be with us and guide us.

One of my favorite memories from the wedding is walking down the aisle towards Greg, passing so many friends from different phases of our lives, all gathered to celebrate and pray with us. At the altar I was met by Greg and Fr. Thomas Esposito, O. Cist., a dear friend and advisor whom we’d first met in Rome. In many ways, Fr. Thomas knows us a little too well, because his homily was full of friendly ribbing as well as good-natured advice.

Greg chose our offertory hymn, “What Wondrous Love is This?,” his personal favorite. The words were perfect, reminding us that love is a sacrifice. I had also engraved the words “stern as death is love,” from the Song of Songs, inside Greg’s wedding ring as a reminder to myself of what I was promising him. He had “the greatest of these is love,” engraved in my ring, taken from the Epistle to the Corinthians we had chosen for the second reading. Finally, during communion, we sang “Be Thou my Vision,” asking God to lead us through our marriage and the rest of our lives together.

Because we were so nervous during the Mass itself, we were surprised to find later that there hadn’t been a dry eye in the congregation. Many guests, both Catholic and non-Catholic, have told us since that they had never been to such a beautiful Mass.

We were so elated after the Mass, and all of our friends and family were ready to celebrate at the reception. Greg and I danced to a song he has always played to me on his guitar. One of the highlights of the evening was the toast Greg’s father had written for us, a particularly beautiful mediation on marriage:

One needs courage to uphold such honor as the years of life grow long. Such courage may seem to have grown rare, but God has not grown less generous in His grace. You must have faith in his generosity, and though the world press on you from dawn to dusk, you must not deem the world more formidable than yourselves.

We were blessed to celebrate into the night with all those who had come to wish us well, particularly those whose weddings we had attended in the past. We ended the night by forming a giant conga line out of the building, while our friends sent us off to the tune of “The Parting Glass,” a traditional Irish folk song.

Despite all the challenges we felt as we prepared for marriage, our wedding reminded us we are not alone. We have friends and family who support us and provide wonderful examples of loving marriages. We also felt strengthened by the sacrament of marriage, so that when hard times do come, we will have the courage to face them.

Photography: Red Fern Photography | Church: St. Ann Catholic Church, Coppell, TX | Reception: Las Colinas Country Club, Irving, TX | Bride shoes: DSW: dsw.com | Bride earrings: Anthropologie | Veil: Mariso lAparicio :Www.esty.com/ shop/marisolaparicio | Bridal hair & make up: Dear Clark | Salon: Dearclark.com | Gown: Vintage | Necklace: Vintage | Bridesmaids’ dresses: Azazie: azazie.com | Bridesmaids’ jewelry: Chole and Isabel: www.choleandisabel.com | Invitations: Basic | Invite: basicinvite.com | Engagement ring: Vintage | Groom wedding band:DiamondBoutiqueCo : Www.esty.com/ shop/diamondboutiqueco | Groom / groomsmen suits:Jos. A. Banks | Groom/ groomsmen ties: Jos. A. Banks | Cake: Loft22 Cakes: Loft22cakes.com | Flowers: Lizzie Bee’s | Flower Shoppe: Lizziebees.net | Catering: Las Colinas Country Club

Gabrielle + Vince | Ordinariate Cathedral Wedding

Gabrielle and Vince first became friends at their small Catholic high school while planning a retreat together. At the time, Vince was preparing for Marian consecration and for Our Lady’s intercession in his life.

All along, Gabrielle just knew Vince was the George Bailey to her Mary, the man who would make her a wife. Patiently she waited, in friendship and in kindness, praying for Vince to realize the same. She asked him for guitar lessons, which led to a period of discernment and starlit walks, which led to Vince’s asking Gabrielle to make their relationship official.

By their senior year of college, Vince asked Gabrielle the same question--this time, for eternity. As they concluded St. Louis de Montfort’s Marian consecration a second time, he proposed on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

From the Bride: Our wedding day was large and lovely. We decided to get married at noon, to have our Mass with the sun shining and an early night for guests who traveled. Our wedding did not intentionally revolve around a theme other than our express desire to have a beautiful liturgy. 

