Wedding Planning | Making Traditions Meaningful

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Like the Catholic Liturgy, wedding celebrations around the world are rich with tradition and history. Rituals become a source of nostalgia for guests who reflect on their own wedding day, they unite couples who participate in the traditions throughout time around the world. Furthermore, they enhance how the bride and groom bring unique personalization and meaningful symbolism to their ceremony and celebration.

Incorporating specific religious, cultural, or secular traditions into your wedding day is not about going through the motions for the sake of a good photograph or to appease a relative. Traditions are valuable opportunities to experience and share the sacramental nature of a wedding, involve beloved family and friends, or enter more deeply into your nuptials.

A brief selection of decisions and traditions are listed below as a catalyst to think creatively about ways to expand wedding standards in order to cultivate and share the deepest realities of your special day.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   VISUAL GRACE

PHOTOGRAPHY: VISUAL GRACE

Wedding Flowers

Besides choosing flowers in season or highlighting your color scheme, a symbolic approach to selecting flowers for your bouquet is to base the floral selection on religious symbolism. Historically, many flowers were named for Our Lady and Jesus. If you or your fiance have a special devotion to the Holy Family or a saint, you may consider honoring your devotion through your wedding flowers or a “Marian bouquet.”

Rehearsal Dinner

When many guests travel from out-of-town for a wedding, it is difficult for the bride, groom, and their families to spend adequate time with these guests. The rehearsal dinner serves an important purpose in honoring the family and friends who will serve at your wedding. But why stop there? If you are hoping to spend quality time with additional guests, expand the traditional rehearsal dinner to a meet-and-greet; invite others to join the celebration after the dinner, so guests can meet and mingle prior to the wedding day.

First Look

The First Look is a tradition with many benefits. First, it is an opportunity to shake some nerves before the ceremony. Second, as a time for prayer before meeting at the altar. Finally, it’s a perfect chance for the wedding photographer to capture special moments on camera. If the first look doesn’t feel like a good fit, brainstorm options to fit within your comfort zone. Perhaps you meet for a coffee date before everyone gets dressed, allowing time for laughs and prayers. Plan to hold hands back-to-back, as a “first touch” for a prayer and photograph before the ceremony. Determine your intention in this meeting, then consider ways to meet those goals.

Honoring Mary

In the Catholic Mass, there is generally an opportunity for the bride and groom to move to a statue of Mary to offer a prayer or a token of love. Even if you and your fiance have not had a strong devotion to Mary prior to your wedding, this is a beautiful opportunity to bring honor our spiritual mother; if you are at a loss for words to Our Lady, she will still shower you with grace on your special day. However, if you desire to make this tradition more meaningful, incorporate preparation for this tradition into your wedding planning process. For example, pray the rosary together as part of your spiritual preparation for marriage. Or work together to write a prayer to Mary and say the prayer when you visit her during your ceremony. You could also include the original prayer in your wedding program as a way to invite wedding guests to pray alongside and with you during that moment.

Significant Devotions, New Traditions

There are not many standard traditions to honor the saints in a wedding ceremony. If you and your fiance have a special devotion to one or several saints, talk to your priest about including a personalized Litany of Saints during the ceremony. When my husband and I offered the idea to our priest, he had never seen it done in a wedding, but we worked together with the music director to choose the right melody and timing--and it was a perfect addition.  

Eliminate Meaningless Norms

For me and my husband, a tradition that didn’t offer significant meaning, value, joy, or intention was the garter toss. We tried brainstorming ideas to parallel the women’s opportunity with the bouquet toss, but nothing came as a good fit. Rather than feeling obligated to partake in a wedding tradition that made us both uncomfortable, we decided to eliminate it from our reception—and no one asked any questions. If you and your fiancé find yourself at a crossroads between wedding norms and personal values, choose your values with courage and fearlessness. Your wedding day is a holy reflection of your innermost love and desire.

These topics are only the tip of the wedding-tradition-iceberg. We hope you will share your experiences with our community on Instagram or Facebook. We would love to hear: what traditions are you planning to incorporate throughout your wedding weekend? In what ways have you infused deeper meaning or symbolism into the religious, cultural, or secular traditions? How do you communicate the value and significance of a tradition with your wedding guests?


