Invited: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner – Book Review & Giveaway

For several years, I worked in the hospitality industry at hotels doing event coordination among other things. Weddings were always fun to help plan and oversee but as you can imagine, I saw a little bit of everything over the years, moments both beautiful and crazy. So when I saw that the lovely blogger, Stephanie Calis, had written a book named “Invited: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner”, I was intrigued. She was lovely enough to send me a copy to review and I’ve just gotta say – I loved it!

My first thought was “Why didn’t they have a book like this when I was getting married?”. I said “I do” almost 8 years ago and while I don’t think I did a terrible job planning our wedding and reception, a resource like “Invited” would have been beyond beneficial to have along the way to keep me on track and make sure I didn’t forget anything. I absolutely recommend this book to any Catholic couple that’s preparing for marriage and honestly, engaged couples in general. There’s so much helpful information for planning any wedding, especially if you’re not sure where to start.

On the practical side, there are extremely helpful checklists and guidelines included to help keep you organized along the way along with resources for further information on a variety of topics. It helps you navigate planning the wedding mass and reception, plus the wedding preparation process itself. There’s also a section from the groom’s point of view and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter which really help make it a well rounded resource. “Invited” also provides the Catholic Rite of Marriage and samples for important things like invitations and programs.

On the spiritual side, this book seriously emphasizes the fact that as a Catholic, your marriage is a Sacrament and points your focus to the lifelong vocation rather than only the one day and event. One of my favorite lines in the book says, “It’s your spouse, not your stuff, that makes a marriage” which is a great reminder of your priorities when preparing for the big day and your life together afterwards. “Invited” also delves into the hard but necessary topics such as cohabitation and contraception and also the deeper topics of authentic love, beauty, and dignity. There is great advice throughout the book about navigating the difficult parts of wedding planning like family disagreements/drama and offers advice on how to keep peace in your life during this exciting but stressful time.

On a related note, Stephanie is the co-founder of a lovely new website, Spoken Bride, for engaged and newlywed Catholic women. It’s full of beauty and inspiration for those preparing for the Sacrament of marriage and includes everything from style/beauty advice, spiritual guidance, and vendor information. Plus you have the opportunity to submit our own wedding photos to be featured on their site!

“Invited” can be purchased online through Pauline Books and MediaAmazon, and various other sites. Or, check your local Catholic book store!

Finally, I have a copy of “Invited” to give away to one lucky reader! There are several ways to enter, so pick which ones you want and please leave a separate comment for each entry. The giveaway will end on Friday, 7/1/16 at midnight Central time.

Comment on this blog post and tell me what you wish you’d known when planning your own wedding OR if you’re not married, what you’d like to know. (1 entry)

Visit Spoken Bride on Facebook and if you want, please “like” the page. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)

Visit Vita Dulcis on Facebook and if you want, please “like” my page. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. Current followers can claim this too! (1 entry)

Follow Spoken Bride on Instagram. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)

Follow Vita Dulcis on Instagram. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. Current followers can claim this too! (1 entry)

Follow Spoken Bride on Twitter. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)

Subscribe to Spoken Bride via email (found on the right sidebar) and leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)

Subscribe to Vita Dulcis via email (found on the right sidebar) and leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. Current subscribers can claim this too! (1 entry)

Good luck!!

*Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post or giveaway, however I did receive a sample for my review. All opinions are my own.*


CWBN Texas 2016

cwbn tx bluebonnet.jpg

This time last week, I was heading down to Fredericksburg, TX for the first ever Catholic Women Blogging Network (CWBN) Texas conference. After months and months of planning, it was hard to believe that the weekend had finally arrived. We were actually supposed to have the event last October, but then crazy Texas hurricane weather throughout the state deterred our plans and we decided to reschedule for the spring. As much of a bummer as that was (I seriously had my car loaded when we made the call to cancel – womp womp womp) I felt at peace with the decision and just knew that it was God’s will that we postpone the event.


Special cookies for the swag bags!

And as awesome as the fall conference would’ve been I’m sure, as I drove into town last weekend, I knew that it was meant to be at this place and time. Fredericksburg in the spring is amazing, y’all. I headed down from Fort Worth and picked up Haley at the farm on my way. I may have had a brief fan girl moment as she’s one of my fave bloggers but Haley, you are so easy and fun to talk with and I had a great time with you as my copilot! And hey, I can proudly say that I used the infamous compost toilet. It wasn’t bad, I promise! 😉

We took winding back roads and got to see the gorgeous terrain of the Lone Star State along the way. As we entered Fredericksburg, we saw tons of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes plus found out that F-burg is home to lots of beautiful vineyards and is famous for their peaches. After running a few quick errands, we met up with a small group of ladies who were also already in town for dinner at Hondo’s, enjoyed some mighty delicious burgers, and started getting to know each other. Afterwards, we walked down quaint Main Street and chatted, checked out an art gallery, then met up with Erin and Katie who made it safely from Louisiana.


