Friday, March 30, 2012

D I Y: Guestbook Collage

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Guestbooks are a nice way to record everyone who comes to your wedding and all, but I always kind of questioned their purpose.  A whole book that ends up under your coffee table with just a few of its pages filled?  I love the idea of turning this old tradition into something new and pretty that you can put out in the open- what gal doesn't want to surround herself with reminders of her wedding day after the bash is over?

To make this collage-style guest display, you'll need: a craft punch in any shape you want (I found my bird one at Michael's), a shadowbox frame, paint chips in your wedding colors, and poster-mounting squares or stick-on glue dots (you can get these at any craft store, too).

A note about the paint chips: take way more than you think you'll need.  I admit I felt the tiniest bit guilty slipping tons of them into my purse in the middle of Lowe's, in what I hoped was a non-suspicious way, but I did buy some lightbulbs that day.  Besides, if I was really going to paint my walls, I'd need that many chips anyway to get a reasonably sized swatch.

Get started by taking that sweet new paper punch to the paint chips.  Punch out as many shapes as you have guests, and be creative in your punch placement.  Don't disregard the little white part between each color on the strip, for instance.  It makes a subtly cool graphic statement.  Try to maneuver the punch so the cutouts are close together, which will help you maximize the number of shapes you can get from each paint chip.

Start arranging all of your punched-out shapes inside the frame.  I made a grid design, but if your tastes are more towards the abstract, you can scatter them or combine them into one larger shape.  Arrange the colors in a pattern, or not.  Up to you.  For my little flock here, I wanted the yellow birds to stand out among the gray, so I used fewer of them and tried to space them out.

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Fun, right?  Now all that's left is to attach the shapes to the interior of the frame.  The poster mounts or glue dots make gloriously easy work of it.  Add in your names, wedding date, or a favorite phrase, and you hold in your hands a seriously gorgeous, functional piece of artwork that you'll be happy to hang in your future nest (maybe I should've chosen a word other than nest because of the birds.  Oh well.).

Put this beauty on display at your reception with a few nice pens and let everyone sign and initial a shape. If you can't fit them all into one frame, just double or triple up.  They'll make a great gallery.  At the very least, you can be sure they won't get stuck on a shelf somewhere.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Economy of Salvation: Paper Trail

{creative ways to save your pennies on the most expensive day of your life}

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Ribbons, monograms, embossing...there are so many gorgeous options out there for your invitations, programs, and signage.  Unfortunately, all of these choices come with an insane price tag.  Whether you've already experienced stationary shock or it's still months away, know that there are ways to snag pretty paper goods for way less.  

  • Office supply stores have dozens of  invitation papers- nice, heavy cardstocks in white and ivory, with embossed borders.  If you want something a little more dynamic than your typical black script, try playing around with different fonts.  Plain paper definitely doesn't have to equal plain invites.  You can download free fonts in every style imaginable at  Add some zing with colored envelopes.
  • Forego the invitation papers altogether and do it all yourself.  Microsoft Publisher and Adobe InDesign are desktop publishing programs that help you create every stationary-related item you can think of, from invitations to response cards and tri-fold booklets for programs.  When I could neither find nor afford exactly what I had in mind, I used Publisher to make my wedding stationary, which is in the picture at the top of this post.  I downloaded a pattern I loved to make the pink background, then slapped a text box with a border on top, where I could type in all the details.  I grouped the background and text box together to make a template for everything, and bam.  Coordinated invites, programs, and reception signs without having to start from scratch each time.  Such a stress saver.
  • If you're not feeling the creative juices, look into websites that offer print-it-yourself designs.  Typically, you pay a flat rate to download their documents and are then free to print as many as you need, which, if you ask me, is a pretty sweet deal.  My favorite source is Printable Press, which has a bevy of gorgeous invitation suites, complete with Thank You cards.  Check out these beauties:

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Metropolitan: Traditional and original

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All Lit Up- How magical do these look??
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Ribbon Twist- I love how girly and preppy these are without looking gaudy.

What path are you taking for all your paper?

Next up: Remember your guests, well, memorably.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Veritas: Bryant and Amanda

{real life love}

The first time he saw her, he knew.  The first time she saw him, well...she didn't know just yet.  The day Bryant and Amanda met in class during college, they talked for seven hours.  Seven.  According to Amanda, that day "he fell in love and I found my new best friend." Bryant told her months later that when they met, he knew he was going to marry her.  The two of them spent tons of time together until Amanda left campus for a semester abroad.  I know what you're thinking, but it wasn't that simple.  Having scars from earlier relationships and fearing the vulnerability of being loved, Amanda says she "felt that avoiding dating would keep me away from getting hurt.  I rejected him a lot when he tried to love me.  I basically kept a safe distance from him," but her friendship with Bryant flourished in spite of her reservations.