About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. Stephanie’s perfect day would include 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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Planning a Bridal Shower? A Catholic Perspective on Lingerie and Lingerie Shower Tips

ANNE MARIE WILLIAMS & BRIDGET HEFFERNAN

 

In the summer of 2018, Anne Marie received an invitation to a lingerie shower, co-hosted by her friend Bridget. She had some initial misgivings: she’d been to several similar showers in the past and distinctly remembered the discomfort.

At past parties I’d attended, it felt like we were all there to gawk and catcall, expecting the bride to be “naughty" wearing the gifts she opened. I felt like we were invading her and her husband's bedroom--what was supposed to be their sacred space. Furthermore, taste in lingerie is a pretty personal preference. .

In the end, however, I accepted this particular invitation because I trusted the women organizing it. Bridget and her co-host been my good friends for several years and were Theology of the Body enthusiasts. I didn't know what this party would look like, but I trusted it wouldn't be gross or weird.

The shower was beautiful and tasteful, from the decor and treats to games and the opening of gifts. At one point towards the end, the married women present were invited to share advice from their own marriages. Some of their words reflected tremendous vulnerability, and I truly had a sense of the sacredness of marriage.

Because there can be misgivings or hesitation with this topic among Catholic brides, I asked Bridget to share her perspective and planning tips.

Lingerie showers have a reputation for being more trashy than classy. As super classy ladies yourselves, why was it important to you to throw a lingerie shower specifically?

When planning this bridal shower, we wanted to celebrate the gift of intimacy in marriage--both in Katie, the bride, receiving the gift of William, her husband-to-be, and by giving herself to him.

When you prepare a special gift for someone, you adorn it with beautiful wrapping. That is exactly how we look at lingerie.

The purpose of lingerie, used appropriately, is not to objectify the body, but precisely to emphasize the gift of the body.

I would also add that, beyond the style, the woman's behavior and attitude when wearing lingerie can emphasize one or the other: gift or object. As with so many other things in life, if she has the right perspective towards her own body (and assuming she is marrying a good man), her husband will respond to that.

How did you determine the atmosphere and mood for the shower?

We used a lot of greenery and simple white decorations. A trip to Hobby Lobby resulted in garlands of greenery, some of which we separated from the stem and arranged around the room. In the end, the shower had a garden feel with a feminine flair.

For other Catholic women planning pre-wedding events, can you share the order of events for the day?

First, introductions. Once all of the guests arrived, we sat in a circle and went around the room introducing ourselves and how we knew the bride.

Second, food. We prayed and invited everyone to get food from the other room. We served an assortment of hors d’oeuvres and beverages, including bacon-wrapped, maple-soaked water chestnuts, tomato, basil, and mozzarella skewers, blackberry and basil-infused water, coffee, juice (with the option to add Moscato!), and Blueberry, Lemon, Poppy seed muffins.

Third, sharing stories. While we ate, we went around the room and told the group a fun or funny story about the bride. Before long, the room was filled with laughter. Laughter always bonds!

Fourth, a game called Mixed Up Wisdom. Each guest was given a 3x5 card; on the front, she wrote a common marital problem, and on the back, she a corresponding wise solution (for example: what to do for dinner tonight?). Once everyone was done, we stacked the cards and passed them around. Each person would read the top card’s problem and the bottom card's solution, then put the top card on the bottom and move the stack to the left for the next woman to read. The mixed up combination of problems and solutions was quite hilarious.

Fifth, real wisdom.

We opened the discussion for all the married women in the room to offer real advice or kernels of wisdom they’d learned about creating a happy, healthy, thriving marriage. It was so beautiful to see and hear what they had to share.

Sixth, a simple Mad Libs game we printed from online. We had two teams with different scenarios, which we read aloud at the end. Everyone was rolling with laughter by the time we were through.

Finally, we were ready for the opening of gifts. At this point, I said a few words about the dignity of women and about the beauty and importance of approaching marriage with that understanding of the gift of self.

