There’s a typical version of chapel weddings we’ve all seen in pop culture: the couple is often drunk, the officiant is dressed like Elvis and the newlyweds usually wake up with regret.
There’s also the assumption that all chapel weddings are “in the moment,” but the owners of Elope Niagara’s Little Log Wedding Chapel will tell you this is not the case.
The chapel, which now offers the Niagara Falls region’s only drive-thru wedding service, is designed to service a range of couples. Crystal Wedding Chapel & Drive-Thru in London, Ont., was Canada’s first chapel to offer a similar service.
Little Log co-owner Kim Cartmell says the idea originally started when couples who visited the chapel asked if they could do their paperwork from their cars.
“We started the service in March as an express package, no ceremony and just the legalities,” she tells Global News. “It was designed for couples going to [destination weddings] who wanted to get married here first.”
The wedding package itself costs $295 and allows couples to get legally married in the comfort of their cars. The package doesn’t include a ceremony, it allows one car (or two motorcycles) on site, and a guest list of two additional people as witnesses. The experience takes about 10 minutes.
And while it is a drive-thru, couples still have to book appointments ahead of time.
“You can’t just pull in,” she says. “You have to give other couples their privacy,” Cartmell said. She adds there have already been 15 drive-thru ceremonies with 10 additional ones booked for fall. On Thursday, the chapel hosted their first-ever double drive-thru wedding with two cars.
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Couples using the service
Cartmell says all kinds of couples use the drive-thru service. With budget on their minds (an Ipsos poll on wedding expenses conducted exclusively for Global News found that Canadians thought a realistic budget was under $9,000), most people want inexpensive experiences, she says.
“Some people are shy and private and they don’t want to say their vows in front of others,” she explains. “And sometimes there is family drama.”
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Some couples have large families scattered across the world and getting them together in one space would be difficult. Others simply don’t want to stand in a courthouse. Some, she adds, just want to get married on lucky numbers — like on the 7th, 17th or 27th — without a lot of pre-planning.
“We just did a wedding [on Thursday] and [the couple] had been together for 25 years,” she says. “The groom burst into tears… someone asked me before if these weddings were cold and unemotional, but it is equally emotional.”
How to plan an eloped marriage
And while an elopement is not exactly like planning a wedding ceremony, there are still things to consider, In Style reports.
“Create a space that is uniquely yours. For a truly intimate and unique celebration, choose to elope in a space that may have had a special and significant impact on your relationship such as the location of your first date like this couple who hiked in the woods,” the site notes.
Splurge some of your savings on dinner, keep the guest list small and consider hiring a photographer, even if it is for a short period of time.
And with so many diverse couples using the chapel in Niagara, Cartmell says love is still the common factor.
“It doesn’t matter where or how you do it. You are pledging your love to someone forever.”
— With files from the Canadian Press