Mercedes + Davide | Traditional Mexican-Italian Baltimore Wedding

Mercedes and Davide, both first-generation Americans, incorporated many family traditions into their wedding day to create a unique celebration of culture and festivity. 

Their respect and love for the dignity of the marriage sacrament is evident in their story, as they learn to listen to God’s will and find harmony in their different temperaments. In the end, Mercedes reflects that they are not isolated in their vocation; they are surrounded by the love of family, friends, and the eternal communion of saints.

From the Groom: Mercedes and I met in June 2015 as we walked with our young adult group to a pub in downtown Baltimore. It was after evening Mass on a Sunday. Our first glance was filled with charm, and our first chat was intriguing, because an introspective and cautious introvert (me) was attracted to an outgoing, enthusiastic extrovert (Mercedes). 

On our first few dates, I learned we had both been brought up as first-generation Americans, and we shared a similar family structure. We both lived lives that spanned two cultures, and that helped us feel uniquely and mutually attracted.

I began to realize, however, that we communicated in very different ways. I started to feel the first fire of attraction die down within me, especially when I felt confused and unable to express myself adequately. But in empathy, true love, and hope, we listened to the voice of God and found ways to understand each other in communication. We came to appreciate each other's humanity and unique traits, and from the day we met, our appreciation and admiration of one another has steadily grown.

I tell Mercedes all the time that I was ready to marry her in October of 2017 when I was in search of a ring. Instead, I proposed in March of 2018 on the grounds of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Fallingwater, after five months of preparation and prayer. That day, we declared our love for each other and our willingness to pursue marriage.

We were overjoyed to call and notify family about our engagement, and they have certainly helped support our relationship. Yet our relationship with God, the author of marriage, was always very important. Through prayer and the sacraments, Gold keeps our marriage holy and stable. In addition, our love and empathy for each other provides fuel for us as we move forward in Christ.

Mercedes and I believe deeply in the sacramental institution of marriage. This was clear as we recited our vows during our nuptial Mass, which closely reflect the "three matrimonial goods" described by St. Thomas Aquinas: to be open to children and raising them in the Catholic Church, to be faithful and always act in the best interest of our spouse, and to create a new spiritual unity with each other through God's grace.

From the Bride: Dave showed me he was a thoughtful, patient, generous, and dedicated man from the moment we met. When I knew he was the one I wanted to marry, I also knew I would most likely have to move wherever he got a job. Along with two friends, we started to pray for the intercession of St. Joseph in our lives. We were all discerning marriage in addition to career changes in order to be closer to our future spouses. While things didn’t move terribly fast, we are all happily married now and in good jobs. 

Dave proposed on March 10, the day the novena to St. Joseph began (unbeknownst to him), and my women’s bible study hosted a surprise engagement party for us on his feast day. Even though we don’t have a special devotion to St Joseph in our marriage, I know he is a steadfast guide and counselor in our vocation, and I have a special place for him in my heart.

Living in Baltimore, we found community and spiritual nourishment at the local parish, Saints Philip and James Catholic Church, which is run by the Dominican friars. We were blessed to have attended multiple weddings for dear friends there, and knew that once we moved to Philadelphia, Baltimore would still be the place we wanted to get married. 

The lovely mosaics, tall stained glass windows, and high-arched ceilings made the church breathtakingly beautiful and helped make Mass the focal point of the day. Elizabeth, our photographer, captured some of my favorite elements, such as the large crucifix by the Marian shrine and the dome over the altar. It was special to share this church with so many friends and family who traveled for our wedding day.

Looking back, the nuptial Mass was my favorite part. It felt like it was just Dave, myself, and the priest for most of the ceremony, especially during the consecration, because we had kneelers facing the altar directly.

We recently attended another wedding at Saints Philip and James parish, and hearing them make the same vows on the same altar was a powerful reminder that our marriage is supported by the whole Church. We made our vows along with thousands of other Catholics striving for holiness in this vocation.

Dave and I chose to incorporate a variety of traditions into our wedding. In addition to wearing my mom’s wedding gown and veil, which my aunt helped modify, I wore jewelry that belonged to my grandmother and carried my great-grandmother’s rosary around my bouquet. My matron-of-honor carried this same rosary around her bouquet at her wedding as her “something borrowed”. 