In view of that, joined one another in giving to Katie, both with beautiful intimate clothing and with our support and prayers. It was beautiful. As she opened the gifts, she and each woman in the room had a sense of joyful reverence for what Katie was anticipating.

After she finished gifts, we all prayed over Katie, that she and William would share a joy-filled, holy marriage, giving witness to the call to give of themselves to each other--as Christ gave of himself to us.

What would you say to someone who might object that a bride's intimate attire--and the marital act it's meant for--is private, not for the theme of a party?

Great question! It goes back to the point of the lingerie. If the point is simply to make a woman  look like a sex object, then I think it has no place in a bridal shower--or frankly, in the bedroom, either.

But if the point is what it ought to be--namely, to adorn--then there is something very beautiful about other women gathering around the bride-to-be and helping her prepare to adorn herself as gift for her future husband.

What feedback did you receive?

We were blown away with how many women said afterwards how beautiful the shower was and how much it meant to them to witness such a reverent and holy, yet joyful approach to preparing a bride for marital intimacy.


About the Authors: Anne Marie Williams is a stay-at-home mom to Isaac and Eva Marie and is a part-time Intensive Care Unit nurse from central Illinois. She met her husband on CatholicMatch and they were married in April 2015. She's a firm believer that beautiful, strong marriages change the world. Anne Marie and her husband serve on the PreCana marriage prep retreat team for their diocese. She and Bridget met in 2013 and have been friends ever since.

 

As a single working professional, Bridget Heffernan enjoys working as a Lean Six Sigma Process Re-Engineering Consultant. However, Bridget's real passion is discovering, seeing, and talking about the beauty of God's handiwork, especially as regards the worth of the human person. As a team member for the monthly diocesan PreCana Retreats, she channels this passion by giving talks on the complementarity of masculinity and femininity, dignity and identity, and the power of sexuality & why sex is worth waiting for. Growing up in the middle of four brothers, she used to be a tomboy. As her understanding of the natural complementarity of masculinity and femininity grew, as well as her appreciation for the strength of the Blessed Mother, her love for authentic femininity grew, as well.

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Give the Smallest Details to Jesus.

BECCA AREND

 

I never could have imagined what a simple package of wedding invitation envelopes could teach me about my relationship with Jesus.

PHOTOGRAPHY:    BLITHE AND BLUE DESIGN

It started innocently enough. While I was visiting family in Minnesota with my fiancé, I started looking online for envelopes that would hold our wedding invitations. I quickly zeroed in on some beautiful, matte-gray envelopes that could ship to us in a few days.

“Perfect,” I naively thought. “I’ll have these in no time.”

I mentally crossed “buy wedding invitation envelopes” off my to-do list, only to realize a couple weeks later that I’d never actually ordered them. And by then, I was back home in Canada and the cost of shipping had quadrupled.

It went downhill from there.

Frustrated that I had already wasted so much time, I grimaced and ordered the envelopes, only to realize that I was now subject to expensive international import fees. I suffered through multiple failed delivery attempts and miscommunications with the shipping company until I finally arranged for my envelopes be delivered to a nearby pick-up location so I could grab them after work.

At this point, even the thought of the envelopes made me grind my teeth in exasperation. I felt cheated out of my hard-earned dollars and stressed that they were taking so long to arrive. I ranted to my fiancé daily about how terrible the shipping company’s service was, and I was even getting distracted during my prayer time, seething about the envelopes.

And so, ready to put it all behind me, I went to get the envelopes at the pick-up location, only to find the building closed. I tried again the next day: CLOSED. I had arrived on time, and their business hours were posted in the window, but inexplicably, the door was locked and the lights were off.

Furious, I called my fiance, who found out that an unexpected building problem had forced the place to close for two days. I could not believe that a shipping company would drop off a package at a “convenient” location where they would hold my precious cargo hostage for days on end.

By now, it had been more than three weeks of mounting daily frustration and stress about these envelopes. It was maddening, and boy, was I giving in to every temptation to fly off the handle! It felt justified. Their service was undeniably terrible, and the last thing I needed in the middle of all the logistics of wedding planning was to chase this expensive package all around town. So I took every opportunity to rant and rave to everyone around me about how crazy this situation was.

