Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Living Heart: Attending Pope Francis' Mass in Washington, D.C.

You guys.  The Pope.  I count myself so blessed to have attended Francis' canonization Mass for now-Saint Junipero Serra (with a seat, in the semi-shade, no less!) last Wednesday, yet was surprised by all the mixed feelings in my heart when what I expected was more along the lines of happiness and fortitude alone.  Beforehand, I tried to be conscious of not trying to force myself into any particular emotions surrounding the Pope's visit, but just prayed that his words would take root in my heart and bear fruit in my vocation and my spiritual life.  It's only now, nearly a week later, that I'm starting to recognize those fruits and hoping they're just the seed of things even more significant to come.

I didn't want to have my phone out much, but by the time we got home I did have about 20 versions each of this photo of us and of the view from our seats.  I want to call it pew-view, but you know, it wasn't a pew... 

Truthfully, when a few people asked me how I felt about going to the Mass, the first word that came to mind was "undeserving," but I felt sort of insecure giving that as an answer.  I felt undeserving not just in the greater spiritual sense that any good I receive is purely thanks to grace, but in the sense that I applied late to ask for tickets from my parish and was surprised to receive them, I'd never even heard of St. Junipero until I had my tickets, with his name on them, in hand, and I found out I was going only a few days beforehand; I felt like aside from happening to have gone to confession the weekend prior, I wasn't particularly prepared, spiritually, for a papal encounter.

It's uncomfortable, writing this.  The day after the Mass, as I scrolled through all my social media peppered with excitement over Francis' visit, I felt a growing sense of guilt that I didn't…I don't know, feel more.  I suspected what I did feel, which was kind of down on myself, had nothing to do with the Mass or the Pope, but with my own deficiency, which I don't exactly enjoy contending with.  Lately I've been feeling in a spiritual rut, a creative rut, and just generally not as alive as I'd like to be, thanks to a little too much time in front of screens.  I've been revisiting Francis' homily over and over the last few days.  His invitation to rejoice, as in the Mass' second reading, even when "so much seems to stand in the way of this invitation," and his reminder to the faithful of St. Junipero's personal motto, "always forward," maybe should've left me with a renewed spirit of mission and determination, yet I felt more a sense of defeat and frustration with myself.  The Pope pointed out that in the absence of joy, habit and apathy can come to govern us too entirely, "with a fatal consequence: our hearts grow numb."  Yikes.

The more times I meditated on his words, though, the better I started to feel.  Francis doesn't stop at this statement, nor intend it to be just a warning, I don't think.  He invites us to overcome "the force of habit" with a love for the Gospel and for sharing it "in faces of wounds, of thirst, of weariness, doubt and pity."  There are obvious examples of literal woundedness, thirst, and doubt in our brothers and sisters, those more than worthy of works of mercy.  Yet in another way, those faces are the faces of all of us, and certainly me.  As the faithful, I feel like he's saying we've been entrusted with much, yet being on the inside of the truth doesn't mean we're strangers to brokenness and imperfection.

But we also aren't strangers to the hope of our redemption.  I'm filled with admiration and surprise-yet-not-surprise at how Pope Francis so often asked those he met on his visit to pray for him, and how often he seemed to indicate that he wasn't just coming to us, but that we were coming to him.  Since his election, it's been so clear to me what a man of humility and Franciscan poverty he is, which maybe is why being at this Mass felt so unusually…normal.  Even in the presence of the Holy Father and in a different setting than my usual parish, I sort of just felt like I was at a Mass--a beautiful, elevated one, to be sure--but not like I was being spoken to by a celebrity or showman.  Just like I was being spoken to by Christ.

I had the pleasure of going to Mass and brunch with Jen this weekend, and described to her my struggle to put the experience of encountering Pope Francis into words.  Amazingly, she got it.  She told me the story of the time she walked into St. Peter's Basilica for Adoration.  Even in the midst of extraordinary beauty, history, and holiness, she said, she didn't feel overwhelmed with sentiment or drama, but simply felt the complete peace of knowing she was home.  That, ultimately, is one of the things I love about the Catholic faith: no matter where you're coming from, what language the Mass is in (this one was in Spanish!), or what wounds you bear, the liturgy, the sacraments, and the potential for boundless joy are home to us.  Thank you, Papa, for reminding me.  May my heart be not numb, but broken open, a heart of flesh united to Jesus' sacred heart.

