Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Embracing Our Inner Tourist: Mountain Weddings

When we planned our Inner Tourist series of blogs, I didn't have to think long before I knew what mine would be -- mountain wedding chapels. I went to college just an hour or so away from Gatlinburg and remember the abundance of wedding chapels in the area. There don't seem to be as many now. Or maybe they're hidden away in little valleys and coves or are perched atop a mountain. Perhaps the beach has become more popular as the spot for a destination wedding.

I had a small church wedding. My dress was the sample from the local department store and cost $50 including the headpiece and full-length veil. My aunts gave us a pre-wedding party the night before the ceremony. In my neck of the woods that was common. They called it a "cake cutting" and you only had to invite the wedding party, family and very close friends. We had the wedding cake and other assorted finger foods plus punch. It was much cheaper than a reception, and it was a gratefully-accepted gift from family members. My aunt Polly, who had been a professional wedding director, came out of retirement for the day and made sure everyone knew where to go and what to do. My flowers were simple. My maid of honor and one bridesmaid made their dresses and wore big straw hats (it was the 70's you know). They were ready to vote me "Bride of the Year" because their out of pocket cost was about $25. The whole thing cost me and my mother about $1000 in 1973 dollars.

I watched "Say Yes to the Dress" with my mother when I visited her this summer and was appalled at the amount women spend on just a dress. With what some bridezillas spend on the wedding, you could make a sizeable downpayment on a house, furnish it and start married life debt-free except for your mortgage.

A minister friend of the family once commented that it's too bad people don't spend as much time on their marriages as they do on their weddings. Maybe pre-marital counseling should include what a divorce attorney charges for a retainer ($5000) and how long you have to wait in this county to get a court date (18 - 24 months). I've met lots of folks in the last year whose divorces have run well into five figures. But here I go, getting cynical when I'm supposed to be talking about mountain weddings.

The place I'd hoped to find to use as the focus of my blog is the Hillbilly Wedding chapel. Yes, you read that right. For $75 you get married by an ordained Christian minister in their rustic mountain chapel or garden complete with bouquet and boutonniere, souvenir hillbilly wedding certificate, the minister clad in bib overalls and free photos if you use your own camera. We tried to find it. Honest we did. But the GPS only led us to their post office box.

I did find Cupid's Chapel of Love. On their website, they boast of 15 years of service and over 15,000 successful weddings. I just have to wonder how successful the marriages were. But before I sink into divorce statistics, let me tell you about Cupid's Chapel of Love. The chapel itself is quite charming. It's reminiscent of an old country church, complete with stained glass windows and a steeple.

They offer a variety of packages starting with the "Forever Rose." It includes:
Music and Our Ordained Minister
Candlelight Ceremony
Two Nights Complimentary Lodging at our Honeymoon Inn for the Bride and Groom
One hour Simplicity Reception for Your Guests at the Gatlinburg Wedding Center
(40) 5x7 Portraits Matted with Album
(6) 8x10 Portraits
(8) Wallet portraits
16 x 20 Framed Canvas Portrait
Groom and Best Man's Tuxedo Rental
Designer Unity Candle Ceremony and Song
Fresh or Silk Bridal Bouquet and Groom's Boutonnière
Two Corsages
Fresh or Silk Maid of Honor Mini Bouquet and Best Man's Boutonnière
Video, Guest Book
Toasting Glasses
3-Tier Wedding Cake
A Matted Copy of Your Wedding Vows
Rose Petals for Your Honeymoon Comforter
Just Married Sign and Bridal Garter
$1,399 Saturday or $1,049 Weekdays
Includes up to 40 Guests

And on the opposite end of the package deals is the "Just Get 'r Done," which is described as "Walk in, Say Your Vows and Sign the Papers $99.00."

They offer elopement packages and also have two specials on their website. They were open last Sunday so you could be married on 10-10-10. And they'll be open New Year's Day so your wedding day will be 1-1-11.

You're just as married if you spend $1399 for the Forever Rose or $75 for the Hillbilly wedding. Just make sure the minister is real. A while back Gatlinburg made headlines because one of their wedding chapel preachers wasn't legit and lots of couples weren't legally married.

Tell us about your wedding. Was it big or small? In a church or at the courthouse? Or maybe you had a destination wedding? If you were getting married again, would you do anything different? I'm not shopping for a wedding venue. I have to get the divorce finalized first. But should I ever decide to tie the knot again, that $99 package looks pretty good. It lets me hold on to some money in case I have to re-hire my divorce attorney. Oops, there I go getting all cynical again.

One commenter today will win a book from my stash -- a book where they all live happily ever after.

P.S. Problem Child is guest blogging over at the I Heart Presents blog today. Please pop over and say hi to her.