After seething all night, I went to the pick-up location yet again, ready for a fight. As my fiance and I walked toward the building, I snapped, “Babe, can you imagine if the package still isn’t there? I might just lose my mind.”

So yes, I did lose my mind when the friendly young clerk behind the counter told us there was no package for me. Although the shipping company had notified me that the package had been “delivered” on Thursday, the pick-up location had in fact been closed, and so the clerk guessed that the delivery man must have taken the package back on his truck.

The second we were outside, I burst into angry tears. “I cannot believe it. I cannot believe it,” I fumed, tears streaming down my face. “Why is this happening? Why can’t I just collect my stupid package?”

With infinite patience, my sweet fiance steered me into a pizza joint, bought us each a slice, and told me to breathe. “You know it’s going to be fine, right? The envelopes will come, sooner or later. It’s going to be okay.”

I knew this was all true, and yet the rage inside me wouldn’t die down. What was happening?

In that moment, crying and eating a slice of pizza, I stopped for the first time to ask myself, “Why am I so furious about these envelopes?”

I’m a slow processor. It usually takes me a few hours of mulling over an idea get a good perspective on it. So that evening, during my prayer, I placed that question before Jesus again: Why was I so furious about the envelopes? What was God trying to show me through this maddening experience?

In the quiet pondering and listening for God in my heart, I realized that my issue was what (or who) had control of my heart. In the midst of all the details of wedding planning, I gave in to the temptation to become a “bridezilla” when something didn’t work out the way I hoped.

But this was the opposite of what God and I had already talked about: right from the start, I had promised to give my engagement to Jesus. I promised him that every detail, every moment, every plan would be abandoned to his Divine Providence, and that I would be docile to him, no matter what.

In those early moments of frustration about the envelopes, I should have turned to my Savior with a smile. I should have laughed at the misguided thought that I am in control of my own life. I should have embraced my littleness and entrusted the whole box of envelopes right into his hands, like a child does to a loving father.

By clinging to control over the envelopes, I allowed anger to burrow deeper and deeper into my heart until I couldn’t control it any longer. This was my chance to finally surrender.

Immediately, a quote from Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross sprang to my mind:

“I have an ever deeper and firmer belief that nothing is merely an accident when seen in the light of God, that my whole life down to the smallest details has been marked out for me in the plan of Divine Providence and has a completely coherent meaning in God’s all-seeing eyes. And so I am beginning to rejoice in the light of glory wherein this meaning will be unveiled to me.”

With total peace in my heart for the first time in weeks, I gave the envelopes to Jesus.

The next day, I called the shipping company again. I explained the situation, and they assured me that the package had been dropped at a different location just down the street. All I had to do was collect it. So I did.

Now, I have both the envelopes and a valuable lesson: wedding planning, just like everything else in life, is an opportunity to give the smallest details to Jesus — even the envelopes.


About the Author: Becca Arend is a twenty-something who loves Jesus. As a proud Minnesotan who recently moved to Halifax to be nearer to her fiancé Chris, she loves American things like Chick-Fil-A, spelling words without an extra u, and the Imperial System.

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5 Things Your Wedding Photographer Wants You to Know

EMMA DALLMAN

 

As a wide-eyed, newly engaged young thing, I quickly learned planning a wedding takes a village. Whether you’re planning an extravaganza rivaled only by the likes of Jay Gatsby, or an intimate gathering of close family and friends, you’re going to interview and assemble a team of wedding vendors and trust them to help you execute a life-changing event that is special, memorable, and totally unique to you and your fiancé.

I can’t speak to the inner life of florists, DJs or cake decorators, but after 3 years as a wedding photographer, I do have advice to help set your expectations and have the best possible experience while taking your wedding photos.

Consider the following five points the answers to questions you didn’t think to ask and the solutions to problems you didn’t anticipate--all from the perspective of your friendly neighborhood matrimonial shutterbug!

It's okay to feel awkward.

Occasionally a future bride will admit to me (in hushed and sheepish tones), "We're not very good in front of a camera," or "My fiancé is kind of uncomfortable having his picture taken."

