Intern Hayley’s Relaxed Catholic Wedding

It felt a little like this

Hayley & Nick

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: A joyful, emotional, noisy, sweaty, delicious love-fest.

Soundtrack for reading: “On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons


Other cool stuff we should know about

We had to be picky about our DIY projects since we were planning from so far away, but the projects we took on were so worth it. We designed and printed all the paper products ourselves. The invitations, in particular, were enormously time-consuming, especially since I hand-addressed them all, but they were perfectly imperfect and we had a lot of fun making them. We displayed a huge map entitled “The Road You Tread to See Us Wed” to show where all our guests came from—eighteen states, France, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (I got this idea from Pinterest, obviously.)

We strayed from the traditional Catholic wedding readings and instead picked readings that emphasized family and hospitality. Our wedding party was lopsided but we didn’t care. I had my best girlfriends stand by me (wearing dresses I impulse—bought from the Banana Republic Outlet), along with two “bridesmen.” My older sister pulled double duty, standing beside me as maid of honor while sprinting back and forth to the choir loft to sing the Mass. Instead of buying new wedding bands, we re-exchanged our engagement rings at the altar, and Nick carved us a ring holder out of a (used) Harry Potter book, to show the chapter titled “The Unbreakable Vow.”

We wanted the reception to feel like a big dinner party, so all the food was served family-style and we had a massive head table to accommodate our wedding party and their dates. Nick’s family baked thousands of cookies to contribute to a cookie table, an awesome northeast Ohio/western Pennsylvania tradition I had never heard of before I started dating him.

Favorite thing about the wedding

Spending an entire weekend surrounded by the people we love most in the world. Looking around the room in awe of all the people who came to celebrate with us. Sneaking glances across the aisle at my handsome groom all through the ceremony. My fierce yellow shoes.


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  • Lou

    Oh wow, that covered bridge shot is stunning. The bride is just glowing in every picture.

  • Allison

    Can I just say the Harry Potter ring holder is the coolest thing I have even seen? Well there, I said it.

    • JDrives

      I love it so much!!

      • Hayley

        Thanks!! I wish it was my idea but…yeah, Pinterest :)

    • Lucie

      I actually gasped with pure joy when I saw the Happy Potter ring holder. I have to make this for my friends. Hayley, I don’t suppose there was a tutorial?

  • Chelsea Baker

    We’re having a cookie table, too! My fiance is from West PA and his mom’s church friends are baking massive amounts of cookies. I didn’t know anything about it until I started dating him but now I think cookie tables are pretty much the greatest wedding tradition ever.

    • Laura C

      I have never been to a wedding with a cookie table and as a celiac I wouldn’t be able to eat most of the cookies anyway, but I so love the idea. To me, the dream is going to a gluten-free wedding with a cookie table, I guess.

      • scw

        I have a nut allergy so the cookie table is kind of rough for me, too, because most people don’t think to mark things like that. not stopping me from having one at my own wedding, though!

        • Laura C

          I was just thinking, me and my parents are doing the desserts for the rehearsal dinner and the idea was just a dessert buffet table … I could lean extra hard on cookies for that, make a whole bunch of kinds. Which is actually ideal since cookies freeze well and I want to make the majority of the stuff well ahead of time and freeze, and only have one or two cakes to make the week of the wedding. (I am not over-committing! I have a solid plan not to kill myself with this!)

          • Rachelle

            For the record, cakes actually freeze super well, too! Just freeze the individual layers in plastic wrap and then all you have to do is thaw and frost in the couple days before the wedding. My mom used to make cakes as a hobby and did this with my wedding cake. She says that freezing actually makes the flavor and texture better :)

          • Laura C

            That’s a good reminder — I’ve frozen the occasional cupcake but can’t remember freezing a whole cake. Unfortunately in this case the main cake I really want to make is a bundt cake that would take up like half my freezer, whereas cookies can go in little nooks and crannies.

          • Rachelle

            True, a bundt is much more difficult to wrap and fit than nice flat layers… Good luck! I’m sure everything will turn out delicious!

