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Marryin' Mids head for Naval Academy Chapel

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Arin Nunes is ready for the tap. It’s part of Marine marriage tradition.

After the exchange of vows, as she passes under an archway of swords, the bride of a Marine gets a welcoming swat on the rear.

“Welcome to the Marines, Ma’am!”

But Nunes is the groom, not the bride. He will join the Marines when he graduates from the Naval Academy on Friday. His fiancee, Midshipman 1st Class Kristina Chepurko, joined the corps after graduating from Annapolis High School in 2006.

Chepurko expects her new husband to be properly welcomed into the Marines family.

“I will fully encourage my friends to whack the groom as well,” the Odenton resident said.

Nunes isn’t fighting it.

“I am the one joining the Marine Corps, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they did that to me,” he said.

Working with Naval Academy Chapel wedding coordinator Claire R. MacCallum, the couple booked a 5 p.m. ceremony on Saturday. It is the final wedding slot on the day after commissions are received.

The first wedding this weekend will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, with several weddings scheduled for Sunday. In two days, 13 new ensigns and 2nd lieutenants will be married in the chapel.

Often, one wedding party leaves just as the next set of guests begins arriving. The guests are seated at 10 minutes before the hour. The processionals begin promptly at the top of the hour.

The next wedding party is already downstairs, primping for their walk down the aisle. They enter the chapel basement through a side door.

Chepurko was NJROTC company commander Annapolis High School. Nunes is from Oahu, Hawaii.

Chepurko served in Japan for three years before earning an appointment to the academy. She attended Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I.

Nunes attended the prep school after graduating high school in 2009. The two became good friends there.

At the academy, both were general science majors.

The groom-to-be is of Hawaiian, Chinese, French, Portuguese and Irish descent. He said his Portuguese grandfather, Manuel Nunes, was one of first makers of the ukulele.

Like Chepurko, he was company commander of his high school NJROTC unit. He turned down an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in favor of attending the Naval Academy and joining the Marines.

“Kristina did a lot of the wedding planning,” said Bonnie Chepurko, Kristina’s mother.

“We found out in October they were going to get married right after graduation,” Bonnie said. “Arin didn’t officially propose until they went to Hawaii at Christmas time. He gave Kristina an engagement ring on the beach at Waikiki after a sunset dinner.”

As mids aren’t allowed to marry while at the academy, quick weddings after the commissioning ceremony have become a tradition. Before the mid-1940s, graduates were forbidden to marry until two years after graduation.

MacCallum, the wedding coordinator, said the Naval Academy Chapel hosts up to six weddings on Saturdays at this time of year, usually beginning at noon. About 120 to 140 weddings take place in the chapel annually.

Anyone standing outside the chapel on Saturday afternoons can see the wedding parties leaving at 20 past the hour.

Midshipmen wearing their dress uniforms quickly form the classic archway of swords that the bride and groom pass through on their way down the steps to a waiting limo — or to a photo op on the lawn across the street.

Nunes’ parents and siblings have never been to the Naval Academy or to Maryland, and most of the family is making the long trek for the wedding.

They rented a house in Annapolis for Commissioning Week and are gearing up to produce a lavish rehearsal dinner — Hawaiian style.

“We’re making Kalua pig, poi and lots of other tasty Hawaiian treats,” said Francine Nunes, the groom’s mother.
 

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