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From the significant distance of Austria, Amanda continued to wall up her heart.  She went several months without contacting Bryant, thinking their friendship was unhealthy and resisting the idea of dating him, though Bryant was head over heels by then.  But slowly, patiently, she was being transfigured.  Here's what Amanda has to say about those months apart:

While I was in Austria, the Lord healed my heart from a lot of the hurt I had experienced in past relationships.  He showed me the gift of being a woman in many ways.  I began learning how to receive love and affirmation.  And I learned that love is a choice, it is a sacrifice, and it will hurt, but the pain of this cross was what was going to lead me to holiness.  I began feeling my heart open up more and more to the idea of being with someone and allowing him to love me.  I began speaking with Bryant again and at that point I realized I really did love him.

You guys.  How beautiful is this?  It's amazing how gentle the Father is, and what a gentleman it makes him.  He's always knocking at the doors of our heart for something, but he never just charges in.  He asks us and He waits.  So, so good.  Bryant and Amanda started dating as soon as she came home.  Happy ending, right?  Actually, Amanda knew in her heart they belonged together, but discerned that she still wasn't ready, so they broke things off after a few months.  Amanda even gave up dating for Lent, and again, her willingness to surrender brought about a huge change.  She says, "the Lord healed my heart of everything that was blocking me from being able to fully give myself to Bryant.  I realized again that I loved him and wanted to be with him."  She made her intentions clear and expected everything to fall into place at Easter, but by the time the vigil rolled around, Bryant still hadn't asked her out again.  Amanda was "confused and upset.  I felt that he wanted to be in a relationship and we had spent so much time together and I knew he loved me but he didn't make the move, so I doubted all of that.  I felt so much fear, like I had finally been ready and he had given up on me."  They talked in the car, in an hour-long conversation with its share of tears, and Bryant asked Amanda over and over if she trusted him, until she finally told him yes.  Still hesitant, since "had just poured [her] heart out to him and he left [her] emotions hanging,"  Amanda walked through the door of their friend's house and followed a trail of rose petals and Hershey kisses upstairs to the bathroom.  After more of her tears subsided (joyful ones this time), Amanda read the note hanging in the shower that said, "Now that I have kissed the floor you walk on and showered you with roses, will you finally let me love you as a daughter of God is meant to be loved?"  Are you tearing up yet?!

Incidentally, Amanda's birthday and the feast of Blessed John Paul II are four days apart.  His Theology of the Body means a lot to both her and Bryant, and after a series of birthday surprises, the two of them knelt before Our Lady finishing the last day of a novena.  When the prayer was done, Bryant asked permission from the Lord and all of Heaven to ask Amanda to be his bride (I know!).  Then, of course, he asked her.  Having said yes to so many things leading to that moment, sometimes only after a huge battle, Amanda said yes again.

They're getting married August 17.  Amanda says their friendship as a brother and sister in Christ is as strong as ever, but "since our engagement began, we started encountering trials like we never have before.  Engagement has been a very trying time, but it really has brought us to a level of spiritual, emotional, and mental intimacy that we could not have reached without this time."  They go to Mass together as often as possible, and she says one of the most important things they've learned is that "everyone is at a different point in their faith and we recognize that in each other.  When we feel called to pray with each other, share things we have learned, sit in Adoration, at prayer meetings, or simply worship with our guitars, we do.  But it's not always, and that's okay because in the end, we've chosen to live our lives for Christ, and our relationship finds its foundation in Him."

I feel like I can take away so many lessons about love from these two.  Love is patient, for one.  I can hardly think of a better example of fortitude and trust on Bryant's part.  What's more, perfect love casts out fear.  Of course, we can only gain so much perfection on earth, but look how powerfully love can reassure you when you let it.

Want to see your love story featured on Captive the Heart?  Email me at

Next up: Save a bundle on that bundle of paper.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Inspired: Something Blue

{wedding candy}

If you've got a clear idea of your wedding colors, maybe you've been long decided on the bridal blue you'll be adding to your ensemble on the big day.  Accessories like a sash for your dress and bright earrings or bracelets are easy, obvious ways to throw in some color.  A cozy scarf is a nice addition to your pictures if there's a chill, and I love the idea of swapping your veil for a blue-brimmed fedora at your reception.  But what if you want something a little more subtle?  There's always the blue undies route, I guess, but a fresh pedi is also the perfect spot for a little navy, aqua, or periwinkle action.  Alternatively, there are so many sweet ways to add a little sentiment to your gown or shoes- check out the date sewn into your hem or having your bridesmaids write a little note on your soles.  Best of all, there's definitely a special something (literally) about Blessed Mother blue!  It's Our Lady's color, of course, and there are so many options for religious jewelry.  My friend Kristin wore the prettiest blue Miraculous Medal on her wedding day- snag one for yourself and wear it around your neck or tied to your bouquet.  A blue rosary makes a delicate addition to your flowers, too.  Find your inspiration here (click to enlarge):