During the wedding Mass, we were joined under a wedding lazo (lasso), a traditional practice in Mexico and many other Spanish-speaking countries. It symbolizes the unity of husband and wife under the protection of the Church and their joint responsibility in living out their vows. We were blessed to use the same lazo my parents had at their wedding almost thirty years ago.

At our reception, we served Italian confetti at the dessert table, which is sugar or chocolate-coated almonds with various flavors. On a recent trip to visit family in Italy, Dave and I picked out bomboniere (wedding favors) with his mother. We selected wooden trivets that looked like potted flowers which can be displayed on a small stand. There were so many that it almost filled an entire room in their basement! My aunt also brought traditional papel picado (decorative tissue paper) from Mexico, which she customized with our names and other expressions of love. Altogether, they made our reception venue beautiful.

Looking back, our entire wedding day was filled with the love and support of so many people. Many of our family members flew in from abroad, and we know our grandmothers who live abroad (two who are 93 and one who is 88) made the greatest effort to be present that day. My mother and mother-in-law dedicated themselves for many months to make the wedding beautiful and helped with every aspect of planning. My father gave a beautiful speech in three languages that made several guests cry! My cousins helped as day-of coordinators and brought fun accessories for the dance floor. 

Our group of Catholic friends from Baltimore curated a prayer calendar for us, which now hangs in our kitchen as a reminder that we have people praying for us. They offered us sage advice, joyful encouragement, and gladly partook in the ceremony as readers and ushers. Our florist, Emma, is a close family friend who owns an amazing floral design company in the city. She was able to source giant coral peonies for my bouquet, and the colorful bouquets and centerpieces were everything I dreamed they would be. Elizabeth, our photographer, was a connection through the Catholic community in Baltimore and has captured meaningful moments for many close friends. 

In some way or another, loved ones gave of their time and talent, and it moved us deeply. We had so many guests that we struggled to make our way to every table during the reception. Everywhere I turned, there was another face who was there not just for the wedding day, but to give us love and support for our future as a married couple. I ran around giving hugs and high-fives and dragging people to the dance floor, and I still feel the joy to this day.

I knew I could never marry someone who didn’t love the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” The main character, Toula, comes from a loud, crazy family that yells over each other, cooks big meals, and throws great parties. In many ways her Greek immigrant family resembled my Mexican family and the group of friends I grew up with. Additionally, Dave’s Italian family certainly knows how to feed large amounts of people and bring family together for big celebrations. 

Growing up, I loved this movie, and I always imagined my wedding day would be something like it: a dizzying day full of tradition, love, big families, and intense emotions. It is safe to say our wedding was very much like that. And even now, some nights before bed, I look at our wedding photos framed on the wall, turn to Dave, and quote one of the last lines Toula says in the movie: “Sometimes I’m afraid that it didn’t happen…but it did happen! It did!”

Likewise, the greatest takeaway from our wedding is that we did not enter into this sacrament in isolation. 

Just as we were able to incorporate family, cultural traditions, and heirlooms into our celebration, the nuptial Mass itself included readings and vows that are used by many other Catholic couples. We were blessed to enter into marriage surrounded by family and friends, and we are reminded through their love and support that we are supported by the universal Church and the community of saints, who desire fruitfulness and holiness in our marriage.

Photography: Elizabeth M. Photo | Church: SS. Philip an James Catholic Church, Baltimore MD | Reception Venue: The American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore MD | Flowers: Steelcut Flower Co. | Catering: Zeffert and Gold | Cake: Sugar Bakers Cakes | Stationary: Printed with Catprint | Hair and Makeup: Heather from Brushed Beauty LLC | Bridesmaids Dresses: Revelry | Necklace: The Little Catholic | Rings: Brilliant Earth and Robbin’s Diamonds  | Suit: Men’s Warehouse (Calvin Klein) | Ties and Pocket Squares: The Tie Bar | Bride's Dress: mother's dress

Flora + Joseph | Blush and Lace Garden Party Wedding

Flora and Joseph made it their mission as a couple “to make the invisible love of God visible and tangible” to everyone they encountered. Their vintage wedding, inspired by both the Garden of Eden and Queen Elizabeth II’s garden parties, reflected this desire. 

Their story begins a few years before that joyful day, at Joseph’s sister’s wedding. That was where Joe first noticed Flora, the woman who would become his future bride.

