Associate dean Jayne Kacer officiates at the wedding of former law student Rebecca Kipper. ()
When Rebecca Kipper was deployed to Kuwait for a year with the California National Guard—in the middle of law school—few people kept in touch as actively as Jayne Kacer, associate dean for student affairs at the Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law.
“She makes it a practice to get to know every student individually,” said Kipper, who graduated in May and now clerks for a judge in West Virginia. “She always took a vested interest in me, and really epitomized the good things about Chapman.”
So when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down California’s Proposition 8—allowing Kipper to marry her girlfriend of eight years—she immediately though Kacer would make the perfect officiant.
The request to perform the wedding ceremony less than a week after the Supreme Court’s ruling didn’t come as a total surprise for Kacer, who has become something of a go-to wedding officiant for the Orange, Calif. campus. She has performed four wedding ceremonies for students and alumni in recent years, and expects to handle plenty more in the future as word spreads that she has experience at the altar.
It’s not uncommon for judges to perform wedding ceremonies for former clerks or notable people—Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September became the first Supreme Court Justice to perform a same-sex wedding when she married Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts president Michael Kaiser and his now-husband John Roberts.
But anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s rare for law school administrators to preside over a wedding, much less multiple ones. Kacer said she doesn’t know of any other deans or professors who have married as many students and alumni as she has, which she sees as a byproduct of her official role as a support system for students as they navigate the sometimes rough waters of law school.
As associate dean for student affairs, she offers students academic advice, support in deciding on a career path, assistance with personal problems and a shoulder to lean on. She develops close relationships with many students as a result.
“It’s wonderful because I get to help them at a time when things are very difficult for them,” Kacer said. “But they also come in and share with me the wonderful things that have happened in their lives. They tell me they just got engaged, they’re pregnant or they just got their first job offer. That’s one of the amazing benefits of my position.”
Students tend to feel more comfortable letting her into their lives than, say, a typical professor. Still, Kacer was surprised in 2010 when a former student asked her to perform his wedding ceremony—the first time such a request had been made of her.
“When I put together the first wedding ceremony, I must admit I was extremely nervous,” she said. “The pressure on me to make sure their ceremony was something they would enjoy and remember, and was what they had envisioned, was tremendous.”
Officiating has gotten easier since then, although Kacer acknowledged that she still gets nervous. She completed an online ministry, allowing her to perform weddings legally in California without any added paperwork. She also has become skilled at helping couples plan their wedding ceremonies, meeting with them beforehand to discuss their many options—be it religious, interdenominational, a candle-lighting ceremony or anything in between.
“I come up with something that is very personal and unique to them,” Kacer said. “The nice thing is that I know them, and in several instances I also know their now-spouses. I know their stories. I’ve been able to weave some of that into the ceremonies.”
Kacer was especially busy following the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage rulings. She performed a marriage ceremony for another Chapman alumni couple just days before Klipper’s nuptials. Those ceremonies were especially poignant for her, given how long overdue they were, she said.
“It was amazing,” Klipper said of her wedding. “I can’t stress enough how special Dean Kacer is to me.”
Contact Karen Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.