How about you?  I'd love to hear about your experience of the papal visit, and not just if you saw him in person!  How did the Holy Father speak to your heart?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Precious Words: Ways to Pray For Your Fiance or Husband, and Why I Sometimes Find It Harder Than I Expected

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At least in the correspondence category, I sometimes feel like I was a better wife to Andrew before I even knew I was going to be his wife--you can read about all the letters I wrote to my then-future husband here.

We exchanged a lot of notes back and forth while we were dating, some that made me all twitterpated and anxious for marriage and some that just made me crack up.  I was reading some yesterday during a nesting/reorganizing rampage and just laughed in joyful disbelief and gratitude for what we share. 

Now that the gushing is out of my system…a few years ago for Christmas, I gave Andrew a journal we could write in together as a way to hold our letters in one spot.  We filled up a lot of pages quickly…at first.  Then we petered out a little.  I'm fine with things being unforced and just naturally having different seasons for different things--I prefer it that way, in fact--but at least on my part, the lack of writing started to feel like a lack of effort rather than a lack of actually wanting to start writing to my husband again.  

So, in a fit of Pinspiration a while back, I set out to do a 30 Days of Prayer-type thing for Andrew, and…well, failed.  I got as far as making a list of 30 intentions specific to him and faithfully wrote him a note about each day's intention before I went to bed, so he could read it before work in the morning.  For about two weeks.  The biggest problem for me, I think, was intentionality.  I sometimes fall into not viewing self-imposed projects, in this case writing a letter every day for 30 days, as real obligations, even when they should be--not that the writing was a duty in the sense it was a burden, but it became too easy for me to push it aside in favor of other things I wanted or needed to do…if I'm being honest,  it was more things I wanted (if the only choice was between a letter or dishes, my answer would've been obvious...).

Anyway, I gleaned at least two fruits from this.  The first is that in all things, not just in letters, my husband deserves the best of me, which includes a willingness to follow through on commitments and to sacrifice my time for him.  Not exactly a revelation, but an important reminder for me nonetheless.  The second is something I've always known and loved: that words have immense significance, and can become such a gift to another person.  It's easy for me to pray constantly for Andrew in my head throughout the day and to frequently thank God for our relationship, but I really do love the idea of creating occasions for more focused, intentional prayer.

That being said, I'm eager to reignite my attempts at daily written prayer for Andrew, maybe with less pressure on myself this time yet with a renewed effort to willingly give this gift to him, and I'm also curious to know how other couples do the prayer for each thing.  What's your experience been?  Do you and your fiancee have specific or creative ways you pray for each other? And do you encounter any of the same consistency struggles as I do?  I'd love to know!

P.S.  I'm SO excited to be attending Pope Francis' canonization Mass for Bl. Junipero Serra in Washington, D.C. tomorrow!  I would love to pray for you--please do get in touch if you have any special intentions!

Friday, September 18, 2015

This Is My Body: Dealing With Wedding Night Nerves

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Sometimes I think I really must be a lunatic.  I just like talking to people about sex.  Well, about chastity, NFP, and the Theology of the Body, specifically, so hopefully not so crazy?  Anyway, week after week, the most-read posts on this blog are the ones I featured two years ago on preparing for your wedding night when you are virgins, when you aren't, and when one of you has a sexual past and the other doesn't.  If you missed them, you can catch them here:

Or maybe you're coming to this from a different place. In the time since these posts were published, I've gotten emails every few months from brides-to-be expressing the nervousness they're feeling as their wedding nights draw closer.  Thanks to what I attribute entirely to grace and well-timed formation, neither Andrew nor I were anxious about our wedding night, but I completely get that there's so much anticipation, conventional expectations, and a lifetime of experiences personal to just you, all packed into one night--it can understandably add up to major nerves.  So here, humbly and imperfectly (and hopefully not too awkwardly…), speaking only from my experience and the candid thoughts I've shared back and forth with other brides, are my thoughts on what seem to be common wedding-night concerns, and how to approach them with love and a spirit of openness.

If you're nervous about physical pain:
Again, I can only speak for myself here.  In my experience, our first few times were uncomfortable.  Yet with complete honesty, I can say the pain was coupled with a very true, pure sense of joy at finally being able to unite myself fully to Andrew and express our love in all the ways we'd been longing for our whole engagement.