First of all, this is super normal! More likely than not, you and your fiancé are not fashion models. Maybe your last experience taking professional photos was during your senior year of high school. An experienced and talented photographer knows how to make you comfortable in front of the camera.

Before every shoot, I come armed with prompts, stories, games, and suggestions to help turn your focus off of me and back onto each other. When you and your fiancé are interacting more genuinely, I'm able to capture what's authentically between you, rather than posing you in a way that's artificial. My favorite thing to hear at the end of a portrait shoot is, ”Oh, that was actually fun!” or, "That was easier than I expected!”

 If you’re worried being trailed by a stranger loaded down with loud and obtrusive camera gear is going to make you nervous on your wedding day, try to book an engagement session with your wedding photographer. Couples who book me for engagement shoots before their wedding day consistently tell me it makes a huge difference in their comfort level. I'm always able to help a willing, cooperative couple look their best in photos, so if you're feeling apprehensive, try not to stress! 

Our insight might be valuable to you.

Photographers and videographers are the two wedding vendors whose job is to follow brides and grooms around All. Day. Long.  From the early morning makeup session to the last guest who won't get off the dance floor, we ride the wedding-day roller coaster with our clients in a way a cake decorator or a calligrapher doesn't. All that to say, we've been around the wedding world, we've seen some things, and we've got some wisdom to share!

I always tell my brides I'm willing to offer as much or little input on timeline planning as they might want. Assuming you have a comfortable, communicative relationship with your photographer, you should feel free to reach out with questions about timing, group dynamics, lighting, and more. You may not realize it, but in your photographer you have an expert wedding resource available to you.

Prioritize the important shots.

Look into the future for a moment to a point in time after  your wedding day: What kind of photos will you want to frame and hang in your new home? What kind of photos will you want to give as gifts to family members? What kind of photos will you use as your first Christmas card? This could vary, but for most couples this will mean portraits of the bride and groom together, along with family portraits.  

When planning your wedding timeline, try to take this into account. Don't allow your poor photographer only 15 minutes out of your wedding timeline to try and snap the most important  photos of the day! I encourage brides to allow at least 30 minutes for family portraits (depending how large your family is), and at least 45 minutes to get some classic and creative shots of the newly married couple alone. So when laying out the events of your day, make sure to allow adequate room for what’s most important to you!

Don't rule out a First Look.

Most brides I work with will initially tell me that they don't want a "first look." They picture a classic scenario of locking eyes down the aisle of a church with their beloved, seeing his reaction to all their bridal glory.

I understand how special and crucial that moment is. Believe it or not, doing a first look may actually allow you to enjoy your wedding day more!

Couples who do a first look still get photos of that awesome, emotional moment when the groom takes in his bride’s beauty for the first time. They get to react with a little more privacy and authenticity, which can be nice if one or both of them is on the shy side.

But best of all,these couples get to head to their cocktail hour and their reception a lot sooner. If you finish those important portraits before your ceremony, then you're free enjoy your guests, relax, and be a part of your own party!

I strongly recommend a first look to couples having an evening or sunset wedding, and to anyone who feels a little conspicuous knowing a whole church full of people is hoping to see them cry.

It's not about the photos!

After all that talk about timing, cocktail hours, and feeling awkward, the most important  thing your wedding photographer wants you to know is that it's not about the photos! Even as a Catholic bride, it can be easy focus on the details you've worked so hard to put together; to inadvertently begin thinking the cake, the flowers, the dress and the photos are what’s making your day special.

In reality, the inverse is true: the beautiful, important, sacramental commitment you make as a couple turns an ordinary cake into a cake that will forever be special to you. It makes the flowers you choose special, the dress you wear special, and every other aspect of your day. In the end, your photos will be special because they'll help you remember what actually happened on your wedding day--even if the weather was bad, your cake turned out funny, or the best man lost his tie.

