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Goin’ to the Chapel

Brides and grooms are saying “I do” in quaint, intimate, and casual venues

Wedding chapels, because of their relaxed rules and casual atmosphere, have become an alternative to a traditional church ceremony for brides and grooms on their special day. The wedding chapel craze may have begun in Las Vegas, but chapels are popping up all over the country, including in the Great Lakes Bay Region. Chapels fill a niche for brides and grooms who are looking for a quaint, intimate setting in which to say their vows.

Local wedding chapel staff members say that although many brides and grooms who are heading to the chapel aren’t affiliated with a specific church or religion, they want a non-denominational religious wedding or a civil ceremony.

“I have found that couples are choosing chapels over churches because chapels are non-denominational, allowing interfaith marriages,” says Kristen Willert, associate director of the conference center at Saginaw Valley State University, where the Founders Hall chapel is located. “[Chapels allow] interfaith marriages with fewer restrictions.”

Another reason to choose a chapel as a wedding venue is the fact that many brides and grooms have a specific wedding destination in mind, such as Frankenmuth. If the couple isn’t a member of a local church but still wants a religious wedding ceremony, a chapel is an alternative option.

At many chapel ceremonies, the bride and groom bring their own minister, a judge, or a family member to perform the wedding ceremony. Many chapels can also provide couples with a list of non-denominational ministers, should they need it.

There are fewer restrictions on what can and cannot be done in a chapel as opposed to a church. Depending on the chapel, couples are welcome to choose a decorating scheme—traditional or not—making the venue truly unique to each bride and groom.

Plus, says Abbe Adair, events manager at Apple Mountain, home of the Apple Chapel, photo opportunities abound in a chapel.

“Photographers [can’t always] get up close and personal in a church,” she says. “The photographer can get up close [in the Apple Chapel]. There aren’t any rules.”

Many chapels are intimate spaces, some holding only 50 people, making them a venue of choice for those wanting a small wedding or even for a couple renewing their vows.

According to local wedding chapel staff, an average of about 50 weddings are held at each venue throughout the year. Depending on the season, there can be up to three weddings in a single day.

A picture-perfect setting

The Apple Chapel is nestled in front of the rolling hills of Freeland’s Apple Mountain, a venue that also has a golf course, ski hill, conference/events center, and multiple restaurants. Very little has changed at the chapel since it was built in the 1880s as the Dice Wesleyan Church.

The first wedding was held at the Apple Chapel in 1981, after the building was moved to its current location by former owners Joan and John Bintz in 1966.

Since that time, there have been more than 1,000 weddings at the chapel, a place that harkens back to a bygone era.

Although the chapel has been spruced up and renovated throughout the years, the building has retained its vintage charm.

“We’ve tried to keep it as original as possible,” says Adair. “Vintage is really in.”

When the remodeling of the chapel was completed, antique pews were purchased and the chapel was painted white.

As picturesque as it is inside, the area surrounding the chapel is just as beautiful. Two apple trees guard the front of the building while a white picket fence runs across the back. The rolling hills behind the chapel present plenty of photo opportunities for the bride and groom.

The Apple Chapel is indeed an intimate setting, with seating for no more than 50 guests.

The chapel is open from May through October (the building does not have heat or air conditioning), and about 50 weddings take place each year.

Despite the building having no heat, a few brave souls have booked weddings in November and early December.

“We have twinkle lights and candles at dusk,” says Adair. “It’s beautiful. We had one bride and groom pass out blankets (to guests during the ceremony), which was cool.”

At this venue, it’s completely up to the bride and groom to determine the décor, from lights to flowers. While the couple is responsible for securing a photographer and officiant for the ceremony, the Apple Chapel can provide names of non-denominational ministers.

The chapel can be rented for three hours for $395, and there are banquet facilities available for wedding receptions at Apple Mountain.