The Cross is sometimes described as the agony and the ecstasy, and I meditated on that sometimes during those first few months.  To unite yourself to Christ is to accept suffering, but to unite yourself to him is also to trust in the promise of fulfillment, in every longing of our hearts.  Just so we're clear, I wasn't thinking about these things while everything was going on!  They were, however, constantly in my heart and my prayer life as we adjusted to being newlyweds.  And on the technical side, using a lubricant as often as you need can help ease discomfort you might feel, and so can taking your time with one another before actual intercourse to relax your body.

If you're nervous about the different intimacy you're about to share:
Just like it takes time in a relationship to build communication and honesty in your emotional and spiritual lives, so it is with your physical relationship.  Don't be frustrated if your sexual relationship takes a while, well into your first year of marriage, even, to feel more effortless and free.  If you are truthful and loving, I promise it will happen.

Meantime, it's not bad or wrong to feel like sex is a major step--it'd probably be weirder to view it as insignificant, no?  There's no rule saying you have to have sex the second you walk out of your reception and shut the doors.  Being so close as husband and wife will be completely new, and it's okay if you'd prefer to wait a night or two.  So long as other intimate acts aren't used as a means to an end, it can be really beautiful to just take your time getting to know each other, fully revealed.

If you're nervous about how to communicate in a new way and put your sexuality into words:
I dated someone who genuinely struggled with articulating his emotions and being honest about his feelings towards our relationship, towards how I and other people treated him, and towards his own strengths and weaknesses, to the point that he would often be vague and evasive, partially out of not really knowing how to verbalize his thoughts, only to let out a flood of unfiltered, uncontrolled anger every few weeks.  When Andrew and I first became friends, I remember being so struck by his humble sincerity; he thought (and still thinks) carefully before speaking, yet what he said communicated so clearly what he was really thinking that there seemed to be no division between what he was saying and who he actually was.  I could just see him so clearly, and I feel like I came to know him so truthfully.

I say this because many sex therapists, religious and otherwise, hold the belief that a couple's sex life is a sort of microcosm of the other parts of their life together--that is, if they're generous in their physical relationship, they're likely to express generosity in other, non-sexual ways, and if they withhold things from each other in the bedroom, it can indicate other behaviors in their relationship that point to selfishness or to bottling up conflict.  My husband's directness and honesty are two of my favorite qualities of his, and he's drawn out similar habits in me that had never been tapped by anyone else before.

They've served us well in every part of our relationship, but in our intimacy, as well.  I truly feel like the best remedy for nerves about communication is simply to be honest from the get-go about what you both like and dislike, what's uncomfortable, and what you are open to.  At first, I felt shy bringing up stuff like that because we'd never had an opportunity to talk about it before, but it has helped our marriage so much, not just in the sexual category, to be completely open and to talk about things with love and charity.  Bringing everything onto the table, in a prudent way, eliminates so many possible misunderstandings or feelings that stay hidden because they are never addressed.

If you're nervous about making the night special when you're abstaining for NFP reasons:
We prayerfully made the decision to postpone pregnancy in the beginning of our marriage because Andrew was in grad school and I was unemployed.  Our wedding fell right in the fertile middle of my cycle.  The thought you're having, that abstaining might take away from your wedding night, is totally understandable, and it definitely went through my head a few times.  Every couple is different, of course, but being on the other side of it now, I can honestly and so joyfully say that not being able to have sex right away wasn't disappointing at all and didn't take away one thing from our wedding night.

On that first night, there is so much that is brand new and special--being completely alone, seeing each other for the first time, and learning how to be intimate in a new way.  You're so free.  That said, in our case we weren't thinking at all about what we didn't get to have, but what we did.  I think, too, that for us, going from mostly just kissing before marriage all the way to sex on the night of our marriage would've been a huge leap, and I'm actually grateful for the opportunity to just enjoy one another slowly at first.  That's not to say it wouldn't have been nice to have the chance if we hadn't been abstaining; it's just that nothing felt missing, and things were wonderful as they were.

If you're anxious about being disappointed or the night not being special just for the reason that you'll be abstaining, I'd encourage you to pray about not seeing sex as a finish line.  Try, instead, to see every act of intimacy as something beautiful in and of itself, not just a step on the path to something else.  I know that for me, I was concerned about the morality of certain acts if they weren't going to result in going the whole nine.  A faithful married friend advised me, at the time, to view each of these other things as an act of love that isn't striving for anything more beyond the present moment.  When they are approached with love for the other and a sense of purity, she reminded me, there is nothing wrong about them, and they aren't acting as some sort of false start or way of arousing the other person without fulfillment; they can be completely fulfilling and beautiful on their own when there's no grasping for more.

