Brooke + Austin | Timeless Autumnal Nebraska Wedding

“If there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

From the beginning of their romantic relationship into their new marriage, Brooke and Austin have strove to live in the wisdom of Scripture and the beauty of the sacraments. They know that saying “yes” to a strong relationship with the Lord is a “yes” to greater intimacy as husband and wife.

Their elegant, timeless wedding, centered around the sacrifice of the Mass, shows the joy of a community celebrating the union of this abundantly blessed couple.

From the Bride: Austin and I travelled in the same college friend group for three years. During our junior year, he showed up at my front door and asked to take me out on a date. He wanted to get to know me better.

I knew in that moment that Austin was something special, because you don't see men pursue a woman like that too often.

It was important to incorporate our faith from the very beginning. Throughout our relationship, we went to Mass together on Sundays and at least once during the week. Austin even shared his testimony with me one night and explained that I inspired him in his faith, and that I made him want to be a better man of God. I told him he inspired the exact same aspiration in me.

And so, we got engaged.

Austin and I wanted the Mass to be the center and most important part of our wedding day. I had not been living in Omaha long before we got engaged, so I had not yet found my home parish. I was looking for a place that felt like home and radiated God's presence. I knew after the first Mass I attended at St. Robert's that it was the church community I had been seeking. It would also be the parish where Austin and I would be married. They welcomed us with open arms.

Before the wedding began, the bridal party and parents gathered for a prayer led by our celebrant, Fr. Matya. The readings we chose were not common readings for a nuptial Mass, but were readings that spoke to our values as a couple that we wanted to build our married life on.

The gospel was Philippians 4:4-9, which includes a verse we both love: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

The most special part of the Mass was our time after communion praying and asking for Mary’s intercession. We truly felt the presence of God in that moment and prayed that Mary would guide us along our new path as husband and wife.

Our wedding style was elegant and classic. Chic while remaining traditional. I am not all about glitz and glam, but I love a simple, timeless look. Because the wedding was in the fall, I chose a color theme with darker tones and greenery touches. I focused on the "burnt mauve" color and gold accents.

Looking back, our wedding day was another huge reminder of how much God has blessed Austin and I. One memorable thing we did happened during the reception. We stood in the back of the room and looked out at everyone celebrating our marriage. It was a day spent with all our loved ones supporting us during this special time.

Austin is the man I have prayed for my entire life. Actually, he's even better than the man I prayed for. I asked God for a faithful, loving husband, and God sent me that in Austin--and more. We are constantly striving to be better stewards of God’s grace and learning how to carry out his plan for us every day. We have learned the challenges it brings, but Austin and I have fought through them together.

The biggest challenge we have encountered is figuring out how to pray together, not settling for less in our faith lives, or becoming distracted away from time with God. We pushed past this challenge by reading a spiritual resource every day together and reflecting on it. Our favorite readings include the Bible (of course!), Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen, My Daily Bread, and Fr. Mike Schmitz’s podcast.

Austin and I know if we choose to say "yes" to having a strong relationship with God, we will also feel closer to one another and become better versions of ourselves.

Photography: Kelli Dornbos | Church: St. Robert Bellarmine, Omaha NE | Wedding Reception Venue : Embassy Suites in the Old Market, Omaha NE | Bride's Wedding Gown: Ready or Knot | Bride's Veil: Ready or Knot | Alterations: Livia Designs | Graphic designer for all wedding stationery (invites, programs, placecards, etc): Brooke Sankey | Bridesmaid Dresses: Ready or Knot (Jenny Yoo collection in Cinnamon Rose) | Groom's Suit: Jerry Ryan | Groom's Tie: Tie Bar | Groomsmen suits: Jerry Ryan | Groomsmen/Ring Bearer Ties: Tie Bar
Makeup artist: Kate Johnson | Hair Stylist: Emily Jackson | Florist: iBloom (Lincoln, NE) | Reception Wedding Planner: Adrianne Lescanic
Flower petals for throwing: Sam's Club | Videographer: Tom Hoxmeier | Party Bus: Emerald Limosine | DJ: Complete Wedding and Events | Cake: Whisk + Measure | Biscotti: Enjoy Biscotti Company (based in Colorado) | Jeweler: Wrights Jewelry (Lincoln, NE)

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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Mychael + Adam | Rustic Midwest Basilica Wedding

Mychael and Adam met through mutual friends while attending weekly pop culture trivia nights. From there, a mutual collective knowledge of useless information and a similar sense of humor led to a friendship.

On their first date they attended Saturday Mass together at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. Two years later they celebrated their relationship with a romantic dinner at 4Bells seafood house nearby. A little later, years after that “accidental” first date, Adam proposed on Christmas Eve.

From the Bride: I have a daughter from a previous relationship with profound disabilities. She is incredibly sweet and innocent--but not for the faint of heart.

I knew it was going to take an incredible man, a “St. Joseph” in my life, to open my heart to marriage and to embrace her as his own. Adam rose to the occasion, and I fell madly in love with him.

From the Groom: I met Mychael, as a friend, when I was going through a hard time finding "the one." I knew she was a smart and funny woman, but it was those weeks following our "first date" when I really had to decide whether to take a risk or remain just friends.