Maven Linda said...

Why is what you think you're reading is always more interesting than what you're actually reading? When I got to the part about the 5X7 matted and framed photographs, my brain first read that was "mattress," and I thought, "Holy Cow! That's what I call a full-service marriage ceremony!"

Then I read it again, just to make sure. Sigh.

Angel said...

That place was so cute!!! I'd definitely consider it.

My wedding was very much Do-It-Yourself. A friend took pictures, another made the wedding cake, and my mom and a friend did all the food for the reception. It wasn't the biggest and fanciest, but I was more worried about being surrounded by family and friends on a day that was so special to me, rather than it being a big production.

LOL, Maven Linda. Wedding and honeymoon in one, woohooo!!!


Laurie said...

33 years ago I had a church wedding with 200 guests. My gown only cost $125. We didn't have a lot of money so we took a camping trip to Yellowstone and Olympic National Parks.

My son is getting married in a state park next April. They will have it catered. The food estimate is $2000 for 3 entrees with appetizers, (all Vegan) for 75 people. He wants everyone to be invited to the rehearsal "potluck" too. We're trying to tell him that this will not work as most people live out of town.

I would have a small wedding of immediate family and close friends IF I ever married again.

Smarty Pants said...

That's ok, Linda. Yesterday I was reading a list of car features and it said "rear body air bag." I read "rear body bag." Sadly, my first thought was, well, that could be handy, never know when you'll need one...

Not married yet, although the Playfriends can attest that I have several wedding schemes (with accompanying inspiration boards) prepared for a variety of different scenarios - seasons, indoor/outdoor, etc. I'm particular, but thrifty. I'd have a Hillbilly Wedding before I'd pay more than $500 for a dress. My goal is to have an entire shindig for less than $5k. That's almost unheard of these days, but I'm paying for it myself. Unfortunately I keep making new friends and prices keep going up, so who knows.

My wedding philosophy (which is contrary to every southern tradition I've encountered) is that I only want to invite people I know and who are willing to stay around. No old church ladies who want cake and out of there so they can take their pills and hit the hay. If you don't like me enough to sit through a cocktail reception, sit down dinner, dancing, and maybe a dessert after party, don't bother coming. And because I want it to be really nice, the guest list is tight. No, your great aunt Bertha and her six kids can't come. I want to be able to see, talk to, and enjoy every guest. I want to know who they are on sight. I want to remember my wedding and not have it be an expensive blur.

Ok, I'm done. I won't pull out the inspiration boards today, although you bet your butt when I do get engaged, y'all will hear about it...

Anonymous said...

I'm saving the most! I'm staying single! Actually, it's never come down to a decision--I've never been asked and haven't ever met anyone I'd surrender my freedom to. My parents were married 60 years though and I suppose if you amortize the cost of their wedding over all those years, they got it pretty cheap.

runner10 said...

I had a small church wedding 20 years ago. If I was doing it again, I would have a private wedding on the beach. Not that I'm planning to ever get married again!!

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I had the best wedding and reception ever. I don't think it cost more than 2k, everything considered. My dress was custom made for $75 plus material. The lace for my veil was bought from a traveling salesman from Belgium -- yes, real Belgian lace (we were living in Germany at the time, so a traveling Belgian lace salesman wasn't an anomaly).

We have two anniversaries because we had to be married on a Friday by the Burgermeister (this is fondly called the Burgermeister Meisterburger anniversary). On Saturday we had the church wedding, complete with a military honor guard and swords. Since Hubby and friends wore uniforms, there was no cost for tuxedos.

Our reception was at a local Gasthaus with a waterfall and little park. They'd never hosted an American wedding reception before, so they went overboard with everything. It was great fun, and Hubby and I still talk sometimes about how unique it was compared to the weddings we've been to that are cookie cutter.

I completely agree with you, PM, about the insanity of spending so much money when you could have a down payment on a house. And you're right about the marriages not lasting too. Marriage isn't easy or always smooth sailing. Storms *will* happen. And some won't survive. There is no Easy Street in a marriage.

RedPeril said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RedPeril said...

It's a good thing I got married in Minnesota and had never heard of that Hillbilly wedding. I would have been sorely tempted. >.> My parents in-law actually DID have that wedding. Their wedding photo is the best thing EVER... it's just them standing in somebody's front yard under a 'Justice-of-the-Peace' sign, with a goat wandering around in the background. If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'.