On your wedding day, you stand before God and man and vow that the good of another person is more valuable, more important to you than the good of yourself.  On your wedding night, acting with love when you've chosen to abstain is a heroic sacrifice and an immediate, tangible way of living out your vows: putting aside your wants for the good of the other and, in this case, for the good of your new marriage.

Alright.  Thoughts, friends?  Andrew and I once gave a talk to engaged couples that we high-fived over afterwards, only to read the surveys and find the general sentiment was "don't talk so much about sex." Oh the humbling; how I need it.  But if this post has helped you, I'd love to know, and my prayer is that it bear much fruit and living water in your marriage.  Feel free to toss in your two cents of advice, and if  you feel like chatting, email me anytime at stephanie.captivetheheart@gmail.com.  I love hearing from you!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rite Resources: Guest RSVP, Contact, and Reception Info Trackers

Picking out my wedding shoes took up a good few hours of my life.  Deciding, with my family and Andrew's, who was invited to come see them (assuming my shoes even peeked out from under my dress) took longer.  Guest-related matters make up a significant amount of wedding planning--and for good reason; in my opinion, celebrating the sacrament is an invitation to communion, in every sense of the word, for everyone present--so I want to offer you today a way to keep track of all those matters.

If 1 meant showing up on my wedding day and hoping for the best, and 10 meant apps and checklists and timelines planned down to the second, I'd rank my organization as a bride at…six.  Plus maybe a half.  I  don't consider myself too hopelessly disorganized, but complicated or overly involved systems stress me out and I like to have as few separate planning tools as possible.  I find I think more clearly when related information is mostly in one spot, rather than spread out across several.

So, when the time came for Andrew and I to get things rolling with the guest list we'd spent all that time on, I craved order and peace.  I wanted to consolidate all the addresses and phone numbers we'd written  and scattered on Post-Its from our moms' address books and, to keep track of who'd received all our wedding correspondence, and later on, to keep all of the info relevant to the reception, like who was eating what.

I'm sharing the spreadsheet I made in the hope that it'll give you some guidance as you get started communicating with your guests.  Like I said, too many planning documents tend to make me feel less organized, so I wanted to have just one sheet that could take us from the initial gathering of contacts all the way to sending out Thank You Notes.  Feel free, obviously, to take my categories and split them up across different sheets in a way that works for you.  Here's what you'll find:

Name: Obvious.  I counted families as one name, like "Calis Family," for any family members living at the same address.

Address and Phone: Also obvious?  Clearly I'm showing my expertise…

Save the Date: Along with the next column, Invitation, I just put in a check mark to indicate that these correspondences had been sent out to each guest, marking after addressing and before mailing each batch.

RSVP: I filled in Yes or No, and as the response dates crept up, my system was to highlight the rows for guests I needed to follow up with.  If a guest replies with a No, I'd recommend keeping them on your chart until after the wedding, since some guests still like to send gifts or attend showers even if they can't make it on the actual day, and that way you'll still have their info.

Numbers: How many peeps would be attending from each invitee group or row on the spreadsheet; i.e. a single friend would read as 1, while a family might read 4 or 5, depending on who planned on coming.  I broke it down into Adults and Kids.  Sounds laughably simple, yet being able to easily add up this column saved us a lot of effort when giving head counts to our priest for communion and to our reception site coordinator for seating and meals.

Reception Meals: If you're serving a buffet, ignore this (head counts alone should be sufficient), but if you're serving a choice between several plated meals, there are three columns here for you--two for the choices of adult meals and one for kids' meals; you can change the labels from "Meal 1" and "Meal 2" to chicken or pasta or whatever you're serving.  I just filled in the number of guests per party eating each one, which, again, simplified a lot of communication with the reception staff.

Notes: Anything related to gluten and high chairs.  I kid.  But really, any special needs or requests your guests might have.

Gifts and Thank You: When we got home from our honeymoon, adding a list of our wedding presents and checking off whom we'd written thank you notes to seemed like a natural extension of our pre-wedding planning.

