Cover Story

Princeton Weddings

The wait-list to book a wedding at the Princeton University Chapel is legendary. As the old Princeton fairy tale goes, a male student comes to Princeton, has a feeling during his freshman year that he will meet his future wife in the next four years and books the Chapel for his wedding, despite not actually having a girlfriend. That way, when he meets his dream Princeton girl, they can get married without having to wait. Practical and romantic!

The legend of the wait list is so common that even alumni calling to book their weddings well in advance expect that their request will be a long shot, Chapel Administrator Liz Powers said. Powers quickly dispelled rumors of the wait-list.  “We schedule weddings two years out, so sometimes I’ll hear, oh, you know, there’s a seven-year wait-list, and it just can’t even possibly be because we don’t plan weddings seven years out,” Powers said.

The Chapel may be popular, but it is by no means impossible to book for a wedding. The Chapel is available as a venue for weddings 10 months out of the year, with only December and May blocked off for the academic ceremonies, concerts and special events that fill up the Chapel’s schedule at those times. Although wedding slots are limited to 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturdays during most of the year, with an additional 1 p.m. Sunday slot during the busier summer months, Powers said that booking a wedding at the Chapel is not as competitive as it is rumored to be. There is an application process, but the most daunting part of the application asks for a description of “your connection to the University and why you wish to be married in the Chapel.” The Chapel does around 30 weddings per year. While Powers did not have a specific number of available slots for 2014, it appears that several slots go unfilled. This coming year, there are still slots available for the months of July and August, with the month of June fully booked.

Even with these available slots, there is enough interest in booking the Chapel for weddings that only students, alumni, current faculty or staff and children of all of these categories are eligible to be married in the Chapel.

“All kinds of exceptions are asked for, but I’ve not seen exceptions made. The Chapel is appealing to so many who don’t have an affiliation with the Chapel that we try to keep it open for those that do,” Powers said.

A wedding in the University Chapel is made that much more special by each couple’s necessary Princeton connection. This rings especially true for alumni couples (the majority of alumni couples contain only one alumnus). Eighty percent of weddings in the Chapel are those of Princeton alumni.

Two such Princetonians are recent alumni Sara Hastings ’09 and Daniel Hayes-Patterson ’09. Their strong connection to the University is what brought them to the Chapel when they married on Aug. 3, 2013.

Not only do both Hastings and Hayes-Patterson have multiple alumni connections in their families, but they were brought together as students at the University through their work at The Daily Princetonian. Hastings and Hayes-Patterson met during their senior year, when Hastings was the copy editor and Hayes-Patterson was the photography editor. The Chapel was a natural fit for a wedding venue for them.

“My husband and I both have a lot of family connections at Princeton, and Princeton is what brought us together, so it made sense. We never seriously considered any other venues,” Hastings said.

But while the Chapel is the ideal wedding venue for some, other Princeton couples find a way to celebrate their connection to the University at their wedding without feeling the need for the Chapel to serve as the backdrop.

This was the case for Jennifer Palmquist ’13 and Mack Darrow ’13, who, in a romantic example of how Forbesians form a tight-knit community, met during their freshman year in Forbes and are now engaged. Forbes factored very prominently into their engagement — Mr. Darrow “chose a scenic spot overlooking the pond to drop to one knee,” Palmquist said. But for this couple, getting married in the Chapel was not a priority.

“We honestly never really considered getting married at the Princeton Chapel. Throughout our time at Princeton, we both would occasionally go there to pray, but it never captivated me as a potential wedding venue. Being from southern California, it was important for me to get married in my hometown,” Palmquist said.

Still, Palmquist finds that she and her fiance do not need to be married on campus to involve a little orange and black — although not the color scheme — in their ceremony. They will bring Princeton with them no matter where they marry.

“I am not sure if we will explicitly honor Princeton during our reception or ceremony, but I know that Princeton will be well-represented by our guest list,” Palmquist said. “We both have been blessed with the most incredible friends from Princeton, and I honestly see our wedding as a mini-reunion. Having graduated and dispersed across the country, I am so excited for an excuse to bring us all back to the same dance floor.”

Even though Hastings and Palmquist have chosen different ways to celebrate Princeton in their weddings, they both agree that sharing Princeton with their partners is a special part of these relationships.

As Palmquist put it, “I feel so blessed to have met Mack at Princeton and absolutely love that we share such an important aspect of our lives. We recently returned to campus for Homecoming, and it was so special to walk around our campus and relive all of the memories we share together.”

While Hastings and Palmquist are happy to have found their partners at Princeton, neither alumna agrees with Susan Patton’s emphasis on finding a husband at Princeton.

“Princeton is definitely an amazing bond to share with someone, and we’ve gotten involved together as alumni,” Hastings said. “That being said, I had many better things to worry about than finding a husband in college.”

Still, Hastings mentioned that her father could not help paying tribute to Susan Patton, who has become wedded with the topics of Princeton and marriage, at his daughter’s wedding.

“My dad did jokingly refer to her in his toast, noting that the advice worked out for my family since both my mom and I had managed to find ourselves Princeton men while we were undergraduates,” Hastings said.

Palmquist, while thankful that she and Mack met at Princeton, loves the University for much more than their relationship.

“I don’t love Princeton because it is where I met my future husband,” Palmquist said. “I love Princeton because it challenged me and helped me grow in ways I never believed possible and because I formed amazing relationships with friends, teachers, coaches, classmates and yes, my fiance.”


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