If your guest list numbers 200 or fewer, one of Lancaster County’s smaller chapels may offer the perfect intimate setting for exchanging wedding vows
“I don’t want to or need to be introduced to anyone at my wedding,” once said a very determined bride. “I want to personally know everyone who is invited.” That dictum often eliminates parents’ work colleagues, classmates you haven’t seen since high school and dozens of distant cousins. The bride and groom then have the option of choosing a scaled-down venue, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of being surrounded by one’s most cherished family and friends for this important life milestone.
The Chapel at Willow Valley, Doubletree Resort, Lancaster
It’s only 22 years old, but the Chapel at Willow Valley looks the part of the picture-perfect country chapel that’s been around for centuries. Originally situated on the Thomas family’s original landmark Willow Valley property, the chapel was moved last year and relocated several hundred yards closer to the Doubletree Resort. It also now overlooks the golf course. Seating capacity is 200 guests, including an upper-level loft area. Dressing rooms are conveniently located inside the chapel, and a few steps away awaits a full-service resort for the deal-is-sealed festivities.
Sell Memorial Chapel, Masonic Village, Elizabethtown
Be sure to pause for a keepsake photo at the bright-red doors of this non-denominational chapel located on the stately grounds of the Masonic Village retirement community. Built in 1927, the chapel holds up to 200 worshippers, plus offers a resonating organ and a choir loft that allows the photographer to capture a sweeping view of the ceremony and guests. The surrounding Formal Gardens and fountains on the Masonic Village campus are also available for beautiful photographic moments.
To exchange vows in this Gothic masterpiece, those outside the congregation or employees’ families must have an affiliation with the Masonic organization through a direct relative’s membership in the Masonic Lodge or the bride’s or groom’s membership in a Masonic-related youth group.
Boehm’s Chapel, Willow Street
Built in 1791, the rustic Boehm’s Chapel is Pennsylvania’s oldest existing structure built for Methodist worship and the fourth oldest in the nation. While the growing congregation of the Boehm’s United Methodist Church now worships in a much larger facility nearby, the chapel remains as a historic landmark and site of special events for the congregation to recall its simple heritage. The Boehm’s Chapel Society welcomes inquiries from all betrothed couples aligned with Christian pastors.
Modern dressing rooms and other comforts are available in a “tying shed,” intended to resemble the shelter where church-goers would have tied their horses to wait during worship services. The chapel was modernized with heat and air-conditioning in 1991, but it remains an acapella space. Brides have provided their own harpists, string quartets, guitarists and keyboardists to fill the small sanctuary with joyful noise for many a simply elegant wedding.
Santee Chapel, Lancaster Theological Seminary, Lancaster
B.Y.O.P. – bring your own pastor, that is – to the recently renovated Santee Chapel on the campus of the Lancaster Theological Seminary. Affiliated with the United Church of Christ, the chapel welcomes any Christian ceremony to its sacred space. A new cork floor, given by the family of the late Arthur B. and Marguerite “Gretel” Dodge, and Ann Barshinger’s gift of up-lighting that flatters the stained glass windows, join flexible seating that converts from joined pew-like chairs to individual seats, comfortably accommodating up to 150 guests. The pipe organ is currently undergoing renovations as well.
Mary Dixon Memorial Chapel, Linden Hall School for Girls, Lititz
Since 1885, the grand Gothic brownstone has graced Linden Hall’s campus at Church Square on East Main Street. The sanctuary is heated but not air-conditioned; however, cooling fans may be brought in should one choose to get married on an August afternoon. For those guests who cannot negotiate the stone steps at the entrance, a nearby elevator in the adjoining academic building makes the ceremony accessible to all. The charming space maxes out at 150 guests, although 16 additional seats may be placed in the loft that holds the pipe organ.
In the chancel, a Moravian Star is suspended high above the bride and groom as they exchange their vows – a signature symbol of Lititz and the Moravians who founded the picturesque town.
Old Leacock Presbyterian Church, Intercourse
Nearly 280 years ago, Scotch-Irish settlers sought to create a comfortably familiar place to worship in their new home, so they recruited stone masons from their native Northern Ireland to replicate a church from their homeland. It stands today as an active church – the Leacock Presbyterian Church congregation leaves their more modern house of worship for special services in the summer and holidays and returns to this special space to remember their heritage. Christian weddings are welcome, provided they fit into the church’s schedule and guests number 100 or so. Its beauty lies in its simplicity. Dressing rooms and modern conveniences? No. History? Most definitely.