You can download the spreadsheet here.  And please do share your feedback and tell me what organizing methods have worked best for you and for other brides you know!  I get that everyone has different tendencies and planning personalities and would love to hear your best advice for keeping your guest info clear and at your fingertips!  Thoughts?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Interview with a Catholic Wedding Planner: Andi Compton of Now That's a Party on Pre-Pinterest Wedding Planning, What Not to Forget, and How to Help Your Wedding Coordinator

Never-before-shared fact: I spent the first 20 minutes of my wedding night taking off my makeup and going about my usual, semi-elaborate skincare routine because I forgot to pack the face wipes I bought, specifically for wedding night purposes, in my overnight bag.  Maybe if I'd had a someone to help me keep on top of those details, things would have proceeded differently…

I'm happy for this opportunity to share the tip of, yes, packing an overnight bag, but even more so, I'm thrilled to introduce you to Andi Compton, a wedding planner based in San Diego who works primarily with Catholic couples.  I have such admiration for the fact that in every sense, Andi really did turn her childhood love (wedding collages!) into a thriving business, Now That's a Party, and that her passion for the sacrament of marriage flows from her work directly into her vocation with her husband and kids.  I'll let her take over the storytelling now!

All photos from Andi's event portfolio; photo by Weddings by Chad Cress
By the sound of it, you've loved weddings and had a creative streak for a long time!  How did you get started in this business?
I've been planning parties since my 4th birthday, when I told my parents we were having it at Chuck E. Cheese, and each year my parties got increasingly complex. My parents were very supportive of my ever growing love of crafts: always taking me to the craft store for classes and demos and letting me take over a cabinet (then closet) for all of my craft supplies. I'm sure my parents looooooved it. 

Then, when I was 15, the movie The Wedding Planner came out. I had no idea that people could earn a living getting to help people with parties! This is way before Pinterest, so I would save up my allowance to subscribe to any bridal magazine I could get my hands on and then cut and paste together mock weddings. Soon it was time for college and even though I was accepted and registered in Loyola Marymount's film program, I decided to walk away and stay close to home, which ended up being such a blessing. My craziest job in college was working at Mon Amie, the largest bridal store on the West Coast. I learned so much about the wedding industry and even got to model dresses on the weekends. Win win win! 

In 2006 my husband proposed, we came up with a budget, and I FINALLY got the chance to learn how to put together all the details and ideas I had been reading about for 5 years. After our wedding we were blessed with a bunch of babies (and lots of birthdays to plan!), and I would occasionally help a friend with her wedding.  Soon I was being asked to essentialy coordinate these weddings. Things kept snowballing and I really felt a pull towards making things official with a name, branding, and a website. Then came networking and offering to coordinate styled shoots, where I could get to know other local vendors and build a relationship. And now I get to help couples with their weddings and am also on the committees for a few fundraising galas in my area.

Do you work mostly with Catholic couples, or with others, as well?  Regardless, what, to you, sets a Catholic wedding apart?
The majority of the couples I work with are Catholic, and I would really like that to be my focus. I still work with secular couples, but they are mostly friends of our family or of other friends. 

JESUS is what sets a Catholic wedding apart! Having the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord truly present in the Blessed Sacrament at a wedding is just beyond phenomenal. I mean, heaven is kissing the earth at your wedding! 

As a Catholic bride yourself, do you have any stories of seeing the faith come alive in the couples you've worked with? 
I arrived to the church an hour early before one wedding and just sat and prayed in the Adoration chapel until the wedding party arrived. At that time, I noticed the groom was nervous. I told him to just go and sit in front of our Lord for awhile, and it was so beautiful to see him, his brother, and a friend just praying. 
Your business, Now That's a Party, offers services from basic wedding day timelines to full-on coordination from start to finish.  What aspects of wedding planning are your brides most surprised by? 
I think the biggest surprises are all the little details that can easily be overlooked- like ordering meals for your vendors (we work better with full stomachs!), packing an overnight bag if you're staying with your new husband in a hotel, identifying who is going to take your gifts home, and thinking about cleanup even though the bride and groom get to skip that part. 

One San Diego wedding I did, for instance, was in a little park overlooking the ocean, and the bride had ordered rose petals. I had to have her look over the regulations the city has, pack a rake for after the ceremony, and schedule the petals into my timeline. For Catholic weddings, many brides don't realize that the Church has restrictions on the type of music that can be used in weddings. It varies parish to parish, but it's super important to remember that it's not "all about you" as the magazines say.  It's still a liturgy, and the music needs to be in line with that.

Brides have so much access to visual inspiration, message boards, and dozens more resources when planning their weddings, often before they even meet their vendors.  As a coordinator, have you noticed pros and cons to this? 

