Going To The Chapel

We dipped our feet into the wedding planning pool this weekend by starting the process of trying to find a church. You might not think it, but it's actually quite important to me to get married in a church, partly because this is kind of just how I always pictured I would get married, but also because I have known since I was about eleven exactly which hymn I would like at my wedding, and I've found that people are far more amenable to singing hymns in large, jolly, booming voices if they're doing it in a church, rather than, say, in someone's backyard, and it is really quite important to me that everyone sing in large, jolly, booming voices on my wedding day.  I mean, when else do you get to sing in a large, jolly, booming voice, you know? Most of us are not Beyonce.

(Which is a shame for many reasons, of course, not just that one. Beyonce, for instance, often gets to wear some pretty bitchin' outfits.)

So we did some preliminary research last week, which resulted in the discovery of nine churches that appeared as though they might fit the bill, and which were immediately plugged into what we started referring to as The Great Big Spreadsheet O' Churches, a document that was painstakingly created in Excel. Then on Sunday morning---course carefully plotted, snacks packed---we set out on Churchapalooza 2008, our very own whistlestop tour of nine of the Wine Country's most charming chapels.

What I am saying, Internet, is that I have seen a lot of churches today. Hoo boy, have I seen a lot. You know when you're looking for an apartment, and you see one after the other and then after a while they kind of all blend together and you can't remember which one had the really huge closets and which one had the upstairs neighbor who looked like the kind of guy who'd have 3am raves? That is kind of how I'm feeling right now: there are a lot of churches in my brain, and a lot of churches on my camera's memory card. And I actually only think that one of the ones we saw today might work out.

Hello, I am the church that might work out! And yet even I will probably not work out in the end, not least because I am CRAZY EXPENSIVE to hold a wedding in. What's THAT about?

In other news---also church-related!---my friend May got married this weekend, and it was one of the loveliest weddings I've been to in my life. The ceremony was held at Grace Cathedral---a place that immediately makes me start humming this as soon as I even type its name---and afterwards we rode by cable car down to a restaurant where the waiters were dangerously generous with the wine pours, the speeches moved me to tears (both the laughing and the crying kind), and the world proved itself to be a very tiny place indeed when the man I was seated opposite turned out to be the high school best friend of a former old flame of mine, I MEAN, COME ON UNIVERSE, WHAT ARE THE ODDS.

(That part was a little awkward, actually. Especially since the old flame in question had once been something of a....uh....bone of contention between me and Sean. But whatever! Generous wine pours!)

Seeing two of my friends---both May and Victoria---get married in the weeks since I've been engaged has made me so excited for what lies ahead. When we've attended weddings together before, Sean and I have skirted delicately around the elephant in the room as we've watched the couple say their vows, neither of us acknowledging how this might apply to our own relationship. But now it's almost like we've got a secret between us, our own private glee that bubbles to the surface as we stand to watch the bride walk down the aisle, the groom waiting at the front of the church, his grin so wide and proud that it looks like his face will break in two. That'll be us soon, I think, and catch Sean's eye, just as he's turning to catch mine.

Nov 09, 2008

Those waiters were clearly on the Refill Every Time a Guest Takes a Sip or Every Seven Seconds, Whichever Comes First policy. When I woke up this morning, my shoes and keys were in some very odd places. Which only ever happens with the Generous Wine Pours.

Nov 10, 2008

I always ask couples what "their" song is.... so, what's yours?
House of Jules

Nov 10, 2008

Our church was also very expensive...but in the end it was totally worth it. Enjoy the planning process!

Nov 10, 2008

Having completed 27yrs of marriage in Oct,I just love hearing how excited you are about your upcoming wedding.
With the right one...It only gets better !
Best Wishes

Nov 10, 2008

You are so cute it makes my teeth hurt a little.

You crazy kids! Go have fun! And, um, get off my lawn!

