It's Wedding Season! Distinctively Catholic Tips for Guests and Bridesmaids

Will you be attending one or more weddings this summer and fall?

Beyond basic etiquette and perception, attending or participating in a wedding—Catholic or otherwise—offers a unique opportunity to live out principles of our faith. Here, inspired by the saints’ famous encouragement to “preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words,” our tips for incorporating the Catholic faith into your actions as a wedding guest or bridesmaid.

For Wedding Guests:

Pray for the bride and groom.

The gift of your intercession can only bear fruit in couples’ new lives together, even non-religious couples. Take time to contemplate a particular saint or prayer whose life or spirituality seems well-suited to the bride and groom, and consider beginning a novena in the nine days preceding the wedding. For the weddings of Catholic couples, you might share the prayer with them, invite friends to join you, or note in your card that you have invoked the prayers of our brothers and sisters in heaven.

Find suggested prayers and patrons for Catholic couples here.

Consider giving a religious gift.

The Church is alive and rich with craftsmen, artists, and distinctively Catholic items. Consider giving an off-registry wedding gift as a surprise for the couple, such as religious art, statues, or a family Bible in which they can inscribe their wedding date and--God willing--their future children’s sacramental milestones like Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation.

Looking for gift ideas? More here: How to Request a Papal Marriage Blessing | Gifts and Décor by Spoken Bride Vendors | Our team’s favorite Catholic gifts for the home | 5 Gift Ideas for Catholic Newlyweds

Find time for a meaningful moment with the couple.

The gift of encounter involves sincere face-to-face time with another, however brief. Reception table visits or receiving lines are a whirlwind for the bride and groom. Though it’s impossible for them to spend extended time with any one guest, strive to make your time with them meaningful: be genuine and honest in the conversation you share; ask them questions; be mindful of their need to make the rounds to as many guests as possible.

It’s also a considerate gesture to thank the parents of the couple at some point during the day, recognizing their financial, spiritual, and emotional contributions to the celebration.

Exemplify reverent dress and prayer.

Without speaking a word, appropriate dress and reverent participation in the Mass can be a powerful witness to non-Catholic or non-practicing guests.

Embody charity.

Much as we might prefer to avoid them, thorny political or religious issues might come up in conversation at your reception table or during the cocktail hour. If you find yourself engaged in a debate, strive for respect and empathy above all. Someone who feels heard and understood is far less defensive than someone who feels attacked by argument: “[conversations like these are] rich with potential opportunities: occasions to truly listen to and see another and to defy stereotypes of what evangelization is all about.”

For Bridesmaids:

Cultivate a heart of service.

Standing by a bride at the altar involves so many tasks, major and minor, that lead to the moment of witnessing her say her vows. As you help her prepare for the big day, pray for a spirit of humility and service: anticipate her needs; willingly take on less fun and glamorous tasks like cleaning up after her bridal shower; pick up last-minute items and run errands for her.  

Will you be the Maid of Honor? More on serving the bride with love.

Give a spiritual bouquet.

With the rest of the wedding party--and, if you like, any other friends and family you’d like to involve (perhaps by asking at her shower)--assemble a spiritual bouquet to present to the bride at the wedding rehearsal. A spiritual bouquet is a collection of prayers and intentions promised by cherished friends, and can be figurative or literal. Read more here about how to plan one.

Consider bringing a spiritual element to pre-wedding events.

If the bridal party is comprised of several Catholic women, consider incorporating elements of prayer, reflection, or worship into the bride’s bachelorette party, bridal shower, and rehearsal. If some bridesmaids are non-Catholic, be sure to extend the invitation to them, as well, and to identify ways they can still feel their presence is valued in these events if they choose to attend.

More here:  Classy and Unconventional Bridal Shower Themes | A Catholic Perspective on Giving Lingerie | Tips for a Spiritually Rich Wedding Rehearsal

We love the uniqueness of every wedding, which reflects the personality and reality of every couple, and love hearing your stories. What are your own tips for Catholic wedding guests and wedding party members? Share in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.

Developing Relationships with Your In-Laws

What’s your relationship like with your spouse-to-be’s family?

Depending on the factors of distance and personal dynamics, how close you feel to your in-laws-to-be might range from remote to already feeling like family. If the merging of your parents and siblings is on your mind as you and your beloved prepare to become your own distinct family, consider ways to cultivate closeness and peace within your circumstances. Here, suggestions for developing relationships with your in-laws.

