Elisabeth + Salvador | Central American Destination Wedding

 

Elisabeth and Salvador's first meeting was straight out of a romantic comedy. They were both using the same language-learning website: Elisabeth wanted to learn Spanish and Salvador, who is from El Salvador, wanted to learn English. After connecting online, they developed a friendship that eventually led to an in-person meeting in Elisabeth's home state of California. "The day we met, we knew we were soulmates," says Elisabeth. "He asked me out the next day, and we were engaged seven months later."  After months of long distance engagement, the couple were married in El Salvador on August 13, 2016. 

In Elisabeth's words: Our wedding was simple yet beautiful. We were married in the rural parish that my husband's grandfather helped build. It was dedicated to and named for Our Lady of Guadalupe. The readings were chosen with care, as we wanted them to reflect our relationship. The second reading, 1 Corinthians 13: 1- 8, has always one of my favorite passages of Scripture, so I was happy we could include it in our wedding Mass.

Since we were married in El Salvador, during our ceremony, we made sure to do the traditional lasso cord as a symbol of our unity for life. We also exchanged arras (coins), which is also a tradition at Salvadoran weddings.

My dress was a lace and tulle mermaid-style dress, with elegant detailing at the top. I fell in love with the dress the moment I laid eyes on it, as it was unlike any other dress I had seen.

Our reception was across the street from the church at my husband's family hacienda. Delicious Latin food was served and we danced to "At Last" by Celine Dion to celebrate that the wait and distance was finally over!  A huge downpour of rain and thunder came and went during the middle of our reception - typical weather in El Salvador! It was a most blessed and unforgettable day.

Elisabeth's spiritual takeaway: When you put Christ at the center of your relationship, it will show through on your wedding day.

Photography: Rorellana Photography  | Church: Our Lady of Guadalupe, El Salvador | Reception - Groom's Family Home |  Wedding Dress & Shoes: David's Bridal

Edith + Bomani | Kenyan Catholic Wedding

Edith and Bomani met in 2008 at Edith's workplace in Kenya and it was love at first sight. They had a long distance relationship for many years, and spent hours talking on Skype and the phone. Throughout their relationship, it was evident that Edith and Bomani were meant to be together. From thousands of miles away, Bomani wooed Edith; Bomani sent Edith flowers and gifts, and would surprise her with occasional visits.

A few years later, they reached a turning point in their lives and had to prayerfully consider the direction in which their courtship was going. They turned to Jesus through the intercession of St. Faustina, the patron Saint of their relationship, and her famous prayer: "Jesus, I trust in You." It was a prayer of intense and complete surrender, difficult to say and even harder to live by, but Edith and Bomani knew deep down that God had a plan for their lives together. And despite some scary moments in their families, it came to pass. Bomani came to Kenya and asked for Edith's hand in marriage. She moved to the United States and they got married in a joyous nupital Mass celebration at St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church in Arlington, VA. 
 

 "When you make God your first person to talk to each and every morning, He protects you from all odds since He owns your life." --Edith
 

From the photographer: The Wedding Mass of Edith and Bomani was unlike any Mass I have ever witnessed. It was vibrant, celebratory, and full of joy! After making a reverent sign of the Cross and blessing themselves with Holy Water, the groom and wedding party danced their way up the aisle to the front of the sanctuary. The music was a combination of Kenyan Gospel music and Afro-Carribean beats. Since her parents could not be with her on her wedding day (as they live in Kenya), Edith took one emotional walk down the aisle and her Aunt gave her away to Bomani.

After the readings, saying their vows, the sign of peace, Holy Communion (which was not photographed per the Bride and Groom's request), the young Priest presiding over the Mass declared that today was not only a celebration for Edith and Bomani, but also a celebration of the guests' milestones. He asked if anyone was celebrating an anniversary, engagement, birthday, baptism during the month of August, and when we raised our hands (I raised my hand because my birthday was just one week prior to that celebration), the music played and everyone cheered. You could not help but be overwhelmed with tears of joy and laughter! 

The attire the wedding guests was also unique in that it was "white-on-white", both a timeless and seasonably appropriate color for a late summer Afro-Caribbean wedding. Edith had a traditional wedding dress on during the ceremony while Bomani had a traditional Kenyan wedding suit on. At the reception, both Edith and Bomani changed into a more casual traditional Kenyan outfit (black with bold reds, greens and gold patterns) and that contrasted nicely with the white dresses and suits of the wedding guests. 

The wedding reception took place at an historic boutique hotel in Old Town Alexandria, VA, which is a mix of contemporary and colonial decor.The ballroom was the perfect location for a small intimate wedding of 50 people. 