But once we chose to date each other, I knew I was all in. Mychael was an incredible woman, would be a loving partner and teammate, and I already knew her as an amazing mother. We have said from early on that we are on each others team and are in everything together.

As Robin Williams wisely said in Good Will Hunting, "You’re not perfect, and let me save you the suspense: this girl you’ve met, she’s not perfect either. But the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other." Mychael and I are not perfect, but we are perfect for each other.

During wedding planning, our priority was the nuptial Mass, making it as beautiful and sacred as the sacrament itself. We spent hours going through music on YouTube and reading Scripture to hand-pick every detail.  This made for some wonderful nights together.

Mychael and I were mindful of all the details, carefully choosing every aspect to reflect how we wanted to enter into marriage, and, most importantly, how we wanted to live out our marriage. We immediately began to book vendors, searching for Minnesota-created and sourced options for our big day. Every detail reflected aspects of our relationship, from the Notre Dame ticket-inspired save the date and “Marry Like a Champion” sign to clover leaves subtly placed in the greenery of our invitations, embracing the Mychael’s Irish heritage and my alma mater. In addition, the Minnesota outline appeared throughout the paper goods and reception details.

From the Bride: My vision for the dress was a blend of Kate and Pippa Middleton's wedding dresses, but I certainly didn't have a princess complex. Rather, I wanted to be an elegant bride for my bridegroom. I didn’t find any style that I really fell in love with or felt reflected my sensibility, so I opted for some alterations. The dress I chose was originally strapless with some tulle across the chest. By my wedding day, it had been altered with delicate lace, short sleeves, and an illusion neckline with a high lace collar.

My gorgeous, flowy long veil was purchased prior to the royal wedding but was nicknamed “the Meghan veil” by my bridesmaids.

My godmother, June, gave me her wedding rings to wear during the ceremony for luck. I wore Adam's maternal grandmother's pearls given to her by her father on her wedding day as a bracelet. She had previously passed in April. A navy blue rosary in my bouquet was my maternal grandmother’s, who passed away a week prior to our wedding.

The ceremony was held at the breathtakingly beautiful and historic Basilica of St. Mary’s and celebrated by the archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Most Rev. Bernard Hebda. It featured the basilica choir and Catholic musicians Tim and Julie Smith, whom I sang with growing up.

We chose a blend of contemporary and traditional music; the Irish Catholic prelude "Be Thou My Vision" and "How Can I keep from Singing.” Our entrance song was "Lord of All Hopefulness" and our final blessing and recessional hymns were "May the Road Rise Up to Meet You" and "Love Divine, All Love Excelling."

It was important to us that prayer in musical form be central to the Mass because sacred music is a large part of our lives. The archbishop was even kind enough to compliment us on how beautiful the music was, and that he expected nothing less!

For the reception, we chose 4 Bells’ rooftop for its unique and stylish characteristics in the space, but also for their craft cocktails and exquisite cuisine. It was an exceptionally intimate planned day for us and our family and friends.

Through it all, Adam and I were both involved in the planning, which made the process far less stressful, incredibly more personal, and the big day all the more celebratory.

The Thursday leading up to our wedding was the Feast of All Saints. We attended Mass together, just the two of us, and were able to celebrate a feast day we both love.

On our wedding day, witnessed by our family and friends, we chose to enter into the sacrament of marriage together. There was no father “giving the bride away.” Rather, we chose to have the two of us enter into the church at the same time, as recommended by the revised Rite of Marriage. It was a sacrament between the two of us and God, and we received so many compliments on this choice!

As we stood behind the grand basilica doors, Adam said he was so grateful that we had come to this moment. We both recognize how wonderful it is that we are able to walk this marriage journey together, because there is no one else I want to be doing this with.

Adam is a wonderful man of faith. He is kind and thoughtful in practical and romantic ways. He is a loving partner and embodies St. Joseph. He challenges me and supports me unconditionally.

We are both mindful that we have not come to this place alone. We have held onto our Catholic faith and our faith in each other to choose marriage. Perhaps it is our Midwest sensibility or Catholics in general, but discussing our faith outwardly does not come naturally to us. And so, our nuptial Mass and wedding was a wonderful and beautiful way for us to show our love for God and our faith to friends and family.

Over the years together we have celebrated and mourned. We have attended friends’ weddings and many funerals. We have laughed and cried. But through it all we remember the lyrics of the song we chose for our first dance, "God Gave Me You:" “God gave me you for the ups and downs, God gave me you for the days of doubt.”

The wedding was one wonderful day. Our marriage will be a lifetime, and we are excited for the journey.

Photography: Rachel Kathleen Photography | Church: Basilica of St. Mary - Minneapolis Minnesota | Reception: 4Bells - Minneapolis Minnesota | Dress: Rebecca Ingram design, heavily altered by Custom Sewing by Heather (the dress was strapless with tulle when purchased from Bella Bridal in Woodbury, MN | Grooms’ Attire: Calvin Klein, Macy’s  | Rings: Bride Continental diamond, Groom Blue Nile
Bridesmaids: Adrianna Papell & Badgley mischka  | Hair: Be Lovely by Amber Ann | Makeup: Beauty by Cort Anne
Flowers: KMB floral  | Invitations & Save the Dates & Guest sign wooden board: A Milestone Paper Co. | Details including Notre Dame inspired “Marry Like A Champion” sign created by the Bride

Julie + Tim | Beach-Inspired Wedding

Tim and Julie’s love story is one built on patience, truth, love, and a little Mario Kart.

