Weddings at Catz: Alumni pick Catz for their celebrations

Tuesday 30 May 2023


St Catharine’s is delighted to be able to host wedding breakfasts and receptions in our beautiful function rooms. In addition, although the College is not licensed for civil weddings, we are able to offer Anglican services in our 18th-century Chapel for alumni of the College, subject to availability and Governing Body approval.

For two alumni who met during their studies here, St Catharine’s was an obvious choice for their venue. Dr Dean Holt (2011, Chemistry) and Emma Copley (2013, Natural Sciences) both graduated in 2016 but felt it was important to return for both a Chapel service, which was conducted by the Rev’d Ally Barrett (2019), and the meal and reception with their guests, which were held across the College’s newly refurbished event spaces.

Choosing St Catharine’s

St Catharine’s is not only responsible for Dean and Emma meeting in the first place, but also features in many of the important milestones during the early years of their relationship. 

Emma said, “We first met during a rowing social but it took until the Catz ski trip the next January for us to get to know each other better. When we got back, our first date was a mini pub crawl around Cambridge, soon followed by a second date (a birthday breakfast for me at Bill’s) and our first kiss (at the top of Lola Lo’s after an MCR formal he invited me to)."

Three images of Emma Copley and Dean Holt during their studies at St Catharine's College
Emma and Dean during the ski trip, getting ready for the St Catharine’s May Ball and in fancy dress ahead of the King’s Affair

“Fast-forward to 2019 and I proposed to him with a crossword clue hunt around Cambridge, including familiar locations such as the College’s main site, the Catz boathouse, Lola Lo’s, St Chad’s, South Green Lodge and the Catz sports pitches, before ending in Grantchester. Once he’d filled in the locations in the crossword, certain highlighted letters lead him to look at our dog Nala and the ring was on her collar!”

Emma Copley and Dean Holt with their dog in front of St Catharine's College
Emma, Dean and Nala the dog at St Catharine's

Like many couples, the pandemic delayed Dean and Emma’s plans.

Dean added, “We both agreed straight away that we wanted to hold our celebrations at Catz, without reckoning that it would take us until 2023 to walk down the aisle. First we had to wait out the pandemic, then we and Catz had new priorities to contend with: Emma and I welcomed our daughter Aubrey in late 2020 and our son Beauden in late 2022, and between their births the College started and completed the Central Spaces major building project, which meant we had to wait to be able to use the dining hall and other facilities. It was well worth the wait though!”

“Although nostalgia and college pride were major reasons for picking Catz, it was also a very practical choice. We wanted everything in one place and it was important to have a contained safe space because of all the kids coming. It was perfect being able to sleep in College overnight, have the service in the Chapel, and our dinner and evening reception within a few metres of each other! It made everything super easy for us, and the transitions between each part of the day was so smooth!”

Special touches on the day

Emma and Dean’s affection for St Catharine’s shines through in their photos, but it also meant they were familiar with how to maximise the spaces available from attending student events and May Balls in the past.

Dean explained, “We used the College colours of claret and rose for our colour scheme and started the day with our service in the Chapel with beautiful singing and music, kindly organised by Dr Edward Wickham (2003). The food was amazing and the new Hall was incredible, with much-improved acoustics ensuring that it was easy to hear each other across the table and during the speeches. We also did our thank-you speech at the dinner like fines that you’d do at undergrad socials, so we made different groups of people stand up and drink whilst we thanked them for a memory or their support. Our social activities were spread out across the Bar (where we paid for everyone to have a Fire Engine, the Catz cocktail when we were students) and the McGrath Centre, which was the perfect space for dancing as we had a ceilidh and an ABBA tribute band.”

“Many spaces were new to us due to the recent building works – who knew the Garden Room would be a perfect quiet space in the evening for the babies to sleep! Catz also brought back lots of great memories though: from walking around Main Court together in the sun and chatting to familiar faces in the Porter’s Lodge, to toasting our marriage in the Bar, which hasn’t changed at all.”

Composite image of Emma Copley and Dean Holt in St Catharine's College Chapel, and with their wedding party in Main Court of St Catharine's College
Emma, Dean and Aubrey in Chapel, and with their groomsmen and bridesmaids in Main Court (credit: Seb Sax/short4shorts)

Support from our experienced events and catering team

All events at St Catharine’s are planned in partnership with our experienced team. Emma wanted to single out a few of the team for their support:

“Zoe did a great job outlining the overall layout of the day and Alicja was brilliant at communicating all the minor details running up to the day, ordering flowers in the right colours for the tables and figuring out parking and equipment issues for our entertainment. We spoke to Ally several times over in the lead up and she sorted the service book out for us and printed them. We had a rehearsal with her the day before and she helped out our photographer on the morning with advice on the Chapel photos. Maurizio also met us the day before to check what we wanted for the table decorations.”

“The kitchen produced absolutely delicious food ­– by far the best food of any reception we’ve ever been to and we’ve been to loads! The canapés were perfect size and quantity, with enough variety to please everyone. The three-course meal and wine were great, and the options for coeliacs and vegans were incredible. Ana and Maurizio and the rest of the front-of-house staff were so flexible and even set the tables up for us, which saved us a lot of time and stress that morning. Although we were running late throughout the day, Alicja communicated with the catering staff so that they knew to put things on hold until we were ready. The cold buffet at the end of the day was also delicious and huge – and definitely helped sober people up!”

Table decorations from Emma Copley and Dean Holt's reception at St Catharine's College
Table decorations and menu (credit: Seb Sax/short4shorts)

Alumni events discount

Alumni are entitled to a ten per cent reduction on bookings for the College’s function rooms for private events (including weddings, dinners and conferences) as well as our out-of-term B&B accommodation. For further details, please contact +44 1223 336433 or