From the Groom: Flora and I met through my sister Katherine, who at one time was Flora’s teacher and mentor. At my sister’s wedding, Flora and her friends came to celebrate a new life forged in marriage. She didn’t know that at that very time, the Lord was preparing her for her own. 

Over a year after Kat’s wedding, I found Flora on social media and added her as a friend. I didn’t want to push a relationship; I could tell from the way Kat talked about her and how involved she seemed with her faith that just knowing this woman would bring me joy and a greater peace of mind in Christ.

From the Bride: I was not interested in a relationship when Joe messaged me. I was seriously discerning the single life and focusing on my relationship with God. The summer before Joe and I met, my friend and mentor, Kathy, was travelling to World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. She asked if any of us had intentions for her to pray for during the pilgrimage. I asked her to pray for my vocation. 

Later, Joe and I met in person at St. Rita’s church in New Orleans for a night of adoration and socializing with other young adults. He asked if I wanted to “grow in our relationship with Jesus together” (be his girlfriend) at a Dave & Busters in San Antonio, at the end of the SEEK 2017 conference. After SEEK, we consecrated ourselves and our relationship to Jesus through Mary on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on February 11th. 

It wasn’t until after we made this decision that I found out Kathy had prayed for my vocation in Lourdes, France. Early on in the relationship, the vocation of married life was very much on our hearts and in our prayers.

I was studying abroad in Amsterdam, the Netherlands when Joe decided to propose. 

Our shared love language is quality time, so we FaceTimed any chance we got while long-distance. His mom texted one day and asked what my address was because she was going to send an “Easter surprise.” I thought nothing of it because she makes Easter baskets every year for her grandchildren. 

The day before Joseph proposed, he woke up, got dressed for work, and FaceTimed me. Later in the day, when we usually talked during his lunch break, he told me the principal wanted to meet with him about lesson plans, so we wouldn’t be able to chat. That night, he planned to meet up with friends. 

I found out later he was actually on a flight from New Orleans to Amsterdam. I woke up to a call from the “mail woman” the next morning, claiming that a package for me was downstairs. I put my shoes on (still in my pajamas) and headed downstairs. She told me my package was outside, and I became very confused. I stepped out onto the street, and there was Joe with flowers in one hand and an acoustic guitar in the other. That’s where he asked me to be his wife.

Engagement Photography: Rudenko Photography 
Photography:  Rudenko Photography

Photography: Rudenko Photography

My bridesmaids and I got ready the morning of the wedding at a gorgeous Airbnb on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Joe and his groomsmen got ready at his parent’s house. I didn’t particularly enjoy planning the wedding, so creating a peaceful environment on the wedding day was important to help me enter into the sacrament with Joe.

I had begun writing “letters to my future husband” three weeks after we started dating. I wrote about small and big events in our relationship, my thoughts when we were long-distance, and many thanks for his selfless acts. Joe wrote me a sweet note the morning of the wedding, and we both read our letters in the church as we waited to see each other at the altar.

Divine Mercy parish in Louisiana is where we started going to Mass as a couple, and it’s where we were married on our wedding day.

Joe and I love a particular quote by St. John Paul II. He said, “It is the God-given purpose of our lives to make the invisible love of God visible and tangible in our material world.” It has become part of our mission as a couple to share God’s love in the world. We wanted our guests to feel and know his love through the readings, songs, vows, and intentional time with our friends and family.

I walked down the aisle to a song called “Closer” by Steffany Gretzinger. The bridal party walked out to the instrumental of the song, and when the doors opened, the cantor started singing the verses. I heard the song for the first time during adoration when Joe and I were on a retreat together. It’s about the beauty of God’s love, and it reminded me of how beautiful Joe’s love is as well. 

I was already crying before the doors opened. Joe and I dealt with hardships throughout our engagement, and in this moment I was shown how victorious love is.

We chose the “washing of the feet” as our Gospel reading because Jesus showed the Apostles how to be servant leaders. Marriage is a sacrament of service, and it is our mission to share God’s love with those we encounter every day. As we were kneeling in front of the altar, I thought about how it is a place where sacrifice occurs (think Abraham and Isaac, the moment of transubstantiation, etc.), and how Joe and I were sacrificing our own lives, wants, and needs to be joined as one.