When they first met, Tim was a fallen-away Catholic who loved to ask questions. Julie was a practicing Catholic who quickly came to love Tim’s fun personality and deep conversation, but was hesitant to take the next step.

They knew the difference in their beliefs would keep them from being “equally yoked” in a possible marriage, but God, in his infinite knowledge, still had a plan.

From the Bride: Tim and I met through Nick, a mutual friend, on February 5, 2016. I was tired that day and almost didn’t go out. But we all met at a local restaurant and spent a good portion of that night talking. Tim asked for my number and if he could call me the next day to hear my testimony. I did not think much about him other than as a nice new friend—after all, he was a fallen-away Catholic, now Protestant, and I was devoutly Catholic.

However, he called me the next day, and we talked for about two hours. A week later, he invited me out to Dunkin Donuts. We met that evening and enjoyed a great conversation about God, our faith, and our interests. Conversation flowed naturally, and he admitted that he would love to date me but did not believe in being unequally yoked, so we left things as friends.

Tim and I became best friends in no time. Sometimes we got together with Nick, and sometimes it was just the two of us playing Mario Kart or coloring and just enjoying each other’s company. I began to feel a tug at my heart that despite Tim’s Protestant faith, I loved his heart for God and his personality. He was very devout in his faith, and I knew he’d make a great Catholic!

In June 2016, I discovered Our Lady of Siluva was a great saint for the reversion of sinners, so I began praying to her and including his reversion in my rosary intentions. Months went by, and I continued praying daily for Tim as we continued our friendship. Over time, he began showing more of a genuine interest in Catholicism and asked me questions about misconceptions that initially had pulled him away. I shared some apologetics books and articles with him, and on January 13, 2017, we started dating.

It was at this time he told me he would like to go to Mass. I continued to pray my rosary and reached out to my priest to pray for Tim at Mass as well. The first few Masses he attended were difficult for him, but he kept feeling pulled back. Months went by and misconception after misconception soon became answered. Tim began to fall more and more in love with the Mass, and around May of that year, he made the decision to attend RCIA.

In June 2017, Tim declared that he felt called to start praying the rosary with me, a year after I began asking for Our Lady of Siluva’s intercession. He continued to dive into learning more about the Church, and he began to fall more in love with the truth of Catholicism every day. By the time he began RCIA, the catechists said that Tim knew so much, he should be on the other side, teaching it!

On September 23, 2017, a few days after my birthday, Tim and I decided to go down to one of our favorite places: Wildwood, New Jersey. Later that evening, Tim had me get in his car and made me close my eyes until we arrived at what I later discovered was Sunset Beach in Cape May. He took my hand and led me to an open patch where two chairs were facing each other.

The sun was setting over the ocean behind us. I sat down and discovered he had brought his guitar, and what followed was a beautiful heartfelt speech of his love for me, combined with all our favorite Christian songs and love songs that reminded us of each other. I was a puddle of tears by the end of the speech, and he got down on one knee, saying jokingly, “Wait, I forgot something!”

He ran off, and came back with my little shih tzu, Ginger, wearing a sign around her neck that said, “Julie, will you marry me?” He got down on one knee again and asked me the question that made me the most joyful girl in the world! We finished the night with an engagement shoot from our talented photographer and (later) DJ of our wedding, Daniel Jeffrey (of Daniel Jeffrey Studios), who had also had taken pictures of the entire proposal in hiding.

Tim and I wanted our faith to be the centerpiece of our wedding day, so the night before our nuptials, we went to adoration together. There were going to be many cultural Catholics and Protestants at our wedding, but we could not imagine our ceremony without a beautiful nuptial Mass focusing on Christ.

Ever since we began praying the rosary together in June 2017, we hadn’t missed a day, so it was very important for us to begin the morning of our wedding day by praying the rosary on the phone together.

Fittingly enough, it was difficult to find a wedding date that worked for our priest, church, and reception, and the one date that was available ended up being June 9, 2018, the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady had heard my intentions back in June 2016, continued to hear our intentions when we began praying together in June 2017, and now she was going to be a part of our wedding day in a way we never could have expected.

Early that morning, we called each other on the phone and prayed our rosary. We also read letters that we had written to each other. Tim’s letter was absolutely one of the sweetest things I  have ever read, and I was grateful I read it before having my makeup done. We hung up and prepared for the next time we would see each other--to become husband and wife.

I could hardly wait to get into my dress and veil, because they were everything I dreamed of. I had always wanted a ballgown, something with a slight poof that would remind me of my days as a little girl, twirling around in princess dresses. Modesty was also incredibly important to me, but I never imagined I would find long sleeves and a modest neckline like I did.

The dress was on clearance from David’s Bridal, and it was simply meant to be. They only had two sizes left, one of them being my size. There was so much gorgeous detail: beading and lace from top to bottom. My mom graciously sewed some additional lace to the back of my dress, as there was a small section that seemed abnormally “bare” compared to the rest of the dress’s modest covering and lace detail.