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1 &2. Essie polish in Turquoise and Caicos and Lapis of Luxury  3.  Pinterest  4. Style 811 Sash, Aria Dress  5. Pinterest  6. Two-tone drops, Anthropologie, $32  7. Candy Cane Bangle, Swell Caroline, $25  8. Miraculous Medal, Sisters of Carmel, $43  9. Style 815 Sash, Aria Dress  10.  Staw Fedora, Target, $13  11. Border Crochet Scarf, Old Navy, $17  12. Pinterest

How are you wearing your somethings old, new, borrowed, and, of course, blue?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Spirit Rejoices: Litany of the Saints and Hey Mama

{sweet sounds for your Mass and reception}

I guess I was never really a girl who dreamed about my wedding dress from the time I was five.  I always wanted to get married, and I longed to meet my future husband, of course; for a while I even had a list of qualities I hoped he'd have (Andrew isn't the master chef I wished for, but I still made out pretty darn well).  I didn't think much about what my actual wedding would be like, though.  Except for one thing: in high school, I heard in a homily about a wedding Mass in which the couple had a Litany of the Saints sung as the altar was being prepared for the Eucharist.  I decided on the spot that I wanted the same thing.  Think about it- your nearest and dearest are coming to your wedding to watch you two honor the Lord in the sacrament of marriage, and to offer you their prayers and well-wishes.  Since you already have your guests interceding for you, why not call upon all of Heaven while you're at it?  The Offertory seems to me an especially significant part of the Mass to invoke the prayers of the saints, since it takes place right after the Rite of Marriage in your first moments as husband and wife.

Here are two gorgeous versions of the Litany- a totally stunning Latin rendition with a full choir, and a quieter, newer, and equally beautiful one from Matt Maher:

As for this post's reception selection, I was thinking for a while about reception entrances.  I've been to weddings where each member of the wedding party has their own song to walk in to, which is cool, but sometimes it's seemed kind of hectic what with all the frequent music changes.  Personally, I prefer just an upbeat, danceable tune for everyone's entrance.   Maybe you've heard a few of Mat Kearney's songs on the radio.  This guy is so great.  His songs have both a romantic and a spiritual hunger, which is a quality I absolutely love.  As if that's not enough, he met his wife when he was shopping at the Anthropologie store she worked at.  He pretended to need her help because he thought she was cute, and, long story short, now they're married.  It doesn't get much more adorable.  Anyway, this song, Hey Mama, is about their first meeting and their romance, and it has a perfectly joyful, gloriously-in-love sound that's as catchy as all get out.  I feel like it deserves a spot at your wedding for this line alone:

Hey lover,
don't want no other finger
for my ring 

Oh my goodness.  Listen to the song here, and feel the love:

What saints have you had a special devotion to during your engagement?  And, what's your take on reception entrances?

Next up: A little somethin' somethin'

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wholesome, Awesome, and Then Some: A Bachelorette To Remember

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If you're reading this, I'm sure you already don't want a bachelorette party the likes of which the world and Cosmopolitan have to offer.  I've always been so turned off to the idea that your freedom ends when you tie the knot and that you have to make the most being a single lady as it ticks away.  The world seems to see marriage as kind of a passage into adulthood that equals less partying and spontaneity and more boredom, to which I say, hey world.  If you think people still need to party and hook up years after college, there's something seriously wrong with the way you see maturity.  If you think everyone needs to live it up by doing all the irresponsible things they want before they responsibly settle down, are these the kind of people who are prepared to settle down in the first place?  Come on you guys, buck up.  Marriage should be something you can't wait for, not something that will soon burden and choke you.

Oh mercy.  I swore I'd never become a blogger who rants.  I'll just say one more thing.  I love watching The Office and I adore Mindy Kaling, the actress who plays Kelly and is also one of the show's writers.  She just wrote a hilarious book called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? that includes her thoughts on marriage.  Here's what she has to say:

I don't want to hear about the endless struggles...or the work it takes to plan a date night.  I want to hear that you guys watch every episode of The Bachelorette together in secret shame...or that you guys high-five each other like teammates on a recreational softball team you both do for fun.  I want to her about it because I know it's possible, and because I want it for myself.  Married people, it's up to you.  Please be psyched, and convey that psychedness to us.

There.  From a totally wise, funny, secular source, comes the same feelings about marriage that you and I most likely share.  It's not the end of your life as a young person, just a new part of it that expands, rather than shrinks, your world.  And, though the world might not see it, true love really is all about authentic freedom- the humbling opportunity to willingly put yourself aside, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, for another's sake.  Beautiful.

