The church was dark due to the evening rain. It was the middle of the week, but also so much more. All of us in attendance had woken up that morning expecting a typical Wednesday, but by 7 pm we found ourselves in the pews at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Brighton, Michigan. Deacon Jerry held the Roman missal in one hand and stretched out his microphone with the other. Reading the words pointed out by Deacon Jerry, Conner and Shelby exchanged their vows—vows promising things that we, their family, have already seen them living out so well. True, it was a random, rainy night in Michigan, but it was also the day our Lord made it possible for Shelby and Conner to form their own family through the sacrament of matrimony.
This wasn’t the original plan for their wedding. Despite Conner’s cancer diagnosis, they had been dreaming and planning for an August 2022 wedding. They were going through this trial and suffering together, and basking in the light at the end of the tunnel: Conner being cancer-free and having their dream wedding which would start the rest of their lives together. When Conner’s doctors went over the next stage of his treatment, that light at the end of the tunnel began to fade. With this new treatment plan, Conner would not be well enough for their wedding. The reality of having to cancel their wedding caused that light at the end of the tunnel to not only fade but extinguish completely.
Their love for one another was strong, and their desire to be with one another without the boundaries that come with courtship and engagement was clear to us all. Only one option remained, but it seemed impossible: emergency Catholic marriage.
So much needed to be done to pull this off, and it needed to happen fast: transfer paperwork from one diocese to another, prove marriage prep was completed, contact family, find an available church and willing clergy, obtain a marriage license, etc. There were a lot of false starts and hopeful promises that went south, but on Wednesday afternoon, while unpacking dishes in the kitchen of what would soon be their first apartment, Conner received a call from Deacon Jerry, who has known Conner and his family for some time and has followed along with Conner’s cancer journey. When he heard what they were trying to do, he committed to doing whatever he could to help, and that help ultimately came in the form of presiding over the sacrament of matrimony for them that night.
Everything else came together in a whirlwind. One thing is for sure: our experience as wedding photographers has never been more of a blessing to our family than it was that day. We were able to capture and preserve the memories of their wedding day for them, and for that, we are thankful beyond words.
Shelby and Conner, your relationship is a wonderful example of what love truly is. Watching you transition from fellow law students to friends, from dating to engaged, and now to husband and wife, has been a joy. You’ve shown a willingness to die to yourselves for the other’s benefit time after time. Blessed Edward Poppe said, “A cross loses half its weight as soon as it is fully accepted.” By fully embracing the cross of cancer and the loss of your wedding day you make suffering look joyful, and you’ve shown us all how His yoke is easy and His burden is light. We pray God will continue to shower you with His peace and blessing and continue to reveal to you His sweet disposition.
Amy and Kyle
Officiant: Deacon Jerry Brennan
Church: Holy Spirit Catholic Church
Reception venue: Baymont by Wyndham Howell/Brighton
Florist: Judy Janicki, Mother of the bride
Catering: Tomato Brothers
Cake: Nothing Bundt Cakes