Nov 10, 2008

Holly, you guys are just so stinkin' cute! I can't wait to hear more about the wedding planning. And for the record, that church is adorable! We had to go on our own churchapalooza when we got married, we didn't have one to call our own but I also had always pictured my wedding in a church. we found a beautiful college chapel that they let us use (despite no connection whatsoever to the college, they were very nice about it anyway.) and it was decorated for Christmas b/c our wedding day was dec. 28. so lots of white lights and candles and greens, lovely. I wish I could do it again (same guy, just an additional wedding. and while we're at it, a registry! Yeah, me!)

However. No plans to actually do it again so for now will have to live vicariously through you. thanks for that! :)

Camels & Chocolate
Nov 10, 2008

Ooh, so you've settled on Wine Country then? I was there last week, and the colors are SO pretty right now! Which town is the pretty little church above in? Can't wait! And glad that May's wedding rocked; looking forward to the pics.

Nov 10, 2008

Aww, that last bit made me tear up a little. Which is quite a feat on a Monday morning when I have work, a paper due, and presentation to give.

Nov 10, 2008

Oh, it's not just the church. It's EVERYTHING. Just wait til you get to the flowers. And the photography. AND THE CATERING.

Nov 10, 2008

Enjoy it all, Holly. Engagement is such a special time.

You're making me remember what it was like for me. My husband is going to get an extra kiss upon walking through the door tonight (ain't he the lucky one!).

Nov 10, 2008

I hear the church in Occidental (in the Russian River) is simply amazing for wine country weddings, but I haven't seen it myself so that's only speculation I've read on the internets. But that church above is pretty darn gorgeous and I can just picture the pictures that would come from having a wedding there.

Nov 10, 2008

Awwwwww. I love weddings, and the planning is so fun. Also, the generous wine pours, very excellent! And champagne!

And I am totally with you on the whole jolly, booming voices thing!

Sensibly Sassy
Nov 10, 2008

gah, you and your great writing are the perfect thing for my Monday morning blues!

Nov 10, 2008

Casacaudill -- we looked at two churches in Occidental. One is very beautiful but it's Catholic and I'm not Catholic, and the other is a tiny white clapboard one kind of like the one above. Very sweet but sort of too far from anything else to work well.

Nov 10, 2008

My fiance and I were in Wine Country last weekend looking for a vineyard to get married in! What a small world! We found the perfect place and the perfect price, so don't lose hope, because your perfect place is out there! I can't wait to see all of your planning along the way too.

Nov 10, 2008

How sweet and exciting. I didn't do any of that fun stuff for my wedding (it's probably better that I didn't since I ended up divorcing his ass 4 yrs later - but I digress)
A generous wine pour to you!

Nov 10, 2008

That church looks beautiful... It would be great in the photos. It seems crazy to me that churches charge so much for people to use them. Isn't that what they are there for?

Nov 10, 2008

That hymn, hilariously enough, was our school song in high school. It'll be lovely in a wedding context! But there was just something slightly absurd about trying to get 250-odd surly high schoolers to sing it at the beginning-of-the-year assembly when we were all wishing it was still summer, and none of us could quite wrap our voices around that tricky middle bit so everyone just kind of whispered along until the only person still really singing by the end was the choir teacher.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that you might not want to invite 250-odd surly high schoolers to your wedding. Unless they're, you know, your friends.

Nov 10, 2008

That's hilarious, because it was what we sang at the END of every term at my school! So everyone was so happy to be going home for the vacation that they sang very loudly and cheerily. Probably also why I associate it with such happy times.

Nov 10, 2008


I grew up in Wine Country, so if you want any recommendations about smallish churches in Cloverdale or Geyserville (assuming, that is, that you want to get married that far north of SF) send me an email. I attended youth group/sang in the choir of the church in Cloverdale known as the "ivy covered church"; it's lovely inside, but again, it's 80 miles north of SF. They have a website at ivychurch.org.

