Love is in the air at Villanova

Cheryl McEvoy

You’ve glanced at that co-ed cutie in your classroom. You’ve even made eye contact. Now take a closer look, because that hottie might just be your future spouse.

Villanovans frequently hear stories about fellow classmates and alumni who find love on campus. According to rumor, students have a high probability of meeting their mates at campus activities, in the residence halls or perhaps even at a basketball game. The tales leave some students skeptical and others wondering who will be next to hear the chapel bells chime.

“When I first came, they said 70 percent of the student body marries a Villanovan,” sophomore Motunrayo Ogunkua said. “It would be nice, but I’m not thinking about marriage right now.”

While the statistic serves as an interesting piece of trivia, the occasional Villanovan uses it as motivation, setting graduation as a deadline to find love. Others aren’t rushing to the altar.

“I’ve heard someone say, ‘Only six more months left to find a husband!'” senior Liz Bell said, although she claimed that most of her friends are not in relationships and that seniors have given up on the rumor.

The St. Thomas of Villanova Church is often at the center of wedding speculation due to its popularity for Villanovan nuptials and its rumored waiting list, which has spawned the phrase “Pick your date, then find your mate.”

“I know couples who come out of here wanting to get married in the chapel,” sophomore Neave Denny said.

Her brother, senior Mike Denny, added, “My cousin’s getting married here.”

“The church is nice,” Ogunkua said. “I would want to get married in a church like that, but only time will tell.”

“I didn’t think of the rumor,” said alumna Kristina Ruiz-Mesa, whose courtship and marriage to fellow alum Gianmarc Johns is Villanova’s version of a fairy tale. Ruiz-Mesa, currently a graduate student and the assistant director for the Center for Multicultural Affairs, met Johns at Pastoral Musicians, where they admired each other but never engaged in real conversation.

They both sang in a cappella groups as well – Ruiz-Mesa with the Supernovas; Johns with the Spires. During a performance at the Belle Air Terrace, Johns sang “The Only Thing Missing is You,” a song he had written himself, and locked eyes with Ruiz-Mesa during the performance.

Following the song, Ruiz-Mesa ran up to Johns and declared, “Gianmarc Johns, I’m going to marry you.”

While many couples on campus struggle with the stress of balancing class, activities and a relationship, Ruiz-Mesa and Johns rarely felt such strain.

“We had a nice situation because he was a senior and I was a freshman,” she said. Johns worked off campus, which gave them time apart, and they never broke up during their courtship.

“It helped me to enjoy college more,” said Ruiz-Mesa, adding that the relationship took pressure off her social life because she wasn’t on the hunt for a boyfriend.

At the end of Ruiz-Mesa’s senior year, the couple took the next big step, and music once again served a pivotal role. At Villanova’s annual a cappella festival, Acappellapalooza, Ruiz-Mesa had just finished singing her senior song, Etta James’ “At Last,” when Johns jumped on stage and grabbed the microphone.

“It didn’t occur to me; I was totally oblivious,” Ruiz-Mesa said, remembering the moments leading up to Johns’ proposal.

On stage, Johns got down on one knee and said, “Kristina, I don’t want you to be my girlfriend anymore … I want you to be my wife.”

According to Ruiz-Mesa, the baffled bride-to-be responded with “Are you for real?” before grabbing the ring and declaring “Of course!”

In what Ruiz-Mesa described as coming “full circle,” the couple was married at St. Thomas of Villanova Church on Oct. 7 of last year. A friend served as cantor for the ceremony, accompanied by the Pastoral Musicians director on the organ.

“It was nice because the chapel was where we first saw each other,” Ruiz-Mesa said. After the wedding, the couple took photographs around campus and ate Oreos at the Oreo with their bridal party.

In regard to the chapel’s rumored waiting list, Ruiz-Mesa said, “There is a waiting list, but it is not a four-year wait.”

For those who aspire to wed within the white walls of St. Thomas of Villanova Church, extra effort may be required. The privilege is extended only to alumni who spent their undergraduate years at Villanova; students in graduate or law school programs at Villanova are not eligible, according to St. Thomas of Villanova Parish’s online instructions.

Registration forms and permission letters must be signed before a date can be set. Villanovans can request a date up to 18 months in advance, and the parish will contact the couple with an available date.

After confirming the date, the couple must complete other forms and participate in Pre-Cana preparation with other couples, according to instructions.

Despite the obstacles, Ruiz-Mesa said that the requirements are not more than those at other parishes.

“The entire experience of getting married at Villanova is great,” she said, smiling. “I would highly recommend it.”