Their Wedding Featured a Tradition from a Town with No Divorces


Did you know that there’s a town called Siroki-Brijeg in Bosnia-Herzegovina where there haven’t been any documented divorces or broken homes for centuries? Perhaps it has something do with an ancient marriage tradition called the “marriage crucifix.Wedding

In April 2015, Anne Marie and James embraced this lovely tradition in their marriage ceremony. When they entered the church, the couple brought a crucifix to the altar with them. Their priest then blessed the Crucifix and spoke the blessing of the cross.

“You have found your Cross! It is a Cross to love, to carry with you, a Cross that is not to be thrown off but rather to be cherished.”

When it came time to exchange their vows, Anne Marie placed her right hand on the Crucifix and James covered her hand with his right hand. As they spoke their promises to love each other in good times and bad, the Priest wrapped their hands with a white stole to signify that they are bound together and united to the Cross. Finally, they kissed the cross as their first kiss instead of each other, showing that Jesus is a part of their marriage, and if they divorce, then they leave Jesus as well.

The Cocoon Period

WeddingAfter their wedding, the couple took a brief honeymoon in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, and then quickly entered into the swing of married life. “I would offer one bit of advice to engaged couples: the day after we got back from Tennessee, I went back to work. I wish I had taken off one more day to give myself and us a chance to breathe after we returned,” notes Anne Marie.

While many couples find the first few months of marriage a difficult adjustment, James and Anne Marie, who had their share of challenges while dating, (you can read their story here), agree that the transition has been no rougher than expected.

“In many ways, it has been easier than we anticipated. We both so enjoy returning from work to a comfortable home and the other person. We laugh a lot together, even more than when we were dating or engaged.”

They attribute their easier transition into married life to the fact that they didn’t come to the altar unaware of the realities of marriage. “Our priest talked through every single question on the FOCCUS assessment with us,” shares Anne Marie. “We had to discuss why we answered what we did for every single question, which means that we talked through 17 areas of compatibility including finances, in-laws, children, etc.” Their priest also kept them accountable in their prayer life by asking that at every session if they were praying together daily. He gave James and Anne Marie a pocket New Testament for them to read together.

Their priest also advised them to take what he called a “cocoon” period early in their marriage. The Couple and Friends As advised by their priest, for first six months after their wedding, Anne Marie and James made a point to always sleep in the same bed in their home, and while they still hung out as individuals with their friends, they placed an emphasis on doing things together.

“We were not allowed to go running to Mom with arguments or nitpicking about our spouse. That was huge for us,” adds Anne Marie. “Marriage brings vulnerability, both emotional and physical. Embrace that.”

NFP Allowed Them To Have a Baby

Anne Marie and Isaac Anne Marie encourages couples to embrace Natural Family Planning. “Learn it and practice it in your marriage. You won’t regret it,” advices Anne Marie.

When she began charting her cycle through NaproTechnology, Anne Marie learned that her hormone levels were very low—likely too low to get pregnant or to maintain a pregnancy if she were able to conceive. “Because of Napro, I went on HcG shots to stimulate my body to produce enough hormones, and I was able to conceive. Also, I went on progesterone pills for the first half of my pregnancy, and I was able to deliver Isaac at term.”

A Relationship Changed by Isaac

IsaacOn May 2nd, 2016, Anne Marie gave birth to Isaac Joseph, who was 8 lbs and 9 oz and 21 inches long. After being with Anne Marie through thirty-two hours of labor, James says the process made him love her even more. “The labor process really brought us together. I was amazed at how supportive and gentle he was with me” adds Anne Marie.

The couple called themselves “Team Awesome” when they were engaged, and that’s even more true now. “In the middle of the night, if Isaac is awake for a while after I feed him, sometimes James gets up and takes him into the living room to sleep in his Pack-n-Play, so I can rest.”

The couple say that teamwork and laughter are the best parts of their marriage. “It’s nice to always have a partner in crime, or just someone to do the the dishes with.”



  1. Susie Lloyd February 14, 2017 Reply

    Congratulations to the happy family! Beautiful tradition of the crucifix. I have two engaged daughters and am sharing this article with them.

  2. Shannon R. February 14, 2017 Reply

    Beautiful story. I had tears in my eyes when I read of the tradition in your town with the crusifix. I wish we could get married all over again so we could incorporate that!

  3. Eric-1299105 October 23, 2016 Reply

    That’s a gorgeous tradition. one which I would like to ask a catholic priest to have when the right time comes.

  4. Angela-374523 August 25, 2016 Reply

    I am not surprised that there are strong Catholic marriages and families in Siroki-Brijeg. The Franciscans are strong teachers of the faith!

  5. CaroleElaine-1263566 August 24, 2016 Reply

    Beautiful! I love the tying of the bride and the groom’s hands to the Cross, and kissing Jesus…yes, the three in a Covenant, together forever.
    One thing I did not understand is when their Priest suggested they sleep in the same bed together for the first six months. Wouldn’t Husbands and Wives, automatically sleep in the same bed for always, not just the first six months? Unless I am not understanding something. I am widowed, and my late Husband and I slept together from the day of our marriage, forward … our entire, blissful, beautiful married life …

    • Anne Marie W. August 24, 2016 Reply

      Great question, Carole! That meant that we slept together each night- I didn’t stay over at my parents’ without him, for example. Or, he wouldn’t go on a camping trip with his guy friends without me.

  6. Sue-906387 August 24, 2016 Reply

    Congrats on lovely love inspiring story . Hope itell have ripple effect.

  7. Rhonda E. August 24, 2016 Reply

    These two are great friends of mine. So happy for them and Baby Isaac. I love Annemarie as if she were my own daughter. What a wonderful testament of their faith

  8. Amy-1104389 August 24, 2016 Reply

    Brilliant story. What a cute baby. Yet again, Catholic Match has featured a story with the bride wearing a beautiful and modest wedding gown! Great to see that true Catholic marriages are still alive and well in Europe! Congratulations to the beautiful couple- inside and out!

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