My Love Story~Chapter 29: Wedding Planning

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{If you’ve missed the first 28 chapters of My Love Story, you can start from the beginning HERE. If you need a refresher from our engagement Chapter 28, click HERE.}

Love story at BYU

After our engagement at a cabin in the woods the night before, I didn’t waste any time. With just under 3 months to plan our wedding, and finishing up my final semester of college, I had a LOT on my plate! Luckily, I had a great work force behind me. My bestie, Natalie, accompanied me to the Bridal Fair in town on Saturday morning, which just so happened to be the day after I got engaged. I could officially go public, and it felt so GOOD!

Everyone wanted to see my ring, which I felt odd showing off, but it comes with the territory.  Walking around the bridal fair, I got all giddy, and Nat was retelling her wedding day festivities, which got us both giggling. I knew we would be married in the Manti LDS Temple, but I needed to secure a spot for our reception, a photographer, cake, etc. I was good with simplicity, the only “extra” that I got, and I’m so glad I did, is we hired a wedding videographer. I fell in love with their presentations at the fair that day. My dad and I discussed a $5,000 budget for everything and I felt SO bad thinking I’d spend THAT much money. Looking back, I heard many others spent so much more.


Matthew’s mom sent me a fun package from California with a congrats card complete with heart shaped confetti and stickers of a bride and groom….squeeeeel!

That Saturday night, our gang went to the BYU game. Through the hustle and bustle and commotion of the game, I caught Matthew looking at me with a grin.  When I questioned a penny for his thoughts, he said he was just thinking about the night before at the cabin, and getting engaged. It was magical. His sister Joanna, who was quickly becoming a great friend said, “You’re going to be my sister!” She said that she and her sister Karen decided a year before that they hoped I’d marry one of their brothers.

BYU football game love story

Matthew and I both hung out on cloud 9 for quite a while. We just felt so happy to start our lives together. Since I’d be graduating soon, he was helping me type out a resume, and for interests, I jokingly put, “kissing Matthew.” We thought it was pretty funny, but thought I should be more professional, and sadly took it off. He had an intramural soccer game with the guys, and I sat with the girls cheering him on. I often felt inhibited cheering on the person I was dating. Felt silly that it showed too much ownership or something, but this night, I didn’t hold back. He was playing goalie, and might I add was quite impressive, and looked pretty handsome running around the field. I’ve found he’s pretty good at all sports he plays. Me, not so much. In middle school when I played church basketball, if anyone ever passed the ball to me, I’d quickly turn around, and throw it randomly behind my back, hoping one of my teammates got it! Hopefully Matthew doesn’t mind that I don’t have the same sports skills as he does.

We spent a lot of our time hanging out at his place with friends…

BYU love story

Back when I was in Jerusalem and major crushing on Matthew, my good friend Jenn sent me a DUKE University hat as a joke. I kinda loved it, but I had to keep it hidden. Not anymore…I wore it with pride. I had it on one day on campus, and saw a guy that used to live in our complex the year before, who knew both Matthew and I (but we weren’t dating then). He said, “Oh, a Duke had, as in Matthew Duke?” And I replied, “NO, as in KRISTEN DUKE.” That was a fun way to announce it to an old friend!  I loved Matthew’s grin when I wore that hat, and I loved that I could wear it with confidence.

His birthday is in early October, and I planned a little party with our friends. First thing in the morning, we opened presents (with me in my duck pajamas)

BYU love story

Party in the evening with everyone

BYU love story

Of course there was a cake

BYU love story


Though our giddiness continued, reality sunk in as we tried to figure out a million different details and assemble the massive puzzle that is planning a wedding. My parents were in Texas, his parents in California, but everyone would come together to Utah for the festivities, then we’d hop to both states after for receptions. I wanted to be strong, and have Matthew think that nothing ruffled me, but…I got flustered with the frustration of planning at times. I wanted to be better for him, though. All of the things that I wished I were…I tried harder, for him. Not just to impress him, but to be who he saw me as. We approached the details of the planning differently. I continue to pray for strength and comfort, and feel peace, and for that I’m grateful.

He went with his roommate to a race one weekend, and I felt adversity strong while he was gone. I didn’t have a doubt in my heart, mind, and soul that what we were doing was the right thing for ME, and right in the eyes of God, but I could feel pokings of the devil on my shoulder from time to time. I talked to Natalie about it and she assured me it was normal. I decided, I’d felt too much for too long to let little things bother me. I had a spiritual confirmation long before, that sustained me through the mind tricks that kept playing with me.