That being said, how can you celebrate your wedding week with your girlfriends in a good, clean, not lame way?  I didn't feel like getting married meant it was time to get any crazy impulses out or that my friendships were over as I knew them, but I'll admit I was concerned about what it would be like to balance having a husband and having best girl friends, especially those who were still single.  I knew my time soon wouldn't belong to just me anymore, and that it'd be demanded in new (but good) ways.  I did feel a sense of finality with certain things, like, "this is my last sleepover" and "this might be the last time my sister and I stay up late baking and watching Disney movies."  That's a thought for another time, but for now, I'll say this:  be not afraid.  True friendships are able to weather change, and a loving husband is a man who's the furthest thing from possessive.  In the meantime, check out these inspired bachelorette celebrations (obviously, you won't be planning your own night on the town--I hope not, at least--so, bridesmaids, if you're reading this, take note!):
  • Most areas have at least one local winery.  Visit on a night they're hosting an event, or if you want something more intimate, schedule a private tasting session.  This is a totally classy way to toast you and your marriage.
  • Celebrate and trim down your to-do list: stop by a bead bar, where you can choose and design gorgeous baubles to wear on your wedding day.  Shops like these have super friendly, knowledgeable staff who can help you imagine and then make the exact bridal and bridesmaid jewelry you've been dreaming of. 
  • Do you have a bucket list?  Maybe you've always wanted to go to the beach in the winter, get lost on purpose, or smile it up in a photo booth.  Devote a day to checking off a few of the biggest and best items on that sucker, and end it with a nice dinner.
  • Take advantage of deals from sites like Groupon and Living Social, which offer fun things to do in your area at a discount, and attend a class or lesson together.  Rock climbing?  Hip-hop dance?  Making sushi?  Oh yes please.
  • Almost every girl loves a makeover.  She loves them even more when they're free.  Drop in to a department store or beauty shop like Ulta or Sephora (call ahead if you have a bigger group), get prettied up, and the night is yours.  Paint the town for drinks and dinner, or just go home and throw a last hurrah sleepover with the works.
You classy, sassy ladies.  Whatever you decide, it's so nice to take a few minutes to pray together at the end of your soiree.  Give thanks for your friendships and ask the Lord to bless your marriage.  All glory be!

Next up: A plethora of prayers and a song about sweet, exuberant love.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Love Notes: The 5 Love Languages

{small ways to show great love}

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If you've ever picked out the perfect present for someone, only to garner a less-than-totally-blown-away reaction, or if you've ever wished someone could just listen instead of trying to do lots of things to solve your problem, you know what it's like to want a specific kind of love from another person.  A big hug, a compliment, a special date, help with chores...all of these actions are well-intended, yet almost anyone can attest to the fact that some mean more to her than others.  It's enough to make you feel kind of guilty, knowing that someone has put in significant effort to show you they care, but in fact, there's nothing wrong with preferring different expressions of love than others.  Maybe you've heard of Gary Chapman's book The 5 Love Languages, which discusses this very fact.  He's a psychologist and marriage counselor who identifies five primary ways that people give and receive love, concluding that many feelings of miscommunication or underappreciation in a relationship are usually the result of a husband and wife speaking different languages of love.  Maybe he thinks it's unperceptive of you to ignore household tasks like laundry, for instance, or maybe his instinct when you're upset is to bring you flowers instead of holding your hand or talking.  In my small experience (I'm walking this road right along with you), growing in self-knowledge always seems to help my relationships with my husband, family, and friends.  So, take some time to get to know yourself when it comes to love!  There's an assessment here to help you identify your love language.

In the spirit of taking time for fun among all your wedding planning craziness, here are some small, meaningful dates and gestures you can add to your lives right now, according to your fiancé's and your love languages:

Words of Affirmation: To someone with this love language, words mean so much: compliments, support, and saying exactly how you feel are long remembered.  Try writing a letter to put all of that joy, anticipation, and appreciation into words and onto paper.  It's such a tangible reminder of your feelings and something you'll treasure down the road.  Who doesn't like getting love letters?

Quality Time: Everyone is so busy and always multitasking and plugged into everything these days (I know this makes me sound kind of like an old lady, but it's true.  Maybe I feel extra strongly since this is my own love language).  For someone who most values time spent together, focused only on one another and not on distractions like text messages or an overbooked schedule, being present is the greatest gift.  To honor it, I highly recommend my favorite way to just kick back and enjoy each other's company: stargazing!  Seriously, this can be as simple as sitting on a blanket in your yard to as fancy as packing a nighttime picnic for a trip to a spot you've never visited before.  Something about the combination of good conversation and looking at the sky just stops time for a while.

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Gift-giving:  I think some people feel funny identifying this as their love language, as if it means they're materialistic or something.  That's so not true- the heart of the matter, it seems, is simply that someone who speaks this language feels incredibly special knowing that another person took the time to think about what they would really enjoy and appreciate.  My friend Bob and his brand spanking new fiancee, Jenny, do this so well.  They dated long distance for a while, and were always sending each other weird things like pancake mix, remote-control airplanes, drawings, and homemade bread.   As odd as care packages like that sound, those two absolutely loved them.  See?  Gift giving doesn't mean it's got to be diamond earrings or anything.  Just little things that you know the person you love will completely enjoy or get a kick out of.  To put this language into practice, take a cue from Bob and Jenny and go to any store you want.  Take on the challenge of picking out the two cheapest, quirkiest things you can find and giving them to each other as presents.