Introduce (or re-introduce) everyone.

Even if your parents have met in the past, inviting them to celebrate your engagement and discuss wedding plans with you and your fiancé is both practically and relationally fruitful. Treat them to a dinner out, where they can chat and--if you’re newly engaged--speak about each other’s expectations and financial contributions for your wedding.

For siblings, a meetup before the big day can forge friendships and, if any are members of your wedding party, facilitate plans. Inviting them to a more active or project-centered activity like a hike, painting class, tasting, or sports event can help conversation flow more easily.

If distance makes face-to-face time unfeasible, a gesture as simple as a group text can keep everyone in communication. Planning a pre-wedding event like a happy hour, bonfire, or hour of Adoration for out of town guests also conveys good will and a spirit of hospitality during your wedding week.

Delegate.

Family and friends are so often eager to help with your preparations. Specific projects that acknowledge their strengths are great for minimizing your personal to-do list and, more importantly, honoring your future in-laws with the gift of inclusion and attention to who they are.

If you’re the bride, you and your family are likely to have more responsibilities and appointments, yet the family of the groom--particularly his mom!--frequently desire to be sure they’re also contributing and a part of the anticipation. If members of your fiancé’s family are skilled in party-planning, cooking, calligraphy, or otherwise, and have offered their assistance, consider asking them to take on some of these duties for events leading to your big day.

See these principles of delegation and DIY brought to life in Katherine + Ian’s rustic wedding, with handmade statement florals and a reception catered by family.

Affirm them.

A toast at your rehearsal dinner or reception, thank you notes or letters of appreciation, and a time with each other’s parents on the dance floor (whether informally or as a request that your DJ include an in-laws dance in the timeline) are all meaningful gestures of love and of gratitude to your in-laws for raising your beloved into the person he is.

What if one--or both--of you struggles with family relationships?

Life’s milestones can emphasize the pain of tense relationships in a way that makes you wish your situation was otherwise. While not every sensitive matter can or will be resolved by the day you approach the altar, know this: your nuptial Mass, regardless of circumstances, will afford every one of your guests a glimpse of the heavenly wedding feast; a banquet free from brokenness and sin.

Pray for peaceful discussion as you plan your wedding, and for reconciliation to transpire according to the Father’s will. Communicate with your fiancé about healthy boundaries regarding relationships and planning decisions, and find consolation in knowing your family’s wounds and struggles have a purpose--even if that purpose is revealed only in eternity.

What actions and gestures have you made to develop a relationship with your in-laws? Families vary, and through honest community we can strengthen one another as sisters. Share your stories in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.

Read more about bringing your loved ones together for your wedding: How to Involve Non-Catholic Family in Your Wedding | Fostering Relationships Among Your Bridesmaids | Family Photo Tips from a Spoken Bride photographer

Wedding Week Hospitality Tips

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Hospitality is a virtue, especially during wedding week.

The days leading up to the wedding can make a bride’s life hectic and navigating the craziness can pose challenges. Not only are you the guest of honor, but you also play the role of hostess, extending hospitality to all of your guests, especially those coming from out of town.

Here are some ideas to help your bridesmaids, groomsmen, and out of town wedding guests feel welcomed and loved:

Accommodations

Finding accommodations may be challenging for out-of-town guests and members of the wedding party, so they would probably appreciate help finding nice (and affordable) places to stay.

Block rooms at a local hotel or, if possible, offer your spare room as an option. You could also ask around; if you have family or friends that live nearby, they may be willing to house incoming guests.

Welcome bags

Consider leaving small gift bags or baskets for your guests to receive when they arrive at their hotel.

You can fill the bag with items that may be helpful throughout the weekend such as water bottles, snacks, mints, pain relievers, and directions to the ceremony and reception. Or you might want to throw in some fancier items like a small bottle of champagne, chocolates, or local delicacies.

If you are on a strict budget, consider leaving a little welcome note or brochures about local restaurants and attractions in the rooms of your guests instead.

Provide for your Wedding Party

Chances are members of the wedding party have probably spent a fair amount of money to help make your wedding day even more special. Anticipating and filling their needs is a wonderful way to show them that you appreciate them.

Offer them a ride from the airport, and help them find a place to stay. You can host a dinner after they arrive into town or provide a nice breakfast the morning of the wedding. You can also have some snacks and drinks available wherever they are getting ready.

Having their basic needs met will help them more fully enjoy their weekend celebrating you and your soon to be spouse.