After the bride and groom made their grand entrance (dancing, of course!), they participated in a variety of wedding reception activities, such as cutting and serving each other the delicious 3-tier wedding cake, listening to speeches and well wishes from family and friends, and giving their own speech of thanksgiving and gratitude to their guests and the traditional gift giving ceremony. In Kenya, it is a tradition to not only receive gifts for their wedding, but also to give gifts to each guest that attends the wedding. As the music played, the couple and their guests danced together before posing for a picture and giving each guest their gift. 

This wedding also featured one of the best grand finale photo moments of any wedding I have photographed thus far. We used the curved staircase of the Morrison House Hotel and had everyone go outside for a photo opt: first a traditional/editorial pose and lastly, the "scream and shout" pose where Edith and Bomani shared one of their first kisses (dressed in traditional Kenyan colors) and as Mr. and Mrs. while the wedding guests (wearing white) cheered on!

What is your spiritual takeaway from this wedding? From a vendor's perspective, this wedding brought tears to my eyes. It was encouraging for me to see the diversity within the Catholicism that comes from cultures in the developing world and that it is a gift to share in these traditions. Though we are so different in many ways, we are one Body in Christ and that is something to celebrate and treasure. Edith and Bomani's journey of faith and love also showed me that when you truly surrender your life to Jesus, in whatever vocation you might find yourself in, all things are possible in His perfect time. And when all else fails? Just dance, and make a joyful noise unto the Lord! 

Photography: Laurentina Photography | Church: St. Ann Roman Catholic Church - Arlington, VA | Flowers: Flowers with Love, Arlington, VA  | Cake: Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe, Arlington, VA | Reception & Catering: The Morrison House Hotel, Alexandria, VA

Emily + Ben | Rustic Elegance Wedding

Emily and Ben met as teammates during both of their first years as FOCUS missionaries. Unlike most missionaries, who begin serving on campuses right after graduating college, the two of them had both worked outside of the Church for a few years before entering the organization. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight; in fact, they didn’t get along too well at all.

The Father had something else in mind.

From the Bride: Ben and I both came in with more life experience, more years in age and wisdom, and more ego than your average FOCUS first-year. We come from very different backgrounds. He was a Southern boy through and through who was raised in a beautiful, devout Catholic family.   Although he has a loud personality and rebellious heart, he has always known who his Father is and obediently subjects himself to God’s will.  

For many years, I, on the other hand, considered myself an independent, motivated woman. I fell into a lazy atheism for a number of years during my college days in California.

After a radical conversion back home to the Catholic Church and into the arms of Jesus, I thought I knew best about how to evangelize our future leaders on the college campus. The funny thing is, so did Ben.  And that is how our story begins.

I could go on and on about our many quibbles or how uncomfortable we made our teammates during meetings when we both fought over who would be “highest on the hill,” or about the time our Chaplain sat us both down for an intervention on how to get along. You’re probably wondering how I got to the point of marrying this man whom I severely struggled to even be around for longer than a few minutes.

Well, that started when Ben asked our team to make our beds as an offering for his sanctity. I committed to a week. Only God knew it would be for the rest of my life. Every morning, first thing, I’d make my bed and offer a prayer for Ben O’Neill, “that he become a holy man…and maybe lose the ego…and that he finally learn that he’s actually wrong and that I’m actually right…and that maybe, just maybe, I don’t even have to see him today…thanks, Lord.” That was how it started but soon my thoughts turned a little more holy and I began to sincerely pray for Ben, my brother. I prayed that he fall deeply in love with Jesus Christ, that he become the best son, husband, and father he was created to be, and that he would be welcomed into heaven. I prayed he would teach me how to be as disciplined as he was and that I would learn to love him better even when it’s really difficult. I think you know where this is going.

Be careful what you ask of the Father, because he will give it in generous abundance! I continued praying every morning for Ben. The Lord not only worked in transforming Ben’s heart, but mine, as well.

By the end of the school year we had learned how to work together, and it was pretty evident that our mutual dislike had been redeemed into a full-fledged attraction.  We had grown to love one another sacrificially; to really desire the good of the other.

 

From the Groom: That summer, we began a long-distance relationship when Emily was sent to serve at a university in California, while I stayed back with our team in Alabama, at the school where we met. By February we were engaged and by August of that same year, we were married.

Emily and I often laugh when we look back on our story. Our quarrels didn’t stop throughout our dating and engagement, but it’s funny how God used each of our faults to sharpen the other in sacrificial love. It’s like God collided two rough, unpolished blocks of marble with impeccable precision, such that we walked away as two idyllic statues. Each of our gifts became a healing balm for the other’s weakness and wounds.