Haley kicking off the day with her talk!

On Saturday, we heard amazing talks from Haley, Erin, and Kathryn and had some great discussions about topics ranging from being an authentic writer, finding your voice as a writer, social media, time management, and online privacy issues. We had some free time for lunch and shopping in the afternoon then after wrapping up the final talk and discussion, enjoyed a quick happy hour then headed to a phenomenal dinner at the Farm Haus Bistro. On Sunday, those of us still in town went to mass together at the beautiful St. Mary’s and then had brunch at Vaudeville (best crab & asparagus quiche, btw) before heading our separate ways.


The beautiful St. Mary’s on Divine Mercy Sunday

Needless to say, like most of you who’ve hosted events before can understand, my attention was a bit torn. I put so much work into planning and running the event and wanted it to succeed so badly, that I found myself working to balance Mary and Martha mode the whole time. I wondering if I should take notes during the talk and discussion like most everyone else was or just try to soak it all in. Then I checked my phone to make sure we were on time with our schedule for the day. Then I was thinking about our budget. Then I found myself going through my mental to-do list for the next thing on the docket. Then my attention was back to the speaker and the words of wisdom she shared.


Erin’s captivating talk about humility

Along the way with planning, gearing up for the big weekend, and even while I was there, people were asking me why I took on this big task, especially in my 3rd trimester of pregnancy. (35 weeks now, wow!) At times, I honestly doubted my ability to successfully pull it off with everything else already on my plate and felt a little nervous about being in charge of things for such an awesome group of bloggers. But the whole experience was a true lesson in using the talents that God has given you and taking a leap of faith.



Before becoming a stay at home mom last year, I worked for many years in the hospitality industry and helped plan tons of events at various venues along the way. So when this conference was in the beginning stages and a call for help was issued, I felt moved to raise my hand. God was totally nudging me toward this great opportunity to use my experience and skills. While it was a lot of work, I’m so glad that I trusted God to use me and my talents in this little way for the benefit of others. Now if only I could say “yes” without hesitation to what Christ asks of me all the time! Baby steps, right?


Kathryn discussing her love of sweet tea & Dr Pepper…among other things 😉


Thankfully the event ran really smoothly – the only negative was that I wish we had more time together! To all the ladies that attended, I truly appreciate your kind and easy going attitudes. It was a pleasure to meet and connect with all of you and I hope to do it again! And to Kate, my partner in crime during this whole thing, thank you for the teamwork and help with getting this all together. You’re a rock star!

cwbn tx group

What a wonderful & beautiful group! (Photo cred – Kathryn Whitaker)

If you’re interested, here are the blogs of the ladies that attended. Check them out!

The Rhodes Log
Erring on the Side of Love
Cajun Texas Mom
The Salt Stories
Humble Handmaid
Team Whitaker
The Littlest Way
The Catholic Wife
Making History Today
Carrots for Michaelmas

PS: Huge shout out and thanks to our sponsors for the event! Charity Mobile and eCatholic

Budapest and the Rich Young Man

Budapest Rich Young Man

I love finding (or creating) deeper meaning in mainstream music. (you might remember my Taylor Swift analysis) Especially when songs are about love, music just tends to make me contemplate faith and my mind starts wandering to Scripture, the Catechism, and the lives of the saints. Maybe it’s because God is love. Just a theory.

One song that’s gotten lots of air time lately is “Budapest” by George Ezra. It’s a sweet love song about giving up everything for the person you love. Ezra swears he’ll give up acres of land, artifacts, treasures, and even his house in the namesake Budapest for his beloved. *swoon* While the song totally appeals to my romantic side, every time I hear it, I can’t help but think of a similar story with a slightly different ending.

In Matthew 19:16-22, we read the well known passage about a rich young man who approached Jesus with a very important question. Let’s take a look:

“Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”

Granted, the passage doesn’t say that the young man never gave away his prized possessions, but from what we do know, he definitely struggled with this challenge from Jesus. The song and this Bible passage lead me to think – would I be able to give up my most valuable things if Christ called me to? Do I love Him enough, like the love described in “Budapest”, to leave it all? I’d like to think that I could, but honestly, it would be a real struggle. Sure I could give up my iPad, my KitchenAid mixer, and my hair straightener. I can get by without those. But our beautiful new home? (in Texas, not Budapest) Our savings account? Heaven forbid, my husband or daughter? Oof. There’s where I cringe. Detachment is tough.

