Everything You Need To Know About Getting Married at Your Alma Mater

Real brides on how they made their alumni weddings super chic

Updated 04/15/18

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College is full of monumental firsts. Your first time being away from home, your first time being truly independent and maybe even your first love. It’s only natural to have this important time in your life play into your next big milestone—your wedding!

Some couples have a love so strong for their alma mater, they decide to tie the knot there. Whether it’s the energy of being back on campus or the perfect tie-in to your meet cute, couples often find ways to make their school a part of their big day.

“I think the bride and groom always just have a significant story that goes along with it,” wedding planner Katie Dunn of Events by Le Fête says. “They either met in college or there is some affiliation that makes it special to them, so when we are planning the wedding that story can evolve and it just makes it more personal.”

For Alex Couch, for whom Dunn planned the wedding, getting married at her alma mater Duke University fulfilled her childhood dream. “That’s where I grew up wanting to get married,” she says. “You probably could have asked me at 10-years-old—that’s what I would have said I wanted to do.”

Not only did Couch complete her undergraduate degree there, but she was baptized at Duke, her parents were married at Duke, and her grandmother and great-grandmother are alumni as well. “I grew up a huge Duke fan and loving the university, so it was really a no brainer.”

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Her choice was simple, but actually securing a spot at the iconic university chapel was a bit more tricky. Dunn warns brides to check the school and sports calendars to avoid overlapping events—and Duke alumni have an extra hoop to jump through. Couch and her now husband Dixon Snukals almost had to endure the university tradition of "tenting" to get their March 18, 2017 wedding date.

“The way the chapel works, the first business day of every month, couples typically have to camp out and actually stay in a tent to get the best date pick for the month they want to get married,” Couch explains.

The process sometimes lasts several days—so for Couch and her husband (both lawyers), completing this tradition was not an option. Lucky for them, the chapel was under construction when they were venue shopping and, thus, put a halt to their typical tenting procedure.

For bride Annie Chang, the process was less about ritual and more about strategic planning when it came to landing a wedding date at her alma mater, Vassar. From dodging school events and working around her California in-laws refusal to come to the Northeast during the winter (we can't blame them!) that only left a few dates available, but Chang and her husband Eugene were still able to make it work for their April 2016 nuptials.

They met at an alumni foraging event in Central Park—so when it came to tying the college into their story, having the actual wedding at Vassar's Alumnae House was the obvious way to make it come full circle.

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Once you decide to say "I do" at your university, there are endless ways to continue incorporating your school into your day, other than having the mascot officiate.

Here are five ways to incorporate your alma mater into your wedding day:

Once you decide to say "I do" at your university, there are endless ways to continue incorporating your school into your day, other than having the mascot officiate.

The Color Scheme

Dunn recommends tweaking your school colors to fit your style. You can incorporate the color palette but on a softer, scaled tones. Couch switched Duke's royal blue for a navy—the groomsmen wore navy tuxes and the couple also incorporated the hue into their invitation suite.

The Music

For Chang, one way she showed Vassar pride was using the student jazz ensemble during her ceremony. She says it tied in nicely with the venue and gave the environment a very collegiate feel.

The Program and Welcome Materials

Couch placed an image of the stunning Duke Chapel on their program, leaving the guests and the couple with a memory of just how stunning the church was. They also included an itinerary of places around Durham and the campus that were special to her.

“I think that it’s important to highlight the things that you loved about your school, and your campus, and your college town so you can share that with people who are visiting," Couch says. “It’s just your way to share your experience with everyone.”

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The Food

Lucky for Chang, one of the pre-approved venues at Vassar Alumnae House was also one of her favorite food trucks back in her college days, Twisted Soul, and they were able to cater the wedding. Try to find one of your favorite college haunts to contribute something to the wedding menu, whether it's cocktails from the bar where you went after class or hors d'oeuvres from the restaurant where you shared your very first anniversaries.

The Rehearsal Dinner

If you and your soon-to-be spouse are looking for a more dramatic way to say COLLEGE at your wedding, Dunn recommends saving the kitchy stuff for the rehearsal dinner.

“A lot of people around here for the rehearsal dinner will have a 3D cake of the school’s mascot,” Dunn says. “Things like that are fun that you obviously would not do at the wedding.” The relaxed setting of a rehearsal dinner is where you have more flexibility to bring out the band.

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