Acts of Service:  One of my favorite professors used to talk all the time about this thing called moral perception, which is this awesome quality that takes knowing the right thing to do and goes a step further by cultivating the awareness to see opportunities for actually doing that right thing.  Acts of service are kind of like that- if you notice your fiancé's stressed out by work or studying, it's nice when you can take care of more insignificant things for a day or two, like doing the dishes when you're over visiting or sorting through the mail for him.  Speak this language with food: cook dinner all by yourself and just let your beloved relax.  It doesn't require multiple courses or gourmet desserts (unless you want to, of course), just the sincerity of wanting to serve the person you love.  Extra points if you do the clean-up, too.

Physical Touch: Along with gift-giving, this love language seems misunderstood sometimes, too.  It's not about lust or anything, just about feeling love through physical expressions of comfort like holding hands or hugging.  You know some people are huggers and some aren't?  Bam.  Physical touch.  Anyway, here's my idea for this love language.  Make no mistake; I'm not about chapel PDA at all, but next time you pray together, a subtle touch can be a nice reminder that you're there for each other and are facing the Lord together.  After we receive communion and are lowering the kneeler, Andrew always touches my ankle or wrist for a second before we get to praying, and I find it so affectionately sweet.  A hand the back or elbow is a thoughtful, non-showy way to show your love.

There you have it, girls.  The love languages aren't just a personality quiz like the ones we loved when we were twelve; they really can provide a deeper insight into another person's heart.  Beautiful, practical stuff here.  Now go get fluent.

What's your favorite way to show your love?

Next up: Celebrate right.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lectio: The Four Loves

{recommended reading}

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Carl and Ellie's lifetime of love
  Like most people with a  heartbeat, I cry my eyeballs out every time I watch Up.  Carl and Ellie, two of the sweetest lovebirds I've ever seen in a movie, are childhood pals who grow up together, then fall in love for the rest of their days.  We get to see every minute of it, and they draw out the best in each other: she inspires a cautious man to pursue adventure, and he grounds a dreamer of a girl with the contented routines of their life together.  Watching the movie, you get the sense that these two aren't just the loves of each other's lives, but best friends and teammates through life's victories and burdens.

This post isn't about Carl and Ellie.  It is, however, about the kind of love they share.  To say that love takes dozens of forms is stating the obvious.  Consider, though, how its array of varieties can be all rolled up into a singular love.  You know what I mean?  We have that desire for a love that mixes deep passion with goofy affection and the serious with the ridiculous.  I bet you've already experienced this personally- it's hard to imagine a couple whose relationship isn't enriched by a connection that goes beyond just the giggly, "I love you!  I love you too!" stuff.  That's important, of course, but we adore it because it's special (even when it's frequent), not because it's the norm.

What I'm trying to say is that romance is great and all, but it becomes even more romantic when it's reinforced with true friendship, spiritual closeness, and sincere admiration.  C.S. Lewis says it better.  The Four Loves is such a wonderful book for marriage prep- he discusses eros, or romantic love, so beautifully, as well as the loves of affection, friendship, and agape, or unconditional, perfect charity.  There's a lot of theological goods here, but if you've read anything else by good ol' Mr. Lewis, you know that he has a way of articulating truths about human nature that are so recognizable.  Of friendship, he says in this book, "the typical expression...would be something like, 'What?  You too?  I thought I was the only one.'"  He might as well be talking about a reader's reaction to his words.  Insights galore.  Every form love takes, he says, is ultimately ordered towards charity as love of God.  It makes so much sense.  Of course Love Himself amplifies all the little tastes of heavenly love that we experience here on earth.  We beg for love, we want to give love to the people we care about most, we long to express love.  Check out for yourself what Lewis has to say:

Need-love cries to God from our poverty; gift-love longs to serve, or even to suffer for, God...Need-love says of a woman "I cannot live without her;" Gift-love longs to give her happiness, comfort, protection-- if possible, wealth; Appreciative love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him...

Does this take your breath away like it does mine?  A love that rejoices not just in happiness, but equally in vulnerability and sacrifice, is an exhilarating thing.  So, use your engagement to contemplate all the loves you share.  When you're friends, lovers, and each other's biggest spiritual allies, you're setting yourselves up for a heck of a marriage.

Next up: Four today, five the day after tomorrow

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Law of the Gift(s): Our Wedding Registry Saga

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China this pretty classes up all your meals.  Even takeout.
Image: The Terrier and Lobster

It's like Barbie's dream house, but for real: you get to make the ultimate wish list, arrange place setting combos to your heart's content, and try out more pillows than Goldilocks.  Building your wedding registry is one of those things that makes your impending marriage really sink in.  When you're choosing the exact comforter you'll snuggle under every night and the very wineglasses you'll use at your first dinner party as a Mrs., it becomes kind of impossible not to imagine your married life in a new way, doesn't it?

As giddy as I was to scan away, I learned a few things about myself as I planned my registry.  I learned, for example, that the best places keep your coat for you and offer you sparkling water and snacks.  I discovered how weird it is to sense what feels like everyone in the store's eyes on you as an associate unlocks cabinets full of knives for you to test out.  I was totally dismayed to find out that Andrew thought a cake stand, Euro shams, and a dozen champagne flutes (for when all of our kids come home for Christmas one day!) were totally unnecessary.  He was right, of course.  I actually forget what shape a Euro sham is.