 As you research, plan, and book professionals to help your wedding day take shape, don’t be afraid to ask for their insight and advice. Most wedding vendors--especially Catholic ones!--get into this business because they’re romantics at heart, because they love beauty, and because they believe in the importance of marriage. Most likely, they’ll be ready and willing to help you in any way they can. I hope this insight gave you the confidence to embrace your wedding photos in a new way, and helped supply some ready-made answers to your photography questions!


Copy of Contibutor headshot MEDIUM 200px.png

About the Author: Emma Dallman, a Spoken Bride Vendor, is a wedding and portrait photographer serving the East Coast and the world beyond. She lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband Mark and her puppy Hildy. The things that make her happiest include slow weekend mornings, live music, Mexican food and Netflix comedy specials. She is endlessly fascinated by the uniqueness and the beauty of every person she photographs.

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Editors Share | When Expectations Meet Reality

The beauty of a wedding and joy of fulfilling a call to vocation is daydream worthy. From a young age, girls and women can often identify their ideals for the kind of man they imagine marrying, visions of their wedding day, or expectations of day-to-day married and family life.

In this month’s Editors Share, our team reflects on the dreams we had about marriage as single women, and how those expectations either changed or came to fruition after saying I do.

 

Stephanie Calis, Co-founder & Editor in Chief

During our engagement, I frequently prayed in thanksgiving that no one knew, saw, or understood me in the way my husband-to-be did, and I felt the same about him. At the time, I think we did know each other more fully than anyone else.

After our wedding, however, I started to realize how little a fullness of him I had actually known: I’d never known, for instance, how he liked to load a dishwasher, how he preferred to unwind after a stressful day, what grocery staples he liked to keep on hand. Normal adjustments to married life and significant time spent together--particularly after a long-distance engagement--sometimes made me question how well we knew one another at all.

In hindsight, I see the Holy Spirit drawing us out of self-focused habits and toward a shared life. I now consider it a great gift that even with all the trust, confidence, and admiration I had for my husband (and how well I knew him at the time) on our wedding day, the years have continually revealed new parts of him to me and we are constantly presented with opportunities to know and love each other more deeply through various quirks and discoveries.

 

Andi Compton, Business Director

I really thought that my future husband would do large showy displays affection (think Toby on This is Us. The guy gets me). I REALLY wanted to be proposed to in front of Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland, but the man I married is a very private person. He and I were the only ones present when he proposed and we had no engagement party. We didn’t even get a photo until a couple of hours after! A part of me was definitely crushed, but the longer I’ve known my husband, I’ve learned how hard it was for him to be vulnerable and propose at all (even when he knew it was a sure thing!) and I’ve learned to embrace the private way he chose.

 

Jiza Zito, Co-Founder and Creative Director

I am a recovering perfectionist and overachiever, and I too married a perfectionist and overachiever. I was (and still am at times) the sort that if you said “Jump!”, I would ask “How high?”. I always wanted things done efficiently and with the least amount of mistakes as possible on the first try. Because perfectionists and overachievers can often set the bar too high, it can take a great deal to break them out of their unforgiving and sometimes unrealistic expectations.

As an engaged couple, we lived long-distance while being fully immersed in our careers and education at the time; therefore, I did not yet fully realize my expectation for perfection from others. Like many, you sometimes enter into marriage thinking you’re invincible. It was not until my husband and I were expecting our first born immediately after our wedding that my pride got “a swift kick to the pants” and I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance during pregnancy. In addition, we were also experiencing our first deployment and his numerous underways out to sea. When you pair separation and illness on top of the “typical” learning to grow and live together as a newlywed couple and later as parents to a colic-y, difficult newborn, it is severely humbling.

Over 10 years of marriage, there has been many good times. However, it is through the times of great suffering that has strengthen us in our vocation — 8 moves around the country, multiple deployments, the loss of two babies, the special needs of our earthly children, and the continued battle with gestational diabetes and hyperemesis gravidarum with each pregnancy, endometrosis, and as well as post-partum depression that sometimes follows. Each individual within the family unit has their own unique way of processing grief, loss, and trials, and it requires great patience and dying to self when walking in those valleys together. It requires leaning into a support system of people you trust, as well as spiritual direction and professional therapy when necessary. Suffering is sanctifying. It breaks us and molds us. It purifies the heart of its selfish ambitions, and when done in union with Christ, it draws us closer to Him and to each other. While you can never fully anticipate the suffering to which you both will be called to before your wedding day, the reality of God’s abundant Love and Mercy will always greatly surpass your expectations.

