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Getting Married in a Library

Jen Sherman

Staff Writer

Jen is an urban and cultural geographer who did a PhD on public libraries and reading. As a researcher, her interests are focused on libraries, reading, book retailing and the book industry more broadly. As a reader, she reads a lot of crime fiction, non-fiction, and chicklit. And board books. All the board books. You can also find her writing about books for children and babies at Instagram: shittyhousewife / babylibrarians Twitter: @jennnigan

This is a guest post from Jen Sherman. Jen recently submitted her PhD on public libraries and is finally finding time to read again for fun. She also recently moved from Sydney, Australia to sunny California and is realising the importance of the Baby-Sitters Club, Anastasia Krupnik and Ramona Quimby to her understanding of American culture. As a researcher, her interests are in libraries, book retailing, and the book industry (among others). As a reader, she’s a sucker for happily ever afters. Follow her on Twitter @jennnigan.


Photo by Cherry Thomas of bycherry photography

On the day of my wedding, I didn’t feel calm and at peace until about two o’clock in the afternoon. The ceremony was at 5:45pm, on the terrace at San Diego Public Library, timed so we would say our vows in front of the setting sun. I woke up that morning in the spare room of my in-laws’ house, and the entire morning was a weird mixture of disbelief and tiredness.

I had arrived in the US from Australia ten days earlier, and the ten days between me landing at LAX and the morning of the wedding were a whirlwind of last minute wedding preparation, paperwork, meeting family and friends who had travelled from Australia for the wedding, and unpacking my entire life in an apartment in which two people had already created a comfortable bachelor pad.

I was also in the middle of finishing my PhD, which I had hoped to submit before leaving Australia but in the end had to bring with me to my new life in the States. My PhD is on public libraries, and it came as no surprise to anyone who knew me that my wedding would be in a library.

Over the past four years, libraries have become an object of scrutiny, a source of endless frustration at times, but they still remained an escape and comfort, a home.

So on the day of my wedding, as I was still partly in shock at having moved to the other side of the world, still half thinking of my unfinished thesis, and tired from a combination of jetlag and lack of sleep, I woke up feeling a bit unsettled.

The first moment of calm and relaxation came as I entered the library. Because even though I didn’t know this library as well as I knew my local library back at home, it was still a library, an institution and a template that I knew better than any other. It settled and grounded me; it comforted me. I said, as I entered, “Okay, now I feel better. I’m excited about getting married now.”


Photo by Cherry Thomas of bycherry photography

Getting married in a library was an amazing experience. In the past four years, I had done interviews with librarians and library users, taken hundred of photos of library spaces, pored over library policies and reports, and visited over eighty libraries in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the US. Getting married in the library made it an even more personal story, and intertwined a lifelong love, my biggest research project, and one of the most significant dates of my life.


Photo by Cherry Thomas of bycherry photography

We had our first look in the rare books library. We had photos taken in the stacks, in the reading room, at the entrance. The ceremony was on one of the library’s terraces, and we said our vows underneath a beautiful book arch. The reception was in one of the library’s event rooms. We used an old card catalogue for people to retrieve their table cards, the tables were numbered as Dewey Decimal numbers for our favourite books, the table runners were made from pages of Harry Potter, the centrepieces were stacks of old books and tea cups. My speech even began with five fun facts about San Diego Public Library, because even on my wedding day I couldn’t help being a researcher and library geek.