I had a great last semester in college, with intellectually stimulating classes in my Human Development major. I started with my major thinking I’d get a Master’s and study Marriage and Family Therapy, but after our plan to get married, all I really wanted to do was start a family of my own. I felt an immediate call to motherhood, and I was grateful that Matthew was on the same page. But I LOVED my classes that semester. My brother’s wife Alayna, along with one of my high school closest friends Emily…the 3 of us took Moral Development together. A class reserved for seniors in our major, and it was held in the coolest 2 story old school lecture hall on campus. We always sat in the front row of the 2nd floor, looking down at our teacher, and the discussions were so stimulating and thought provoking, all focused on the morality of our society and individually: right and wrong and our conscience, integrity in life choices. We’d then have our after class discussions, our trio, which inevitably led to girly newly married discussions. Emily was also engaged, and Alayna was the resident married/experienced person among us. I was filled with questions I could only ask those closest to me. Thankfully, Alayna never shied away from them.

My mom came into town in mid October to cross of some wedding planning to-do’s. First up was dress shopping, which Alayna joined us in the hunt, and after a long day of looking all over town, just didn’t find anything I loved. My mom, being quite the seamstress, offered to custom make my dress. That idea always stressed me out because I remember the hour-before-dances in high school, sewing up the final stitches and I just couldn’t have that kind of stress on my wedding day!  I knew we’d be traveling to Houston for Thanksgiving, so my mom and I made a deal that if it would be mostly finished by then, with only measurements to finalize, we could do it. I mean, who doesn’t want a custom wedding dress? I pulled out the picture of the dress I fell in love with last summer when Emily and I tried on dresses in Houston, and we worked from there. I loved the thick lace on top, trio belt in the middle, and simple satin on the bottom.

BYU love story

We found the most beautiful thick lace for $120 a yard, and only needing a yard of it, figured we could make my wedding dress for around $150. I was so excited to be saving, because the dress I tried on was over $500. My mom and I had a really great time bonding over the wedding planning. She calmed me when I’d get stressed out, and it was the first time in a while that we really enjoyed each others company. I was so grateful for that.

At different times throughout our friendship, we’d find ourselves in a room on campus, and he’d teach me how to play Canon in D. I fell in love with him over that song, and of course it was always fun to sit next to me, as he taught me the notes. He taught himself to play piano by ear when he was on his mission in France, and that always impressed me. On Sunday afternoons during our engagement, we’d take a break from the world of studying and planning, and head up to campus to find an empty room, and tinker on the piano.

Sunday afternoons were also the weekly calls from his parents in California. It was fun for me to talk to them, but I quickly realized that was something he preferred to do on his own. He started to feel overwhelmed from wedding planning, and talking to his parents was his outlet.  Though that was hurtful, I understood. We had some growing pains to figure out as we moved forward, but I’m grateful we were generally able to talk it through, smooth it over, and move forward.  He felt a sense of his identity slipping away as we moved forward, like I was making all of our decisions, and I felt us getting closer as I felt we made those decisions together. It was helpful to me that he was honest about that, to allow me to look to him more instead of just deciding everything on my own.

On October 16th, we took our engagement pictures! Our good friend Laurie took them, with her husband Curtis as our sidekick. Both dear friends of ours, we had fun playing in the colorful fall leaves. I wanted a variety of pictures, and I told her I love candid, so we got lots of those. I was thrilled when we found a guy to make our wedding announcement with a collage of pictures instead of just one. One just doesn’t tell the whole story.




BYU love story

BYU love story

We spent a lot of time with his sisters Joanna and Karen, and I loved getting to know them better, and have them confide in me. Not growing up with sisters, I longed for that relationship, and it was fun for me that they wanted to hang out with us as such events as our church Trunk or Treat for Halloween.

BYU love story halloween

BYU love story

BYU love story

His sisters would make comments from time to time that truly filled my heart with joy. I knew how much they looked up to their older brother, and Karen said as she headed back to California, “Matthew is marrying UP!” Which really surprised me because I knew how much they adored their brother…I always felt the opposite, and I knew that it was a big deal that she’d say that. Joanna seemed to laugh at my jokes, which I loved. I never felt like a funny person, and it made me feel good to hear her laugh. I thrived on my conversations with others, and our friend Alice was having dating woes, and I would have conversations with her. Matthew paid the sweetest compliment to me when he said, “You really do a lot of good for a lot of people.” To hear such thoughtful words from the man I was to marry, meant so much.

