We’re delighted that you’re considering holding your ceremony at Duke Chapel.
Please read the sections below, in full. We look forward to celebrating with you!
Information and Policies
If you’re interested in scheduling a wedding at Duke Chapel, please begin your correspondence by using the wedding inquiry form.
The Chapel welcomes same-sex weddings and weddings of any faith or no faith. Duke students, faculty, and staff from all backgrounds are invited to request a wedding for themselves or for their children in Duke Chapel.
Please be sure to thoroughly read the wedding policies before making a reservation. Once the reservation form and contract is completed and returned to the Chapel along with payment of the deposit due, it becomes a binding contract of acceptance to the terms and conditions noted in the Chapel policies documents.
General inquiries, including questions about scheduling and eligibility, may be directed to the wedding coordinator.
Please direct questions regarding musical selections to the Chapel organist. The organist is available for approval of additional musicians, including vocal soloists, as well as to make sure that requested music selections will meet Chapel guidelines.
If you’re interested in live-streaming your ceremony online to long-distance loved ones and friends, please contact Chapel media no less than six weeks before your wedding date. Please be mindful that, unlike the organist and the wedding director, this is an optional service that is not included in the overall price of a Chapel wedding.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is eligible to be married at the Chapel?
In order to schedule a wedding, blessing ceremony, or reaffirmation of wedding vows, one member of the couple, or one of their parents or grandparents should be a current full-time Duke student, a graduate of Duke University, or a current full-time Duke employee.
Effective June 1, 2013, the Chapel extended wedding eligibility to current members of the Board of Trustees and to faculty and staff who retired from Duke after fifteen or more years of continuous service to the university, and to their children and grandchildren.
We would be eternally grateful if you could make an exception, just this once...?
Although Duke Chapel is a special place for many people outside the university community, the Chapel regrets that it cannot make exceptions to its eligibility policies.
Can I get married on a Friday?
Unfortunately, no. The Chapel hosts a variety of worship, concert, and University events during the week, and for this reason weddings can be scheduled on Saturdays only. Occasionally, a single Sunday wedding may be offered, but the Chapel's ability to do so varies according the academic and liturgical calendars.
For more information on scheduling, please see page 4 of the policies manual.
Do I need to sign up in person?
No, you are not required to camp out or sign up in person for a Chapel wedding. However, monthly sign-ups are conducted on a first-come-first-served basis, starting on the first business day of each month. On that day, priority is given to couples who sign up in person. After in-person sign-ups have been completed, the wedding coordinator will begin accepting reservations by email that is time-stamped beginning at 8:30 a.m. that day.
Do I need to camp out for my wedding date?
No, you are not required to camp out for a Chapel wedding. Monthly sign-ups are conducted on a first-come, first-serve basis, and priority is given to couples who sign up in person. For that reason, although tenting is not a requirement for signing up (nor is it endorsed or encouraged by the Chapel), occasionally couples to arrive to camp for Chapel weddings. As every student knows, there is a robust camp-out culture at Duke—and it seems to have infiltrated the Chapel's wedding ministry as well.
That said, whether a couple arrives early to "tent" is largely dependent on how flexible or inflexible they are regarding the date and time of their wedding. A couple who must be married on 10/12/2020 at 6:00 p.m. because they've already booked their reception site, for example, should arrive earlier than a couple who is more flexible and open to a wider variety of dates and times. Historically, 6:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. weddings tend to be reserved first, followed by 12:00 noon weddings.
If you're interested in camping out for a wedding date, it is essential that you contact the wedding coordinator at least one week prior to arriving at the Chapel. When doing so, you should also verify with the Coordinator that your preferred wedding date is available for sign-up, as some weekends may be reserved for concerts and recitals, worship, and university events rather than weddings.
Virtual camp-outs of any kind are not permitted.
When can I sign up?
Weddings can be booked only one year in advance of the wedding month, and sign-ups begin at the Chapel at 8:30 a.m. on the first business day on or after the first of the month. For example, the reservation book for June 2019 weddings opened on Friday, June 1, 2018. Sign-ups for December 2019 weddings began on Monday, December 3, 2018 because the first two days of the month fell on a weekend.
As noted above, if you are interested in reserving a wedding date in person on the first day of sign-ups, it is essential that you contact the wedding coordinator at least a week beforehand. If you're unsure when sign-ups begin for your wedding month, please contact the wedding coordinator for that also.
Of course, you are also welcome to sign up after the first day of sign-ups on a particular month. Simply email the wedding coordinator for a list of dates and times that are still available.
I live out of town and can’t sign up in person, but I want to have the best chance possible of securing my ideal date. What are my options?
It’s certainly possible to submit reservations “long distance” by email on the morning of sign-ups. However, because dates are reserved on a first-come-first-served basis and priority is given to folks who sign up in person, many couples elect to send a proxy (a family member, friend, wedding planner, or colleague) to sign up in their stead. The bride and groom do not need to be present on the day of sign-ups; however, they are asked to please mail their contract and deposit within ten days of the date the reservation is submitted.
I just got engaged, and my fiancé and I would like to get married in July 2020. But it’s already September 2019! Is it too late to sign up?
Not necessarily. Please don’t hesitate to ask! Although many couples sign up twelve months in advance, ceremonies may be scheduled as late as six weeks before the wedding day. Simply call or email the wedding coordinator, and they will be happy to tell you which dates and times are still available for a particular month (such as July) or season (such as summer or fall).