          • Lawyerette510

            We made about 400 cookies for our wedding on Monday May 12, and it was surprisingly easy. That said, I’m a baker as are two of my best friends. Here’s how we tackled it: there were already plans to have the gal’s weekend in a rented house somewhere between Oakland and the venue in Mendocino County for the Friday and Saturday nights before the wedding. One best friend and her SO offered to make jam thumbprints using their homemade jam, so they made the cookies to the point of filling them with jam and freezing them on trays, then once frozen placing in freezer bags. They did it about 2 weeks ahead of time. My other best friend who bakes and I had a “cookie date” one Saturday in her kitchen (it’s bigger and sunnier). I had picked the recipes and done the math to double or triple as needed, and brought the ingredients, freezer bags, a permanent marker and my scale (I prefer to measure by weight instead of volume, I find it quicker). I showed up with lunch, we ate, then we headed to the kitchen for a 3 hour cookie-fest. We made chocolate icebox cookies (probably the easiest, and in hindsight I would have also done the vanilla version) which you just freeze the logs, then when ready to bake slice them off; chocolate chip pistachio with smoked sea salt, which we rolled, froze the balls on baking trays then put the balls in a ziplock labeled with the temp and baking time; peanut butter, which were packaged the same as the chocolate chip; and lemon shortbread, which we rolled, cut, froze flat, then packaged in layers between parchment paper in a ziplock (in hindsight, I would skip these, they were a little too delicate and I think I could have just added lemon zest into my vanilla icebox cookie recipe to achieve a similarly bright flavor profile cookie). Then on Saturday afternoon when we were all lounging at the house, we just baked off all the cookies, it took a couple of hours, but the work was minimal- just placing the cookies on the baking sheets, and moving them in and out of the oven. After the cookies cooled we packaged them up in big salad containers I had saved (you know the tubs that baby spinach and salad mix come in) and then placed them all in an ikea bag and took them to the venue Sunday. The venue staff plated them and put them out for the reception on Monday.

            It reads like a lot, but in all it was probably 6 hours of leisurely work and for me it was very relaxing and a great time with friends.

          • Laura C

            That sounds very fun to me. I love baking in quantity, actually. It’s so satisfying — you take a limited amount of time and have an actual product to show for it that people love. I tend to make more cakes, though, so I will have to look into some cookie recipes. Which, again, sounds fun. I can read recipes all day.

          • Lawyerette510

            If you like the sound of any of the ones I used, I’m happy to share the recipes, just let me know which ones and I’ll pull them out tonight.

          • Laura C

            Ooh, thanks. Chocolate chip pistachio with smoked sea salt?

          • Lawyerette510

            Yes, they are my favorite cookies in the world right now, and they were the ones that went fastest/ everyone really swooned about– I think because they are something different. I found them via Joy the Baker

            This was a recipe we tripled, and easily could have quadrupled because of how popular they were. Also, we made them smaller, probably about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons to stretch it to a higher number of individual cookies.

          • Hayley

            Well, now I want cookies for breakfast :)

          • Hayley

            Nick’s mom froze tons of cookies in the months leading up to the wedding. Worked out great!

        • Hayley

          You know, I didn’t even think about food allergies and the cookie table. Mostly, family and friends took care of the cookies and we didn’t know what they’d be bringing til the day of. Interesting point.

    • Ali

      Cookie table FTW!! We’re planning a Pittsburgh wedding and this is legitimately one of the things my mom and I are most excited about.

      • Hayley

        Awesome! Enjoy!

    • Hayley

      Yes!! I had no idea what he was talking about until we went to our first local wedding together. So awesome. It’s funny because every venue we looked at in Ohio was on board with a cookie table, but we also looked at a handful of venues in Massachusetts (where I’m from) and every single venue was like, “uhhhh, health hazard much? Not happening.” That may or may not have influenced the decision to have the wedding in Ohio :)

  • Class of 1980

    Pretty girl, this bride is!

  • Lolly the Trolly! Many congratulations from this Cleveland APW reader who loved recognizing the little bits of Ohio in your pictures. :)

    • Hayley

      Hooray CLE! We had so many fun memories from our years living in Cleveland so I was so psyched we got to use them for the wedding!

  • Hannah B

    And Meg thought no one on staff knew anything about cookie tables! The whole wedding looks beautiful! Congratulations. Sometimes I wish I had not bothered with tradition on the bridesmaid front and asked all my best and oldest [guy] friends to stand up for me. Too late now!

    Do you mind sharing which readings you used, Hayley? I am already steal–erm, modeling lots of my wedding off of yours (the after party!), anyway…

    • Meg Keene

      I know. She tricked us.

    • Lisa

      I second wanting to know what the readings are!