Apple Chapel, 4519 N River Rd, Freeland, 989-781-6789, www.applemountain.com

“The seating capacity makes it an intimate space that doesn’t overwhelm couples and allows for a connection with those in attendance.” ~ Kristen Willert, associate director of SVSU Conference Center

Star light, star bright

From the outside, Centennial Hall looks like any other office building in Mount Pleasant.

But once inside, guests find themselves at the foot of an open staircase lighted by a twinkling chandelier.

The staircase—which is a beautiful setting for photos—leads to the Starlight Wedding Chapel on the second floor.

Centennial Hall is truly a one-stop shop. Owner Jean Prout and her staff provide flowers, trellises, pedestals, and columns—and whatever else the bride and groom want for their special day. The rental fee for the chapel is $400, and a minister can be provided for an extra $125.

“[The venue] can be designed for each bride’s needs,” says Prout. “We seat up to 180 [guests]. Everything [the bride and groom] need is here and included in the fee.”

When Prout says everything, she means everything. From the time the wedding guests arrive until the last dance of the night, Centennial Hall has everything the wedding party and guests need. The hall is equipped with a complete catering staff and a menu that offers lots of choices, as well as a full bar. Decorations are available, too.

The cost of the hall varies depending on the number of guests and food selections.

“The chapel is connected with the hall,” says Prout. “That’s one of the strong features. You don’t have to go outside. Your reception can be right here.”

Since Prout purchased the building in 1989, there have more than 600 weddings.

“When we bought the building, we decided to do a banquet hall,” she says. “But I love doing weddings, so we added the chapel. We also have an outdoor chapel three blocks away on the [Chippewa] River.”

With 600 weddings under her belt, there is one ceremony that sticks out in Prout’s mind.

“A couple came from Ann Arbor,” she says. “It was an amazing wedding with a Victorian theme. It was done in ‘shabby chic’ with lots of birdcages [and] peacock feathers…it was just beautiful.”

Starlight Wedding Chapel, 306 W Michigan St, Mt. Pleasant, 989-772-3663, www.centennialhall.com

A place that feels like home

There is just a special feeling at the Frankenmuth Wedding Chapel, says co-owner Vita Hopp.

The chapel fills a niche for those who want to get married in Frankenmuth.

“Frankenmuth is a destination wedding site,” says Hopp, who owns the chapel with her husband, Eugene. “We get people from all over the state who want to be married in the area. They are not members of local churches. This is the perfect setting for a small wedding.”

Decorated all in white, the chapel holds 50 people.

“The fact that it doesn’t hold a lot of people [gives it] that homey feeling,” Hopp says. “We are housed in the building with Rummel Studios. From the outside, it doesn’t look like a chapel. But once you enter, you definitely have the feeling of being in a wedding chapel.”

From the time the couple books the site until their actual wedding, the Hopps strive to give the bride and groom their own unique special day.

The couple, who also owns the Frankenmuth Floral Shop, can provide plenty of options for decorating.

“It’s not just the cut-and-dry (floral) bouquet,” Hopp says. “We can do whatever you want. We have unity candles, ceremony programs, [or] souvenir wedding ornaments.”

Music is provided as well, or the couple is welcome to bring their own. In fact, says Hopp, one couple brought in a bagpiper, and one bride serenaded her new husband during their ceremony.

While many couples bring in an officiant to perform the ceremony, the Hopps have a list of non-denominational ministers who can perform the service as well.

Adding to the special day, the Hopps also provide the bride and groom the opportunity to arrive or leave the chapel in a horse-drawn carriage.

The chapel’s base package, Beautiful Beginnings, costs $399, and includes an hour in the bridal suite for the bride and her wedding party to get ready, and an hour in the chapel.

It’s not only those first vows that are said at Frankenmuth Wedding Chapel: Many couples head to the chapel to renew their vows on anniversaries or other special occasions.

Frankenmuth Wedding Chapel, 130 W Tuscola St, Frankenmuth, 989-652-7311, www.frankenmuthweddingchapel.com

A college tradition

Named as a tribute to those who founded Saginaw Valley State University, Founders Hall chapel features interior and exterior wooden architecture with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a natural scenic landscape, which provides a unique and beautiful setting for wedding ceremonies.

“The space is as close to being outdoors as you can get without having concerns about the wind, rain, bugs, etc.,” says Kristen Willert, associate director of the conference center at SVSU. “It is heated, lighted, air conditioned, and has a sound system. The seating capacity makes it an intimate space that doesn’t overwhelm couples and allows for a connection with those in attendance.”

There is one catch to getting married at Founders Hall, which has seating for 146 guests. It’s exclusive to SVSU students, staff, alumni, and their families.

“The vast majority [of brides and grooms] have special relationships that make Founders Hall personal to them,” says Willert. “Some couples met on campus and want SVSU to be part of their wedding day. Some spent time with their employee parents here as kids and have special memories.”

Of special note at Founders Hall is a replica of Marshall Fredericks’ sculpture of the Cleveland War Memorial, chosen in honor of former SVSU president Eric Gilbertson, a Cleveland native.

Founders Hall was the first building Gilbertson added to the SVSU campus during his presidency.

And, says Willert, the campus provides a lovely backdrop for wedding photos.

Willert notes that although Curtiss Hall, a building on SVSU’s campus, is available for receptions, it is not packaged together with Founders Hall due to availability and the number of people who may be in attendance. Rental fees at Founders Hall vary depending on the services requested and length of time needed.

As for wedding memories, Willert has a couple of her own.

Of the 50 to 60 weddings that have been performed at Founders Hall, there are two that stick out in her mind.

“The most memorable [wedding] would be either the father of the bride being able to walk her down the aisle after [him] being in the hospital for three months,” she says, “or the brother of the bride who surprised her at the wedding, getting a break from military services overseas. It is wonderful being a part of these memorable occasions.”

Founders Hall, 7400 Bay Rd, University Center, 989-964-6016, www.svsu.edu/events/


Brides and grooms are saying “I do” in quaint, intimate, and casual venues

Wedding chapels, because of their relaxed rules and casual atmosphere, have become an alternative to a traditional church ceremony for brides and grooms on their special day. The wedding chapel craze may have begun in Las Vegas, but chapels are popping up all over the country, including in the Great Lakes Bay Region. Chapels fill a niche for brides and grooms who are looking for a quaint, intimate setting in which to say their vows.

Local wedding chapel staff members say that although many brides and grooms who are heading to the chapel aren’t affiliated with a specific church or religion, they want a non-denominational religious wedding or a civil ceremony.

“I have found that couples are choosing chapels over churches because chapels are non-denominational, allowing interfaith marriages,” says Kristen Willert, associate director of the conference center at Saginaw Valley State University, where the Founders Hall chapel is located. “[Chapels allow] interfaith marriages with fewer restrictions.”

Another reason to choose a chapel as a wedding venue is the fact that many brides and grooms have a specific wedding destination in mind, such as Frankenmuth. If the couple isn’t a member of a local church but still wants a religious wedding ceremony, a chapel is an alternative option.

At many chapel ceremonies, the bride and groom bring their own minister, a judge, or a family member to perform the wedding ceremony. Many chapels can also provide couples with a list of non-denominational ministers, should they need it.

There are fewer restrictions on what can and cannot be done in a chapel as opposed to a church. Depending on the chapel, couples are welcome to choose a decorating scheme—traditional or not—making the venue truly unique to each bride and groom.

Plus, says Abbe Adair, events manager at Apple Mountain, home of the Apple Chapel, photo opportunities abound in a chapel.

“Photographers [can’t always] get up close and personal in a church,” she says. “The photographer can get up close [in the Apple Chapel]. There aren’t any rules.”

Many chapels are intimate spaces, some holding only 50 people, making them a venue of choice for those wanting a small wedding or even for a couple renewing their vows.

According to local wedding chapel staff, an average of about 50 weddings are held at each venue throughout the year. Depending on the season, there can be up to three weddings in a single day.

A picture-perfect setting

The Apple Chapel is nestled in front of the rolling hills of Freeland’s Apple Mountain, a venue that also has a golf course, ski hill, conference/events center, and multiple restaurants. Very little has changed at the chapel since it was built in the 1880s as the Dice Wesleyan Church.

The first wedding was held at the Apple Chapel in 1981, after the building was moved to its current location by former owners Joan and John Bintz in 1966.

Since that time, there have been more than 1,000 weddings at the chapel, a place that harkens back to a bygone era.

Although the chapel has been spruced up and renovated throughout the years, the building has retained its vintage charm.

“We’ve tried to keep it as original as possible,” says Adair. “Vintage is really in.”

When the remodeling of the chapel was completed, antique pews were purchased and the chapel was painted white.

As picturesque as it is inside, the area surrounding the chapel is just as beautiful. Two apple trees guard the front of the building while a white picket fence runs across the back. The rolling hills behind the chapel present plenty of photo opportunities for the bride and groom.

The Apple Chapel is indeed an intimate setting, with seating for no more than 50 guests.

The chapel is open from May through October (the building does not have heat or air conditioning), and about 50 weddings take place each year.

Despite the building having no heat, a few brave souls have booked weddings in November and early December.

“We have twinkle lights and candles at dusk,” says Adair. “It’s beautiful. We had one bride and groom pass out blankets (to guests during the ceremony), which was cool.”

At this venue, it’s completely up to the bride and groom to determine the décor, from lights to flowers. While the couple is responsible for securing a photographer and officiant for the ceremony, the Apple Chapel can provide names of non-denominational ministers.

The chapel can be rented for three hours for $395, and there are banquet facilities available for wedding receptions at Apple Mountain.

Apple Chapel, 4519 N River Rd, Freeland, 989-781-6789, www.applemountain.com

“The seating capacity makes it an intimate space that doesn’t overwhelm couples and allows for a connection with those in attendance.” ~ Kristen Willert, associate director of SVSU Conference Center

Star light, star bright

From the outside, Centennial Hall looks like any other office building in Mount Pleasant.

But once inside, guests find themselves at the foot of an open staircase lighted by a twinkling chandelier.

The staircase—which is a beautiful setting for photos—leads to the Starlight Wedding Chapel on the second floor.

Centennial Hall is truly a one-stop shop. Owner Jean Prout and her staff provide flowers, trellises, pedestals, and columns—and whatever else the bride and groom want for their special day. The rental fee for the chapel is $400, and a minister can be provided for an extra $125.

“[The venue] can be designed for each bride’s needs,” says Prout. “We seat up to 180 [guests]. Everything [the bride and groom] need is here and included in the fee.”

When Prout says everything, she means everything. From the time the wedding guests arrive until the last dance of the night, Centennial Hall has everything the wedding party and guests need. The hall is equipped with a complete catering staff and a menu that offers lots of choices, as well as a full bar. Decorations are available, too.

The cost of the hall varies depending on the number of guests and food selections.

“The chapel is connected with the hall,” says Prout. “That’s one of the strong features. You don’t have to go outside. Your reception can be right here.”

Since Prout purchased the building in 1989, there have more than 600 weddings.

“When we bought the building, we decided to do a banquet hall,” she says. “But I love doing weddings, so we added the chapel. We also have an outdoor chapel three blocks away on the [Chippewa] River.”

With 600 weddings under her belt, there is one ceremony that sticks out in Prout’s mind.

“A couple came from Ann Arbor,” she says. “It was an amazing wedding with a Victorian theme. It was done in ‘shabby chic’ with lots of birdcages [and] peacock feathers…it was just beautiful.”

Starlight Wedding Chapel, 306 W Michigan St, Mt. Pleasant, 989-772-3663, www.centennialhall.com

A place that feels like home

There is just a special feeling at the Frankenmuth Wedding Chapel, says co-owner Vita Hopp.

The chapel fills a niche for those who want to get married in Frankenmuth.

“Frankenmuth is a destination wedding site,” says Hopp, who owns the chapel with her husband, Eugene. “We get people from all over the state who want to be married in the area. They are not members of local churches. This is the perfect setting for a small wedding.”

Decorated all in white, the chapel holds 50 people.

“The fact that it doesn’t hold a lot of people [gives it] that homey feeling,” Hopp says. “We are housed in the building with Rummel Studios. From the outside, it doesn’t look like a chapel. But once you enter, you definitely have the feeling of being in a wedding chapel.”

From the time the couple books the site until their actual wedding, the Hopps strive to give the bride and groom their own unique special day.

The couple, who also owns the Frankenmuth Floral Shop, can provide plenty of options for decorating.

“It’s not just the cut-and-dry (floral) bouquet,” Hopp says. “We can do whatever you want. We have unity candles, ceremony programs, [or] souvenir wedding ornaments.”

Music is provided as well, or the couple is welcome to bring their own. In fact, says Hopp, one couple brought in a bagpiper, and one bride serenaded her new husband during their ceremony.

While many couples bring in an officiant to perform the ceremony, the Hopps have a list of non-denominational ministers who can perform the service as well.

Adding to the special day, the Hopps also provide the bride and groom the opportunity to arrive or leave the chapel in a horse-drawn carriage.

The chapel’s base package, Beautiful Beginnings, costs $399, and includes an hour in the bridal suite for the bride and her wedding party to get ready, and an hour in the chapel.

It’s not only those first vows that are said at Frankenmuth Wedding Chapel: Many couples head to the chapel to renew their vows on anniversaries or other special occasions.

Frankenmuth Wedding Chapel, 130 W Tuscola St, Frankenmuth, 989-652-7311, www.frankenmuthweddingchapel.com

A college tradition

Named as a tribute to those who founded Saginaw Valley State University, Founders Hall chapel features interior and exterior wooden architecture with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a natural scenic landscape, which provides a unique and beautiful setting for wedding ceremonies.

“The space is as close to being outdoors as you can get without having concerns about the wind, rain, bugs, etc.,” says Kristen Willert, associate director of the conference center at SVSU. “It is heated, lighted, air conditioned, and has a sound system. The seating capacity makes it an intimate space that doesn’t overwhelm couples and allows for a connection with those in attendance.”

There is one catch to getting married at Founders Hall, which has seating for 146 guests. It’s exclusive to SVSU students, staff, alumni, and their families.

“The vast majority [of brides and grooms] have special relationships that make Founders Hall personal to them,” says Willert. “Some couples met on campus and want SVSU to be part of their wedding day. Some spent time with their employee parents here as kids and have special memories.”

Of special note at Founders Hall is a replica of Marshall Fredericks’ sculpture of the Cleveland War Memorial, chosen in honor of former SVSU president Eric Gilbertson, a Cleveland native.

Founders Hall was the first building Gilbertson added to the SVSU campus during his presidency.

And, says Willert, the campus provides a lovely backdrop for wedding photos.

Willert notes that although Curtiss Hall, a building on SVSU’s campus, is available for receptions, it is not packaged together with Founders Hall due to availability and the number of people who may be in attendance. Rental fees at Founders Hall vary depending on the services requested and length of time needed.

As for wedding memories, Willert has a couple of her own.

Of the 50 to 60 weddings that have been performed at Founders Hall, there are two that stick out in her mind.

“The most memorable [wedding] would be either the father of the bride being able to walk her down the aisle after [him] being in the hospital for three months,” she says, “or the brother of the bride who surprised her at the wedding, getting a break from military services overseas. It is wonderful being a part of these memorable occasions.”

Founders Hall, 7400 Bay Rd, University Center, 989-964-6016, www.svsu.edu/events/

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