Please, rest assured that many couples make reservations weeks or months after the official sign-up days at the beginning of each month. If you’re flexible with the date and time of your wedding, chances are that you will be able to be scheduled in.
Can my family minister officiate at my wedding?
Yes, please! Couples are encouraged to invite the ministers of their “home” congregations to perform their wedding ceremonies in the Chapel. However, if your minister is not available to perform your wedding ceremony, a list of officiants who may be able to preside over your ceremony is available on page 13 of the policies manual.
Please note that, in order to perform a wedding in Duke University Chapel, your officiant should be recognized by the laws of the State of North Carolina.
What about engagement and wedding portraits? Can I have these taken at the Chapel, too?
Yes, you can! We do, however, require a Duke affiliation: only Chapel couples, current full-time Duke students, current full-time Duke employees, and Duke graduates can request to have wedding or engagement portraits taken on the Chapel grounds. Happily, even if you’re not having your wedding at the Chapel, if you meet one of those requirements you are more than welcome to have your engagement or wedding portraits taken here.
In addition to an affiliation with Duke, we also require an appointment on the Chapel calendar, primarily to make sure that the shoot doesn’t interfere with events happening elsewhere in the Chapel or on the Chapel grounds. Before arriving, please email the wedding coordinator to discuss the schedule and reserve a time. This is important!
Note, too, that we don’t permit photos inside the Chapel except on Chapel couples’ wedding days, so your wedding or engagement shoot would need to be outside in the arcades only. We also don’t offer dressing facilities, so you’ll need to arrive fully dressed and prepped.
Planning Your Wedding Music
If you’re interested in exploring musical options for your wedding, please visit the Chapel’s Wedding Music Playlist.
The grand, timeless architecture of Duke Chapel rewards music that is equally grand and timeless, both in composition and execution. To this end, the Chapel organist stands ready to help you craft a ceremony befitting the soaring nobility of the Chapel space. Couples are asked to carefully read and consider the following material before consulting with the organist or contracting any musicians.
What kind of music sounds best in the Chapel?
The organs in the Chapel are some of the finest in the country, and the building itself was designed to enhance the sounds of the organ. Thus classical music that is led from the organ, such as that composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, is most effective in the acoustics of the Chapel.
The Chapel organist maintains a playlist of suggested wedding music, which couples are encouraged to listen through before their music consultations. The Chapel also welcomes the inclusion of congregational hymns in your ceremony. If desired, the Chapel organist is happy to recommend selections that are specifically appropriate for marriage.
How many musical selections should I choose?
At your music consultation, you’ll select a minimum of four pieces: music for the seating of the parents, music for processions (two pieces), and music for the closing procession at the end of the ceremony.
For the seating of parents and the entrance of the wedding party, the Chapel suggests considering Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring; Canon in D; Sheep May Safely Graze; and Air in F Major. Note that most couples select one song for the mothers and a separate, second song for the wedding party.
For the bridal processional, if applicable, there are many excellent options: Trumpet Tune in D Major; Prince of Denmark's March; Canon in D; Prelude to "Te Deum, laudamus"; and Rigaudon from "Idomenee."
For the closing procession, Rigaudon in D Major; Hornpipe in D Major; Trumpet Tune in D Major; and The Rejoicing from Handel's Fireworks Suite are all excellent choices.
I don’t see the Bridal Chorus by Richard Wagner on your list of suggested processionals. Why?
Most folks don’t know it, but the bridal chorus from Wagner’s opera Lohengrin was written as music for a secular pagan ritual. Because all music in the Chapel must be sacred and affirm the commitments you make in your ceremony, the chorus is not permitted to be played at Chapel weddings.
Are there particular genres of music that are “off limits” for weddings?
Indeed, there are. Because only sacred music is permitted in Duke Chapel, the Chapel organist is unable to approve secular or popular music selections and contemporary Christian rock. The wedding staff understands that these songs may have special meaning for some brides and grooms, and couples are encouraged to feature them at special moments during their wedding receptions instead.
Can we use a piano, guitar, or other amplified instrument?
Unfortunately, no. The Chapel has three of the finest organs in the country; they are the primary instruments used to lead services. Trumpets and string quartet may be hired with the approval of the Chapel Organist. The music office will hire these musicians for you.
Can my friend/relative sing a solo during part of the ceremony?
Generally not. All guest musicians must receive prior approval from the Chapel organist and, if approval is granted, are expected to sing without amplification. Due to the complex acoustics and minimal rehearsal time in Duke Chapel, the Chapel organist is unable to approve guests who are not seasoned musicians.
Will the music be amplified?
There is no amplification of music in the Chapel.
Can there be “filler” music during the lighting of the Unity Candle or during the Sand Ceremony? No. Because it doesn’t take long to light a candle or fill a container of sand, there isn’t time in this part of the wedding to play a full piece of music. Instead, the wedding staff has found that solemn quiet is better suited for drawing attention to the significance of this part of your ceremony.
What will the music sound like in the Chapel?
As a full-time member of the Chapel staff, the Chapel organist is intimately familiar with the Chapel’s unique instruments and acoustics. He is pleased to provide you with the highest standard of musical excellence for your special day, and the music you select will sound beautiful and glorious for your ceremony.