This, ladies, is what I really came away with.  While completing something as seemingly straightforward as picking out items for our future nest, my initial bewilderment eventually granted me the vision to see Andrew with more truthful eyes than ever.  It's surprising how many lifestyle-related issues, like spending habits, necessity vs. luxury, and now vs. later, come into play when it comes to choosing household things you'll share, even if you've talked about money before.  I can remember practically skipping into Bed, Bath, & Beyond last February, with subdued but chipper fiancé in tow, thinking that the day's most difficult question would be what color KitchenAid mixer I wanted.  What I wanted.   I have to confess to you that I turned into a girl I never wanted to be- you know, the one who gets carried away with the precise shape of her drinking glasses and spends the better part of an hour picking out designer bath towels, then snaps at her husband-to-be about not needing a light-up universal remote or something.  I'd fought it, but there I was.  By the time my eyes teared up in response to Andrew's insistence that we would never use an ice bucket, I realized I was being a complete lunatic.  Throughout my engagement, I'd been pretty proud of the fact that I'd avoided any major crying jags or remotely Bridezilla-like moments.  We'd never tried to one-up each other in any other situation or badger one another until someone gave in.  I'm still not sure what made me think this was an okay time to start.  Oh, Lord, how you humble me.  It took me way too long to realize it, but I began to understand that even if I was the one more interested in our potential cookie sheets, I didn't have the right to steamroll the guy I couldn't wait to share snickerdoodles at midnight with.

Maybe you're wondering what the point of all this is.  I hope I made you laugh, at least.  I told you this story to share the most lasting item I got from my gift registries.  Hint: it's far more lasting than pasta platters and a cocktail shaker.  We left the store exhausted and ready to talk about anything but our wedding.  I considered how patient, how genuinely loving this man was.  Rather than ridicule my love for for kitchen gizmos, Andrew had bemusedly, good-naturedly taken them in stride.  When we disagreed over what we actually needed for our first digs, rather than what I thought we might use way down the road, he'd never been forceful or irrational.  Instead, he'd nicely told me the reasons for his opinions, and we talked about them.  I didn't even deserve nicely, but my husband really is extraordinary.  You want to know something beautiful about love?  The amazing thing about it is that when you truly, completely wish the very best for someone else, grace makes you willing to put what you want aside.   This is probably nothing new to you, but it can shake you to your soul, in the best way, when you really stop to contemplate it.  Surrendering your will to your beloved doesn't diminish your freedom; it amplifies it because you're giving of yourself.  It brings you deep contentment to do it.  Blessed John Paul II called this the Law of the Gift.  He said,

"Limitation of one's freedom might seem to be something negaive and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful, and creative thing.  Freedom exists for the sake of love."  

With all of your planning and talk of wedding gifts, it's easy to forget sometimes that you and your fiancé will become the most profound gift of all to each other.  So my prayer for you is a sense of presence.  Don't worry about receiving everything you register for, or about picking the wrong size dessert forks.  All in good time; in His time.  Be present, and before you know it, you'll be standing at the altar becoming presents to each other.

Next up: Love lessons from a phenomenal teacher

Friday, March 9, 2012

D I Y: Hand-Stamped Accents

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Seriously, who doesn't wish she could go back to her Play-Doh days?  It's got neon colors, the perfect texture, gadgets that pump out pasta shapes and hairstyles, and that smell that just makes you want to eat it.  

Behold the all-grown-up version: using just a few regular kitchen items and super versatile alphabet stamps, you can turn out an easy salt dough just waiting to be made into bouquet tags, place cards, a ring bearer bowl, and more.  One recipe produces tons of accessories for your Mass and reception, dries to a nice ivory shade that matches any color scheme, and, best of all, can be fully customized with your names or words you love.  The only thing missing is that addictive scent, but come on, look at everything you get for the tradeoff.

You'll need: 1 cup table salt, 2 cups flour (bleached looks the nicest, but use whatever you've got), cookie cutters, a drinking glass, alphabet rubber stamps (you can find these at craft stores for under $10), a rolling pin, baking sheets, parchment paper, and a chopstick or skewer.  Other than stamps, get creative with anything that can make an impression in the dough.  I also used seashells,  a Rosary (plastic since things get a little sticky), and a few Saint medals.

To make the dough, combine the salt, flour, and water in a big bowl and stir.  You can do this by hand or, if you're feeling a little lazy, a stand mixer.  You registered for one, right?

When you're done mixing, the dough should be smooth and pliable.  Don't worry if it seems on the dry side- if it's too wet, it'll be too hard to work with.

Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch.  I found out the hard way that this is important!  If it's too thick, the dough will puff up as it dries, which can obscure all of your stamped handiwork.

Now comes the fun part.  Using cookie cutters and drinking glasses, cut shapes from the dough.  