      • Ally

        Another one wanting to know the readings… And any other religious details she might want to share! (first, I’d be interested anyway, being much more religious than perhaps the typical APW reader I think? (Aka there was never any chance I would get married anywhere other than a church! Not that I don’t love reading about the rest but they aren’t options for *me*) 2, I’m a very recent convert to Cstholicism whose first Catholic wedding to attend…is likely to be my own! Eek!!!)

        • Hayley

          John 15:9-17 (which is our favorite), Romans 12:9-21, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (which is a little more wedding-y). What other religious details are you looking for? Happy to share! (Definitely had to stand up to the priest on the bridesman situation. He was not psyched to see guys on my side, but he rolled with it eventually.)

          • Lisa

            Those are all ones I have picked out as potentials! I’m fairly certain the one from John is going to be our gospel reading. We heard it in church a few years ago, looked at one another, and said, “This is perfect.” Absolutely love it!

          • Hayley

            We picked that one after hearing it at church, too! I’m looking back now at the ones I had bookmarked as potential options, which were Ruth 1:16-17 and Ephesians 5:25-32 (but the earlier part of Ephesians contains a lot of “wives, submit to your husbands” language, which is not my thing, so we didn’t go with that one…)

          • Lisa

            I really love the story of Ruth. I’m surprised I don’t hear that one more at weddings because it fits so well into what marriage means to me.

          • Ally

            Honestly I think I’m just still at that pre-engaged point where when I see some of these things the “likes to be prepared” and “reads entirely too much on any given topic” side just starts to go “BUT I DON’T KNOW WHAT I NEED TO KNOW?!?!?” lol :D so if there’s anything you think would be helpful to know, it would be appreciated, otherwise thanks for the offer but I can’t really think of any specifics at the moment.

            Thanks again for sharing Hayley (and thanks Lisa for sharing your list of ideas too!)

        • Lisa

          Ally, here’s a list I’ve compiled of potential reading ideas based on my own research and on suggestions from other religious brides in an open thread APW had a couple of months ago:

          First Reading Ideas
          Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
          Song 1:14-17
          Song 2:8-17
          Hosea 2:14-23
          Isaiah 62:4-5
          Tobit 8:4b-9
          Isaiah 32:2, 16-18

          Second Reading Ideas
          1 John 4:7-16
          Romans 12:9-21
          Colossians 3:12-17

          Gospel Ideas
          John 15:9-17

  • H

    Damn, that dress fits you perfectly! Beautiful wedding!

  • Kelsey

    What a lovely wedding, you gorgeous woman, you! And, cookies and Harry Potter. Obviously.

    • Hayley

      Thank you so much! :)

  • Angela

    Your hair!!!! So perfect! Everything else is beautiful too, but man, I can’ t get past the hair.

    • Rachelle

      Agreed! It’s GORGEOUS.

      • Hayley

        Thank you so much! I wanted it mostly down, but I didn’t want it to cover the back of the dress. I called it my fancy side-pony.

  • swarmofbees

    So, so gorgeous! And, from a very selfish perspective, reassuring to see that a Catholic wedding without pew adornments and large altar floral arrangements looks gorgeous, personal, and obviously wedding-y.

    • Hayley

      We went back and forth quite a bit on pew/altar flowers. Ultimately the time/expense involved in setting them up and taking them down (there was another wedding right after ours) wasn’t worth it for the hour or so ceremony. Most churches are pretty enough on their own! Definitely didn’t miss the flowers.

  • Sara

    The picture of you looking at your flower girl looks like she’s giving you instructions :) Adorable. Also, I LOVE your yellow shoes. Those are fantastic.

    • Hayley

      Oh, she probably was. Giving instructions is kind of her thing :)

  • Lisa

    As a big nerd and Harry Potter fan, I LOVE the ring holder!! What a beautiful day. You are such a lovely bride.

  • Michelle M.

    I love this wedding!! There are a lot of aspects of this wedding that are similar to what we thought we wanted at first – formal attire for bridal party, rustic-ish reception venue with twinkling lights, family-style dinner… even some yellow accents! We ended up switching to a very small wedding with restaurant reception, which was perfect for us. But I do love seeing your wedding and how HAPPY everyone looks in every picture!! Heart-warming!! :)

  • MisterEHolmes

    You look so glamorous! Beautiful wedding.

  • Rachelle

    A cookie table is such a cute, fun tradition! I’ve only ever seen it on Four Weddings – no judgment, people – but wish it would migrate to the west coast. If I went to a wedding that had one I would probably eat minimal dinner and skip cake so I could get sick on cookies.