After the Ceremony

With the already packed wedding day itinerary, many couples understandably opt not to have a receiving line after the ceremony. But if your schedule allows it or if you are looking for a way to make sure you have a moment with all your guests a receiving line is a great option.

When planning the reception, keep your guests in mind. The party is for them, to celebrate you.

Make sure the food, music, and beverages can be enjoyed both by you and your new spouse, as well as the majority of your guests. That doesn’t mean you have to take every song request or have a full bar, but that you give everyone a chance to truly celebrate the great sacrament that just occurred.

Morning-after Brunch

Hosting a brunch the morning after the wedding is a special way to wrap up your wedding weekend especially if you aren’t taking a honeymoon right away.

The morning-after brunch provides a more intimate space in which you can catch up with some of your loved ones. It’s generally less hectic than the wedding reception and with the stress of the wedding day behind you, you can really enter into the joy shared by your friends and family.


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

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Signature Items: What They Are and How They Can Help Preserve Your Wedding Memories

What are your personal signatures? Maybe there’s a singular outfit or lip color that makes you feel your best, a spiritual book or prayer friends associate with you because you’ve recommended it so many times, a go-to drink order, a candle whose scent always fills your living space.

As individual as the way you write your name, signature items are the ones that make you feel most like you.

The external things you choose over and over and, in doing so, express your internal self. Every person desires to be known, and each woman’s personal style and spirituality can become a way of sharing and making visible who she is.

Photography:    Petite Fleur Studios

If you’ve worried your wedding day might pass in too much of a blur to remember, pray for a sense of presence, and consider choosing items that can help you concretely revisit the start of your vocation. Sensory and emotional experiences are tied to closely to our memories, and can help cement life’s milestones in your mind. In the seasons of your wedding-day countdown and first months as a married couple, consider choosing a handful of new signatures--as a bride and as a couple--that, in years to come, will help define your life together: items that, when you use them, will bring the sweet days of new marriage flooding back.

Here, four suggestions for incorporating signature items into your wedding day and newlywed life:

A wedding-day fragrance

The sense of smell can powerfully evoke memory and emotion. Choosing a new-to-you perfume to wear for the first time on your wedding day and honeymoon, then setting it aside for a brief period, is a resonant way to lock in and later revisit this sacred time.

A new saint or devotion

Shared prayer deepens your relationship like practically nothing else. As your wedding approaches, commit to adopting a patron for your marriage, compose your own wedding novena, write your own personal marriage prayer or family mission, or consider Marian consecration. Repeat this devotion annually around your anniversary, and you’ll find yourself amazed by the fruits and changes each year of marriage brings--even difficult years.

A honeymoon playlist

Like scent, music holds a strong pull on our memories. Before your honeymoon, put together a playlist or choose albums with your beloved that are new to you or haven’t been in heavy rotation, and listen en route to and at your destination. Listen more as you settle into your shared life, knowing the songs you’ve selected will be able to transport you back. Not going on a honeymoon right away? This practice still works if you’re headed right into your new routine or planning a staycation!

Recipes

Are there particular meals that strongly evoke your childhood or a past experience? Food, and the rituals tied to it, is a foundation of a shared table and shared life. Put a few cookbooks on your wedding registry, or purchase them for yourself, and enjoy the process of discovering dishes you love; ones that will have a spot in your home as time passes and, God willing, as your family grows.

Of course, we often go through phases of loving certain products, songs, prayers, and meals that later become associated with certain seasons outside the wedding realm, sometimes without realizing it. Making an effort to intentionally choose some of these items as you prepare for your vocation, to express the inner with the outer, speaks to the human heart’s eagerness to be known--to share of itself, to give--and to building a life entirely unique to you and your spouse.

When You're Nervous About Being the Center of Attention

The radiant joy of a bride and groom, wearing their best attire--and looks of love--for one another--is impossible to look away from. But what about when you’re that couple, with all eyes on you?

If the prospect of sustained attention from guests on your wedding day makes you apprehensive, know that nerves are normal--after all, it’s rare to be looked at, photographed, filmed, and talked to for hours at a time in most of our everyday lives. It’s possible, however, to cultivate a spirit of comfort and freedom in the spotlight, with a combination of practical and emotional preparation. Here, our advice for handling attention gracefully.

Talk about your expectations.