Our main celebrant, Fr. Abraham, is a spiritual father figure to me. He has known me since I was 15 and watched me grow as a leader and a woman in the years before the wedding. His homily is one I still think about often because he emphasized God’s gift of love and how important it is to seek Jesus in the Eucharist throughout our marriage.

Joe’s maternal grandfather and namesake was his best friend growing up and would have been the best man at our wedding. He was given his grandfather’s wedding ring after he sadly passed away in 2017. During the exchange of rings, when I put Nanu’s (his grandfather’s) ring on Joe’s finger, we both felt Nanu’s presence in the moment.

We placed flowers and prayed in front of a statue of Mary in honor of our patron saint, Our Lady of Lourdes. We prayed in front of St. Joseph, who has worked overtime in intercessory prayers for us. Joe and I are so grateful to have them as role models as we strive to be a holy family.

The wedding was attended by an intimate group of family and friends. The blush and greenery aesthetic we chose was inspired by the Garden of Eden. The story of Adam and Eve was the first reading, and it is a beautiful example of living in communion with God in a paradise like the Garden. 

When I imagined our wedding, I pictured long tables with our loved ones and enjoying a celebration of love and mission, like the Wedding at Cana. We asked our female guests to wear fascinators: a small, vintage headpiece. The idea stemmed from Queen Elizabeth II’s famous garden parties she hosted at the palace with people who were recognized for their public service. Since it was an intimate celebration, these were the people we recognized as our loved ones and role models in our lives.

We have so many talented loved ones that helped contribute to the beauty of our wedding day. My sorority sister, Ariel, designed our wedding invitation and luncheon menu. Joe’s sister, Genevieve, designed the wedding crest that we used on invitations, song sheets, menus, and the seating chart. Joe’s aunt Gina baked our elderflower-flavored wedding cake. My sister, Vi, arranged all the flowers for the bridal party, groomsmen, mothers (including Mary), and the reception. Each person’s contribution made the day even more special and personal for us.

Love is victorious. As the verse goes, “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7).

When it comes to wedding planning or planning for the future, it may seem like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But when you finally come into the light, all the graces are so sweet and well worth it.

Photography: Molly Olwig | Church: Divine Mercy Parish - Kenner, Louisiana | Reception Venue: Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse - New Orleans, LA | Ring: James Allen  | Flora’s Wedding Ring: Etsy | Joe’s Wedding Ring: Joe’s Grandpa’s Wedding Ring  | Bride’s Dress & Veil: David’s Bridal | Shoes: DSW | Jewelry: Aucoin Hart Jewelers  | Groom’s Suit: H&M  | Cake Baker: Gina Paci Grunberg  | Hairstylist/Makeup: Kayla Theriot  | Photo Booth: Envog | Flowers: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods  | Engagement Photography: Rudenko Photography 

Leah + Seth | Southern Indiana Chapel Wedding

Simplicity, intentionality, and authenticity. These are the virtues Leah and Seth pursued in their relationship after their lives crossed paths again. And after a mountaintop proposal, they carried these values into their wedding planning. 

Faith and family became their focus, and it shone through in the beauty of their wedding day.

From the Bride: It is amazing the way God works in our lives. Seth and I were friends all through high school, but lost touch after we left for college in different states. Years later, after I moved back to Indianapolis, I began seriously thinking and praying about God's plans for my future. 

My sister suggested we start a 54 day novena to St. Anne for the intention of our future spouses. Halfway through this novena, Seth and I ran into each other at Sunday Mass. As we caught up, we realized how much we had in common beyond our high school years, and we were eager to spend more time together. 

At one point, when we were going on dates but “not yet dating,” my sister said to me, "don't you think it's crazy that Seth came along right as we prayed this novena?" I waved her off as "reading too much into it," because I secretly thought the same thing and was afraid to hope too much. 

Seth had also been praying about his vocation the spring before we reconnected. He was determined that any relationship he entered into would be grounded in prayerful discernment of marriage and authenticity. It is easy in any new relationship to become caught up in a desire to impress the other person and hide aspects of yourself you dislike. We were both very committed to being as genuine as possible about the good and the bad. In this way, we slowly built a solid relationship based on friendship and honesty. 

Eighteen months later, Seth was attending graduate school in Virginia while I worked in a nearby city. One beautiful but cold December day, we hiked to a well-known mountainous overlook, praying the rosary and discussing our philosophies of marriage at Seth's suggestion. This discussion did not clue me in to Seth's plan to propose at the top of the overlook! 