One Saturday, we went to Nutty Putty caves, which kinda terrified me, but I was being brave. We went with Sam and Jen, and Matthew’s roommate Jed I’d introduced to my roommate Janie, and Matthew’s youngest brother Brian.

BYU love story

3 brothers holding hands…


Matthew and Sam were roommates again this last semester, and I was delighted to get to the know girl that Sam had told me about the year before. Jen…she just came home for HER mission to Argentina, and I wondered what Sam had told her about me. About us. I hoped he told her that through all of the crazy from the year before, that he was an integral part of Matthew and I getting together. He reminded me enough of that fact, I only assumed he let her in on that information. From the moment I met her, I connected with her. Maybe it’s because in the back of my mind, I saw her as my future sister-in-law, but she had a warmth and goodness that just exuded from her.

One night in early November, I had a sleepover with her and Alice. We stayed up late talking about those boys in our lives, and it was the first time Jen and I really had time alone without the boys, those brothers we loved. I felt a small twinge of jealousy for her, as I saw her befriending Joanna, I guess I didn’t want her to be the favorite among the Dukes, but what she said that night to me, I’ll never forget it. She said, “Kristen, you have the most healing touch. The first time I hugged you, I felt peace surge throughout my body, it’s so calming.” I truly felt happiness to hear these words. Praying for peace was a constant in my daily life. With so many worries about life and those I love, to hear that I am able to emit what I daily seek for, was so wonderful to hear. Whatever awkwardness I had from her before, completely dispelled. This began a life long friendship with her. Alice then chimed in, knowing both Matthew and I deeply with, “You and Matthew are perfect for each other, because of our selflessness, anxious to serve other.” To hear such sweet words from friends, help build up my “peace” reservoir in such a crazy time in life.

Living a few blocks away from Matthew was nice. I woke up nearly every morning with a tap on my window, as we started our days together. Matthew and I had a lot of details to figure out. We did fun things like registering for gifts at Target, he sured loved that register gun.

  • The list seemed never ending:
  • sell my apartment contract
  • find a place to live together
  • find a job for after graduation
  • Matthew apply to grad school
  • figure out flowers, tuxes, cake, bridesmaid dresses

We both agreed that we were looking forward to the day that we didn’t have to part ways at night, to just stay together. I got giddy at the prospect!  We found a basement apartment in a home where Laurie and Curtis lived in the attic. THAT was nice to have checked off the list.

The song “From this Moment” because our song. I saw us with ups and downs and uncertainties throughout our dating and friendship, but from the time we got engaged, we both just KNEW it was right. Our friend Joel was helping us figure out the harmonies, as I thought it would be fun to sing this together at our wedding reception. Joel was a good friend. The brother of my two former roommates, and one that knew Matthew and my story.  Matthew actually had the better singing voice of the two of us, I just couldn’t do the melody once he went into harmony! I really wanted to sign this together, but we eventually called off the idea, which Matthew didn’t hate because he’s not much of a performer. Instead, we planned to have our first dance to the Shania Twain music.

With our friends, we decided it would be fun to go to Preference, a dance on campus. Though most of us were engaged, married, or almost engaged, it was kindof our last hoorah with friends.

BYU love story

BYU love story

We got all dressed up, and the dance was actually on a moving train in the mountains, aboard the Heber Creeper. Matthew stills tells the story of that night to our kids, or anyone who will listen, of the couple that went running for the train, the guy jumped on and reached for the girl, but the girl just couldn’t make it, and ended up falling as the guy watched from the train moving away from her. We danced inside the train with our friends, then moved outside to star gaze…and kiss.

BYU love story

I felt so grateful to have so many wonderful friends at this time in our lives. Though we were thrilled to be alone just the two of us, we both placed a high value on those friendships, and we continued to live out the college experience with them.

BYU love story

{Matthew, Me, Sam, Jen}

November 20th I wrote in my journal:

Matthew is so wonderful. Every day I feel more and more blessed to be a recipient of his love. He is so willing to learn how to figure me out and I love that because I’m quite unpredictable! He is always asking about my needs and my happiness and my stress levels. I am grateful that he places my needs as important. 

