The bells in Williamstown were ringing Saturday, but they weren’t chiming the time or announcing the arrival of Mountain Day. Instead wedding bells were heralding the marriage of Ashley Ulmer ’05 and James Cart ’05. The two alums are another example of the almost freakishly high number of Williams marriages, and correspondingly, the couple chose to incorporate as much of their Williams roots into the wedding as possible.
“One of my frosh [while I was a JA] wrote the song that I will be walking down the aisle to, and another is singing it. One is a photographer, and we have [an alum] playing the cello in our string duet,” Ulmer said rapidly as she went through the seemingly endless list of Ephs participating in the wedding. “The Springstreeters are singing at cocktail hour and we have lots of Williams students playing in our wedding band. We even got Rick Spalding who’s the chaplain to be our officiant. So basically we decided to make [the wedding] completely Williamstastic.”
Contacting the myriad alumni, current students and faculty involved in the wedding took hours of planning, but Ulmer and Cart couldn’t have imagined it any other way. When the couple first got engaged, they instantly knew they had to have a Williams wedding.
“I knew I wanted to get married here because we have so much family history [at Williams]. His parents met here on Spring St. and his aunt and uncle met here as well. Both of his grandparents went to Williams, my dad went here and so did my paternal grandparents,” Ulmer continued to catalog connections, looking over at Cart as he nodded along. “This place is just great, so we wanted to infuse Williams and the Berkshires into our wedding in the mountains.”
Cart grew up around several Williams marriages and love stories, so he always thought that he would find his spouse at college. “When I came here for school, a part of me knew that I would probably marry someone I met here. I guess I was kind of maybe hoping that it would turn out that way, especially since I didn’t want to be panicked when I had to date in the real world,” he said jokingly.
Ulmer, on the other hand, was not so sure. “My parents met when they were 15, so when I turned 16, I thought my ship had already sailed. I remember sitting in Chapin my freshman year hearing the statistic of Williams marriages and being like, Ã¢â‚¬ËœReally?’” she said as she smiled at Cart. “My first two years dating here were a hot mess, so I was dead-set on being single my junior year. Of course, it’s at that moment when you actually meet someone that you want to be with.”
Though Ulmer and Cart each had dating philosophies before they started going out, the initiation of their relationship definitely came as a surprise for both. After all, a birthday party in the Greylock Quad is hardly the most romantic place for a first encounter with a future spouse.
“We actually met at a party in Greylock [Quad] at the start of my junior year. I was a JA, and it was the one night that I really wanted to go out with my friends and not with my frosh. My friend’s boyfriend was hosting a party for this boy – James Cart – so I went up to say hi to the birthday boy and was introduced to him,” Ulmer grinned as she glanced over at Cart. “It was September 6, 2003 on the day after his twentieth birthday, and now we are getting married September 6, 2008 – five years after we met.”
Five years after that momentous meeting, Ulmer and Cart couldn’t imagine a more perfect location for their wedding than the scenic Purple Valley. “We wanted to share the place that we fell in love with everyone that we love,” Ulmer said. “We wanted to make a vocal commitment in front of our friends and family and just to have them all together in one space. It’s just amazing to be able to share that moment with so many of our loved ones and make it personal and meaningful to everyone.”
It’s evident that Ulmer and Cart have a true connection to Williamstown. Numerous local residents, alumni and students dropped by to congratulate an energetic Ulmer. The cello player at the ceremony stopped his afternoon jog to converse about the arrangement of a piece for a string duet and others honked and hooted as they drove by the couple in their cars. Ulmer giggled and waved with each familiar face, as Cart sat back calmly to watch his animated bride.
“This is what happened when we were planning our wedding,” Cart said. “She’d talk to 15 different people asking them to help out with the wedding – it was like she was planning tennis with 30 different people simultaneously. She’d put the ball in their court and people would get back to her and she’d get really overwhelmed.”
“Yeah, I’m always the one who gets freaked out and he’s always so calm and relaxed,” Ulmer agreed. “[Cart] has been my sanity throughout this process.”
Even though planning the wedding was hectic and taxing for the couple, they were glad that so many of their Williams friends, professors and acquaintances were part of the day. All in all, over a fifth of their 230 guest list consisted of Williams alumni, faculty and students ranging from the class of 1945 (Cart’s grandfather) to the current class of 2012 (Ulmer’s family friend).
On top of the extensive Eph guest list, the couple also planned their wedding amongst the beauty of the Berkshires. The outdoor wedding took place atop Bee Hill facing Mount Greylock with the expanse of Williamstown in view as well. “We even planned lots of Williams and Berkshire related events for our guests before the wedding. For example we [went] canoeing, on a hot balloon ride and even apple-picking,” Ulmer said.
The wedding didn’t just incorporate the countless Ephs who have made an impact in Ulmer and Cart’s lives, it was also a tribute to the place where the couple fell in love and had some of their greatest experiences. In a way, their marriage was a celebration of the town and college that holds a special place in Ulmer and Cart’s hearts. “As soon as you graduate, you realize how great Williams was,” Ulmer said. “Nothing is as good as it was there. This place just calls people back. I really think we are going to retire here because there is just so much history and great memories.”
No matter how much some students try to deny the inevitable, they all have to face the daunting prospect of graduation and eventually leaving the Purple Bubble. But take it from Ulmer and Cart, somehow Williamstown always draws graduates back, sometimes with much greater fanfare than even a party in Greylock.