His proposal was as simple and genuine as he is, and it was one of the happiest days of our lives. We knew that our prayers before and during our relationship as well as our commitment to being intentional and authentic brought us to that joyous day.

Seth and I were married in St. Agnes Catholic Church, a beautiful wooden chapel hidden away in the rolling hills of southern Indiana. We chose the music and readings to reflect the simple beauty and solemness of this little church. We made no plans to decorate the inside, as our concentration was on the liturgy itself. However, a thoughtful member of the parish gathered wild flowers to adorn the altar space for us. 

Our whole wedding day was characterized by small, thoughtful acts like these made by many of our loved ones. The day before our wedding, we invited family and friends to spend an hour in prayer with us. It was a powerful moment, seeing so many people praying for us in preparation for our marriage. 

These same family and friends showed us their support throughout our engagement by taking over many of the wedding duties. From liturgical music to flower arrangements to desserts at the reception, they pitched in to offer their talents to make our day special. 

A particularly special gift was made by my eldest sister, who was unable to travel to our wedding because she was nine months pregnant. She gave me the beautiful mantilla veil she had worn at her own wedding. When I put on the veil the morning of my wedding, I felt as if a small part of her was with me. 

One of the best pieces of advice we received was to talk on the phone before the wedding began. Since the end of the aisle would be the first time we saw each other that day, a normal conversation the morning of our wedding helped calm our nerves and made us that much more excited to get married. 

The nuptial Mass itself was incredibly special, not only because we chose the readings and the music, but because everyone partaking was someone dear to us. The best part of the Mass was kneeling so close to the altar during the consecration. 

Our reception after Mass was a joyous occasion. Rather than the usual sweetheart table, Seth and I chose to create a "king table" where both our immediate families could sit with us. This was yet another way we ensured family was the center of our celebration.

Seth and I have talked many times about our wedding day in the months since. We are happy that it reflected our priorities of God and family. The truth is, after your wedding, you realize how many of the small details you obsessed about simply do not matter in the grand scheme of your marriage. Your wedding should be a time to honor the serious commitment you are making and to celebrate it with the people you love.

Photography: Soul Creations Photography | Church: St. Agnes Catholic Church, Columbus, IN | Reception: Factory 12 Event Loft, Columbus, IN | Officiant: Fr. Eric Augenstein | DJ: Cade Grubbs (family member) | Caterer/Bartender: Factory 12 | Rings: Touch of Silver, Gold, and Old | Bridal Gown: David's Bridal | Dresses: David's Bridall

Steffani + Dominick | Autumnal Southern Charm Wedding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sara + Raphy | Hawaiian Paradise Wedding

Sara didn’t plan on returning to Hawaii after graduation. The friendship she had begun with Raphy looked like it was coming to an end. But when she did come back, and they picked up where they left off, the two friends realized their relationship was turning into something more.

From the Bride: My husband and I met the summer of 2016, but we didn’t start talking and hanging out until December 31, the last day of the year. Shortly after a dinner at the Salt Lake Chinese Restaurant, we coordinated a day to hike the Koko Head Arch and chill at the beach down below--just as friends. 

After the new year on January 14, 2017 I received an unexpected text message from him asking me to dinner, as friends. So we shared spaghetti and meatballs at Buca Di Beppo in the Ward Center. We got boba drinks afterwards and drank them at the Tantalus lookout. And then, on the ride back to my place, we sang Disney songs for the entire drive. 

Raphy walked me upstairs, hugged me goodbye, and then I left for Portland the following day. It was a night to remember, but I thought that would be the extent of our friendship since I didn’t plan to return to Hawaii after graduation. We kept in touch through the occasional phone call and sporadic text messages. 

I ended up coming back home after graduating in May, and on June 2 we planned a day to hang out and celebrate each other's birthdays after being an ocean apart. The day started off with Raphy surprising me with the Disney Aulani Character Breakfast in Ko'olina. In turn, I surprised him by taking him to Moanalua Gardens and dancing hula for him. We ended with worship performed by Jeremy Camp at New Hope. It was another memorable time together.

