Each year, for a fee of $150, couples across the country can reserve the Vassar chapel to tie the knot.
“Generally the busiest season for weddings is during the summer (when the college is not in session),” wrote Director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life Samuel Speers in an emailed statement.
Manager of Alumnae/i House Martha Barry, agreed, saying, “Usually, it’s really busy at the college in May, June, September, October.”
Each couple is given the choice of holding their reception at the Alumnae/i House, which often functions as a hotel and reception area for catered events, including weddings. For smaller weddings, some even get married at the guest house.
“[Campus activities] books both the space for the chapel, and the Shakespeare garden. At Alumnae House, we do anywhere from 10-20 weddings a year,” said Barry over the phone.
Barry has attended many receptions and notes that the atmosphere at a wedding reception is “generally very happy.”
Couples and receptions travel long distances to get married on campus.
“It’s usually a destination wedding, so they book all the hotel rooms at Alumnae/i House. And so, it’s kind of like little mini-reunions, especially because the two Vassar alums are getting married together,” said Barry.
In December, Imirul Islam ’17 photographed an engaged couple, Ellen and Danielle for over 400 photos, as they visited the classrooms where they first met as Vassar students and the theaters where they had put on productions together for a pre-wedding photoshoot.
“Pre-weddings are less generic because you have more time to either set up shots (in different poses, settings, etc., which is hard or impossible to do in weddings) or just follow the couple around and take candids,” wrote Islam in an emailed statement, who first heard of the opportunity from Phocus, Vassar’s photography organization. “Ellen and Danielle said they were horrible at posing so they treated the day as a date and I followed with my camera.”
The icing on the proverbial cake is the final photoshoot at Sunset Lake, where the couple laid in each other’s arms. “It was great because we spent most of the day roaming the campus. Personally, it was a rewarding experience because I had fun shooting people who were undoubtedly in love,” wrote Islam.
Barry said, “Popular sites [for couples to take photos] would be in front of the library, in front of the chapel, if they met at a dorm—anywhere they had a special connection to.”
Couples who want to get married at Vassar must have some sort of Vassar connection, according to the wedding rules on the school website.
Lauren and Jon-Paul, married in April 2012, a couple whose bride has family alumnae/i connections to Vassar, were high school sweethearts attracted to the campus because of its beauty and size.
Another couple, Henry and Francesca, was married in November 2011 in the chapel in a Japanese-inspired wedding, and both are Vassar alumni.
“Despite the fact they live elsewhere, Hank and Fran chose Vassar College for their wedding location because this is where they first met. [They] now have added reason to be nostalgic for their school and the magnificent buildings,” according to a blog post on Turnquist Photography.
The post continued, “The immense chapel had ample space for all yet the feeling among all remained close and relaxed.”
According to Barry, weddings at Vassar are a long-standing tradition. “I’ve been here at Alumnae/i House for six and a half years, and there’s always been weddings. But long before I was here, they’ve been doing weddings.”