The euphoric haze surrounding a newly engaged couple often lifts when the reality of marriage preparation and wedding planning comes into focus. Every bride dreams of an idyllic wedding day, but stress often accompanies all the excitement and anticipation that goes into preparing for the big day. Whether both are Catholic or just one person in the relationship is Catholic, brides-to-be (and grooms-to-be!) need a roadmap to help navigate through this important process with an eye not only toward planning a beautiful Catholic wedding ceremony, but also toward preparing for a long and lasting marriage all the days afterwards. Invited: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner by Stephanie Calis provides couples with a thorough guide to surviving and thriving during their engagement while preparing for a holy, happy marriage.
Weaving in personal stories, sound theology, discussion questions at the end of each chapter, and even a few words of wisdom from the author’s husband, Invited addresses both the practical and spiritual sides of preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. The marriage preparation programs offered by each diocese can certainly help a couple prepare for their marriage and the reception of the sacrament, but Catholic couples also need help with the practical details involved in creating a memorable and joy-filled wedding. This book addresses that need. At the beginning of the book, Calis provides a detailed Wedding Master Checklist that includes a helpful timeline for everything from booking the church and reception venue to procuring the wedding license and packing a bridal emergency kit. Setting a budget can be overwhelming for any couple and their families, but Invited’s budget planning sheet is the perfect format for ensuring that the couple’s budget honors their top priorities. Calis also shares many helpful cost-cutting tips, like choosing in-season flowers, to help a couple stay within their financial means.
Beyond all the practical considerations, Calis encourages engaged couples to enter deeply into what the vocation to married life actually means. As a young newlywed herself, the author knows firsthand the importance of preparing for this lifelong commitment of love and shared sacrifice through prayer and study of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family. For baptized Christians, marriage is a sacrament that transforms the couple through grace. Calis’s clear and concise explanations of various Catholic teachings about marriage will benefit both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.. She also encourages couples to take advantage of the Church’s various marriage prep opportunities with “a spirit of inquiry and openness” (p. 37). Calis reminds couples that “a good Pre-Cana program is intended to help you work through things that don’t come up on a daily basis, and to come to a deeper sense of self-knowledge and knowledge of your spouse to be” (p. 39).
With the care of a loving big sister, Calis walks brides through the various struggles, insecurities, and decisions specific to the unique time of engagement. Her candid advice includes a wide range of topics and her opinions about selecting a gorgeous but appropriate dress, or planning fun but dignified bachelor and bachelorette parties, show a great deal of reverence for the incredible sacrament the couple prepares to receive. In the chapter entitled Beauty and the Bride, the author encourages women to remember that their authentic beauty rests in their inherent dignity as daughters of God and not in achieving some standard of perfection found in a bridal magazine.
Like any good big sister, Calis opens up honestly about the sexual side of married life and her brief overview of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body reminds couples that married sexual love must always be free, faithful, total and fruitful. Invited’s explanation of chastity as a virtue lived both during engagement and afterwards in married life offers much to pray and ponder over for any Catholic couple. Calis offers encouragement both to virgins approaching their much-anticipated wedding night as well as to those recommitting to chastity, inspiring them to trust in God’s mercy and grace. Although her explanation of Natural Family Planning is brief, a couple can find a wealth of resources and information in the appendix at the back of the book. In particular, the questions for conversation at the end of this chapter open the door for many deep, crucial conversations between brides and grooms preparing for marriage.
In the last two chapters, couples can feast on a great deal of food for thought, including an entire chapter of reflections by Calis’s husband, Andrew, as well as ideas to consider for the honeymoon and the first weeks and months of marriage. These final chapters encourage couples to invite God into their marriage and “love like the cross.” The stories from the Calises’ newlywed days are not only humorous and endearing, but also provide engaged couples with authentic examples of how the God-given grace of the sacrament can overcome and sustain a couple through various struggles of married life. Invited’s message is clear: love continues to grow in a marriage centered on Christ.
Not only is this guide the perfect gift for brides and engaged couples, but even wedding planners and mothers of the bride will benefit from the detailed to-do lists and budget worksheets included in this book. At a time when the Holy Father asks the Church and her members to provide a more comprehensive preparation for engaged couples, Invited: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner provides all the information, theology and inspiration for couples to prepare well for the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.