It won’t quite hold Las Vegas-style spur-of-the-moment nuptials, but Waco will soon get its first walk-in wedding chapel.
Waco Weddings and Events owner Shelli Oliphant said the new event space, located in the 700 block of Elm Avenue, is her first brick-and-mortar business and is the only of its kind in McLennan County. She plans to open the chapel June 7.
“I was astonished by how much people were paying for getting married,” Oliphant said, adding that she hopes to provide a cost-effective space as an alternative to getting married at the county courthouse.
The business has a room for the ceremony and a reception space.
For $100, Oliphant offers use of the facility; use of a bridal bouquet and groom boutonniere; ceremony music; a clergy or minister to perform the ceremony; and a commemorative framed photograph of the ceremony.
Oliphant said she hopes to also offer vow renewals, special events and relationship seminars.
“There are a lot of event planners, but not a lot of
inexpensive facilities,” she said, speaking about the Greater Waco area.
The law requires couples to get a marriage license and wait 72 hours before getting married, regardless of whether they use the courthouse, a church, a home, or Oliphant’s chapel.
Oliphant said she was a wedding planner for less than a year when she decided to start her own business.
She moved into the space May 15 and has been renovating and painting the walls since. When it is completed, she said, the ceremony space will have an altar, an area for a sand ceremony, white wooden chairs to fit 50 and white walls that read, “Live well, laugh often, love much.”
“I’ve always been intrigued by how two people meet,” she said. “I think it’s amazing that you can find someone who feels the same way about you.”
Oliphant said she married her husband 15 years ago in a similar facility in Dallas.
“It was already set up and I didn’t have time to plan my own wedding. I was in school,” she said.
Oliphant wanted to provide a local alternative for people who were going to the courthouse to get married because of financial or time constraints.
Kindred Event Studio owner Emily Paben said current Waco wedding spaces vary in pricing, but it runs the gamut from $500 to $5,000 or more.
“It’s becoming increasingly popular to have extremely short engagement periods,” Paben said. “It can be tricky to find a space that’s available.”
Paben said she can see the appeal in a walk-in space for those who want to marry in a chapel.
“If someone is wanting to get married in a church, churches are more and more only wanting members,” she said. “It can be difficult. This could be an option for people if it’s available to any denomination.”
Justice of the Peace Walter H. “Pete” Peterson performs many of the courthouse weddings in McLennan County, including the annual mass wedding on the courthouse steps on Valentine’s Day.
Peterson said he married about nine couples at this year’s event.
“People come to the courthouse for convenience,” he said, adding that he isn’t bothered by Waco residents having more choices.
“It’s their choice how and where they get married. If people want to get married at the courthouse, I make that happen.”