After a joyful morning getting ready, it was time for our wedding ceremony, our Catholic Nuptial Mass. Anthony and I wanted our ceremony—more than any other aspect of our wedding—to be what people remembered about the day. We didn't want the focus of our wedding to be having a great party, but the act of Anthony and me becoming one. We wanted the meaning and uniqueness of the sacrament of marriage to be honored and experienced—that our marriage expresses the unbreakable bond of love between Jesus and His people. We planned our day in hopes that every aspect would reflect this, and we prayed that our wedding would serve as a means for those gathered to experience God's love for them. We were so touched that our guests commented on, above all else, how meaningful and moving our ceremony was.
Anthony and I were married in the idyllic little white church at the heart of Harbor Springs, Holy Childhood of Jesus Catholic Church. Conveniently, my parents' place is literally a stone's throw away, so after our "no-look first look," I walked across the street with my crew, arm-in-arm with my dad. Once in the bridal room, we sat in a circle, chatting and giggling with nervous excitement. Together with my bridesmaids, Grace, our flower girl, and my parents, we prayed. It was one of the only moments of the day that was not documented on camera, but in a way, there is something so sacred about the fact that only those individuals, whose faith I love and admire, were with me in that moment—my last as a single woman.
Before we knew it, my dear friend and wedding planner Erin of Anchor Events and Design lined up the bridal party! As they processed to Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring—performed by my friend, the incredible pianist, Bobby Porter—butterflies filled my stomach. I couldn't believe it was really happening. As I waited in the back with my dad, I burped under my breath, but Dad caught it. He burst out laughing, eyes closed, head cocked back, stifling through his laughter, "NICE—it wouldn't be Kelsey without that!" That moment was just the comic relief I needed before walking down the aisle.
After the bridal party had processed, Grace and Charlie, my littlest sister and brother, walked down the aisle, arm-in-arm as our flower girl and ring bearer. It was so sweet hearing the soft gasps fall across the church as they appeared at the back of the aisle, taking their jobs so seriously.
Finally, Yiurma's "A River Flows in You," signified it was our turn. Dad and I rounded the corner, and stopped at the back of the church, looking out. One of the best pieces of advice Anthony and I got—from the hilarious lady at Macy's who helped us register, no less—was to stop right before I walk down the aisle to take in that surreal moment. We actually did this throughout our wedding day (and engagement), but for all the brides out there, this is one moment I wouldn't miss—as eager as you are to get to your groom! I will never forget looking around at all the radiant faces, smiling back at me, and locking eyes with Anthony as he lifted his head to see me and began to cry.
When we reached my sweet groom, my dad hugged Anthony and whispered, "I'm so proud of you, I love you." I had done so well up until that point, but the tears leaked out when I heard that. I'm sure that moment wasn't particularly easy for my dad, but the love and admiration he has for Anthony seem to make it a whole lot easier.
We picked Genesis 2:18-24 for our first reading to elucidate our oneness through God; we were becoming one spirit, one body through the sacrament of marriage. Our second reading, Philippians 1:3-10, Anthony and I chose as a prayer for each other and an expression of our commitment to get each other to heaven. Our short and sweet Gospel reading, John 15:9-12 (which we had engraved on our wedding rings) again signified a sacramental marriage; if we remain in God's love, by His grace, our love will always remain. Regardless if your ceremony is spiritual or not, spending time praying or discerning thoughtfully with your fiancé(e) on which readings/poems to include in your ceremony contributes to the uniqueness of your big day.
After all the readings, came one of the best parts of the whole day: Father John's homily. Almost immediately after getting engaged, we had asked our spiritual director of five years, Fr. John Kartje, to guide us through marriage preparation and officiate our wedding—to which he responded, "If the Pope called me to Rome, I'd turn him down." Having someone who knows you well (and works with you throughout the marriage prep process) officiate the wedding makes it so meaningful and personalized. Having "FJ" as part of our wedding was decided in our minds long before we were engaged, and was undoubtedly one of the best decisions we made for our wedding.