For Thanksgiving break, Matthew and I flew to Houston for multiple reasons. My mom was finishing up the final details of my dress, we addressed and sent out wedding announcements, Natalie’s mom Amy (my 2nd mom) threw me a bridal shower, and I went to the LDS temple to make covenants in preparation for marriage, also known as my Endowment. {Read more about that on the link.}  It was a time I had been heavily preparing for in the months previous, striving to become as spiritually strong as possible, to be best prepared. It was something Matthew did just before his mission, and I was grateful he’d be there with me on the first day. I could feel the Spirit of God working so powerfully in me that day, and I felt so grateful. I loved that he kindly asked thoughtful questions after, as it was all new to me. It’s still hard to believe that someone loves me with the same depth that I love them.

BYU love story

BYU love story


My parents were with me in the temple that day, and my brothers came along for the ride.

For Thanksgiving, we stuffed our wedding announcements as a fun family activity! My awesome little brothers were a great help (along with my brother Russ’ friend)

BYU love story

BYU love story

My mom has always done a great shot of taking pictures for me, love to have all of these moments documented.

BYU love story

BYU love story

I got to watch my man show off his athletic skills with a little turkey bowl. It was fun to cheer him on with my dad and brothers, and watch them bond a little.

BYU love story turkey bowl

BYU love story

Then had a nice Thanksgiving dinner and relaxing with my family in Houston.

BYU love story

BYU love story

When we flew back to Utah, and in the final weeks before the big day, I got showered from friends and family that lived nearby. My grandma’s, aunts, and cousins all came to the shower, and I blushed when I received lingerie with my grandma being there!  Jen interviewed Matthew ahead of time on video, and had us answer the same questions to see how well we knew each other. One thing he said is that he loved how I wore my watch backwards!

Our Love story the engagement at BYU

Natalie recommended some audio tapes that were very informative and helpful. They were titled “Before the wedding night” with education for both the bride and the groom, geared towards couples who saved intimacy for the wedding night. Though I’d talked to my married girlfriends quite a bit, it was helpful for Matthew and I to listen to them together and talk about it. We had a lot to learn!

Two weeks before we married, I moved into our new place by myself. I was able to sell my previous contract, so it worked out perfectly. I was totally fine to sleep in an old, dark, basement apartment alone, until we discovered MICE! The night I saw one run across my bedroom floor, I tried to call Matthew for help, but his roommate was clogging up the phone line with the dial up internet, on a game. Yep, no cell phones and the new-ness of the internet took over the phone lines, too.  I was able to get ahold of my friend Emily (after midnight) and she came to pick me up and take me to Matthew’s place, seeking help.  He chivalrously set up mouse traps, and over the course of the next few days, we got FIVE mice! I was SO glad to not have to do all of that.

BYU love story catching a mouse

Just days before our wedding, when the details and the stress would get to me, he’d calmly hold me in his arms and reassure me that it would all fall into place. One night he said, “You just keep getting more beautiful every day” and I’m pretty sure my heart skipped a thousand beats. For so long, he held back his emotions, I always felt a bit like a plain jane, and to hear that meant everything. He was truly, everything I needed, just as the Counting Crows song sang. I got knocked on my face and I was so worried I’d have a bruise on the wedding day, so he got  me an ice pack and wrapped it around.

BYU love story

On December 16th, the night before our wedding day, I had a sleepover with some of my dearest friends. My mom was working on the final details of my dress (she said I’d lost weight since Thanksgiving and she has to bring it in at the shoulders) in our apartment kitchen.

BYU love story

BYU love story

I had a girls night with my best girls. Amy flew in from Iowa, Natalie left her husband for the night, and and they fussed over my hair and nails, and I felt so special.

BYU love story

{Natalie painted my nails french manicure}

BYU love story

{Amy my roommate came in from Iowa for our wedding, trying on the dress the night before}

Matthew and I barely saw each other that day. His parents flew into town, my family was gathering together, on the morrow, we would wed. I closed my journal entry that night with these words:

I am so happy. It’s so real and wonderful! He loves me so much and I can feel it! I’m getting married n the morning! We are both in disbelief that we are so much in love. Tomorrow is going to be wonderful!

Join The Discussion



  1. Happy Anniversary! I have loved following along your story. After meeting you this summer, reading it I can visualize it all so much more! Hope you have a great day and Merry Christmas!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thanks so much Chantal! I love that it’s a bit more fun since we’ve met! Merry Christmas to you, too!

  2. Aline says:

    Happy Anniversary! I’ve been reading since the day you published part 1, and I love every time I get to read more. I loved, loved, loved the dress! My wedding dress was a disappointment :/

  3. Carol says:

    Thanks for writing another chapter. Your mother did a great job on your wedding dress!