About a week later on Trinity Sunday my friends threw a surprise graduation celebration for me at a friends’ home in Kapolei. There was so much food and laughter. Raphy even showed up later on, another surprise for me! The celebration went on until there was just seven of us left. There was hula dancing, singing, and guitar playing. Towards the end of the evening, Raphy asked me if I'd like to enter into a courtship with him, and I said, "yes!" 

That October, I took a trip to Europe with my mom, and we explored Switzerland and Italy. I had the amazing opportunity to go inside the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican in Rome. I knelt down to pray at one of the altars, specifically for Raphy and our relationship. After I was done praying, I saw a small sign at the front; it was the altar dedicated to St. Joseph, Raphy’s confirmation saint. I fell to my knees in tears and knew I was ready to tell him I loved him when I returned from my trip. 

I arrived home in the morning, rested, and then reunited with Raphy for date night and adoration. As we were sitting in his car at the end of the night, he asked to be vulnerable with me for a moment. That's where he professed his love for me for the first time. I professed my love for him too, and this love that we had for each other grew into the love we share today.

The next April, Raphy took me to the adoration chapel at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Aiea to pray a holy hour together. Prayer is the priority and foundation of our relationship, so we always made time to pray together. 

During the middle of our holy hour, Raphy excused himself because of a stomach problem (nerves!) and asked me to meet him at the car after I was done praying. When I approached his car there were candles lit, the bible was open to the story of the Annunciation, Raphy's journal was lying nearby, and one of my favorite love songs played in the background: "We'll Be Okay" by Imagine Dragons. 

The journal entry I read shared how he felt about our relationship and led me to a garden dedicated to the Blessed Mother. That's when he started serenading me with his favorite love song, "Perfect" by Ed Sheeran. After finishing, he professed how much he wanted to love and serve me for the rest of his life. Raphy went down on one knee and proposed. 

With tears in my eyes and a big smile on my face, I gave him my yes! We embraced each other and prayed in front of the Blessed Mother to intercede and guide us as a newly engaged couple. 

In preparation for marriage, we attended a weekend Engaged Encounter retreat in Kauai. After many long and deep conversations about our plans for marriage, we made a formal pledge of betrothal to each other. Becoming betrothed in the Catholic Church is a deliberate, free, mutual, and true promise, externally expressed, of future marriage between both parties. 

We understood that marriage was a sacrament and that we needed to prepare ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. And so we committed to growing in holiness with each other. One of the boundaries we set was no wedding planning on Sundays, the day of rest.

On our wedding day, Father Peter Dumag, our celebrant, shared with everyone that there is the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering. On that day we gave our 'yes' to God to live out our vocation of marriage. 

They say the wedding day is the day when two become one, but it is the two of us becoming one in Him. They say when you get married you're settling down, but you're actually elevating! My marriage brings my soul so much joy and peace. This is my path to heaven with my husband, through our Blessed Mother who brings us to her Son, Jesus Christ. We are so blessed for the many family and friends who witnessed our union in the sacrament of holy matrimony.

Photography:  Brandon Smith's Photography | Church: St. Elizabeth’s Church - Aiea, HI | Reception: Bird of Paradise Restaurant - Ewa Beach, HI 96815 | Rings: Honolulu Jewelry Co. | Flowers: Simply Elegant - Hawaii | Invitations: Shutterfly | Dress: David's Bridal | Veil: Amazon | Shoes: Macy’s  | Bridesmaids: David's Bridal | Hair & makeup: Lynn Yee Makeup


Amy + Jay | Fort Harrison Wedding

Amy and Jay met later in life, after experiencing the joys and losses of their first marriages. At their wedding, their lives, hearts, and children came together to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter and the healing power of God’s grace.

From the Bride: I am a widow. My late husband, Karl, and I had eight children together. One died an hour and 27 minutes after birth. Sometimes, we talked about how we wanted the other to feel free to marry again if one of us passed away. I would always say, only half joking, “Who’s going to marry a woman with seven kids?” 

Then Karl died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 54, after 21 years of marriage. When he passed, the remaining seven children were between the ages of 6 and 20. 

Life as a single mom with five kids at home and two away at college was hard. Harder than anything I had ever done. One evening, after a particularly rough and emotional day, I found myself becoming increasingly tearful after dropping off one of the kids at an after-school event. I eventually pulled over in a parking lot and, sobbing, cried out, “I can’t do this by myself! Send me some help! Dear God, send me some help.” I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe a coupon for free maid service?