Everything was planned during our senior year of college. During exams I was trying on dresses; before class I was addressing invitations; in our college cafeteria we were choosing our wedding readings. It was chaotic and fun, and we enjoyed every minute of a very busy eight months.

Once I did find “the dress,” my Maid of Honor noticed it was made of alençon lace, which is a lace made mostly in Normandy, France. It’s a traditional material preserved in a large part by the craftsmanship work of Zelie Martin. Days after we were engaged, Zelie and her husband Louis were canonized in Rome. My Maid of honor attended the audience and prayed for us there. Throughout our engagement, and now our marriage, Vince and I often turn to Sts. Zelie and Louis as guides and patrons on this journey.

No amount of planning can prevent little hiccups. We had planned to have an hour of Adoration prior to our rehearsal, and only then did the stress and anticipation of what was happening the next day hit me. That evening, lightning and storms raged outside, flights were being cancelled, Vince was running late, and so were my parents and family. My bridesmaid and I stepped into the church at that point, where she comforted me and helped me practice walking down the aisle. This made the wedding appear a lot smaller: like something I could do, something I could accomplish with ease.

Inspired by our friends and college professors, we were married at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, where we’d become parishioners long before our engagement. It was Vince planned most of our Nuptial Mass. We saw the Mass as an opportunity to beautifully and intentionally show our families the beauty of the Catholic faith.  

The liturgy was, for us, an intimate moment where as husband and wife we were welcomed into the sanctuary to consume the body of our Lord. We added a few personal touches to the Mass where we could: a small addition to the Commemoration of the Dead within the Liturgy of the Eucharist, for instance, helped us include all who were not present with us as part of the Liturgy. I carried my paternal great-grandmother’s rosary around my bouquet, and wore my maternal great-grandmother’s sapphire ring on my right hand. On the wedding day I didn’t get to spend much time with either of them, and these two pieces helped remind me they are by my side, maternally supporting me with the Blessed Mother. As a gift to us, Vince’s fellow altar servers from college served for our Mass. Our godparents were lectors.

The nuptial liturgy doesn't have a first kiss written in, and we hadn’t planned on what to do. Without thinking, during the Sign of Peace we kissed, as we do every Sunday. This was our first kiss as husband and wife.

My paternal family is Cajun Catholic, and slightly taken aback by the language, special prayers, and gestures within the Ordinariate Liturgy of Matrimony. Many of the prayers are said in Early Modern English (Elizabethan), and prayers from the Anglican Church are added to the liturgy to maintain tradition for those who have converted.

At the reception we featured a table with family wedding mementos, both from those still living and those no longer with us, celebrating the idea that Vince and I have now joined their ranks as members of a married tradition.

We chose to have a live band, which I can affirm was the greatest decision. The band, Danny Ray and the Acoustic Production, was versatile, talented, and fun. They easily filled up the dance floor moments after the meal.

Prior to our wedding, Vince was a best man at our close friends wedding. He concluded his toast with a Celtic Blessing toward the married couple. My father, unknowingly, spoke the same words on our wedding day in his the last and final toast as he asked friends and family to extend a blessing over us:

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Thank you for everything, Dad.

The story of every wedding is the same story of salvation history: we have made one another family. This encourages daily sacrifice and patience, but also produces the greatest moments of joy and love I have ever felt. Do not be afraid of young marriage! God does provide.

Photographer's Business Name : Meagan McLendon Photography  | Nupital Mass or Engagement Location: The Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston, Texas | Wedding Reception Venue : Sugar Creek Country Club - Sugar Land, Texas | Band: Danny Ray and the Acoustic Production | Wedding Party Flowers: Nora Anne's Flower Shoppe | Wedding Gown: Ivory Bridal Atelier

Kate + Adam | Winter Garden-Inspired Wedding

Unknown to each other at first, Kate and Adam lived a block apart in Washington, D.C. They each lived in community, respectively, with six other women and six other men. The night their roommates planned a Cinco de Mayo party with fajitas and a fire pit, they met for the first time and talked all night next to the fire.