I’m also reminded of Matthew 4:18-22 where Jesus calls the first Apostles. He approaches Peter, Andrew, James, and John while they’re fishing on the Sea of Galilee and asks them to join Him. The passage says that “immediately” and “at once” they drop what they’re doing and follow. Again, could I do that? Am I willing to put my faith in God to the point of making a quick radical change in my life to follow His call? Something to definitely think about.

One last thought is about the final verse of the song where Ezra sings, “My friends and family, they don’t understand. They fear they’d lose so much if you take my hand.” Again this is talking about a romantic relationship, but how true is this also of a deep relationship with Christ? Besides our own personal fears, often times our loved ones are hesitant about our faith and relationship with God. Especially when we get extremely passionate and boldly live it out. And if this relationship with God causes extreme changes and conversion in our life, it can freak people out. But like the Apostles, we must be ready to go where God calls, even if it means that our friends and family might not understand.

…are you willing to leave it all?

Nightmares and Daydreams

PicMonkey Collage

For whatever reason, I’m one who tends to analyze songs for deeper meanings and theological connections. Though she’s had a few hits on the radio since,  Taylor Swift’s song “Blank Space” has a certain lyric that’s stuck with me. At the end of verse two she sings, “Darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”.

While she’s singing about a romantic relationship, this line made me stop and think about the reality of sin in the world. Sinful things are presented as attractive. If they were shown for their true nature, then why would we want to do it? The nightmare of sin is disguised and portrayed as a daydream of happiness, fulfillment, and excitement. Then when we fall into the temptation, we awake to the reality of the situation. The fall of man in Genesis 3:1-7 is the perfect example. Satan didn’t approach Eve with a rotten egg and warn her about the woes of disobedience. Rather, he cunningly offered an attractive piece of fruit and the promise that her eyes would be opened.

And all it took was one bite. Adam and Eve didn’t have to devour a four course meal to change the course of human history. So too, if we’re not careful, the smallest misstep can easily turn into a serious issue. All it takes is a little poop to ruin a whole pan of brownies. (See more on that reference here)

I once heard a wonderful homily regarding this similar topic. The priest spoke about sheep and how they (along with other livestalk) are attracted to a plant called nightshade. This plant is appealing to them in every way. It has lovely flowers, tastes delicious, and has a nice scent. To the sheep, it seems like the perfect food. However, despite its appeal, nightshade is poisonous to animals.

Similarly, so many things in our own lives are toxic – they seem appealing but are harmful to our bodies and/or souls. The examples are endless, including things like drugs, drunkenness, theft, pornography and sexual promiscuity which are all portrayed in pop culture as thrilling, fun, and normal experiences. This is where having a well formed conscious, discernment, and virtue are vital to recognize the false promises that we encounter. And if we are able to recognize the red flags ourselves, lets use that knowledge and experience to prevent others from falling into trouble. Thankfully, even if/when we do fall, there is forgiveness in Christ who makes the worst nightmares into beautiful daydreams.

Discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a “delight to the eyes” and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death. CCC 2847

Thanking God Ahead of Time

thanking God

Back in 2011, we took a group of youth from our parish on a summer pilgrimage to New York City. We saw all the popular sights, a Broadway show, did some service projects with the CFRs, and visited the awesome Catholic sites in the city like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s house, and St. Frances Cabrini’s shrine to name a few.

We also stopped at a door. It doesn’t look like anything out of the ordinary, but has a special significance. It was the door that Venerable Fr. Solanus Casey used to answer and open to those in need. If you’ve never heard of him, Fr. Solanus was a Capuchin friar and priest in the early 1900’s. He was eventually assigned to NYC and had a simple but strong faith and loved the sick and poor. His main duty was to be the porter – the one who answers the door – and he was known for his spiritual advice and prayer which opened the door for many souls. You can read more about him here – he’s amazing and is actually the first US born man to be named Venerable!

One of the things that Fr. Solanus was known to do was thank God ahead of time for blessings and answered prayers. On our pilgrimage, we adopted this motto and thanked God ahead of time for all sorts of things along the way.

Jason and I took a moment to go up to the door together and say a quick prayer, which is what the photo above shows. (Thanks Karen for capturing it!) At that time, we were still somewhat early in our infertility journey and decided to thank God ahead of time for the gift of a child. It was an emotional moment to say the least. Little did we know what was ahead and that it’d be a few more years before we’d see that prayer answered.

But how beautiful is this concept of thanking God ahead of time? It’s definitely not easy. It requires some serious trust, hope, and faith that He will provide, when who knows how long it will take to see the end result.

It makes me think of the Scripture passage in Matthew 6 about the care given to the birds and flowers. These creatures do not worry about things, so why should we? We know that He will take care of us and answer our prayers, big or small, according to what’s best for us.

So let’s thank God ahead of time for the blessings that are to come and the answers to our prayers!

I’ll leave you with part of a beautiful prayer from Fr. Solanus: