Always the Wedding Singer, Finally the Bride

When Margaret Allison Doherty and Joshua Michael Zager were married on Oct. 9 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., there was a reason Ms. Doherty’s mother, Molly Dwyer, compared the wedding to “a music festival.”

Ms. Doherty, 32, has been singing at weddings since she was 10, performing with multiple bands in Saratoga Springs, where she grew up and lives now, and New York City, where she lived for nine years after college.

When she met Mr. Zager at Hofstra University in 2009, Ms. Doherty, who goes by Maggie, was singing in an a cappella group.

But it was through rugby that the two met, when Ms. Doherty was a freshman. Mr. Zager, who goes by Josh, was a sophomore. “Josh was well-established, he was captain of the men’s team, so everyone knew him,” she said. “We would be at parties together, and I guess we started to notice each other.”

“We’re both tall gingers,” Ms. Doherty added.

They didn’t get together, however, until the following year, when the captain of the women’s rugby team urged Ms. Doherty to text him, saying, “He thinks you’re really cute, and he’s a really great guy.”

Ms. Doherty followed the advice and was invited to Mr. Zager’s birthday party on Sept. 4, where sparks flew.

“I took her on our first real date to the good old student center,” Mr. Zager said, laughing. They ate from the stir-fry station, a favorite among the student body. “We learned what our preferred order was and that was a major sign of intimacy, so that we could order it for each other moving forward,” Ms. Doherty said. A month later, they were boyfriend and girlfriend.

Mr. Zager soon learned about the breadth of her talent as a singer. “The first time I heard her sing there was this little singing competition at Hofstra called ‘Hofstra Idol,’” he said. “She made it to the final.”

“Some people can say they sing, but there is a big difference between saying you can sing and being incredibly good at singing,” he said. “It was something I came to love.”

When she was 6, Ms. Doherty started performing the national anthem at Little League Baseball games. By the time she was 13, she was singing alongside musicians at the Saratoga racetrack and at music festivals. When Garland Nelson, the lead singer of Soul Session, first saw Ms. Doherty perform when she was 10, he thought, “this short fiery redhead sounds like Christina Aguilera.”

At 21, she performed at Citi Field.

Ms. Doherty graduated from Hofstra with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, while Mr. Zager has undergraduate degrees in international business and economics.

After graduation, the couple moved to New York City. Ms. Doherty continued to pursue music as a member of the Chromantics, a wedding band formed of Hofstra classmates including Erin Willett Smith, a finalist on season two of NBC’s‌ ‌ “The Voice.”

But understanding how hard the professional life of a musician could be, she decided to keep music as a side hustle and pursue a career first in journalism and then as what she calls “a booze publicist,” focusing on wine and spirits, for Savona Communications, which is based in Norwalk, Conn.

Mr. Zager works as director of e-commerce and digital transformation for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, which is based in Miramar, Fla. Both Ms. Doherty and Mr. Zager work remotely from Saratoga Springs.

In 2017, the couple lived in their first apartment together in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. In 2021, they bought a house built in the late 1800s in Saratoga Springs and are currently gut renovating it to be their “forever home.”

Mr. Zager proposed May 8, 2021 on a bench in Central Park before they moved. “We came to New York as two separate people and found each other and grew up here,” he said. “It was important to me that when we left the city, we left together embarking on the next stage.”

Singing is a family tradition for Ms. Doherty’s family. Her mother, Ms. Dwyer, was in a wedding band with her sister Sharon Dwyer Bolton and brother-in-law, Rick Bolton, for decades when Ms. Doherty was growing up. Mr. Bolton used to host weekly open mic nights at Bailey’s Saratoga, a local bar. As far as music goes, Mr. Nelson said, “they are Saratoga royalty.”

So when it came time to plan her own wedding, Ms. Doherty couldn’t choose from all the musicians she’s performed with over the years. Finally, she settled on a solution: to hire “every band I’ve ever been a part of to play between the rehearsal dinner, ceremony, cocktail hour, reception and after-party.”

“You could have at any time handed a microphone to just about anybody in that room, and they could have sung or played or done something musical,” Mr. Bolton said. “They needed 12 wireless mics because there were so many people participating.”

The performances at her wedding were, not surprisingly, top notch.

At the rehearsal dinner on Saturday at Henry Street Taproom, a rustic bar with craft beer and wood-fired pizzas, Sheri Nolan, a family friend, belted out sultry, jazzy songs. “She is part of this amazing group of female lead singers in Saratoga who are my mentors,” Ms. Doherty said. “They are part of the same peer group as my mom” and aunts. (Also at the rehearsal dinner, the bride’s father, Timothy Doherty, gave a speech where he had the entire group sing a catchy song Ms. Doherty made up as a 4-year-old about sardines.)

The ceremony and reception took place at Anne’s Washington Inn, a Victorian-style bed-and-breakfast on four acres.

Zac Rossi, a high school friend of the bride, with whom she formed her first band when she was 13, played electric guitar during the wedding processional while another family friend, Becky Michaud, sang. “I just knew they were both masters of their crafts and wouldn’t have any problems learning three songs remotely and coming together and running through them and being perfect,” Ms. Doherty said. “That is exactly what happened,”

Mr. Bolton, the bride’s uncle, played soft, folksy songs with his band Big Medicine at the cocktail reception. It was a wedding unlike any he had done, since he watched the bride grow up. “She requested tunes that meant something to her, and those were tunes we had played together a million times,” he said. “She was smiling and giving thumbs up the whole time.”

It also gave him the opportunity to return a favor Ms. Doherty did for him 22 years ago when she was 10. “She actually performed at my wedding,” he said. “She sang, ‘In the Arms of an Angel,’ and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

Dancing during the party was led by Soul Session, with whom Ms. Doherty still performs. “You all know for me this is personal. We are going to blow this up,” Mr. Nelson announced. “We are no longer at the Washington Inn. We are at Madison Square Garden.”

The after party was led by the Chromantics, Ms. Doherty’s other band where she sings alongside Ms. Willett Smith.

The groom’s family — including his parents, Ann and Noah Zager, who live in Newton, Mass. — were delighted. “We aren’t musical, so it was really exciting to be part of it,” Ms. Zager said. “Our friends were surprised that Maggie was so talented.”

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“At this wedding no one left the dance floor,” Ms. Zager said. “It was wonderful. I never sat down, and I was dancing the entire time.”

She was also thrilled to see how happy her son was. “Joshua is sort of a quiet fellow,” she said. “But he never stopped smiling the entire day. I could just see that he was so happy.”

One of the highlights was when Ms. Doherty sang “Faithfully,” a song by Journey. She included a line in the song — “I get the joy of rediscovering you”in her vows to her new husband. “I really don’t like to be the center of attention of big groups,” Mr. Zager said. “But on your wedding day, you don’t really worry about the people you are with. You focus on the person you are marrying.”

Now that she is back in Saratoga Springs, Ms. Doherty is looking forward to spending even more time singing, especially at weddings. “I was always sympathetic to what the bride wants, and now that I’ve had that experience, and I had this massive community deliver for me in every way, I just want to bring that energy to every wedding I have from now on.”

When Oct. 9, 2022

Where Anne’s Washington Inn, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The Officiant A college friend from Hofstra University, Colgan McNeil, ordained by the Universal Life Church, officiated the wedding ceremony. He was in the bride’s a cappella group. One of his best lines of the ceremony: “I’ve witnessed Josh do karaoke and if that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.”

Fall Foliage It was peak fall foliage in Saratoga Springs the weekend the couple married. The bride, groom and their dog, Patsy Cline, a Nova Scotia duck trolling retriever, are all redheaded, so guests joked they all matched their surroundings.

A Moment Without Music Before the bride and groom walked into the tent for the outdoor reception, they had a moment to be alone and take in the fact that they were husband and wife.