Seemingly simple matters, like sharing a kiss, or moving from conversation to conversation at a small gathering, can suddenly feel more complicated at your reception in the presence of dozens of guests. A bit of discussion beforehand can go a long way toward helping you and your fiancé manage expectations and feel on the same page. Have a conversation about each of your opinions on appropriate levels of PDA, a reasonable amount of time to spend with each guest in a receiving line or during your reception meal, and concrete ways to help each of your guests and wedding party members feel seen and appreciated.

Turn to the pros.

Wedding industry professionals are used to working with clients who don’t typically have experience in modeling or being filmed--and that’s a good thing! A great photographer or videographer will educate you in ways to pose, manage time, and feel natural on camera in a way particular to his or her style, one that will draw out who you are as a couple and allow them to produce their best work. Trust in their guidance, and turn to them as a resource for any specific concerns.

Cultivate self-acceptance.

If appearance and body image are a struggle for you, know this: you are enough. Beloved by your spouse-to-be and by the heavenly Bridegroom; beautiful in soul and body. On the days it becomes hard to believe this, consider ways to embrace your looks and to enhance and make visible your inner worth: cultivate gratitude for your body and pursue an exercise regimen that encourages strength and virtue. Research dress styles and makeup looks that will make you feel your best. And when comparison creeps in, step back. Close all the dress, cosmetic, and workout tabs and step into silence and prayer.

You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride…

But, let yourself be surprised.

No amount of planning can account for the grace of forgetting--that is, the moments when the sense of being watched falls away, leaving you and your beloved in freedom to absorb and cherish the sacred and joyful moments of the day. Ask the Lord for the grace to feel like yourselves even when all eyes are turned to you. When we are his instruments, open and willing vessels, we direct the eye to him, the source of all love.

Being looked at taps into something deeply human. Every person desires to be seen for who they are, without veils or masks and loved all the same. Alice von Hildebrand wrote,

Do you recall the Gospel story of the Transfiguration? The apostles went with Jesus to the top of Mount Tabor, and suddenly Jesus became radiant and his garments a dazzling white. For the first time, the apostles were allowed to see Jesus directly, clothed in His glory as God. He was transfigured before them.

Similarly, when you fell in love with [your spouse], you saw his true face, his unique beauty: with the eyes of love, you were granted a "Tabor vision" of [him].

Trust this bright Tabor vision you've been given. Daily rekindle it in your heart and let it nurture your love.

Your wedding day presents you with a similar opportunity: to be who you are, in love, at the threshold of your vocation, and able to bear the Father’s radiant love to all who are present.

5 Tips for a Lower-Waste Wedding

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

One of the highlights of my honeymoon was sharing with my husband the dozens of Jordan almonds—one of our wedding favors—left behind on tables at our reception. At the end of the evening, my mother-in-law gathered the extras into a shopping bag and handed them to us. We snacked on them for the duration of an eight-hour drive and a week spent on the Carolina coast.

Photography:    Sarah Ann Design

Photography: Sarah Ann Design

They were delicious, and even now the taste transports me directly back to those sweet first days of marriage. Yet as I untied each ribbon, pulled apart each tulle circle, and methodically moved them aside to unwrap another, I vaguely wondered how long it had taken to assemble each favor and how long our guests considered the packaging before throwing it away. I felt bad about what seemed like unnecessary waste.

Weddings unavoidably require consumption—which, in the name of hospitality and service, is not fundamentally bad. Beauty, feasting, and refinement have their place and can draw our senses to the invisible realities of the sacrament. It’s an excess of these matters that can unintentionally cause waste. As I look back on my wedding, I can clearly see elements that might have been stewarded more responsibly.

If sustainability and intention matter to you in a similar way, here, my suggestions for planning a lower-waste celebration and choosing details versatile enough to be reused—by you or another bride. As a disclaimer, be assured I make these suggestions not from a moral high ground (see the almond-eating above), but simply from a place of insight I’ve gained over time.

Buy items secondhand, and plan to resell them when possible.

Purchasing secondhand décor and apparel extends the life of items already produced and circulated. It’s not infrequent to find even wedding gowns that have never been worn, after another bride has reconsidered the purchase! When you’re ready, consider re-selling your gently used items; here, our curation of the best organizations for selling or donating your dress, including several distinctively Catholic resources.

Choose versatile items that can be reused for the everyday.

I loved the satin sandals, dyed green, that I wore with my gown. Yet even having had them dyed, the material and style of the shoes very much conveyed “wedding,” and I only re-wore them once before donating them. In hindsight, I wish I’d chosen something more adaptable.

