Memorial Church Marries Students, Doesn't Compete with Local Clergy
Not content with providing married couples with a nursery for their children, the University is also willing to help engaged couples take the vital preliminary step. People can be married in Memorial Church, although this is followed for reasons other than the promotion of business for the struggling nursery school.
Around 750 couples have been united in Holy Matrimony in Memorial Church which is now completing its 20th year of operation.
The church is available for the marriage "of any officer of instruction or administration, listed in the University catalogue for the current year; any member of his immediate family; any student at present enrolled in the University; or any former resident."
If the bride-to-be is a member of some Cambridge church or parish, however, the ceremony may not take place in Mem Church. "We don't want to supplant the Boston churches." Dean Sperry, chairman of the Board of Preachers, explained yesterday.
Business reached its peak during World War II. In August 1911 the first soldier was married, and during 1942, 42 out of the 59 husbands were servicemen. Since the Navy had taken over the Yard in July, these grooms were predominately Navy officers.
"In most instances the servicemen's weddings were not 'shot gun affairs';" Sperry declared. "The boys married girls whom they had known for a long time. They were not weddings which men had hurried or imitations of friendship . . . I was greatly reassured of the prospect that these marriages would last."
Harold Allen, the sexton, has earned his nick-name of the "Emily Post of Memorial Church." He is considered the local authority on weddings and acts as a major domo during the ceremonies.
About three-quarters of the weddings take place in the chapel instead of the main church. Allen claims he can run a chapel wedding once an hour, but he allows an hour and a half between "big weddings" in the main church. He still remembers a hectic February day when there were five marriages in succession.
He also, recalls the day when one couple called off the ceremony just before the designated hour, but fortunately no guests were invited. Due to the close scheduling at least one guest has sat through the wrong wedding.
Preachers from other churches are often invited by the bride or groom to conduct the ceremony. Barring a special State license, only ministers living in Massachusetts can officiate in weddings in the State.
There is no charge for the use of the church or chapel, although it is customary that some gratuity be given to the janitor. The suggested amount depends, naturally, on the size of the wedding. Private arrangements must be made for an organist, for playing at marriage ceremonies is not one of the duties of the University organists.
Photographers are barred from the church during all services, including marriages. Decrying the disturbing influence of flash bulbs. Sperry said, "I won't have a religious service photographed . . . when you are praying, it is not time to be posing for a photographer."
Cameramen may stand in the vestibule or on the steps of the church and take pictures as the procession emerges. Therefore, even the small weddings in the chapel leave Memorial Church via the main aisle.