Fr. John's exceptional homily, marked by his dry humor and wit, led perfectly into the next part of our Nuptial Mass: Anthony and I washing each other's feet. We had chosen to add this piece when we washed each other's feet at a Holy Thursday service (a Catholic tradition that reflects Jesus washing the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper). Including this in our ceremony symbolized how, through this sacrament, we would devote ourselves as servants to one another, striving to live out our marriage in Jesus' example. Fr. John, however, added a crucial point in his homily:
"When Kelsey and Anthony wash each other's feet, it will be an extraordinary example of service and what extraordinary servants they are of God's love. But for me when I see them do that, it will be a wonderful celebration of how much they have learned to let themselves be loved. To let themselves really believe that they are a princess and prince, not just because they hit it out of the park in their clothing today, not just because this is such an extraordinary and beautiful occasion—but in the every days of life, when it's Tuesday morning, 16 years from now, they're going to continue to let themselves be loved."
After we finished washing each other's feet to The Servant Song (so fitting and one of our all-time favorites) we exchanged vows. At the beginning of our marriage preparation, Fr. John had recommended we write out our vows, which are set by the Catholic Church, and put them somewhere we would see them every day. Not only would we memorize them that way, he said, but those words would mean more to us, having thought about them each day of our engagement. I told you he was brilliant (did I mention he also has his PhD in astrophysics? #AstroPriest). In addition to these vows, Anthony suggested we write our own vows to each other as wedding gifts, which we read to each other on our wedding night. As a words of affirmation person, that was a pretty perfect wedding gift!
Following the Rite of Marriage, Anthony's sisters read the prayers of the faithful, which Anthony and I wrote together—another way you can personalize a Catholic Nuptial Mass! As we began the Liturgy of the Eucharist, our Godparents brought up the gifts to another one of our favorite songs, "I will Choose Christ." If you can't tell, Anthony and I loved choosing the music for our ceremony; I tear up when I hear one of our songs played in church! Like the readings, the music makes your nuptials unique, and you won't regret approaching it with thoughtfulness or prayer.
During the Consecration (yep, there's more—Catholic Masses are long!) the bread and wine are turned into Jesus' living body and blood. During this solemn moment, kneeling so close to the altar, with my brand-spanking new husband by my side, and all of our loved ones gathered around us, I was overwhelmed with awe. I felt the presence of Jesus right there in front of me in that moment like I never have before. The best way I can describe it is it felt like the closest I've ever been to heaven—so surreal and divine. I have such a vivid mental snapshot of that moment, which Cory Weber also caught on camera below:
One of my favorite parts of every Mass is the Sign of Peace. I love kissing, hugging, and flicking peace signs to all my family members—it's one big love fest! But this one was extra special. We had all our family members there to offer and to receive a sign of peace as newlyweds, but it also happened that my moment with my Grandpa Byron was my last. Despite his sickness, he had fought so hard to make it to our wedding. He was not well enough to come to our reception, and died a month later. I remember he looked at me through his teary eyes and Irish-whispered, "This is beautiful, Kelsey, beautiful... I love you, honey." What a moment to be our last together.
Once we received the Eucharist, we watched all our loved ones partake in Communion as "How Beautiful," "I am the Bread of Life," and "Speak Now, O Lord" played. Looking out from the altar, Anthony and I whispered to each other how we couldn't believe that all these people were here for us. Regardless of the type of ceremony, the view that the newlyweds have of everyone they love looking up at them cannot be replicated. The photos are amazing, but only we knew how that unique perspective looked, so Anthony and I made sure to take mental snapshots.
The final piece we added to our Nuptial Mass was a devotion to Mary, Mother of Jesus. We saw this as an opportunity to also honor our own amazing mothers, who are largely responsible for instilling in us our Catholic faith. Like our Mother Mary, our mamas are full of Grace and love Jesus. Arm in arm, the four of us prayed a Hail Mary in front of St. Mary's statue as Elizabeth Cameron sang my favorite Mary song from grade school, "Ave Maria, Hail Mary."
FINALLY (bless you, if you're still reading this) Anthony and I had our first kiss as husband and wife—and we snuck in a second! We walked down the aisle to Ode to Joy, full of joy.