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Renovated Memorial Church begins booking weddings again

STANFORD -- Here come the brides.

Nearly three years after Stanford's Memorial Church was closed down by the Loma Prieta earthquake, the 89-year-old building finally is back in the wedding business.

"There was a line of people standing outside of Memorial Church waiting to see me on my first day back on the job," said Betsy Koester, who was rehired as wedding coordinator early in August. "I think they were very grateful to be able to talk to a live person."

So far, Koester says, more than 100 couples have called and written to ask about reserving dates in the newly renovated church, which will reopen in late September or early October. The first weddings will take place in Novembe r; then resume in January 1993, allowing the church to be open to visitors during the holiday season.

During a normal year, about 200 weddings are held in the church, with as many as five back to back on Saturdays and one on Sunday afternoon.

In 1989, it was Koester who had the unenviable task of calming the frantic couples whose wedding plans were shaken by the Loma Prieta temblor. Many ended up having hometown weddings, while others took advantage of special arran gements made with local community churches.

Still others, including Stanford President Donald Kennedy's daughter Julie, opted for outdoor campus weddings.

For many Stanford community members, though, nothing matches the sentimental value of the church itself.

"I had one moving letter from a man, a Stanford graduate, who had postponed his wedding plans in order to be married in the church," Koester said. "Everyone is very excited about the renovation."

Only couples with some Stanford University or Stanford Medical Center connection can be married at Memorial Church - The bride, the groom or one of their parents must be a student, a Stanford graduate, or a member of the facult y or staff.

Fees for use of the church are $700 for currently enrolled students or $1,000 for all others. Funds left over after paying the organist, wedding coordinator and sexton are used to support the church's student programs.

Koester is taking only 1992 and 1993 wedding reservations now.

"I've had calls about 1994, but that's just too far ahead to think about now," she said.

Despite the rush, she adds, Stanford-affiliated couples have a good chance of reserving space in Memorial Church, "provided they have no specific agenda in terms of time and date."



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