What kind of place are you thinking of for the reception? Have you checked out Here Comes the Guide? It's a good resource. Another good resource for planning weddings of any kind (not just N.Cal ones) is the kvetch boards at indiebride.com, which completely saved my sanity.

Nov 10, 2008

I know that you will get HUNDREDS of completely unsolicited emails/comments about your wedding, but since we are already on the topic...

I feel compelled to toot my photographer's horn. Mostly because I don't know anyone else getting married in San Francisco to tell him about, but in any case...

I got married in San Francisco city hall a while back (in a very non traditional fashion) and we absolutely loved our photographer. He was about the only traditional part of the whole affair. He works in the general San Francisco area.

Our photos are here:


His website is here:


In the off chance that you decide to use him, tell him Leslie from Phoenix sent you :)

Nov 10, 2008

Hi - This is a response to Lois's (#17) question. And this is not meant to be snarky or mean or anything. (Disclaimer written because some people are WAY sensitive to anything church/God/religion/spirituality related and I don't mean to offend.) When I was planning my wedding, my fiance and I went to talk to a pastor family friend about marrying us in his church. He asked us if we were going to join the church and get married there or if we just wanted to be married there. We asked why the difference and he said it was because they (and by they he meant most churches/pastors he was familiar with) didn't want people "renting out churches" like you'd rent out a reception site. He believed that a church wedding should be about building a spiritual life in that church and with that congregation, not about the pretty wedding pictures you could get from it or to make your mom happy that you had a "church wedding." This particular church actually had two prices for weddings - one for those who were members and one for those who weren't. He hoped that by having two prices he could get couples to really think about what they wanted and if they wanted the church wedding that they'd find a church they wanted to be members of, join the church and then plan the wedding! Anyway, lucky for us we did in fact want to join the church and have it be "our" church and we got pretty pictures and my mom was happy about the church wedding. Trifecta!

Holly - happy wedding planning! My sister is in the middle of it all now and it's so fun to re-live it all through her again. And man, I would totally do so many things different (different dress, casual vs traditional, etc.) if I were to do it again!

Nov 10, 2008

That hymn always reminds me of Monty Python, where I first heard it, and I absolutely adore it, being such an Anglophile.

Nov 10, 2008

I absolutely love wine country but I also really, really love the small chapel at Fort Mason in the city. I had dreams of getting married there. Then I moved to Hawaii and now I'm getting married here. Go figure.

Nov 10, 2008

I am trying not to be hurt that you have completely ignored my Las Vegas suggestion (not really).

That church is darling. Hopefully you find one like it that doesn't require such a large donation. I mean, does God really need the money?

Nov 10, 2008

That's the hymm I want at my wedding too! It's what played at every wedding myself (and other choir members) sang (and loads of other songs) for the wedding. Ahh the good old days. That song is key.

That church is gorgeous, and I do hope you get a great (decently priced) church venue.

Nov 10, 2008

Amazing! That song was also the recessional at every end-of year ceremony in *my* school (girls, private, Boston -- gah!) and boy howdy did it ever mean "gettin' out of here!" We sang it loud and we sang it rowdy!

The church is beautiful, Holly -- white clapboard perfection. Too bad you're not in New England where that style is more abundant. But soon you'll find a place that "speaks" to you from every column on that spreadsheet and it will be on to the next piece of the planning process. Enjoy it all!

Nov 10, 2008

We had a congregational singing in our wedding as well: "The Greatest Command" sung A Capella in four-part harmony. (music provided in the wedding "program") It was AMAZING!!! I was sobbing by the end, being surrounded in song by our family and friends.
People who came to the wedding who had never heard it were also very moved...
But, you have to have enough people in attendance who can really sing it to pull it off. :-)

The church is very cute, and yes, most do charge two different fees...one for members and one for "non" members. The "non" member fee is always high but for a somewhat logical reason: the general philosophy is that members tithe and thus already contribute to the general upkeep and utilities costs including the salaries for the church staff who have to work the day of the wedding to ensure all is running smoothly.