I slipped into my lace flats, which were the perfect combination of simplicity and daintiness to match my style. Finally, I put on my veil. I loved how traditional it looked; it reminded me of the veil my mom wore on her wedding day. There was just enough detail on the edges, and it was the perfect length for me. Altogether, I truly felt like a princess.  

I chose mixtures of roses and lilies for our flowers. Roses in honor of Mother Mary, and the lilies in honor of my mommom who had passed away thirteen years ago. I was very close to her, and the lilies (in addition to me wearing her watch) were little reminders that she was with me on my special day. I also chose mixtures of creamy whites because white symbolizes purity.

My bridesmaids’ bouquets were just as beautiful: baby’s breath surrounded soft purple and pink roses. They went perfectly with their royal blue dresses. It had been so difficult for me to choose the dresses for my girls. I knew I wanted them all to be the same, but I kept going back and forth on the color. Finally, I came across a royal blue color swatch, and it was so richly blue, it reminded me once again of Mother Mary’s hand in our day. I settled on beautiful, modest dresses from JJ’s House with short sleeves and lace on the top half with a flowy bottom.

We lovingly planned our Mass so it was nothing short of a foretaste of Heaven.

Tim processed down the aisle, followed by our priest and deacon who had been a part of his reversion to the Church. The air was filled with all our favorite hymns including the “Servant Song”, “How Beautiful”, and “I Am the Bread of Life.” I walked down the aisle to “Canon in D”, the melody I had dreamed of walking down the aisle to since I was a little girl.

We had been nervous for our nuptial Mass because of how few guests were practicing Catholics, but the love of God was tangible the entire time. Our priest kindly reminded those who were not Catholic or not practicing to refrain from the Body and Blood of Christ, which helped save us a lot of stress.

It was wonderful having our priest who had been with us from the very beginning of our relationship preside over our wedding Mass, and it was equally as wonderful to have our deacon who was a part of Tim’s RCIA process assist. Our ceremony was not at our parish, but at the church where Tim had been baptized and received Communion before he had fallen away. We did this to bring our spiritual lives together—Tim’s former church and our current priest and deacon—and it was beautiful seeing how this parish had come full circle for Tim.

Nick, who helped Tim and I meet, was our lector, and our two dear friends from RCIA presented the gifts. We chose the “Wedding at Cana” for our Gospel reading because, of course, we had to continue to tie our Blessed Mother into our day! And our priest gave such a wonderful homily on unity and following Christ that I think it was refreshing for all our Protestant friends, many of whom had never been to a Catholic Mass, to hear such a gospel-centered message. We concluded the liturgy by giving flowers to Our Blessed Mother while praying and singing “Ave Maria”. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful Mass.

Our reception was filled with food and dancing. Tim and I created little “Madlibs” from Vistaprint for our guests to give us some “wedding advice,” and we added some of our favorite saint quotes on love and marriage. Our cake was beach-themed, since we both love the beach and that was where Tim proposed. We had graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar for sand, two little beach chairs that read “Mr. and Mrs.,” and a topper that said “God Gave Me You”. Our first dance was “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran, another song that reminded us of our relationship.

Our wedding day flew by, like they all do, but I carry the joy with me every single day when I reflect on it.

Like many girls, I had dreamed of this day my entire life. But there were so many things that occupied my mind that felt overwhelming. Our priest once told us that nothing is perfect this side of Heaven. Things can go wrong, people get sick and can't show up, inclement weather happens, or construction can occur on the outside of your church (like in our case!).

However, after stressing over all the details for months on end, I realized how small all these worries really were. The only thing that really matters is the marriage sacrament between you, your husband, and God. The prayers you pray each morning, the sacrifices both of you will make, and the trials both of you will face are so much more important than the flowers, the cake, or any of the other little things that occupy the wedding day.

Reflecting back on our day, we realized that everything we worried about went to the wayside, and the peace of God was with us from start to finish. Everything simply fell into place, and God's hand was in every single aspect.

For us, taking the time to go to adoration the night before and praying novenas, a daily rosary, and other devotionals in preparation for our marriage were astronomically important to developing a sound relationship grounded in Christ. So many people stress about the wedding day but neglect the ever-growing commitment it takes to have a strong, healthy, and holy marriage.

And so, Tim and I can't stress enough the importance of constantly relying on God's graces and keeping Jesus the center of your wedding day, your engagement, and the rest of your marriage. If we could do it all again, we would definitely stress way less about the minor wedding details and fully surrender our trust to God. We would trust that He would make our day grace-filled and beautiful, no matter what happened. And yet, we could not feel more blessed about our day and how grateful we are to live out our sacrament of marriage together.

Photography: Emma Dallman Photography, Spoken Bride Vendor | Church: Saint Matthew Roman Catholic Church | Reception: Presidential Caterers |  Rings: Jared's | Invitations: Vistaprint | Flowers: Kremp's Florist | Dress, Veil & Shoes: David's Bridal | Bridesmaid's Attire: JJ's House | Grooms & Groomsmen Tux: Mens Wearhouse | DJ/Photobooth/Photography: 925 Entertainment; Daniel Jeffrey Studios | Videography: Joyful Films

Sabrina + Nick | Handcrafted Jersey Shore Wedding

Sabrina and Nick have always been “adventure buddies.”