A few years prior, Adam had attended his good friends' wedding at St. Ann's Catholic Church near Dallas. During the Nuptial Mass, he was deeply touched by his friends' witness and prayed his relationship with is future wife would reflect the same beautiful, holy love. As he realized Kate was the answer to that prayer, he made plans to propose in the chapel at St. Ann's, which, incidentally, is close by Kate's hometown. Right after she said Yes, her family was there to celebrate.

From the Bride:
I like simple elegance. We were going for a winter garden theme and incorporated lots of creams, whites, pale pink and greenery for the flowers, with touches of gray and silver throughout the palette.

Adam and I focused our preparation for marriage on the ceremony. As Catholics, we believe the sacrament of marriage is our participation in the love of God, so planning the Mass was the most important element for us. We chose our favorite hymns and Scripture passages—including a reading from the Book of Tobit that my parents, Adam's parents, and my sister each used in their own weddings. My uncle, who is a priest, celebrated the Mass and gave a beautiful, heartfelt homily. 

We chose the Westin Riverwalk in San Antonio for our reception venue--my older sister, Maria, celebrated her wedding over two years prior, and wee knew it was a beautiful location, two blocks away from the cathedral where the ceremony would be, and we already knew and felt comfortable with the staff there.

We wanted a simple and elegant wedding cake. Our good friends at Delice made their famous almond cake infused with Amaretto and topped with buttercream frosting and fondant. Delice's head baker, Susana Mijares is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and was recently featured on the second season of Food Network's Spring Baking Championship. We also served the bakery's carmelitas–-bars made of oatmeal, caramel, milk, dark, and white Belgian chocolate, and pecans--one of my favorite desserts.

For favors, we assembled boxes of Irish Cream Lindt truffles that said “Love is sweet,” a flavor that reflected our upcoming Ireland honeymoon. We also made wands with bells and streamers, with a passage from the wedding readings: "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God" (1 Jn 4:7-14).

Seeing the reception room with Adam and my parents before opening the doors to our guests was one of my favorite memories of the night. It was so humbling to see the hard work of our families and friends come together. Getting to eat, dance, and celebrate with our our loved ones is what made our reception so special--it was such a gift to be surrounded by so many people we love from various parts of our lives.

Another favorite memory from reception was the Father-Daughter dance with my dad. We had practiced diligently for over a month, and I so fondly remember dancing around our house together before the big day. Seeing that come together was also beautiful and so special! 

From the Photographer: Kate and Adam are an amazing witness to the love God intended for marriage. With every fiber of their being they radiated his grace on their wedding day, and still do in their married life. It was a true honor to be present; to witness and to capture their sacrament of love. Everyone in attendance was filled with the joy of the Holy Sprit and day was wrapped in the protection and love of our Mother Mary. If you could look into my husband and I that night, you'd have seen our hearts aglow with awe for this blessed and holy sacrament. 

By the way, Kate and Adam they had a life-size cutout of the Pope Francis at the reception! They both love him so much, and decided to include him!

Photography: Horn Photography + Design | ChurchSan Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio, TX | Reception Venue: Westin Riverwalk, San Antonio, TXCelebrant: Reverend Pablo Rodriguez, LC | Bride's Dress: Rosa Clara Two | Bride's Shoes: Antonio Melani | Groom's Tux: Men’s WarehouseHair+ Makeup: Madame Make-Up & Hair, San Antonio, TX | Floral: Danny Cuellar of Trinity Flowers and Events, San Antonio, TX | Cake: Délice Chocolatier & Patisserie, San Antonio, TX | Wedding Coordinator: Audrey Eichelberger of Timeless Beginnings Wedding Coordinators, San Antonio, TX | Bridesmaids' Dresses: Bella Bride Boutique | Invitations: Moon Mippy Stationary and Invitations, San Antonio, TX | Band: Oh So Good! Band, San Antonio, TX