People know I’ve changed from who I used to be, and they might think Emily loves me because I’ve changed. The reality is that Emily’s love is what transformed me. It’s precisely her love and forgiveness, in times when I was most undeserving of them, during our courtship that healed me and set me free. I need Emily. Her love makes up for my weakness, and mine does the same for her.

It’s amazing how God has designed marriage for the salvation of the spouses: you have the choice to either close in on your selfish tendencies, refuse to serve each other and end up broken and alone. Or you can choose to learn how to place the other first, to serve each other in sacrifice and find happiness. The choice is our own.

Emily and I long to choose the latter, and we are so excited to let our love and our marriage--faults included--be an instrument in God’s hands, a reflection of his very own sacrifice.

Our wedding was not for us.

Christian marriage is a sacrament administered from each couple for the good of the Church. We wanted our wedding to reveal the mystery to which it is directed: the marriage of Jesus Christ, and his Church. Many non-Catholics and non-Christians attended, so we wanted to make our wedding beautiful for their sake. We hoped to inspire many to open up their hearts to receive the gift of the Bridegroom for themselves.

Emily was fully on board. She surprised me when she decided her bridesmaids should all wear white! She wanted to reveal that she was not the only bride in attendance, but that Jesus Christ longs to give himself fully to each one of us as his betrothed.

For our Gospel reading we chose John 14:1-21, which uses the same language as an ancient Jewish proposal. Jesus says to his disciples, “My Father’s house has many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you… I will come back to you and bring you to myself.” In ancient Judaism, a man would propose to a woman by offering her to drink from a chalice of wine. If she accepted his invitation she would take the chalice and drink. Then the man would leave and go to where he lived at his father’s house. He, his brothers, and his father would literally build a new room onto their house where the new married couple would live. Once the room was prepared, the man could return to his betrothed and the wedding feast could begin.

This is the invitation Jesus offers each of us. At every mass, through the priest, Jesus lifts up a chalice and proposes to his Church once again. The voice of the Bridegroom speaks: “This is my body, given for you.”

Do you accept his proposal? “Behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her, says the Lord… I will espouse you forever. I will espouse you in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy”  (Hosea 2:14,19)

From the Photographer: The Mass was the core of Emily and Ben’s day. They had a beautiful liturgy at the Church of the Assumption in Nashville. Prior to the Mass, the bridal party and family members prayed over Ben and Emily. The Mass itself was deeply prayerful, charismatic, and joyful. Near the end, Emily and Ben departed from the usual tradition of the couple giving flowers to Our Lady. Ben and the groomsmen went and prayed before St. Joseph. Emily and the bridesmaids went and prayed before Our Lady. They then returned to stand before the cross for the final blessing.

After the Mass, the bride and groom retreated briefly to a little ballroom above the church hall, where they had their first dance alone as husband and wife. This gallery I includes one of my favorite silhouette shots of them dancing in the window-lit room. From there they went on to Drakewood Farm, a gorgeous, rustic barn and farmhouse set on over 40 acres.

The details of the day, from the flowers to the unique crystal at every table, were stunning. Since Emily and Ben have been serving across the United States through their work with FOCUS, their wedding was full of students whose lives they've impacted. The dance floor was alive as hundreds of their friends and students celebrated into the night. Before making a grand sparkler exit to their getaway car, the entire reception gathered around and prayed over Emily and Ben to send off the newlyweds in prayer.

As a vendor who’s photographed many Catholic and non-Catholic weddings, it was so beautiful to see how Emily and Ben put their faith at the center of almost every moment of their day. They placed their love for God and sense of mission above themselves, and I think it served as a testimony to their many guests. And as married photographers who originally met at Franciscan University a decade ago it was really fun for my wife and I to document and tell the story of such a faith-filled wedding. Emily and Ben are just amazingly gracious people, so working with them was a blast.

Photography: An Endless Pursuit | Church: Church of the Assumption - Nashville, Tennessee | Reception Venue + Cake + Flowers + DJ: Drakewood Farm 

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

Allison + Michael | Elegant Ballroom Wedding

Allison + Michael | Elegant Ballroom Wedding

We had long spoken about taking a trip to Yosemite together before I left California. We were beginning to make plans to both move to Chicago and wanted to experience God's glory in that beautiful national park while it was a short drive versus a plane ride away. We took that trip in March of 2015 where Mike proposed in front of Half Dome at sunset. I burst into tears of joy when Mike proposed- a feeling I have never experienced and will hold onto forever.

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Emily + Bradley | Louisiana-French Inspired Wedding

Emily + Bradley | Louisiana-French Inspired Wedding

During her college semester abroad in Paris, Bradley was the last person Emily expected to see. He was supposed to be home in Louisiana finishing med school.  Yet there he was, standing before the tomb of St. Genevieve at the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, Emily's grandmother's ring in hand.

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