 

Stephanie Fries, Associate Editor

Long before I even knew my husband-to-be, I confidently committed myself to saving a KitchenAid Mixer for marriage. Despite the friends who tried to talk me into Black Friday sales and family who offered to buy one as a college graduation gift, I desired to withhold this life-changing kitchen appliance until the day I became a wife.

At the time, I made this decision simply because I wanted my life to look and feel remarkably different before and after marriage. It is the same line of thinking that held me accountable to not live with a boyfriend or fiancé before we were married. It is the same delayed gratification that saved other highly valued and anticipated experiences with my husband for marriage alone.

My husband and I are well-into our first year of marriage and my life is undeniably different from the life I lived as a single person. Marriage brought me across an ocean, into the military, away from my professional career and apart from friends and family. As it turns out, I didn’t need to save a KitchenAid Mixer for my life to look and feel radically different.

But God used my playful expectation and desire in other ways. My withholding of a kitchen appliance wasn’t about the mixer itself, but was about instilling in me an anticipation for married life to be a remarkably different life. I recognize how “saving a KitchenAid for marriage” was a means for God to prepare and strengthen me for the immense changes that followed our wedding day.

Nonetheless, our mixer has been a means to build community and serve others in our home. It is a means of love in the form of chocolate chip cookies. It is a stress reliever and a source of joy. Although I don't make financial contributions in our family right now, I make meals for our single friends, new parents and neighborhood kids. God is using my desires—both the playful and the serious—to teach me about myself, open my heart to love in creative ways, and be affirmed in my vocation as a wife.

 

Mariah Maza, Features Editor

My story is different than most. To be honest, I never had a rosy idea of marriage at all. Since I was little, God gave me the grace to understand the profound beauty in marriage, but I also never thought about it without remembering how hard and painful it probably would be. I didn’t spend most of my tween and teenage years fantasizing about my future husband, writing letters to him, or praying novenas that I would finally meet him. I’m sure part of that is because I didn’t hear about these typical “Catholic girl” trends until college, and also because I met my future husband at 14...on the first day of high school.

By 15, I knew I was going to marry him, but not in a squealy, teenage, naive way. I told my mom one day that I didn’t know how I knew, but I was going to marry this cute football player. Call it a crazy Holy Spirit moment! I said it calmly, nodded, and fell silent again, just knowing, and my mother didn’t challenge me at all. She has told me since then that she knew, somehow, too. She said I looked at my now-husband at 15 the way she looked at my dad at 15, when they met.

Seven years after meeting, after a lot of high school and college growing pains, we joyfully (and exhaustedly) walked down the aisle and were finally married. It’s difficult for me to say what surprised me about marriage, because my temperament is the kind to anticipate and expect all the possible suffering and little crosses that I could possibly encounter in the sacrament. This has its good and bad consequences. So when, for those first three months especially, hard times came, conflict flared up, or I found myself in tearful frustration at midnight on the couch, I saw it as the inevitable. I wasn’t surprised, just dealing with the suffering in marriage I knew would come.

Perhaps what began to surprise me, little by little, was my husband’s consistent, loving, patient response to all the selfish things I said and did that first year. He truly got the worst of me, because marriage felt like looking into a mirror that showed all your worst weaknesses. But he loved me tenderly in spite of them. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that when I would say something incredibly hurtful, he would often pull me into his arms, apologize for upsetting me, and tell me he loved me so much. He showed me what it was to be quick to forgive, to sacrifice your own desires for the sake of your spouse, without any complaints, and to say sorry even when I was the one who had started a quarrel! He loved (and still loves me) like God loves me: so good that it hurts, because I know I don’t deserve it. By the grace of God, I know the sacrament of marriage is forming us into saints, together.

 

Carissa Pluta, Editor at Large

Whenever someone asks me what I’ve learned so far in my marriage, I always half-jokingly respond: “I’ve learned how selfish I am.” While I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t a particularly selfish person during my single or engaged years. However, marriage demands so much more of me than anything else I have experienced.