Versatility can be a great guide as you shop: consider what types of accessories you’d enjoy wearing to elevate your everyday outfits or on your honeymoon, a tie your groomsmen can wear again, and signs, vases, or frames you’d be glad to display in your home.

Consider digital over paper materials.

Invitation suites and wedding programs become keepsakes for generations and take on precious meaning in print. For other correspondence, however, consider using digital tools to reduce excess paper. You might include online RSVP instructions in your mailed invitations, for instance, and use electronic cards for matters like wedding party asks, showers, and the rehearsal dinner.

Plan ahead for donating leftovers, and consider serving the Church.

Before the big day, discuss with your fiancé and families what you’d like to do with food, flowers, cake, and any other perishables left over. Contact your diocese’s Catholic Charities for information on food donations in service to those who go without, or contact local religious communities to inquire if and how they accept donations.

I treasure the memory of driving with my best friend after a wedding to drop off her bridesmaid bouquet at the cloistered community of which her sister is a member. Flowers to elevate the chapels of our sisters and brothers in religious life are a beautiful gift!

Have lower amounts of consumption and waste been on your mind as you plan your wedding? Share your experiences and additional tips with other brides in the comments and on our social media.


About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more

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Heartfelt Thank You Notes: The 6th Love Language

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

A much-anticipated aspect of the wedding planning process involves creating a wedding registry and receiving an assortment of new home appliances, decorations, tools, and household essentials.

As wedding guests share their excitement for the newlyweds by offering a thoughtful gift from the registry, they express their admiration, love, joy, and hope to the couple. In his written analysis of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, author and marriage counselor Dr. Gary Chapman comments on the significance of gift-giving. He says, “You must be thinking of someone to give him or her a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought.”

Yet the deep fulfillment of gift-giving often comes when the recipient opens the gift with sincere gratitude or joy; as observed by St. Francis of Assisi, “it is in giving that we receive.” When guests are unable to see the bride and groom open their gift after their wedding, a thank you note helps complete the beautiful cycle between giving and receiving.

While giving a gift is a way to say “I love you,” writing a heartfelt thank you note is how to say, “I love you, too.”

If working through the list of thank you notes feels like a chore, hassle or waste of time, consider the following tips to convey gratitude, affirm your friends and family, and find purpose in your hand cramps:

Write Notes by Hand

There isn’t an expression of gratitude more authentic, powerful, or treasured than a personal, handwritten note. Despite the convenience and beauty of modern technology, it is important to take the time and effort to put pen to paper.  Making the effort to handwrite wedding thank you notes and send it in the mail is not only a sacrifice, but an act of love for another.

Be Specific

Beyond gratitude for gifts alone, consider expressing your sincere thanks for wedding weekend assistance or for the presence of a loved one at your wedding. Every guest, vendor, and volunteer is a unique person who helped make your special day possible. The thank you note has the power to convey the message of appreciation for both the gift and their role in your life. As you express gratitude in a note as unique as the person it’s for, consider incorporating answers to some of the following questions:

  • What was the gift?

  • What was your/your spouse’s reaction when you received the gift?

  • How will you/have you used the gift?

  • Why are you and your spouse eager to bring this specific gift home?

  • How did their presence or assistance make a difference in your wedding day?

  • Did this person offer a skill, talent, or word of encouragement that no one else could have provided?

Share Something from the Heart

Stretch your focus beyond the gift and share a personal emotion or memory from your wedding day. By sharing an emotion, you expose a truth of your heart and invite the recipient of the message to express empathy or to make a deeper connection with you. For example, you could write about a favorite moment or a “behind-the-scenes” story that guests didn’t notice. Despite how much time you were able to spend with specific guests during the wedding weekend, sharing a personal story or emotion invites them into a deeper experience and memory of your joyful sacrament. In doing so, you offer them a gift in return, the gift of your heart.

Pay it Forward

The gratitude doesn’t have to end when the thank you note goes to the post office. When you unpack a gift or as you use it over time, offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the person who gave it to you and their generosity, or a petition for their own needs and desires.

Stay on Budget

If a family member or close friend wants to give you and your spouse a meaningful wedding gift that is not on the registry, consider inviting them to order the bulk supply of personalized stationery, envelopes, and/or stamps for your thank you notes. High-quality stationary reflects your personality and your gratitude, but it comes with a cost. If someone is able to give your stationary as a wedding gift, it is truly the gift that keeps on giving.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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