Absolutely! Pinterest can be an awesome tool to visually lay out all your ideas and be exposed to trends and lots of new things. On the flip side, it can make everything seem so overwhelming, almost paralyzing, for some brides, too. The biggest downside for me is having people tell me, "Sorry, this isn't really going to be Pinterest-worthy wedding," as if that were the goal of their wedding. NO! Becoming a Pinterest trend or getting featured on a wedding blog should never be the focus.  People will care about it for maybe a day then move onto the next thing, but the man you're engaged to wants to be your husband for the rest of your life.

True Photography
Obviously, you are there to make a bride and groom's wedding day go as smoothly and memorably as possible.  What's the most helpful thing the couple can do for you, as their planner, before and during the big day? 
Hands down, send me copies of every single contract they have signed with all other vendors and give me the contact info of each vendor, friend, or family member who is planning to be there for setup, as well as who I can contact in case of an emergency. Once I have all of that info, I can contact each person so I know what to expect and can weave together a timeline for each person so we are all on the same page. That timeline is gold on the day of! 

Another huge disadvantage of visual inspiration overload is that often the images we see on Instagram, Pinterest, and blogs are simply unattainable to the average person, but it can tap into our vanity because we want to fit in. Have you noticed that none of the style blogs feature simple receptions in church halls? I've happily coordinated those and let me tell you, the couples are so filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit from their wedding and it is just infectious to all their guests. 

I'd love to hear stories from some of the weddings you've worked on! Are there any particularly profound moments that stand out to you? Any funny or otherwise memorable ones? 
One of the most fun moments at a wedding was when a bride and groom surprised their families with a belly dancing ensemble. One of the groom's cousins came out and played drums with the drummer and everyone there was really into it. They even danced with swords! Another couple went all out in smashing cake into each other's faces. That was rare for me: most couples are nice and don't want to make a mess.

Though I'm 4 years removed from my wedding, writing this blog often calls to mind memories of my engagement and wedding day.  Do you experience something similar?  Does being immersed in weddings and, by extension, marriage, influence your relationship with your husband and family, and vice versa? 
Yes! A big trend I've seen over the past 5-7 years is big, showy proposals. They are featured on blogs, become YouTube trends, and are all over Pinterest. Even though I love my husband, he absolutely did not give me my "dream proposal" and I've had to try really hard to learn humility, accepting the reality of what happened and learning to be grateful for having him in my life. A proposal is all of 5 minutes, but having someone by your side that is constantly choosing to love you in sickness and in health, in bad times and in goodwell, that's real love.

Katie Beverley Photography
Any planning tips or secrets you could share with Catholic brides-to-be? 
Before booking any vendors, book your church! Many dioceses require 6-9 months of preparation before the wedding. Each diocese also has different marriage prep requirements (ours has a Pre-Cana day and your choice of Engaged Encounter or Evenings for the Engaged). Also, look into Natural Family Planning. For many, it's the first time they've ever heard of it and learning about the body God gave you is truly empowering.


That, friends, is what, to me, sets a Catholic wedding apart; not just in the way that you, as the bride and groom, choose to celebrate the sacrament, but in the fact that you have a choice to support our brothers and sisters when booking your wedding vendors.  Catholic creatives who see their work as a call and a ministry can not only give your day an extra-special spin (I love Andi's story about inviting a groom to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, and consider that a Catholic photographer will be able to get amazingly meaningful shots during your wedding Mass), but in my opinion, their craft deserves to be honored and seen.  I've been spending a good deal of time on discernment and emails with Jiza and Elissa in the last few weeks, and we are feeling a pull to create a new Catholic wedding site that combines resources for brides with community and marketing for Catholic wedding vendors.  I can't wait to share more as our ideas shape up over the next few months, and in the meantime your prayers are so appreciated.

Andi, thank you infinitely much for sharing your heart, your business, and a few planning secrets!  If you're planning a wedding in the San Diego area and looking for a coordinator, I think it's safe to say you've found your woman.  Be sure to visit Andi and check out her gorgeous work on her website and on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Fall Roundup: Dates, A Playlist, Dressing Your Dress, and Wedding Inspiration

Our last two annual family apple picking photos.  I suspect this year's will more resemble the former...
I fully admit, it's still all hot-town-summer-in-the-city around D.C.  But the breezes that have snuck their way into the evenings lately are giving this third trimester perpetual sweater hope that the best, most crisp days of the year are close at hand.  If you're planning a Fall wedding or if, like me, you're just antsy for all things commercially pumpkiny, I offer you this roundup of Fall posts past from the blog…

The yummiest homemade pumpkin spice syrup I've ever tried

What about you?  Anything big happening in your life over the next few months?  What's your favorite way to spend a Fall afternoon?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Love Notes: Catholic Engagement and Wedding Ring Inscriptions

{small ways to show great love}

My nosiness beckons: do you have an inscription engraved in your wedding or engagement ring, and what's the story behind it?

