PROVIDENCE — Couples getting married in the Church know that their wedding day is more than picking the right flowers or the perfect dress — it’s more about love and trusting God as they make their commitment in marriage.
Despite their wedding being met with unforeseen challenges, Katherine and Patrick Macfarlane always kept their faith at the center of their big day.
The guest list was smaller than they originally planned. On Saturday, April 4, the happy couple was joined by three Dominican friars in the beautiful and intimate rectory chapel at St. Pius V Church in Providence, as loved ones watched them tie the knot via live stream.
As coronavirus precautions kept dear friends and family social distancing from afar, Katherine and Patrick were still able to celebrate a day filled with joy and love despite the uncertainty in the world right now.
“Even though it wasn't what we planned, it was an absolutely lovely day,” said Katherine Macfarlane.
“I got to marry my best friend, so how could it not be? We were fortunate in that I already had my dress, and we were still able to work with the local vendors we had booked — shout out to Taylor Jo Artistry and Brad Smith Photography who made us feel so comfortable and did an amazing job.”
In early March, when Katherine was in London for work, she noticed a distinct shift in tone around the gravity of the coronavirus situation. When she came back to Rhode Island, she shared her concerns with her fiancé.
“The news was changing so rapidly that, less than 24-hours later, we let our families know we weren't going to hold the wedding as scheduled. At the time, we weren't sure what the alternate plan would be.”
Their original wedding date was scheduled for April 18, which held special significance for the couple because it was Katherine’s beloved maternal grandmother's birthday, whom she was very close to growing up.
“Neither Patrick nor I was interested in having a large, extravagant ceremony, so the original plan was to have a small ceremony at St. Pius V with only our immediate family, and then have a larger celebration in July with extended family and friends. Fortunately, cancelling didn't mean disrupting an event of 100+ people,” Katherine said.
With the travel restrictions in place, none of their family members could be present, as most would have had to travel from out of state, including California and Pennsylvania.
The couple shared that they grieved missing their families in the days leading up to the wedding. However, Father Patrick Mary Briscoe, O.P., parochial vicar of St. Pius V Church, eased their worries, letting them know that the event could be easily live-streamed from the rectory chapel, where they live-stream Mass each day.
“It was the perfect solution,” Katherine said.
“We sent the live-stream information to our family and friends, so in the end even more people than we had originally planned were able to witness us get married, which was such a blessing. Afterwards, people sent us photos of them watching the ceremony — some even dressed up. We received such overwhelming love and support from everyone that it feels like they were actually there.”
Father Patrick Mary Briscoe has very fond memories of Katherine pulling him aside during a Providence College hockey game and asking, something to the effect of, “So Father, what would it take to get married in the Church?”
“Pope Francis speaks often of the art of accompaniment; for me, Pat and Katherine’s wedding is one such example of walking alongside a couple as they planned a wedding and began to reveal more of themselves,” Father Briscoe said.
“COVID-19 has forced us all to ask: what’s really essential? All one needs for a wedding is a priest, a bride, a groom, and two witnesses. I reminded Pat and Katherine in my homily, ‘God knew that this would be your story. God’s Providence has led you here to this altar, under these circumstances, on this day.’ When we allow ourselves, our own desires to fade, then we can be truly happy.”
Patrick Macfarlane shared that he feels that God has always been at work, orchestrating the day from behind the scenes.
“It started out overcast and chilly, but as soon as we left for St. Pius, the sun began to break through the clouds. By the time we were taking pictures after the ceremony, the sun was so bright that Brad, our photographer, had to move us around a bunch so that the sun wasn’t in our eyes.”
Even though the couple wanted to move forward with getting married, it was important to them that they didn't put anyone at risk unnecessarily.
“Because of how we had to stand for the camera that was live-streaming, we ended up being pretty compliant with the six-foot distance from the priests and our photographer at all times. I think Governor Raimondo would have approved!”
Patrick, Katherine and Father Briscoe all have encouraged other couples getting married in these anxious times to navigate the experience with faith, hope, love and courage.
“Men and women in other times and places, in even more trying conditions — such as war and economic depression — still got married to one another,” said Patrick. “To me, it is the ultimate expression of hope for the future. As John Paul II often used to say, ‘Be not afraid!’”
Don't think it's frivolous to be sad or angry because your wedding plans have been disrupted, Katherine added.
“It's completely normal and healthy to grieve the fact that the special day you've spent so much time planning and thinking about might not be exactly when or how you wanted. For me, coming to terms with that fact helped me relax and focus on the fact that what I really wanted — to marry Patrick — was still happening, and ultimately that was most important.”
She and Father Briscoe both shared that couples should not underestimate a live-streamed wedding, as all viewers have a front row seat without the risk of travel or crowds.
“Get married! Do not delay,” urged Father Briscoe. “Family and friends were able to participate in Pat and Katherine’s wedding via livestream, and they intend to celebrate with a reception at a later time. They were as happy — even happier — than any couple I’ve married.”