With the stamps and other materials, go to town inscribing the shapes with your names, sweet nothings, or phrases from the order of the liturgy and your wedding readings.  Don't be afraid to press hard, since the impressions lessen a little as the dough dries.  When you're finished, carefully transfer each shape to a glass baking dish.  If you find the words get a little distorted by all the handling, try placing each shape in the dish first and then stamping it.  To make your shapes stringable, poke holes using a chopstick.

I told you that was the fun part.  Now for the being patient part.  You can either let these babies air dry, which takes about three days, or bake them at 200 degrees for six hours.  You'll know they're ready when they lift easily from the baking dishes.

Can you believe your kitchen is able to produce so much beauty?  Here's a few ideas for your salt dough tags:
  • String a ribbon through a small cutout and tie it onto your bouquet.  Stamping it with his and your initials (with your last name to-be, of course) is such a pretty, romantic touch.
  • Make place cards for your guests that they'll be happy to take home.  This is, admittedly, a pretty huge task, so enlist your bridesmaids for some stamping action.  Alternatively, set them out at your rehearsal dinner instead, which will likely have a smaller crowd.
  • Tie tags onto baskets for programs, favors, and cards.
This is my absolute favorite idea: use a larger cutout to hold your rings during Mass.  Think of it as a more personal, more permanent ring bearer pillow that you can use later as a jewelry dish.  There's one below at the bottom left, and one at the top of this post- your engagement ring makes a gorgeous, memorable stamp, too.  To make one, gently bend your chosen cutout around a clean jar (think spaghetti sauce jar) after about 8 hours of air-dry time or 15 minutes in the oven.  Let it finish drying wrapped around the jar, which will give it a nice curve to hold your bling.

If there's a simpler, prettier, more affordable way to customize your wedding, I would like to know what it is. 

What words inspire you?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Economy of Salvation: Cake Walk

{creative ways to save your pennies on the most expensive day of your life}

As wedding necessities go, cake definitely ranks up there.  It's probably the part of planning your fiancé's most interested in,  it'll provide quite a few photo ops, and it needs to be gorgeous, delish, and freeze-worthy.  Or, if you're like me, you'll be tempted to eat that sucker again before your first anniversary rolls around.  Somehow, it's unbelievably easy for sugar, flour, and butter to add up to hundreds of dollars- factor in flowers, flavors, monograms, and labor and soon the whole shebang winds up costing half as much as your dress.

Instead, try going the independent route for your cake.  Before you write that off as not an option (or before, like me, you get delusions of doing the whole thing yourself), consider what's at your disposal.  Everyone has a friend or aunt who likes to bake- if you know someone with talent, take advantage of it!  It can be an awesome wedding gift for them to lend you their skills.  My friend Jessica made us a beautiful cake and about 200 cupcakes.  She also traveled with them, iced them on the day of our wedding, and did it all with a baby in tow.  Amazing.  We had so much fun picking out flavors and decorations, and it felt like a huge honor to have someone I cared about contributing to my wedding in such a big way.  Besides, who says no to weekly taste testings at work?

Try these options on for size:

  • Most communities have a vocational school that offers baking and pastry classes.  Consider having students in these classes make your cake, which they'll probably do at a discount.  Also, you're giving them the opportunity to add to their portfolios.
  • Specialty bakeries are fancy and fun, but give grocery stores and wholesale clubs a shot, too.  What they lack in glamour they can definitely make up in savings, and if you look through their offerings, you'll most likely find that they have plenty of wedding experience.  If these talented people can make super detailed, historically accurate dinosaurs for kids' birthday cakes, just think what they can do for you.
  • If your heart's set on something elaborate, think about having a single tier to cut for your pictures and save for later, and serve sheet cakes to your guests.  I promise, taste far surpasses appearance for pretty much every guest.  No one hates on wedding cake.
  • You've decided to go DIY with a friend?  I was totally seduced by complicated, lavish designs when I first started reading bridal mags, but I soon realized that something simpler was way more suited to my style and the vibe I wanted for my wedding.  Think how elegant simple can be!  A hand-frosted look would be perfect for a rustic wedding, for example, and a decorating with just a few fresh flowers looks clean and minimal.
Get inspired by these lovelies:

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1. Hand-frosted single tier, The Knot 2. Colored tiers with confetti decoration,  The Blushing Bride  3. Ribbon and fresh flower decoration, The Knot  4.  Ribon and fruit, The Knot  5.  Rock candy cake, Martha Stewart Weddings  6.  Hand-frosted cake with succulents, The Blushing Bride

What's your dream cake?

Next up: Gorgeous, customizable accents for your flowers, place cards, and more

Monday, March 5, 2012

Veritas: Dave and Breanna

{real life love}

Every bride daydreams about walking up the aisle towards her husband.  Meeting his eyes for the first time, feeling beautiful, and knowing something sacred is about to happen brings such a sense of joy and anticipation.  What if your husband was walking towards you, and you didn't even know it yet?