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Natalie Franke Photography
In one of the first emails Andrew ever wrote me, long before we were dating, he asked me what my favorite prayer is.  Mine is the Miraculous Medal prayer, and he told me his is the Memorare.  Truth be told, I'd always found the Memorare slightly depressing, what with the line, "before thee we kneel, sinful and sorrowful," and with what I then perceived to be a vibe of desperation.  When Andrew described to me his understanding of the prayer as complete reassurance and comfort in Mary's motherly love for us and the promise of her faithfulness and intercession, my view started changing for the better, and after a sort-of-funny-sort-of-argumentative period of choosing what variation on the words we wanted to say when we prayed together (Not that the words and meaning of the prayer itself are up for debate!  We had each just learned slightly different versions), it quickly became one of my favorite, most consoling prayers, too.

When the time came to choose words to be written in our wedding bands, we decided we wanted something personal to us beyond something like our initials or wedding date.  We prayed, and I asked Andrew what he thought of engraving "before thee we kneel."  From the holy ground where we met to the fact that I'd always prayed my husband would have a devotion to Our Lady and, unknown to me, Andrew had just started doing a daily Rosary around the time we became friends, the Blessed Mother has had our relationship in her hands from long before the start.  A line from a prayer to her, one that would remind us to constantly come before her, together, in complete humility and trust was the perfect choice for us.

I never want to change my ring, but I do sometimes consider other meaningful words I wouldn't mind permanently wearing; namely, in a tattoo that I will probably never choose to get, and I like "be not afraid," "duc in altum," and "verso l'alto."  But enough about me.  So tell me: what's the story behind your ring inscriptions, if you have them, or do you have one in mind for the future?  Scripture verse?  Saint motto?  I would love to know!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Book Title Reveal! Introducing...

Book on preparing for Catholic marriage, catholic wedding planning book, catholic marriage prep book, catholic marriage prep, catholic weddings, catholic brides, catholic wedding blog, blog for catholic brides, site for catholic brides, catholic wedding planning help, captive the heart book, captive the heart

If you missed the news on Facebook and Instagram last week, INVITED: THE ULTIMATE CATHOLIC WEDDING PLANNER will be released this upcoming Spring, and I couldn't be happier to share it with you!

I hope this book meets you where you are.  I hope it fills the need for a resource that, you know, marries in one place the practical and spiritual aspects of planning your wedding Mass and reception.  I hope it challenges you and doesn't make you think too badly of me and my embarrassing blunders into newlywed life.  Most of all, I hope it invites you into the sacred and bears authentic love and freedom in your relationship.  Here's what you'll find inside…

Book on preparing for Catholic marriage, catholic wedding planning book, catholic marriage prep book, catholic marriage prep, catholic weddings, catholic brides, catholic wedding blog, blog for catholic brides, site for catholic brides, catholic wedding planning help, captive the heart book, captive the heart

--I Do To-Do's: A Master Checklist--

--Budget Planning Sheet--

CHAPTER ONE: First Steps

CHAPTER TWO: Marriage Prep and Why It Matters

CHAPTER THREE: Planning Your Nuptial Mass
--Order of the Mass: Liturgy Planning Sheet for Readings and Music--

CHAPTER FOUR: Planning Your Reception
--Sample Reception Schedule--
--Reception Planning Sheet--

CHAPTER FIVE: Holding On To Your Sanity

CHAPTER SIX: Beauty and the Bride

CHAPTER SEVEN: Love Incarnate, a.k.a. The Sex Chapter

CHAPTER EIGHT: A Word From the Bridegroom (Andrew got his own chapter!)

CHAPTER NINE: Starting Your Life Together

--The Catholic Rite of Marriage--

--Special Circumstances--

--Further Reading--

I'll be sharing more, including the cover design, excerpts, and some release date surprises, in the next few months!  Until then, help I can't think of a hashtag for this project I'm more than open to hashtag suggestions…


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