“I now pronounce you husband and wife."
If you’ve ever walked past the chapel on a Saturday afternoon and seen a gaggle of people clad in suits and dresses streaming out of its old wooden doors, it’s likely that moments earlier I was upstairs, listening to someone utter those seven words to a newlywed couple.
Over the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to see roughly a dozen teary-eyed fathers walk their daughters down the blue-carpeted aisle of the campus chapel. As a member of the College’s audio-visual department, I often set up for events around campus that require technology—including the surprisingly frequent weddings in the chapel.
I volunteer for the wedding gigs primarily because a) no one else in my department ever wants to, b) it’s a good way to get paid to sit around on a Saturday afternoon and c) I never quite know what to expect.
Most of the events I cover for my job are cut-and-dry: turn on the projector, wait for the presenter to arrive, plug their laptop in and leave. Weddings always end up bringing a very different group of people together each and every time. From the upper balcony of the chapel I’ve never seen the same wedding twice, and I’ve experienced more than my fair share of laughs and frustrations while doing my job. There are no other campus events that put you into contact with bridezillas on a regular basis.
I’ve witnessed a few weddings that went flawlessly, and more than a few that weren’t so lucky. At one memorable wedding last year, a bridesmaid found out what the chapel’s wooden floor tastes like after tripping on the steps leading to the stage and falling face first. On another Saturday afternoon, I witnessed a young ring-bearer so afraid of the crowd sitting in the pews that he crawled into the fetal position in the middle of the chapel and cried, forcing one of the groomsmen to go pick him up and bring the rings forward on his own.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the novelty of the whole production, but I’ve actually sat back and had some interesting realizations about weddings in general by seeing so many in such a short amount of time. The most striking aspect of the weddings held in the chapel is how very different they can be from one another—from the almost somber, ritualistic and very choreographed Catholic ceremonies, to the entirely non-religious ceremonies that have so many musical acts they’re more like concerts than matrimonies.
Not very many of the ceremonies I have witnessed have been highly religious—something that may be largely indicative of changes in our society. In Maine, like in many states, anyone who is a state-licensed notary can officiate a wedding, and I’ve seen a number of weddings where the officiator was not a clergy member but a close friend of the bride and groom who had received notary certification for that occasion. In one wedding, the officiator even mentioned how the couple had found his notary services off Craigslist.
Most of the weddings feature at least one alumni of the College, and it’s always fun to hear the anecdotes about Polar Bears who dated while at Bowdoin and eventually decided to get married afterwards. One example that stuck out in my mind was a couple who apparently had never really hung out together while they were at Bowdoin but had met one summer after graduation while working in the same area, and were back in the chapel within a year to say their vows.
If you’re in a committed relationship at Bowdoin and you think your partner is the one, I highly recommend coming back to the College to get married in the Chapel. It can accommodate even the largest of families, and if you pick the right time of year, can provide for some truly fantastic photo opportunities. And, if you seal the deal within the next two years, you might even see me up in the balcony, adjusting microphone volumes while you hear an officiator say those seven magic words.