"I’ve taught so many of the students here and they are such a big part of my life," Catie Zwier tells PEOPLE
Catie Zwier has always envisioned having her students be a part of her wedding day. So when she began planning her nuptials to fiancé Kevin Zwier last fall, Catie, who is a teacher at Good Shepherd School in Golden Valley, Minnesota, came up with a unique idea.
"I’ve taught so many of the students here and they are such a big part of my life," she tells PEOPLE. "Our friends and family wedding fell during the week of Catholic Schools Week where every day is a different dress-up day. It seemed like the perfect fit to have the kids think it was 'Fancy Surprise Day' and then show up to our wedding during the school day," she adds.
Catie, who has been teaching for nine years, tied the knot in front of her students and fellow faculty members on Feb. 1. The couple also held a second wedding ceremony the following day on Feb. 2.
In preparation for the surprise school wedding, Catie and Kevin met with their priest, Father Ben, to meticulously plan all the details for the celebration. Catie admits that the hardest part was keeping it a secret, but adds that the teachers and faculty they confided in were incredibly supportive.
On the big day, Catie recounts how Father Ben announced the surprise from the back of the church to the shock of the students. Initially, the kids were stunned and unsure how to react, but soon, applause and cheers filled the room.
"They were beaming with smiles and excitement, and their responses were absolutely perfect," she recalls fondly.
After the wedding was revealed, Father Ben engaged the students, asking if they knew how the couple met. The first response, humorously, was "at a bar." Catie recalls, noting that while it was sweet and funny, the duo actually met at a garage outside their apartment building in October 2020.
"I’ve always called my classroom 'Corken’s Crew' (Catie's maiden name is Corken) and now that I’m a Zwier, they had all the kids who were part of Corken’s Crew sign a big keepsake blanket for me. Every name brings up so many teaching memories and it’s really cool to know that they were all at our wedding," she adds.
For the ceremony, the couple enlisted the students to serve as flower girls and readers. The majority of the participating children were either friend's children or fellow staff member's kids from Good Shepherd. The two students chosen for the first and second readings were previously in Catie's kindergarten class, and she had also served as their summer nanny in years past.
Catie, who also coaches the school's Spirit Squad and is often found dancing in the hallways, adds that the entire school lined the corridors with gleaming silver pom-poms, while uplifting music filled the speaker system.
"Some of the kids even had cowbells they were tinkling to prompt us to kiss! I don't think I've ever smiled so widely in my life. It was overwhelming and incredibly special to witness the entire school cheering for us; we definitely felt the love! I felt like I was floating!" she exclaims.
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For Kevin, witnessing the overwhelming love that the school community had for his wife was truly remarkable. "Catie is adored by this community, and from the moment we attended a school gala together, I've been embraced with open arms," he says.
"On the day of the wedding, I stood just beyond the doors as Father Ben announced that they were gathered to witness the wedding of Ms. Corken. You could feel the silence as the children processed what was happening, before erupting into joyful chaos," he continues.
He adds, "As I walked down the aisles, you could sense the excitement buzzing in the air. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. When Catie made her entrance, the atmosphere was electric. The children were radiant. They performed wonderfully during the readings and answered Father Ben's questions with enthusiasm. The entire experience far exceeded any expectations Catie and I had."
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