While some alumni return to campus for reunions and others make the trip for homecoming weekend, there is one unique reason for former students to come back to campus—weddings. Although the chapel stands in a central location on campus and serves as the backdrop for a variety of student activities, hosting weddings is one of its many functions that goes relatively unnoticed.
The chapel is available for weddings all year, though summer weddings are generally more popular, and restrictions are applied around this time to ensure that members of the Bowdoin community have first priority when selecting dates.
"May through October we give preference to people that have a Bowdoin connection," said Director of Events and Summer Programs Tony Sprague. "Then during the remaining months of November through April, it could be open for pretty much anybody that wanted to schedule a ceremony in there."
The chapel hosts approximately 10 weddings per year. The majority of these weddings are for members of the Bowdoin community, including alumni or faculty members and their direct family members, or members of the Association of Bowdoin Friends. This summer's weddings are indicative of the popularity of the chapel for Bowdoin affiliates.
"For this summer, what we're looking at is four weddings on the schedule right now," said Sprague. "Two of those couples include someone that's an alumus of the college and then two have some relationship to Bowdoin, but it's not directly where an alum is part of the wedding party."
Some couples choose to extend their Bowdoin wedding experience even further after their ceremony by hosting their receptions on campus as well. The Cram Barn and Alumni House is the most popular location for receptions, since wedding parties are able to have outside caterers there.
"As a College, we don't really cater many wedding receptions anymore ourselves, so if they happen, they often happen in Cram," Sprague said. "Oftentimes people have other reception sites that they may have been looking at already, so it can vary."
The College requires a fee of $275 for couples booking the chapel, which includes access to the facility as well as custodial service, and recommends a maximum of 180 guests. The Office of Events and Summer Programs coordinates the wedding dates only after the College's calendar is released, and campus events take precedence over desired wedding dates.
"You think of October, where we have parents weekend and homecoming weekend—we try to avoid those weekends for wedding ceremonies because there's so much going on on campus," Sprague said. "We certainly don't have them scheduled every week. It's somewhere between five and 10 a year that happen on campus."
The College does not provide additional wedding services to the wedding party beyond the facility and custodial service. Parties are responsible for making the majority of their own arrangements once they have booked the date. The chapel is equipped with an organ and a piano and the College is willing to recommend local musicians familiar with the instruments, but beyond that, parties are responsible for choosing the musicians and covering all related costs.
Flowers, photographers and any additional decorations must all be taken care of by the wedding party, though the College does recommend a Brunswick-based firm for additional furniture needs, such as candelabras and kneelers, to couples looking to spice up the Chapel's décor.
"They do all of their own planning," Sprague said, but noted that the Office is willing to help couples by referring them to nearby establishments for their needs. "We just want to help them to make sure it works out well for them."
The Chapel, though originally intended as a church, is now non-denominational. Sprague noted that the College does not keep track of the religious affiliations of ceremonies taking place here.
Sprague also noted that there have been cases of Bowdoin alumni couples marrying in the chapel, and that this trend has been more popular in classes that graduated recently.