My wedding was kept well under 2k by a number of factors: My dress was given to me by my cousin, on the condition that my marriage last longer than hers.(i.e. 10 months. >.>) Holding the wedding and gymnasium reception at my home church meant no fees on the location. A lady from the congregation happened to have her own greenhouse and grew my flowers herself as my wedding present. My sister sang, and her friends were roped into serving as a saxophone trio. The older sister of a friend was building her photography portfolio and offered her services as our wedding present. The only expenses were the tux rentals, and the picnic food that somehow fed 180 people. There may have been a deadpool going on over how long it would last with a 19-year-old marrying some boy from Alabama she'd met on the internet, but that didn't keep us from having ourselves a great time. :D At least it wasn't dull.

~Angela Blount

Jean Hovey said...

I had an afternoon church wedding with one attendant. My dress was waltz length and I carried long stemmed white roses. The reception was at the church with heavy finger food,. Except the cakes, I made all the food. I just could not bring myself to pay a caterer what I could do for half of nothing. You hardly ever hear of a sit down dinner in the south. In all my years and with all the weddings I've attended, I've been to exactly one. We did have a sit down rehearsal dinner at a nice restaurant.

I loved my wedding. I don't know what it cost but it wasn't a lot.
Though I bought the fabric, a friend made my dress as a gift and some more friends made the cakes as a gift.

When my godson was about four, he and I were looking at the pictures and he demanded to know where he was. After all, there was is mommy and daddy. Didn't he get to go? I explained that, at the time, his daddy was at Georgia Tech and his mommy was at Auburn and they weren't married yet. He didn't get it. Twelve years later, we still laugh about it.

catslady said...

I married in '69 and $1,000 sounds about right - maybe 75 people. My daughter just got married and it was more like $15,000 - ugh. I know there is inflation but still. My parents didn't want to pay for music so no dancing at all. In hindsight I should have paid myself since we had to pay for the photograhs too. So with pics and at least a DJ I guess it would have cost another $500. I was only 18 but at least have saved on not getting divorced lol (41 yrs.)

robertsonreads said...

LOL Marilyn.
I was married at the courthouse. And this sister does not plan to get married ANY time in the future. And if I did I would do courthouse again, and I would keep my divorce lawyer on speed dial.

tucker.sarah96 said...

We had a military wedding in a Post Chapel built in the 1800's. It was filled with stained glass and Bavarian style wood eaves. My mom made my dress for about $125 and my wedding wasn't expensive. The rehearsal dinner was at the Officer's Club the night before and we hid in the basement when a tornado hit the air field. My grandfather played the organ for our wedding after recovering from a stroke, my hubby wore his formal uniform, and we exited the church stairs under an eight saber arch and salute. A reception of cake, nuts, mints and punch was held at the Polo Club afterward. Simple but elegant.

The best thing ever! Storms didn't strike up again until after our reception. Woo-hoo!

Maureen said...

Our wedding was in the backyard with a big tent, which we needed since it did rain at one point. I really can't believe the amount of money people spend on weddings these days.

Angel said...

So cool to read about all the weddings! I love it.


PM's Mother said...

The wedding chapel in Helen, Georgia has Bavarian architecture and ambiance. I wonder if an Oompah Band comes with this?

Cheryl said...

I had nothing to do with the planning of my wedding. I had told my parents we wanted a simple ceremony with just the immediate family. But nooo, that would not do! I was graduating college and starting law school all within a week so the wedding was squeezed in. I did buy my dress - $80. Everything else my mother and mother-in-law handled. We had a dinner for about sixty people after the wedding at our house because you can't serve alcohol at the church. If I had it all to go over again, we would elope. I have no fond memories of my wedding. But it must have took because we just celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary!

Jane said...

I don't have a wedding story of my own to share, but my cousin got married in Vegas. It was planned in two weeks and we actually got a great deal on rooms at the Paris hotel. The buffet at the Bellagio was our wedding dinner.

Anonymous said...

My hubby and I are coming up on 9 years next week. We had a very small wedding, and only invited immediate family for the ceremony. His friends decided to crash it however, which really pissed me off (especially because they came with booze). Now I look back and find the whole ordeal hilarious. Oh, and did I mention I forgot to change my underwear before I left home? When I arrived for the ceremony, my future MIL was quite happy to point out she could see my green undies through my cream colored dress. Lucky for me, only everyone heard, including the group of drunken wedding crashers. I've yet to live it down.

Christine said...

Backyard of a friend. Dug a BBQ pit, made my own cole slaw, potato salad, burger patties, and deviled eggs for out of town guests. Others brought their own meat. We had salmon from the Pacific, burgers, steak, chicken. We put ice in the tiny bath tub, speakers in the back bedroom window and danced in the backyard till lordy knows what time in the AM. I believe affairs began that night. I wouldn't know. I had too much fun saying "I do" to my hero during the brief five minute civil ceremony that punctuated the entire day with a huge exclamation mark.

I think I may have been the last of the hippies to get married in 1985.