The wedding planner that every Catholic bride needs

Looking for a one-stop shop for all your Catholic wedding needs? This is exactly what “The Catholic Wedding Planner” (OSV, $29.95) offers!

I had the chance to talk with the writers of this planner, Rebecca Martin and Mary Beth Giltner, to learn more about the goal behind this book and how it intends to prepare one’s heart, mind and soul for the Sacrament of Marriage. This wedding planner also includes guided reflections from wives and mothers Jenny Uebbing, Emily Wilson and Rachel Balducci, who focus on each of St. Paul’s “Love is” descriptions in First Corinthians.

Read our conversation to learn their favorite parts of wedding planning and what they learned from their own pandemic weddings.

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Radiant: Could you give a brief summary about what this book is all about and who it is intended for?

Rebecca Martin: We designed this to really fill a hole in the market, which is between countless solid Catholic content and the super practical secular wedding planners. We wanted something that would be both supportive in the Faith while also supporting and discerning Catholic marriage. This is the book that you can carry around as you’re doing your planning, the book that you mark up, tear pages out of, and make extra copies with. It’s very practical.

Mary Beth Giltner: We do envision brides being the main readers of this book, though we hope the men will derive benefit from it as well. (Hint: the book would also make a great gift for the newly engaged women in your life!)

Radiant: You both worked on this book while planning your own weddings during a pandemic. Did this have an effect on the book at all?

Rebecca: With planning a wedding during a pandemic, it really helped me put the sacrament at the center. It might seem counter-cultural, but it forced me to let go of my dreams for my wedding. It meant scaling down the party we had wanted to plan for our family and friends. What I think the pandemic really brought home to both Mary Beth and I is that the sacrament is what is the most important, and everything else is icing on the cake. A pandemic isn’t the only thing that might upend your wedding plan, but it’s important to just rest in the grace of God and focus on your wedding vows.

Radiant: I love that this book serves as a “one-stop shop” for Catholic couples who are looking to have a solid Catholic wedding. How did you go about choosing the writers for your reflections (Rachel Balducci, Jenny Uebbing and Emily Wilson), and what do these reflections bring to the book?

Mary Beth: We chose these three writers as beautiful examples of marriage and family life at very different stages in their journey. Rachel has been married for many years and has adult children. Her viewpoint is humorous and realistic and seasoned by long experience. Jenny is a mom of many whose teachings on NFP (Natural Family Planning) have deeply impacted many couples in the Church today. And Emily is more recently married with very young children and able to provide a lot of valuable insight from her perspective as a newer wife and mom. All three recognize that the wedding, while important, is not the most important thing; the Sacrament of Marriage is. And they’re able to provide practical, realistic, relatable advice to brides as they prepare for their big day. We hope their reflections will help brides-to-be (and their fiancés) form loving hearts for their marriage.

Radiant: What are some of the most beautiful Catholic traditions you have seen either during a wedding Mass or the reception?

Rebecca: My husband is Croatian, and a tradition that was really important to us was actually a Croatian/Catholic custom. We both said our vows, hands entwined, holding on to the crucifix between them. I love the fact that through our vows, we pledge to carry each other’s cross, but also that the whole reality of marriage is embodied in the cross. The cross is really what keeps you centered in your marriage; there must be mutual self-gift as well as self-sacrifice.

I also love when the groom washes the bride’s feet. It is such a sweet gesture of service and sacrifice.

Mary Beth: I don’t think this is a Catholic tradition, but it has always stuck with me. When my cousin got married, he and his wife found out who the longest-married couple at their reception was, and then she surprised them with her wedding bouquet (instead of doing the bouquet toss). I just thought it was a lovely tribute to fidelity. I also love, love, love it when Catholic couples attend adoration with their families and wedding parties (and anyone else they choose to invite) the night before the wedding, usually right after the rehearsal. I just think it sets a great tone of preparation for the sacrament.

Radiant: Which part of wedding planning do you think is the most important?

Rebecca: The sacrament is ultimately the most important, but the other piece that goes alongside this is Natural Family Planning (NFP). This knowledge of how your body works and being able to bring your spouse into this knowledge is a great start to marriage. As far as the planning goes, learning and understanding NFP was the biggest thing that we did together as a couple.

Mary Beth: I can’t stress this enough: preparing for the sacrament is the most important part of wedding planning. And because this is in some ways the least concrete aspect of planning, it can get lost in the shuffle of organizing details for the reception and out-of-town-guests and music and programs and invitations … but sacramental prep is so critical, and it shouldn’t be just another item on the to-do list. Even if all the wedding details fall apart (I speak from experience!), the sacrament can still happen. And I guess I got really spoiled in being able to focus solely on that in my own wedding. Did I have my dream wedding? No. But it was even better than what I’d anticipated because we could focus on what mattered most.

Radiant: Which part of wedding planning was the most fun for you?

Rebecca: Finding my wedding dress, because I didn’t actually go dress shopping, I just pulled out my mother’s dress! I brought it to my seamstress and said, “I have no idea if you can make this work,” but she worked her magic on it and put so much thought and love into making it work for me. Even though many of our other plans were rearranged due to the pandemic, I was still able to wear my mom’s dress, which I had dreamed of doing since I was a little girl.

Mary Beth: Buying the dress was pretty fun (and getting to spend a whole day with my mom to boot). And while we didn’t get to do this, I’ve always thought cake-tasting looks pretty great.

Radiant: What is your advice for the bride who is feeling overwhelmed?

Mary Beth: Don’t be afraid to set it all aside and focus on something else for a little while, until you can get things back into perspective. Ask yourself: In another year (or five years or 10 years), will this (insert detail that’s causing stress) even matter?

Also, keep talking to your fiancé. It’s easy to get caught up in your own expectations for the day and for the prep, and if those expectations aren’t communicated, you’re likely to get upset. Remember, he probably has expectations too! Communicate, communicate, communicate. Spend time together. Keep building your relationship, because this is what that sacrament is going to build on anyway.

Radiant: What advice do you have for the newly married couple on the day of their wedding?

Rebecca: There is often a couple minutes between when you are signing the paperwork after the wedding and before you go to take pictures. Use that moment to refocus on one another. Same with your wedding vows: Focus on the other and be in the moment.

Radiant: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Mary Beth: It’s funny, because we’ve assembled a wedding “planner” here, but I can’t stress this enough: We can only plan so much. This time of engagement (and the wedding and marriage) is a gift, and it’s meant to be received. Let God surprise you as you prepare for the wedding day and beyond. I’ve been so humbled to see God unfolding his plan for me through this sacrament, in all the things that went as I expected and perhaps even more in all the things that didn’t go as planned. God has a dream for your wedding and your marriage, and he’s excited to share it with you — but don’t let the nitty gritty details of planning get so overwhelming that you can’t see him at work!

Visit the OSV Catholic Bookstore to purchase your copy today! Also check out “Created for Love: Reflections for the Catholic Bride-to-Be” by Chloe Langr.

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