True love story, Catholic love story, marriage, love, Catholic marriage, Catholic wedding planning, Catholic wedding blog, Catholic brides
From first date to first engagement picture to first moments as husband and wife!

Hey, it can really happen.  As Breanna E. prepared to transfer colleges, she was seeking a job in the Admissions office when she stumbled onto the Facebook page of a guy who already worked there.  She asked him a few questions about it, and though it took him a while to respond, soon they were talking online every night.  This guy, if you haven't figured it out yet, was Dave.  He told Breanna he wanted to meet her in person on her move-in day, and she says,  "I remember sitting outside of my building nervously waiting for him, and I can still picture him walking towards me with a big smile on his face.  I never thought that my future husband was walking towards me!"  Although neither of them were initially looking for a relationship, they hung out often at the beginning of the year, and Dave asked Breanna to their school's homecoming dance.  After the dance, Breanna wanted to protect her heart.  She put up an impressive resistance against the many sweet notes and even the dozen roses that Dave sent her- for a while, at least.  "Even though  I was stubborn," she says, "God had bigger plans for us," and they officially started dating that Fall.

During college, Dave and Breanna grew certain that their relationship would lead to marriage.  Breanna's faith was already very important to her and she knew she wanted it to be a large part of their future. As they began attending Mass together and got involved in liturgical ministries, Dave's relationship with the Lord deepened for the first time.  After graduation, when they were living an hour apart, the two of them still went to Mass together every Sunday.

Fast forward a few years.  Atop a lighthouse in the Outer Banks, Dave proposed!  The biggest struggle during their engagement, according to Breanna, was being apart.  "Even though we were only separated by one hour, we just wanted to be together and begin that next phase of our lives," she says.  Dave also lost his job just three months before their wedding, which put significant pressure on them, but in spite of all this, their engagement continued to stretch and reward their trust in God.  In their minds, for instance, "Natural Family Planning is only for people who want to have a dozen or more kids, right?  However, as we grew and attended a marriage preparation workshop, we decided that we wanted to explore this option and learned so much about ourselves in the process.  After our NFP courses we knew this was the best choice for us, and we're very grateful we let God open our hearts to it."

By the time their wedding day rolled around on June 11, 2011, it was, again, all about trust.  Breanna told me about the day so incredibly beautifully that I can't say it as well as her.  Here's her account!

I woke up that morning with a sense of peace, and I know that God was with me through the entire day.  I hope that every bride feels the same way...I'd obsessed over little details which I promise no one noticed when all was said and done...At the end of the day, the only thing that mattered was that we were united in the sacrament of Marriage.  Also, I felt extremely blessed because during our reception a rainbow appeared over the valley.  I lost my best friend to cancer in 2008 and I knew it was her saying that she was with me during every moment of the day, and that all would be well in our married life.  So far the biggest surprise is that after nearly 7 years together, we're still learning little things about each other every day.  We know that this is a journey, and we're blessed to be on it together.  We've also learned (again) that God has plans for us that we never could have imagined, and it has been both difficult and rewarding to give everything up to Him.  My gift to Dave for our wedding was a Rosary, and we have prayed it together and found that the power of prayer does bring us closer together.  Before we were married, our prayer was "private," but now we are trying to pray together, which has helped us to grow even more in our relationship with God.

A wedding is always miraculous, but there's something extra sweet about ones like this that've been so many years in the making, isn't there?  Oh, and you're not going to believe this.  As if the rainbow wasn't enough, Breanna and Dave got to have their wedding reception at the same venue where they went on their first date to Homecoming!  Oh amazing love.

Want to see your love story featured?  Email me at!
Next up: Have your cake and keep your bank account, too

Friday, March 2, 2012

Inspired: Spring Forward

{wedding candy}

I seriously doubt I'm the only one ready for Winter to be over.  Right now feels like that in-between period where you're so ready to move on to the next season and experience all the fun stuff it holds (I, for instance, am pretty over wearing tights for now and am dying to ride my bike).  For a late Winter wedding, it's so easy to bring in touches of Spring without making them seem out of place.  My suggestion?  Make a deep, muted color like silver or charcoal your main wedding color, then choose one pastel to complement it- shades of gray make brights look super elegant.  Your footwear, bouquets (check out the feathers in the purple one!), and cake are the perfect spots for color.  An easy, affordable way to ground your reception decor in gray is with chalkboards!  You can transform practically anything with a few coats of chalkboard paint, so set one up for a menu, table assignments, or signs and go to town.

(click to enlarge)

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1. JS Boutique Draped Jersey Gown, $138, Nordstrom  2. Pocketful of Dreams  3. Remmedy Pumps, $90, Steve Madden  4. A Paper Proposal  5. Shoe Clips by BusyBee Flowers, $10(!),  6. The Knot  7 & 8. Jet Fete by Bridal Bar  9. Yellow and Gray Curvy Clutch by FrankieLloyd, $26,  10. Shining Night Stationary,
Next up: A dozen roses, a very important lighthouse, and a wedding day miracle.  Meet Breanna and Dave!


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