“Ring by spring”: stories from engaged students and Calvin’s wedding booker


Photo courtesy of Skyler Rich.

Calvin is no stranger to “ring by spring” culture: the goal of having an engagement ring by spring semester of senior year. Even students who bear neither ring nor significant other have probably heard the whispers (or shouts) of engagements, or might even be expecting to attend a friend’s upcoming wedding.

Chimes sat down with a couple of couples, as well as the staff person in charge of wedding bookings on campus, to hear some of their stories.

Maria & Dustin

Senior Maria Emerson met her fiance, 2018 graduate Dustin Olson, when she was a first-year student and he was a sophomore. They lived on brother-sister floors in KHvR, which meant that they shared a lobby — the place they first met. From the first week of school, they had plenty of opportunities for activities together in their dorm communities and quickly became friends.

Though neither of them came to college thinking of getting into a relationship right away, let alone getting engaged, they began dating about a month later with the encouragement of mutual friends.

“You really can’t plan love,” said Emerson. “My dad has this saying: ‘you plan, and God laughs’… I never thought I would be part of this [ring by spring culture], but here I am.”

On their first date, they went to the nature preserve on campus. Olson thought it would be a good idea to throw a stick at a beehive, but fortunately he missed. Three years later, he took Emerson to the same tree, sans beehive, and proposed. The proposal wasn’t too surprising for Emerson, since they had talked about marriage while dating.

“It’s something we talked about a lot, like ‘are we doing this too fast?’ but it’s what makes sense for us right now. We had a lot of conversations about it, but I do feel good about it,” said Emerson.

As for the engagement itself, friends were anticipating it and excited when it happened.

“Everyone would check every day, ‘Is there a ring?’ … [I’d say] ‘not yet, I’ll tell you, don’t worry’,” Emerson laughed.

The couple had even started wedding planning before the proposal. Planning hasn’t been stressful for the couple, since they are helped by Emerson’s sister, a professional wedding planner. Emerson considers herself pretty relaxed about the details of the wedding, which is coming up in early June.

“We’re not even getting married in a church, and my bridesmaids are wearing black jumpsuits,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Mimi Mutesa.

Lorena & Matt

When senior Lorena De Almeida was a first-year student, she had a crush on then-sophomore Matt Seafield, whom she often saw around campus.

“I thought he was really cute,” said De Almeida. “I found out he had a girlfriend, and I was really sad, but I would still stalk him [online] once in a while.”

They eventually got introduced to each other in person by mutual friends, and a couple of years later they rekindled their friendship at a party. A few months after that, they began dating each other. Neither of them had any expectations of getting engaged while in college.

“I don’t think it ever crossed my mind… I’d come to get a degree. I wanted to go move to Europe by myself and stay there for a few years until I decided to settle with someone, or [go] anywhere else. But now plans have changed,” said De Almeida.

“You never know what God has planned,” added Seafield.

While dating, they had to learn to balance their time when it came to their relationships with each other and with other people, and it wasn’t always easy.

“You get better as it goes on,” said Seafield.

As the couple approached milestones of six months and then a year of dating, they began to wonder about marriage. Three months before the proposal, Seafield took a trip to De Almeida’s home country, Mozambique, to get to know her family and ask for their permission to marry her.

“At some point we realized, if we’re not serious about it, what’s the point of dating?” said Seafield.

Although De Almeida was expecting a proposal, the actual day of the proposal was still a pleasant surprise for her when it occurred. Family and friends were all thrilled about the engagement, except for Seafield’s 13-year-old sister, who thought it was “weird.” In spite of what others might think — “some may say it’s rushed, or we’re young, or we’re late in the game,” De Almeida noted — they feel pretty good about the timeline of their relationship.

“There’s no right time, only a right time for you,” said De Almeida.

Planning the wedding has been “stressful,” according to De Almeida, but friends and family have been helpful, especially Seafield’s mother, who is doing most of the research. Seafield is “sometimes helpful,” said De Almeida, adding that “thinking of the big day” makes the planning feel more fun.

Photo courtesy of calvin.edu.

Weddings at Calvin

In addition to being a place of potential for meeting one’s future spouse, Calvin’s campus also offers space for wedding events. This is mostly utilized by alumni, but occasionally current students have been known to book the premises as well.

Among the campus locations, wedding ceremonies are most often held in the main Calvin chapel or the seminary chapel. In 2018, the Calvin chapel saw 13 weddings, two of which were with current Calvin students. Among the rest, about half were with alumni, as well as one staff member. There was also one staff member as well as several non-affiliated parties, according to Darcy Verwys from Calvin’s event services. The Calvin chapel currently has seven more weddings lined up for 2019, one of which is a Calvin student.

As for the seminary chapel, there were about 15 weddings in 2018, two-thirds of which were alumni. For 2019, two current Calvin students are among the current 13 weddings booked for the seminary chapel.

Occasionally, weddings have taken place in the Gezon or Lab Theater, as well as the Ladies Literary Club when it was a Calvin venue. Most of the receptions take place at the Prince Conference Center.

According to Verwys, Calvin has different categories for pricing weddings: the public rate is $900, but there are other tiers of discounts offered for alumni and current staff and students.

“A rehearsal beforehand, substantial time in the facility the day of the wedding, dressing rooms, custodial services and a sound technician are typically included in the fee,” Verwys wrote in her notes to Chimes.

Rentals on campus require liability insurance which is offered through a third party for about $135. Calvin doesn’t offer wedding planning services beyond venue booking.

“I work with couples to get their details in advance, but for more in-depth planning [such as a minister and musicians], they hire out for that service,” said Verwys. Summer is the most popular season for weddings at Calvin, though they also happen throughout the year.

Whether finding a romantic interest, getting engaged or getting married, love can be found all over Calvin’s campus.