During one of their many adventures, volunteering to rebuild historic cottages in the Grand Tetons, Nick asked the love of his life to accompany him on their greatest adventure yet: marriage and family.

Their love story encompasses conversion, Padre Pio, the Jersey Shore, and beehives--all part of their extraordinary, summertime wedding bathed in sunflowers and God’s grace. And it all began in a college architecture class.

From the Bride: Our Catholic relationship was not a typical one. I am a cradle Catholic who started to grow deeper in my faith only after college. Nick's mother is Lutheran, and his dad is Catholic. He was raised primarily in his father’s faith, but he did not receive any of his sacraments beyond baptism before dating me.

Nick and I met during our first year of college at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2010. He had transferred from Hartford, and I had just graduated from high school. Looking back, I almost attended a different college.

God’s plan is perfect, though, and we both chose to attend NJIT in 2010. We were placed in the same studio room for our architecture class and quickly became good friends, especially since we were both commuters. Nick would wait for my dad to pick me up on his way home from work. He would even miss his train ride home to wait with me.

We supported each other through late nights in studio, and he always kept me laughing. We became good friends but didn’t start dating until our fourth year of college because I had been in a previous relationship until then. Nick was quick to seize the opportunity.

Three and a half years later in August 2017, Nick and I found ourselves in the Grand Tetons National Park. For the past three years, we had volunteered a week of our time annually with the National Park Service in the Grand Tetons to stabilize historic log cabins in the park. Nick proposed in the barn we were working on for the week in front of all the volunteers. It was like a dream.

We decided to get married a year later on the anniversary of our engagement. As we prepped for the wedding, Nick went through RCIA with me as his sponsor. He would come to my bible study group, and our faith grew deeper. We attended holy hours together, and I knew I was growing in my faith along with him.

We planned to get married at the church by his family’s shore house that we attended all the years we dated: St. Pio’s. After our engagement, my friend Gabriella found a St. Pio rosary and gave it to me. I prayed on it every week at adoration leading up to the wedding. I even wrapped it around the stem on my bouquet with a miraculous medal.

Nick and I developed a strong devotion to Padre Pio. We prayed his novena and asked him to adopt us as his spiritual children and be the patron saint of our marriage. We also prayed St. Josemaria Escriva’s novena in the days leading up to the wedding, which we loved.

Throughout it all, I petitioned God for Nick’s full and deep conversion to the Catholic Church. And although we both have more room to grow, I’m so proud of how far we have come, especially Nick.

The night before the wedding we went to confession with the priest who would be celebrating our nuptial Mass. We wanted to receive the marital sacrament with pure hearts, and I’m so happy Nick and I made sure we did that. Before going to sleep we called each other and said the last day of the St. Josemaria novena. It was such a beautiful way to countdown to the wedding.

The weather on the big day was hot but not too humid, and I felt like God was smiling on us the whole time. My friend Gabriella said a quick prayer as we walked into the church, but I told her it had to be a quick one because I would be too emotional. I’m such a happy crier!

I kept asking God and Padre Pio to be with me because I was so nervous to walk down the aisle. When they opened the doors, I tripped a little on my dress. This helped me focus on not falling, but I also think it was God’s way of giving me something to think about instead of becoming a crying mess. When I looked up at the end of the aisle, Nick was crying hard. He was so happy, and I felt such peace knowing I was marrying him.

As the ceremony went on, I strongly felt Padre Pio was with us as well as our guardian angels. Nick and I had picked all of the music and readings for the Mass, so it was very meaningful to both of us. When we presented flowers to the Blessed Mother, we prayed a couple of Hail Mary’s and then a prayer we had written together. It was such an intimate and special moment.

Our wedding programs included all the parts in the Mass and a beautiful quote by St. Thomas Aquinas: “The Eucharist is the sacrament of love; it signifies love, it produces love. The Eucharist is the consummation of the whole spiritual life.”

With that in mind, we received the Body and Blood of Christ together for the first time as a married couple. All I could do was look at Nick and thank God for giving me the man of my dreams and allowing me to lead him closer to Christ.

We had worked so hard on planning the wedding, but the work we put into our faith life was worth more than anything else that day.

After the ceremony we left on a trolley to Smithville to party! The theme of the wedding was “adventure” because Nick and I always say that we are adventure buddies. And we handmade everything for the wedding. We are both architects, so we knew we could do it.

Our invitations, made by hand, included a map of the Jersey Shore with all the significant places to the wedding and to us. Our favors were honey jars made from our own honey that we harvested the weekend before the wedding from our beehive. The table that displayed the honey also displayed birdhouses that Nick had made for me when we were dating.

I wrote all the table assignments on panes of glass from old windows, and the tables were named after different national parks. Nick and his dad built wooden crates for the centerpieces,  and we filled them with flowers and fresh peaches. We told everyone to take home a peach with their honey.

Our sweetheart table had handcrafted signs that I painted as well as more crates. Nick’s mom and I made a quilt together that had Disney’s Up house on it. That became our “guest quilt,” where everyone signed in on a balloon. And finally, we painted a mailbox like the one from Up where guests placed their cards.