  • The whole wedding is beautiful, but that dress is divine! You look like approximately 1 billion dollars!

  • Whitney

    Question for Hayley… Did you take your invites somewhere to be printed locally? Or did you upload the designs online and use like a Vistaprint type thing? I am designing my own invitations, RSVP, etc etc, and I am on the fence as to how to print them. I want nice quality without spending an arm and a leg since most people will just throw them away :(

    • StevenPortland

      I worked with a designer on Etsy for our invitation design and then went to a local printer that I found on Yelp. The Etsy designer cautioned me against using one of the online places or a local chain (such as Kinkos or Officemax). Using a good local printer will help to ensure your printing job gets personal attention. I am really glad we went with a local printer and in the end it wasn’t very much more money.

    • meeliebee

      I went to Kinko’s after my local printing shop couldn’t print on my pre-cut cardstock. I would call before you buy your paper so you know what to expect if you’re going with a smaller shop. I was only printing black ink, but my invites came out great! You might also want to check out your local art store – mine had a deal with a printer and it seemed pretty reasonable.

      • Hayley

        Oh yes, good point. Also Kinkos, OfficeMax, etc. couldn’t print to the sizes we needed, so they’d have to print it larger than cut it down – we printed a few last-minute items for the reception at Kinkos and ran into that issue. And the results were no better than what we could have printed at home and a hell of a lot more expensive.

    • Hayley

      We printed at home! We have an Epson WF3540 that printed all the sizes we needed, down to the 3 1/2 x 5 RSVP cards. I’ve used Vistaprint before and they do a nice job but it’s definitely not perfect – there has always been a tiny line here or a uneven edge there. Not that our home printing was perfect either, but we didn’t expect it would be :) We got all the paper and inserts from Cards & Pockets and the quality was great. However, ORDER TONS OF EXTRA. Tons and tons of extra everything. We had a few invites come back in the mail and I was out of blue envelopes and it broke my heart to send them back in ugly envelopes that didn’t match. Also sometimes in printing the invites the color would come out slightly different than it looked on screen and it was a bit of trial and error to adjust it. Honestly it was a fun project and saved a ton of money, so if you have the time and patience (and printer) it’s totally worth it.

  • Caitlin_DD

    That picture with your gorgeous veil is so good.

  • Lawyerette510

    Those yellow shoes are perfection, and what an amazing fit on the dress!

  • laurasmash

    What readings did you use? I’m not a huge fan of the traditional Catholic wedding readings. The only “alternative” reading I’ve seen used in Catholic weddings is the one from Ruth (I can’t remember the exact verses).

    • Hayley

      John 15:9-17, Romans 12:9-21, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (which is more wedding-y than the other two). I like the one from Ruth, too!

  • vegankitchendiaries

    You look so deliriously happy (and most definitely a certifiable babe!) in all of these pictures. Very huge congratulations, Mrs Cotter!

    • Hayley

      “Deliriously happy” is a perfect way to describe how it felt! Thanks!

  • Jules

    We must be soul-friends. I’m going to take another moment to swoon over your dress (again). Also your veil. Also the lovely blue and yellow sprinkled everywhere, and Harry Potter, and twinkly barn lights, and re-exchanging engagement rings.

    Congratulations, congratulations! :)

    • Hayley

      Thank you so much!

  • June

    Maybe it’s just that I’ve had a nutty day, but seeing you rings in the Harry Potter book with the cutout to The Unbreakable Vow made me tear up. Amazing idea!

  • Dawn

    Looks lovely! I like seeing a church wedding here, too.

  • Kathy

    Harry Potter? Cookies? Christmas lights? And the hair! This wedding is the bee’s knees. I’m pinning the crap out of this, I’m not gonna lie.

    • Hayley

      Haha thank you! Nearly all of it was inspired by pins, to be honest :)

  • Laura C

    As someone who grew up in that area of Ohio, moved away, but still had a Catholic wedding (with a cookie table!), you make this look good! Congratulations and I bet those cookies tasted great. Seeing that at my wedding and seeing how happy that made people was a special moment!

  • I can’t decide if my favorite feature is the yellow shoes, Harry book, cookies, or your veil. All for the win, I think – congrats! I almost never listen to the soundtracks when I look at wordless weddings, but I did with yours and now I’m obsessed with doing it from now on. So good!

  • HannahESmith

    You look so incredibly beautiful. Your wedding looks lovely as well.

  • Amazing wedding. Wish I could have my own someday.