ANNAPOLIS – Mary Torresse put together all five weddings at the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel this Saturday.
And 1,995 academy weddings before that.
“Weddings are me,” said Torresse, whose official title is U.S. Naval Academy wedding chapel coordinator. “I love my job.”
She is the first person to hold the position, which was created in 1988 to meet the growing demand in the betrothed community for nuptials in the academy’s historic chapel.
Torresse said the amount of paperwork and coordination involved in planning about 200 weddings a year in the chapel — and turning away many more — demanded the creation of her job.
Torresse, who had worked in the chaplain’s office since 1979, estimates that she spends 75 percent of her workday taking care of wedding business.
She counsels nervous couples and parents. She makes sure the chaplain’s faith matches the couple’s. She checks that the bride and groom have proper pre-wedding counseling.
And she does it all with a smile.
Friday afternoon, she went over the finer details of an academy chapel wedding during a rehearsal with her 2,000th bride and groom.
“No bubbles, no birdseed, no balloons, no butterflies and no doves,” she told Ken Shook and Colleen McFeely. “No alcoholic beverages or spirits thereof. The only spirit in the chapel is the Holy Spirit.”
Then she lectured the best man, who is responsible for keeping the wedding on time.
“If the groom is late, the best man pays for the reception,” she said of an academy tradition.
This weekend marks the beginning of the busiest wedding season for Torresse.
From now until early 1999, the chapel will host at least six weddings every Saturday.
The pace really picks up after commissioning, when 10 weddings each are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday and one is scheduled for that Monday, Memorial Day. It is the only time exceptions are made to the Saturday-only rule for chapel weddings.
To say `I do’ in the chapel, either the bride or the groom must be an academy graduate or an active service member stationed at the academy. Torresse’s 2,000th bride, McFeely, was in the academy class of 1990 and her dad was commissioned in 1964.
Shook asked McFeely to marry him last June, on her 30th birthday. There is usually at least a year-long wait for reservations at the chapel, but this lucky couple got a cancellation date.
“It’s the luck of the Irish,” McFeely said.