My favorite flowers are sunflowers and succulents, so there were plenty throughout the whole wedding. We took photos all over Smithville, a cute, historic town with many photo opportunities. And our wedding band kept everyone dancing all night.

In short, our wedding day was amazing, and I thank God everyday for it. I couldn’t wait to live life with Nick and build on the foundation we built on Christ.

For our honeymoon a month later, we travelled to Rome and Switzerland after my friend Gabriella’s wedding with her and her new husband. In Rome, we attended the Sposi Novelli blessing at the Pope’s general audience. Again, I was praying to Padre Pio that we would get to meet the Pope, but there were so many couples there that it seemed unlikely.

They started gathering all of the couples, and we found ourselves in the wrong spot. It seemed like we wouldn’t get to meet him. I told Gabriella and our husbands that we should stand on a shorter rail that I spotted. I thought even if we wouldn’t meet him, we could at least get a better view.

That short rail ended up being the gate to let all the couples into the main area for everyone to gather. So we were the first ones through! When we got our spot, I realized I had lost my Padre Pio rosary. Gabriella told me not to worry, that Padre Pio was with us anyway. But when we looked down, I saw the rosary had somehow landed in the spot we were going to stand in!

When we met the Pope, we told him we were praying for him and that he needed to rebuild the church. Gabriella and I got pretty emotional about this, so he spent a long time with us saying that he would, and that we needed to keep praying too.

It was one of the most special experiences of our lives to receive the Pope’s blessing. Nick and I have had the most incredible year, and it is all because of God and his perfect plan.

Without a Christ-centered relationship, our entire wedding day and our marriage would've been completely different. It would never have been as fulfilling. You could feel our love for each other and for God that day. Everyone said that is what made the wedding so special.

Photography: Maryanne Photography, Kevin and Aly Photography, Meyer Photo and Video Group | Mass: St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Lavellette, NJ | Reception: The Smithville Inn, Absecon, NJ | Engagement Ring: designed by the groom, via Salt and Stone

Natasha + Tim | New Year's Winter Watercolor Wedding

We are honored by the opportunity to walk alongside you in this marriage ministry, from Yes to I Do and beyond, and we love returning to our couples' stories as they continue to unfold. If we've featured your love story in our How He Asked engagement series and you now feel called to share your wedding with us, as well, submission details can be found here.

Read more here for the story of Natasha and Tim’s engagement story, previously featured on the blog. 

Community is an essential part of the celebration of marriage. Although it is a sacrament conferred between two people, marriage is always meant to point outward, to be open to life and service in a myriad of ways, and to become the foundational unit of the larger community.

Natasha and Tim celebrated this communal aspect of marriage by intentionally inviting their friends and family into the preparation. Whether it was wearing her aunt’s fifty year old wedding dress or teaching her family the art of watercolor for the invitations, Natasha and Tim’s love ignited the joy of their community.

May all engaged and married people embrace this beautiful sacrament that calls the bride and groom to always serve the other as well as their community of love around them.

From the Bride: Tim and I met junior year at the University of Minnesota, through the Catholic community of Saint Paul’s Outreach. Our time spent as friends during undergrad was filled with a lot of discernment and growth in our personal relationships with Christ.

Looking back, it is exciting to see how God was preparing our hearts as singles in ways that were going to allow us to be more "free" in a romantic relationship.

A strong theme throughout our relationship has always been community. We have been blessed with a community of faithful friends and family that Christ used to guide us through this initial period of discernment.

We officially started dating two and a half years after we met, right before I left for grad school, so the majority of our romantic relationship was long distance. Even though the distance was difficult, it forced us to be intentional with our relationship, and the time spent as friends gave us the confidence to pursue marriage. We had to become quite creative with ways to invite Christ into our relationship such as praying together over the phone nightly.

A little over a year into dating, Tim asked me to marry him over-looking the central square of our alma mater on New Year’s Eve.

We must have a thing for romantic events in the freezing cold, because almost exactly a year later on December 30, 2017, we said our vows.

The high temperature on our wedding day was an aggressive 14 degrees below zero. Such is the gamble with a New Year’s wedding in Minnesota! But despite the cold, we had an amazing, Christ-centered day with those we love--and everyone’s cars started the next day.

We were fortunate enough to do a majority of our marriage preparation with Father Mike Schmitz, and one of the ideas he brought up early on was how marriage and holy orders are the two sacraments that are intended to be sacraments for “others."

He challenged us to take this to prayer, and it sparked a larger conversation between us about what it meant for our marriage to be something that was to be shared with others, to help reveal something about Christ to the world.

We felt Christ was placing on our hearts the importance of community and marriage as a unique mission field for evangelization. As a result of this conviction, we spent a lot of time discerning unique ways in which we could invite our guests into the celebration in an intentional way.

To start, we saw the personal touches the Church allows couples to incorporate into the wedding liturgy as an opportunity for our guests who were either not Catholic or fallen-away from the Church to be welcomed and invited to witness the beauty of our faith. As Saint Pope John Paul II says, the liturgy would be our “profession of faith.” Father Mike was able to provide us with a really great template for our wedding programs to help explain the Mass to our guests and encourage participation.

