"Look to your left, look to your right: Two out of three of you will marry a Middlebury graduate," is what many Middlebury alumni were told at their respective Convocations, per the New York Times article from which our title derives. Past presidents were justified in their warnings, as the percentage of Middlebury graduates who marry each other is reported to be over 60% (though the exact percentage is debatable).
While we may not acknowledge these staggering statistics in our day-to-day, hookup-culture-infused lives at Middlebury, based on the number of mock weddings that occur on campus, it is clear that marriage lurks in the back of our minds. Though these parties may be “fake” and “pretend,” the only “real” thing missing from most of them is a marriage license. So, besides the statistically proven emotional attachment to holy matrimony that comes with the title of “MiddKid,” what is it about these parties that make them so popular?
As journalists, we have both spent our last few weeks undercover, surveying the social scene at Middlebury College. We have attended “screws,” themeless “parties” and “wine nights.” Our conclusion? Middlebury is too good for these underwhelming, lazily planned charades. We yearn for something new, something that caters to the proven values of students destined for the altar. We present to you, the wedding.
Performing a wedding takes effort. There is a dress code, often a hired band, maybe food, an ordained minister and sometimes the bride or groom’s real-life partner even enters the scene to duke it out with their role-playing competitor for the day. It’s drama. But what comes of the blood, sweat and tears of wedding-planning is often a day-long saga that stands out in our memories. Guests are given roles to play and costumes to wear, and we all practice for the inevitable marriages that will happen (inevitably) between two out of three of us in the very near future.
“I wanted a wedding because it has a whole choreography to it, a ceremony, roles etc. It’s not just a themed party but something bordering on performance art if you dare,” reflected veteran fake-wedding-thrower Liv Cohen ’23.5.
Are you sold yet? We are. Let’s talk logistics.
At other schools, weddings are mostly reserved for fraternity-related gatherings. For example, this past February, the internet was famously graced with the “frat wedding” of TikTok star Alix Earle at the University of Miami, which skyrocketed fake wedding culture into a new sphere of relevance. The beauty of the Middlebury wedding, though, is that unlike other party formats, the ability to host and attend (and marry) isn’t reserved for sports teams or clubs. In fact, at Middlebury, anyone can host a wedding. Contrary to the confinement of real-life marriage, the fake wedding offers a spiritual release from typical social circles and norms, one that inspires feelings of comfort and warmth.
“The structured nature of the wedding allows for everyone to feel like they’re participating in a show of sorts. Overall, I left feeling entertained and warm, like I had been a part of a collective hug,” reminisced one-time fake wedding attendee Andrew Neumann ’25.
While many Middlebury social events come with an assumed uniform, weddings allow for a new level of self-expression that sits at the intersection between individuality and extravagance. Guests don their best garb — ranging from long, flowing dresses to prim and proper suits to bolo ties and leather vests to, even, full-blown animal costumes. The wedding is like a red carpet, and what comes of the final product is nothing less than its own Met Gala.
Beyond simply offering the freedom to dress more joyously than one would for a date party or an ever-dreaded Atwater party, weddings offer a musical palette that diverges from the sounds threatening to break the speakers of male athletes everywhere. Wedding throwers often collaborate with on-campus bluegrass and jazz bands to create an atmosphere that allows for light conversation, subtle foot-tapping and enthusiastic swing dancing all at once.
Matching the mood of twangy upbeat music, weddings are commonly hosted outdoors, a refreshing change of scenery from sweat-dripping-from-the-ceilings, dark, terrible, just the worst: Atwater. Though the feeling of fresh air alone would be quite enough, weddings tend to come with hay bales and twinkling lights and, for this reason, are best suited for spring and fall.
“Playing at a fake wedding and fake prom was great for my band since we got to try out our set in new situations without the pressure of having to play at someone's real wedding. Also, they've been great events to play bluegrass at since they've been in relaxed, outdoor settings where we don't have to compete with as much noise to be heard (compared to something indoors),” said member of the popularly fake-wedding-employed Otter Creek Bluegrass Band Asa Skinder ’23.
The phenomenon of fake weddings provides, in a word, liberation. But it isn’t the only way. Through our research and undercover investigation, we’ve come to endorse other nuanced and revolutionary party themes. For example, just this past weekend, we had the utmost privilege of attending a fake prom. What resulted was a mutual effort among all guests to “prompose” to each other, to dress to the nines and to spread joy and love. And though it is not quite in line with our core values (matrimony) in the way that a wedding is, prom is the first step toward “forever.” Other fun and divergent ideas for how to spice up your Middlebury social life, taking back the reins from dwellers of Atwater suites past and present, are perhaps a formal dinner party, a themed bonfire or even an acted-out murder trial.
Consider this article the nudge you needed (whether or not you wanted it) to plan a wedding. We’re all going to marry each other anyway.
Maggie Bryan '25 (she/her) is the Senior Arts and Culture Editor.
Maggie has previously served as Arts and Culture Editor and Staff Writer. She hails from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and is double majoring in French and Environmental Policy. This spring, she will be studying abroad in Paris. During her free time, she can be found running on the TAM or teaching spin classes in the FIC.