Photos courtesy of Stephanie Calis
Stephanie and Andrew Calis with their two children, Lily and Aaron.
Photos courtesy of Stephanie Calis Stephanie and Andrew Calis with their two children, Lily and Aaron.
In her book, Invited: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner, Stephanie Calis created a marriage between the practical necessities of planning a wedding and the spiritual necessities of starting a life together.

The book, which was published by Pauline Books and Media in April 2016, includes a checklist of to-do items for planning a wedding, and worksheets for the budget, the Mass and the reception. But what makes it unique from any other secular wedding book are the chapters about Catholic marriage prep, the nuptial Mass and the Catholic image of sexuality, along with the sacramental approach that Calis takes in sharing wedding advice from every angle.

Calis, who is a member of St. Patrick’s Parish in Rockville, started a blog in 2012, after she found that friends would frequently call her and ask for advice when planning their wedding ceremonies. About a year after she started her blog about Catholic weddings, titled “Captive the Heart,” she got a call from the Pauline Sisters, telling her that they would like her to write a book along those same lines.

Before writing this book, Calis also frequently spoke on the topic of St. John Paul II’s theology of the body, and her knowledge of the subject carries over in the way that she presents the vision of love, sexuality, and family. In light of the book’s title, Calis said she hopes readers will come away from the book viewing the Catholic faith as an invitation above all else.

“In the book and the writing from my wedding website, my highest desire is not to present faith as a rule of do’s and don’ts, but as something so compelling and beautiful that it speaks for itself,” Calis said. She added that she hopes couples will “look forward to marriage with love that is authentic and free.”

Knowing that everyone who picks up the book will be coming from a different place, Calis said she just wanted to “meet people where they are.”

“The most effective way to present something and to convince them of a hard truth or teaching isn’t to hit them over the head with arguments and facts, but to appeal to the heart and make it seem not only logical, but desirable,” she said. “You can always start over; you can start today.”

At the end of every chapter in the book, there is some input from her husband, Andrew, about his perspective on each of the topics.

“I am really proud of [Andrew] that his approach to love and marriage come through clearly,” Calis said. Particularly, she said she was pleased with how her husband expressed his belief that “love is an act of sacrifice and an act of the will,” while using anecdotes from their life together to make that ideal a tangible reality.

Together, the two of them tell relatable stories about the way they navigated engagement and newlywed life, which are followed by a few discussion questions for couples to think about together.  At the end of the book, there are appendices with information about the Catholic Marriage Rite, special circumstances, natural family planning, and sample invitations.

Her favorite section to write was the chapter about the beauty and dignity of women, because she knows how difficult it can be for brides to be confident in their appearance leading up to their wedding.

“I remember experiencing an onslaught of all these lies of not being good enough as I was getting ready for our wedding,” she explained. “That is the way our culture is and how we are made as women. There is that lie that we are not enough. That section was as much a message to me as anyone reading it that you are enough, you are beautiful, dignified and worthy.”

In May 2016, Calis launched a new wedding website called “Spoken Bride,” in partnership with a few of her friends. The new website features posts with wedding advice, as well as profiles of different Catholic weddings, and “How He Asked” stories. There is also a section of the website dedicated to connecting Catholic wedding vendors, such as photographers and florists, with Catholic couples.

“A Catholic vendor can bring a deeper understanding, and a deeper sense of reverence being familiar to the Mass, and is someone who will intercede for you and can offer practical answers,” Calis said.

Calis said their goal is to embody the best of what the secular wedding world has to offer, but to also include prayerful elements and advice for enriching spiritual life as a couple.

Some of the most important advice that Calis said she would give to couples preparing for marriage is to “find concrete ways to sacrifice for your future spouse now, before you are married,” such as letting them choose what you will have for dinner, not spending money on unnecessary purchases, or fasting for them for a day.

“Find ways you can put yourself aside for the love of the other now,” Calis said, because it is good practice for married life, since she has found that she and her husband’s lives are now busier than ever. The couple now has two young children.

She also encouraged couples to start praying together or choosing a saint to develop a relationship with during the engagement, because “prayer together encourages looking outside of yourself.” By doing these things, Calis said couples can “form habits that will carry over to what will hopefully be a fulfilling marriage.”