From School Bells to Wedding Bells

Late one night in October 2018, Max Ujdak and Katie Wall — now Katie Ujdak — were sitting in front of a computer, staring at the website for the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a Catholic church at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and a popular wedding venue.

At midnight, the couple would be able to submit a digital form ranking their wedding date preferences for a ceremony at the Basilica, where reservations open on a two-year rolling calendar. The two were hoping for a 3 p.m. slot on Oct. 24, 2020.

They submitted the form when the clock struck midnight, and sometime later, they received a confirmation from the church for their preferred date, with a 1 p.m. slot. While they were happy, they didn’t share the news with anyone: Their friends and family had no idea that the couple, who had been together for a little over a year, were planning a wedding. In fact, they weren’t even engaged yet.

“We’re like, OK, now we have a wedding venue, but we’re not engaged,” Ms. Ujdak, 27, said. “We can’t tell anyone.”

It would be another year before they became engaged, also on Notre Dame’s campus. The couple wanted a wedding at their alma mater, where they had met and both graduated with bachelor’s degrees. So they requested a booking, sans an engagement, not wanting to miss out on the competitive opportunity. They now live in Waunakee, Wis., where Mr. Ujdak works as a project lead for a steel fabricator. Ms. Ujdak works as a grant specialist and is pursuing a law degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Getting married at the Basilica, especially after going to Notre Dame, is extremely meaningful,” Mr. Ujdak, 27, said. “When it’s such an important part of your relationship, getting married there, in that beautiful, beautiful space, it’s unreal.”

Picking a venue is one of the most daunting tasks for couples planning their weddings. But for those who met in college, the choice seems more obvious: the school they attended together.

Many colleges and universities have long histories of alumni marrying on campus, whether at a religious building, like the church at Notre Dame, or a well-known landmark, such as the George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University. Often, couples are drawn to the personal nature of the locations — they can bring friends and families back to the places where their love stories may have begun.

For 18 years, Blanche Williams, the former wedding director at the Duke University Chapel, would have prewedding consultations with couples hoping to marry there. Ms. Williams first began working for the ecumenical chapel in March 2005. By the time she retired this past April, she had guided nearly 800 couples through the on-campus wedding process.

“It’s been one of the most fun parts of my life,” Ms. Williams, 72, said. “One couple, I get a Christmas card — a picture Christmas card — from them every year. It’s been maybe about 10 or 12 years.”

Couples who want their weddings to take place at the Duke chapel are able to reserve their dates only a year ahead of time, and the process can be cutthroat. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms. Williams said, couples would sometimes camp outside the chapel overnight to increase their chances of booking their desired dates once registration opened.

“To come back to the beginning, and being physically together in the same place again, had a lot of meaning for us,” Sam Saenz said of his wedding to Bianca Argueza at the Memorial Church at Stanford, where they both attended college.Credit…Buena Lane Photography

Bianca Argueza and Sam Saenz also applied for their wedding date before they were engaged so they could marry at the Memorial Church at Stanford, where they met as undergraduates in April 2009. Ms. Argueza is now a pediatrician, and Mr. Saenz is a psychiatrist. They live only a few miles away from Stanford.

“To come back to the beginning, and being physically together in the same place again, had a lot of meaning for us,” Mr. Saenz, 34, said.

When Ms. Argueza was in high school, she made a wish in the courtyard outside the church that she would study at Stanford one day. Later, as an undergraduate, she would attend mass at the same church. On May 25, 2019, the couple married there.

“It represented a lot of milestones in my life,” Ms. Argueza, 34, said. “Even now, because we live so close, sometimes we go there for mass or just to relive those memories.”

When it came time for Jenny Faubion, 41, and Amit Ranade, 47, to plan their wedding, they considered several venues, including Ms. Faubion’s family farm. But it soon became clear that marrying at their alma mater, the University of Washington, was not only the most sentimental option, but also the most practical. The couple met in 2000 at the university when Ms. Faubion was an undergraduate and Mr. Ranade was a law student, and they reconnected a few years later and started dating. They now live in Seattle, and both work as attorneys.

Mr. Ranade wanted to host their wedding at Husky Stadium, where the University of Washington’s football team plays. “I was like, That’s just too far for me,” Ms. Faubion said.Credit…John & Joseph Photography

The couple wanted Hindu and Presbyterian wedding ceremonies with over 400 guests, so they needed a venue that could accommodate the size and duration of their celebration.

“He actually really wanted to get married in Husky Stadium,” where the school’s football team plays, Ms. Faubion said of her husband with a laugh. “I was like, That’s just too far for me.” Instead, on July 11, 2009, they married at Sylvan Grove, where students at the University of Washington traditionally stop by at the beginning and end of their college careers.

“Seattle’s a beautiful place to get married,” Ms. Faubion said. “But you don’t come across an area that’s a whole lot more beautiful than campus.” Their reception also took place at the school. Smiling up at them from one of their wedding cakes was a husky dog, the University of Washington’s mascot.

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