Tim’s parents are both music teachers, so it was an easy choice to have his family create a choir that did a phenomenal job setting the tone for the liturgy and leading the congregation in participation with hymns. As it was the octave of Christmas, the bridal party and myself processed in to “O Come All Ye Faithful” and we recessed to “Joy to the World.” It was such a joy to see guests with their hymnals open, belting out a favorite Christmas hymn. I felt like they were singing my dad and I down the aisle!

Continuing in the theme of community, we wanted our guests to feel welcome and enjoy the reception. For us, this meant hiring a great DJ who shared our faith and vision of the day, but who could also MC well, inviting our guests into the celebration.

We chose a round head table for us and our wedding party that sat in the center of the room among our guests. It was one of my favorite elements because we felt surrounded by those we loved rather than set apart from them. One of our favorite memories of the reception was dancing the night away with our guests, many of whom stayed until the final song!

I was able to design our invitations, programs, table numbers, and place settings. I even got to teach the ladies of my family about watercolors as they helped me finish all the invites. My mom and mother-in-law are crafty too, so I set them to work on the flowers, and together we created all the bouquets and the gorgeous fern chandelier that hung above our round head table.

My mom baked the wedding cake, and a family friend made over three hundred cupcakes in our favorite flavors for the guests. Meanwhile, my aunt sewed all the bridesmaids’ custom robes for a comfy gift the morning of the wedding, and my sister did my hair and make-up. It was such a joy to stay in my pajamas for as long as possible on such a cold morning!

My wedding dress was my aunt's, who celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary with my uncle this year. She was so honored to have me wear it, and it was truly my dream dress. My mom, who is a handy seamstress, helped to make it my own with a modern take on the back.

Some advice I would give to other Catholic brides is to use your resources well. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and don’t believe the lie that you have to spend a ton of money to have a beautiful wedding. Find centerpiece items at thrift shops or trade expensive favors for a creative, late-evening snack bar (we brought out popcorn halfway through the evening as an inexpensive dancing snack that the guests loved).

Use the gifts and talents of your friends and family--they are itching to help, and you will make some beautiful memories. It is also a great way to foster community and share your faith by showing others the beauty and depth of the marriage sacrament.

Above all, have confidence that if you and your fiancé are focused on the right stuff (Jesus Christ), your friends and family who understand the true purpose of your day will create an environment where you feel loved and everyone is having a good time.

St. John Paul II discusses the importance of community and the mission of marriage in his exhortation to the family when he says,

“The celebration of the sacrament of marriage is the basic moment of the faith of the couple. This sacrament, in essence, is the proclamation in the Church of the Good News concerning married love. It is the word of God that "reveals" and "fulfills" the wise and loving plan of God for the married couple, giving them a mysterious and real share in the very love with which God himself loves humanity. Since the sacramental celebration of marriage is itself a proclamation of the word of God, it must also be a "profession of faith" within and with the Church, as a community of believers, on the part of all those who in different ways participate in its celebration.”

One of my favorite memories of the wedding ceremony was singing "Tantum Ergo" shortly after communion as Tim and I knelt in front of the cross. The entire church, filled with people of all faiths and from all elements of our lives, was oriented toward the cross with us as we prayed together, and Tim and I's love for one another had brought them there! It felt like a precursor of what Heaven may be like, standing at the foot of Jesus, praising him.

I glanced over sideways at Tim and had to fight back tears at the realization that this man wasn't just willing to bring me to the cross, but kneel with me humbly before Jesus. It was in that moment that no amount of stress or seating charts or color swatches could have ever mattered.

Tim and I were saying “yes” to a lifelong mission of walking toward the cross together and reminding each other of our true identity as a son and daughter of God when we forget. We are building a foundation in which we can bring Christ to any person we encounter along our journey.

I cannot wait to see what God does with our “yes.”

Photography: Sarah Ascanio Photography | Mass: The Church of Saint Mark, Saint Paul, Minnesota | Reception: The Pavillion at Lake Elmo, Lake Elmo, Minnesota | Bride's Engagement Ring: Shane Co. | Wedding Rings: Etsy | Bride and Bridesmaids bouquets: Bloominous | Table Flowers, Boutonnieres: Bought in bulk from Hy-vee Floral | Invitations/Stationary/Programs: Handmade by the Bride | Bride's Dress and veil: Family Heirlooms, Aunt's dress/Sister's veil | Bride's Earrings: Edina Jewelry Store | Groom and Groomsmen attire: The Black Tux, The Steinbeck Outfit | Bridesmaids' Attire: Revelry Dresses in Better Together Blue and Lavender Colors | Bridesmaids' Jewelry: Target | Cake: Homemade by Mother of the Bride | Cupcakes: Homemade by Family Friend | DJ Services: DJ Bill Lage | Rehearsal Dinner Food: DarBar Indian Restaurant | Rehearsal Dinner Location and Beverage: Bad Weather Brewery

Beth + Nick | Ethical Fair Trade Wedding

The date is set, church arrangements have been made, and you are about begin deciding the particulars of your wedding with your fiancé. While taking steps to make it a truly Catholic ceremony, consider using the occasion not only to serve your guests, but a larger community of people in need.