That night, to distract myself, I logged onto Catholic Match and finished a previously started profile. All the while I thought, “Who wants to marry a 47-year-old woman with seven kids?” The next day at work was slow, so I started flipping through profiles. Few caught my eye. Even fewer lived close enough to consider, as I knew I wouldn’t be pulling my children out of school. 

But three days after my breakdown, Jay popped up as a possible match. It was clear from his profile that he loved the Lord and his Blessed Mother (you’d be surprised how many on Catholic Match don’t agree with all the teachings of the Church), so I sent him a message on the app. And he answered! I thought surely he hadn’t read my profile, as I had explained my whole story to avoid getting involved with someone who couldn’t handle my history. But we quickly hit it off. Soon we were sharing stories of broken hearts, broken marriages, and the children caught up in all of it--Jay is a divorced father of two.

He says he knew almost immediately that he would marry me, but I was trying to keep some distance. Karl’s first birthday without him here was quickly approaching. I told Jay we couldn’t meet until after my family had gotten through that first, and he was immediately supportive. But as the day loomed ahead, I realized I didn’t have anyone to help me through it. 

I reached out to Jay and asked if there was any way he could spend the day before with me. I had already arranged to be off work to deal with my own emotions, and then Karl’s birthday, a Saturday, I could devote to my children. Jay arranged to be off work and drove 200 miles to be with me. 

My heart was so confused the first time I was within ten feet of him. I was missing my late husband terribly, and yet there were butterflies at meeting Jay. We embraced like old friends and went to the cemetery, where he sat with me in my sorrow for an hour.

He let me sob and never once felt threatened by my tears. Never once tried to hurry me along. Never once tried to tell me to stop crying. He just sat with me, his arms around me, trying to bring whatever comfort he could through his presence and prayers. Who does that for someone they hardly know? At the end of that day, I knew I wanted to spend more time with Jay. The real challenge was how to tell my children.

My kids struggled through wanting me to be happy, but feeling angry because they thought moving forward meant I didn’t love their dad. We had lots of hard conversations, many of them ending in tears (theirs, mine, or both). Jay’s teens struggled with him moving away. He and I talked on the phone every day and prayed a Chaplet of Divine Mercy together every night. We also prayed a novena to Mary Undoer of Knots. 

Within six weeks of that first Match message, he had found a new job and moved to my town. Within three months of that first message, we were officially engaged. Four months after that we were married. 

By that time, all of the children were supportive of our marriage. That doesn’t mean everything has been “smooth sailing” ever since, but in general it has been much better.

Our nuptial Mass, which was offered for Karl’s soul, focused on faith and family. All of our children were involved: from the musicians, to gift and ring bearers, to Jay’s best man. My oldest son walked me down the aisle. In fact, one of my favorite photos was taken from the back of the church as Thomas walked me down the aisle. The band included a violin, viola, cello, and trumpet, as well as a piano and organ. Our two cantors led us beautifully in prayer.

From the Photographer: As a wedding photographer, I see many young couples preparing for their first marriage to begin, but this year I began the wedding season with an incredible pair who have ventured through life and gleaned the wisdom each year has brought them. 

Their incredible love, faith, devotion to Mary, and adoration for Jesus was so evident throughout their Mass that it brought me to tears many times. I admire Amy’s amazing trust that the Lord would bring her a man who could not only devote his time to stepping into the role of a father to her children, but the role of husband, again.

Jay is one of the most peaceful, fun men I've ever met. In his presence, you feel safe. I can’t begin to tell you how much their families will be divinely impacted by their love for each other, and most of all for Jesus.

Photography: Soul Creations Photography - Spoken Bride Vendor | Church:  St. Luke Catholic Church, Indianapolis, IN | Reception: The Garrison at Fort Harrison, Indianapolis, IN | Cake Vendor: Cheesecake Factory | Jewelry: Dress Barn | Rings: Engagement ring: Sam’s Club | Wedding rings: Jared | Bridal Gown: Ada’s Bridals, customized by erinyoungdesigns.com in Broad Ripple | Stationary / Invitations: Shutterfly | DJ: Brian Jackson | Hairstylist: Rebecca at Salon 6 in Broad Ripple

Emily + Jose | Romantic Candlelit Rose Wedding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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