Nov 11, 2008

Hee hee that is a lovely hymn and we sang it at school too but I'm just chuckling a little bit because it's also the WI anthem (English readers will probably understand, but for the Americans the WI is the ladies club from the film Calendar Girls with Helen Mirren)

Also #21 Leslie I had a look at your wedding photos and they are gorgeous! Congratulations

Nov 11, 2008

Thanks for the happy read today. Most of your posts are of the happy variety (thank you),but that one was especially cheer inducing.

Hope your wedding planning goes well. Just remember it doesn'thave to be perfect- it will end up being perfect for you.

I am telling myself that today with force.I am getting married (2nd time) on Saturday. Still a bunch to do in the next few days. But it is the 2nd one and I don't feel the need to have all the things inherent in the first big bash of young love.

I am excited that you are sharing all of this with us.

Rachel B
Nov 11, 2008

Another unsolicited tip - I made and delivered cupcakes to a wedding in west Marin (specifically Nicasio) in an absolutely idyllic setting. There was a small clapboard chapel tucked into rolling hills about 500 feet from the roadhouse* where the couple held the reception, a beautiful, rustic, airy, space inside and out. (No fancy, filiagreed or victorian hotel vibe, though...it's classic old California Spanish style)
It wasn't that far from 101 and the couple bussed in guests from SF. Amazing location- felt far away from everything but cozy, as if the space was handpicked for wedding celebrations.
I think the chapel may be Catholic, though.
*Rancho Nicasio - http://www.ranchonicasio.com/history.htm

Nov 11, 2008

When you typed Grace Cathedral, I didn't even have time to click the link following it before I was (and still am) singing the song.

Nov 11, 2008

I've only been reading for a few weeks but I had to say -- I also HAD to have my wedding in a church (I'm religious but it was in large part because that's how I always pictured it) and I also had my hymns picked out! ("Be Thou My Vision" was my favorite :)) I am so happy for you and your fiance! I get married in four days and I'm actually a little sad for the engagement to be over. Such a fun time. :)

Nov 11, 2008

Holly what town is the church in the photo in? I'm from wine country and it looks SO familiar and it's driving me CRAZY. Good luck in your search!

Nov 11, 2008

That church is too cute.

Nov 11, 2008

That church is adorable. I don't know if it's different in Cali, but here in the Bible Belt many churches either don't offer their church to non members or charge significantly higher rates.

I love weddings, and I love all the planning that goes into them, but when it was time for me to plan mine I got way to stressed. The dress, the church, the food, the flowers, the invites, sheesh! I ended up just buying the basics and we went to Chicago and got married in grant park in the rose gardens. I wouldn't change it for the world (oh, except that it was a 2pm wedding with no shade and it was 100 degrees....minor detail). I hope you get your dream wedding, you will make a beautiful bride!

Nov 11, 2008

Angela -- it's Kenwood Community Church in Kenwood.

Nov 11, 2008

Holly, I have no fun tips or anecdotes; I've never married and have never been a huge fan of weddings (or any sort of ceremony). But nonetheless, your joy and enthusiasm about all this is very sweet. Plus I love that you gracefully work the words chapel and bitchin' into one blog post.

Nov 11, 2008

Thanks Holly! Wow, I feel so much better now.

Three Cent Stamp
Nov 11, 2008

There is a beautiful and charming little chapel outside a beautiful meadow at Yosemite. Certainly more of a jaunt, but it is incredibly quaint. I'm sure there's a photo of it somewhere online.

Nov 11, 2008

Planning your wedding is one of the most fun and most stressful things you will ever do. Enjoy the process, because the day itself will fly by faster than you can imagine. The next day you will wake up and say, "Wait, is it all finished already?"

Nov 13, 2008

Swedenborgian on Lyon Street and the Top of the Mark - thats were we got married. The church is so not traditional with a fireplace, murals, driftwood etc.