Thirty minutes before a ceremony starts, guests start filing into the chapel accompanied by a joyous melody from the pipe organ.
The bride and groom are in their respective dressing rooms with their close family and friends preparing for their big moment.
As time ticks by, the chapel slowly fills as the last of the guests arrive.
Mothers and fathers give their last loving advice and praise to their children who are about to embark on a new life.
The groom and his groomsmen line at the front of the chapel waiting for the big moment.
Bridesmaids make their way up the aisle. A fussy flower girl throws rose petals down for the bride.
Then it starts.
“The Bridal Chorus” begins.
The bride takes a deep breath and begins her journey down the aisle.
Approximately 80 to 90 weddings similar to this one are held in Robert Carr Chapel, on campus, spread out over 40 weekends throughout the year, says Ed McMahon, wedding coordinator at TCU. In June, three weddings a weekend are held, and every other month only two weddings a weekend are held.
Since 1953 there have been around 2,400 weddings and Emmet Smith, the wedding music director, has played the organ at most of the weddings.
“It’s the most beautiful place in Fort Worth to get married,” Smith said.
About half of the people married at the Chapel are children of faculty and staff, students or former students, McMahon said. The other half are people from around the community.
The Chapel is a particular consideration for many couples because it seats 275 people, McMahon said.
“There are not a lot of places in town that can do that,” he said.
It seats the right number of people for most weddings, Smith said.
“That depends on the size of the people, of course,” he continued. “A small wedding with 85 people still looks good in there, it’s not lost.”
Although there are big churches around town that seat between two and three thousand guests, the smaller chapels at those churches only seat 100 people, McMahon said. There are only three or four places in town that meet the medium size wedding capacity.
Besides the practical reasons for using the Chapel, it also has a magnetism that draws people into its design.
“It is a pretty place; light and airy,” McMahon said.
Another pull to the Chapel is there are no denomination requirements, McMahon said.
“It’s not his or hers. It’s a common or impartial meeting ground,” he said.
“The only disadvantage would be for people with bad taste,” Smith said. “I can think of no disadvantage, it has everything. Everything is perfection.”
The Chapel is inexpensive compared to other places around Fort Worth to get married, Smith said. Faculty, staff, students and trustees can rent the Chapel for $100. Alumni pay $400.
The Chapel is booked about at least a year in advance, McMahon said.
“Most often people get engaged at holidays, Christmas, New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day, so they start thinking a year from that point,” he said.
Brides book the chapel up to two and a half years before their actual wedding, Smith said. If an alumna wants to book the chapel closer to her wedding date she is often out of luck because the Chapel is already booked, he said.
“The sad thing is the brides that book so far ahead often don’t materialize,” Smith said. “Money seems to be no item. They seem to give up their money they pay in advance.”
Smith said the couples that don’t show up will book several churches at the same time and wait until they know how many people will show up then go with the church that best accommodates them.
“In a year’s time we might have 80 weddings on the books and end up having 55 weddings,” Smith said.
May through August tend to be the busiest for the Chapel.
McMahon said these months are popular because it’s when people have natural breaks in their lives. The couples may graduate in May then they usually have a natural break because they don’t have a job yet or are starting graduate school the next year, he said.
It’s a tradition to be a June bride, which also contributes to couples getting married during that month, McMahon said.
Vows have been made by the bride and groom and tears flowed from many sets of eyes.
The newly married couple is presented to their guest.
They now begin the journey back down the aisle and to the beginning of a new life.