I thought (albeit, naively) that I would always be the best version of myself once I got married. And while marriage has certainly shaped me more into the woman God made me to be, I still frequently have days where I’m grumpy or frustrated or downright annoying. My life is not my own anymore, it’s shared with my husband. Everything I say and do has an intimate effect on him and over the past three years I’ve been learning how to forget myself and actively choose love.

At the same time, however, I’ve found more joy in this process than single me ever could have imagined. I really feel like I have found myself through my vocation and I’ve been able to watch my husband grow more as a man. And through that, I’ve been able to encounter God more fully. It’s through self-denial that God has rooted up the weeds in my life (as painful as it can sometimes be) and has replaced it with fertile soil.

 

Mary Wilmot, Social Media Manager

I was just thinking the other day about how when we were dating and engaged, date nights and alone time spent together were so frequent. It really made me miss those early days! It was so easy to plan a spontaneous night out together at a new restaurant or bar in town. However, almost six years into marriage and add in two small children, our state of life has changed. Budget constraints and parenthood commitments obviously make this impossible, if not difficult. However, I am so grateful for the joy and struggles that come with raising these two little people. As much as I sometimes wish it were the opposite, weekly date nights out just aren’t a priority right now. I do not want to brush over the fact that date nights and quality time spent together are important for marriage and should be made a priority. I realize now though that date nights don’t have to be out to fancy restaurants each week, like I thought in my dating and single days. It’s easy to compare our realities to others’, especially in the age of Instagram stories when you can literally see what others are doing in the moment.

As my expectations change, I have learned to really appreciate the little moments that my husband and I are able to spend together at the end of the long day, praying our rosary, getting to mass together, reading our books of choice next to each other, and even listening to our favorite podcast together or having a special at home date night.

When we are able to secure a sitter and try out a new (or old favorite) restaurant, our nights are especially valued and savored. In fact, this past fall, we were even able to save up for and take a dream anniversary trip to Italy. With a little sacrifice and a lot of help from our families, we were able to spend this amazing, priceless time together and I am truly grateful to the Lord for that!

 

Danielle Rother, Pinterest Manager

During my single years I fantasized quite a bit about what my future husband would be like. I made a list of the qualities I was looking for in a husband after reading the book How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason and Crystalina Evert. I knew I wanted to find a practicing Catholic man who would go to church and pray the rosary with me ­— someone who was handsome, chivalrous, kind, gentle, and had similar interests to me. While the message of the Everts’ book is just as beautiful as the enchanting artwork pictured on the front cover; my own expectations were just about as real as finding a Disney Prince for a husband.

I believe having high expectations is a good thing, and at the same time, there comes a point when it’s important to recognize when those expectations have become unrealistic. Perhaps I sought to find someone so similar to me that I was basically looking for a male version of myself. Eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that the person I would end up with was not going to be a carbon copy.

The truth is, the man I fell in love with does hold many of the qualities I was searching for in a husband and he is also as different from myself as one can get. We have completely opposite temperaments and personalities. Throughout our courtship I knew that we were very different from each other, but it wasn’t until we were married that those differences became very challenging for us to navigate. Both of us have needed to adjust our expectations.

The extrovert in me is always seeking interaction and attention while the introvert in him is constantly looking for some solitude. My love language revolves around extravagant grand gestures and my husband is more content with the ordinary pleasures of life. Some days it seems like we have come to an impasse; yet somehow the grace of the sacrament has held us together. The reality of marriage means constantly dying to ourselves just a little bit more every day; compromise is an art form that we are still learning as newlyweds.

While the dreamer in me will never stop dreaming, I’ve learned that it’s important to live in our own reality and not to have unrealistic expectations in our marriage. I will always be grateful for the magical moment that was our wedding day, but everyday life in marriage can’t be a perpetual fairytale. It would be unsustainable. And even if it were possible, the magical moments would be less magical. It’s really the storms in life that we experience which help us to appreciate the joyful moments—because without rain there would be no rainbows.

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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