Beth and Nick’s inspirational nuptials proves that a Catholic wedding can be beautiful, ethical, and respect the dignity of the human person through every step of the planning process.

Discover how they combined both the sacramental beauty of their wedding day with their passion for Catholic social teaching.

From the Photographer (An Endless Pursuit): “We knew when we got engaged that we wanted to live out our faith in a really special way. Not only did we want a Catholic ceremony, but we wanted to choose vendors and services that were ethical and/or local, when possible,” said the bride.

It is no surprise that Beth and Nick would plan their wedding to reflect their passion for Catholic social teaching. Serving the community and supporting those in need has always been a priority for this couple. Committed to living the faith through helping the poor and disadvantaged, both bride and groom held roles in homeless and prison ministries even before they met and were engaged.

Beth is co-founder and current co-director of the The StarFish Foundation, which provides education and support services for at-risk youth in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

“We realized that we would feel a little better about spending so much money on various wedding costs if we could feel confident that the people who made our items and delivered our services were paid and treated fairly,” she explained.

After quite a bit of research, the couple was able to find companies and vendors that fed their zeal for social justice with missions that stressed the dignity of the human person. The bridesmaids’ dresses and the mother of the bride’s dress were all made by Mata Traders, a company that partners with fair trade organizations in India and Nepal.

“The Mata Traders team worked with everyone’s sizes and my color preferences to recommend different options for dresses, helping me to determine quantities, availability and more,” Beth said. As for her own dress, the bride chose to work with bridal dress shop Celia Grace and was able to know exactly who made her dress: a father of four living in India. The Celia Grace team also helped Nick to find ties for himself, his groomsmen, and the father of the bride through their network of ethical fair trade vendors.

Beth and her bridesmaids were covered in fair trade goodness from head to toe. The bride, mother of the bride, and bridesmaids all sported Rothy’s: comfortable, classy shoes made from recycled water bottles. “If you’re not familiar with Rothy’s, you should be! I literally wear mine everyday—to work, on hikes, out with friends—everywhere” Beth gushed.

The couple chose their rings from Brilliant Earth and Aide-mémoire Jewelry. “When it comes to jewelry, taking an ethical path was so important. Many diamonds are made in conflict zones in Africa,” said Beth. “Having worked on many social justice issues over the years as a way to live my Catholic faith, I knew that [a traditional diamond] wasn’t an option.”

Beth also gifted her bridesmaids with jewelry steeped in meaning from The Starfish Project. The jewelry designer is changing lives of exploited women by educating and training them in sustainable, positive careers. Likewise, before the ceremony, Nick gifted Beth with a beautiful bracelet from Purpose Jewelry, an organization that gives hope to women who have been subjected to human trafficking.

Beth and Nick also made sure to shop local for many of their vendors as a way to support the Baltimore community they love. Their cupcakes were made by Flavor Cupcakery, which Beth encountered in one her many service roles.

“Years ago, when I worked at a homeless shelter in Baltimore, the owner reached out and offered to bring enough cupcakes for all 500 residents the day before Christmas Eve. It was such a special experience. We knew we wanted to support this local business on our wedding day.”

Local Color Flowers is a florist in Baltimore that sources local and seasonal flowers and gives their clients a unique experience. They guarantee the color and style of your flowers, but the exact type will be a surprise on your wedding day. “The team guided us in the process, learning all about our wedding so they could select flowers that really fit our personality and the vision of the wedding,” Beth said. “They did a fantastic job, and the surprise element was really fun for us.” As a bonus, the centerpieces provided were herbs that guests could take home and cultivate.

Beth and Nick’s wedding is a witness of how the love between two people can expand to love of their fellow man. Using your wedding budget to support ethical treatment of workers and honest business practices is something to consider. It elevates the worth of those who are working to ensure your wedding day is nothing less than incredible.

“Overall, we wanted to ensure our guests had a great time, but we hope they also shared in the joy of supporting ethical, local, and fair trade organizations,” said the bride.

Beth and Nick’s passion for upholding the dignity of the human person has made me wonder if ethical and fair trade weddings should be more of a trend in the world of Catholic nuptials.

They hope to inspire brides to consider where they source their decorations and vendors, because even a wedding budget can affect change in the lives of so many people.

Photography: An Endless Pursuit | Videography: Laurentina Photo & Video | Church: Catholic Community of South Baltimore | Wedding Reception Venue : Rusty Scupper | Day of Coordination: Kaitlyn Harrison, coordinationco.com | | DJ: Kevin Remaley, Rockin' Remaley, rockinremaley.com | Hair & Makeup: Down the Aisle in Style, baltimoreweddinghair.com | Flowers: Local Color Flowers, locoflo.com | Cupcakes: Flavor Cupcakery, flavorcupcakery.com | Bride's Dress: Celia Grace, celia-grace.com
Bridesmaid's Dresses: Mata Traders, 
matatraders.com | Bridemaid's Jewelry: The Starfish Project, thestarfishproject.com
Bride's Gift from Groom: Purpose Jewelry, 
purposejewelry.org | Bridal Party Shoes: Rothy's, rothys.com | Rings: Brilliant Earth, brilliantearth.com, Aide-memoire Jewelry, aidememoirejewelry.com