After reading this article, you are going to have a very clear idea of how to plan Wayfarers chapel weddings.
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Also known as “The Glass Church”, Wayfarers Chapel is located in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. On the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it offers a great view of the California Coastline and Catalina Island. Wayfarers chapel weddings are very popular and booked years in advance.
The chapel itself is a place with an original atmosphere. The location on cliffs above the Pacific and the 3.5 acres of beautifully landscaped lawns are fascinating and perfectly suitable for impressive photoshoots. Here you can look out over the cliff and see how the sparkling ocean meets the big blue sky.
The Chapel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and attracts many tourists with its beauty and tranquillity. The area is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for visitors. Grounds, chapel, and parking are free of charge.
Newlyweds choose this stunning place for small, intimate wedding ceremonies (up to 100 guests in the church). The number of weddings that are held here each year comes up to 800 annually — about 2.2 weddings a day.
The Wayfarers Chapel has appeared in many movies and television shows such as The O.C., Lucifer, Beverly Hills 90210, True Detective, and others. In 2015 Bachelorette TV couple Desiree Hartsock and Chris Siegfried exchanged vows at the Wayfarer chapel.
The Chapel was built in 1951 by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr., a landscape architect for various Los Angeles projects and the son of the pioneering American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The building was made as one of the Swedenborgian churches of North America (which are related to the teaching of Swedish Lutheran theologian Emanuel Swedenborg). It was originally conceived to be a public resting area and only after it became an official church providing religious services. Now a worship service takes place here Sundays at 10 a. m. and a prayer service Wednesdays at 12 noon. They offer even yoga classes and dream interpretations.
The idea of the architect was to сreate a “tree chapel” — an airy stone & glass church nestled in a grove of tall redwood trees. It has to serve as a resting place for all wayfarers on life’s journey. That’s why all the visitors are welcome and can enter for free.
The area is popular not only because of the “cathedral” in the middle of the forest. Trees which were planted 50 years ago build now a living roof and walls of the grounds. Together with the rose garden behind the church and the astonishing Pacific Ocean view they are a breathtaking background for unexampled photos.
The chapel holds about 100 people plus your wedding party. In the time of restrictions, guests/attendees are limited to 20 people.
Wayfarers chapel weddings packages include a chapel minister, a wedding director, a gate attendant, and the chapel musician. A wedding coordinator will help everyone get to the right place at the right time. These services keep things running smoothly and on time.
The management is very strict about the 2-hour limit. You will have only 2 hours for everything, including shooting on the Chapel grounds and surrounding gardens. A photographer may arrive on the grounds one hour earlier before the ceremony begins to start a photo session. If you need your things to be done your way, consider searching for another alternative.
There are some photography restrictions at Wayfarers chapel. For example, the videographers and photographers can only shoot from the entrance of the church during the ceremony, far from the altar. Make sure your photographers are aware of that and prepared. They going to need telephoto lenses, medium-range, and wide lenses as well. They would have to stay at the same point an entire time and you as a client want to make sure you’ll get various photos. Also, they prohibit the use of drones. The current policy you can check on their official internet page or call their Reservation Office.
Keep in mind that the venue is open for tourists as well. The management will close off the Chapel and the nearest surroundings from visitors 30 minutes before your wedding ceremony starts. The staff of Wayfarers chapel will ensure that only your guests and wedding party enter the church. But the garden will remain open to the public.
Locations for the photo shooting
The area of Wayfarers chapel is quite big and has several spots for walking and shooting:
- spacious green Front Lawn with cozy sidewalks,
- Reflection Pool with a small Memorial fountain,
- beautiful Rose Garden with the view of the Colonnade and the Hallelujah Bell Tower,
- Colonnade itself with the stunning ocean panorama view and the Glass Loggia on the other side,
- small restful Meditation Garden with a bench and Hillside Memorial Stream nearby.
There is also a visitor center where you can get more information and some souvenirs.
Further, I will describe these spots shortly focusing on the photo opportunities they offer. Use these small notes as inspiration points for your shooting schedule.
The Bridal and Groom Get Ready Shots
The chapel provides a dressing room for the bride and her attendants. It includes a vanity, private restroom, and a full-length 3-way mirror. But they strongly recommend preparing all hair and makeup issues before arriving at the chapel because you will not have plenty of time to get ready. After arriving just use room facilities to put on your gown and shoes and up for the photo session!
If you need a bit more time and amenities, consider booking a room in a hotel nearby. There are good reviews on Tripadvisor about the Terranea Resort. This hotel is within easy reach of the church.
All the areas of Wayfarers are a perfect background for inspiring First Look photos.
- In the Rose Garden near the Colonnade;
Roses in the garden bloom all year round. Gardeners also plant some Biblical plants, including lilies, crown of thorns, and aloe. From the side of the Colonnade, there is a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. In the photos, you can also see the majestic Hallelujah Bell Tower with the 16-bell carillon.
- In the Forest Floor Garden under trees;
The Wayfarers was designed as a tree chapel. First and foremost, trees and plants reflect the beauty of the place. Big redwood trees, Italian Stone and Canary Island pines, olives, and other plants form arbored walks which are a perfect frame for photography.
- At the Reflection Pool with a fountain;
The pool is located at the beginning of the First Floor Garden on the way up to the hill of the chapel. From this place, you can observe the whole area of the Front Lawn.
- In the Meditation Garden near Hillside Memorial Stream;
It’s a small spot behind the Colonnade and Rose Garden with a bench — tree-covered and hidden from eyes — and a beautiful view of the ocean.
Couple & Family portraits
You can snap great shots using as a backdrop these spots:
- in the forest garden in front of Wayfarers chapel — there is a space to place enough people, tree crowns create interesting effects of diffused and contrasting lighting.
- on the stairs of the Wayfarers chapel,
- on the backdrop of the Glass Loggia behind the church.
These spots are also perfect for big group shots. Avoiding harsh lighting, I always look for a big shade that will cover everyone. I personally prefer the front porch (as you can see in the photos) but any other place would work as well. Let your photographer choose the right spot based on the lighting situation. Something that would look great at 5 p.m., won’t work at 2 p.m.
The ceremony is the most significant moment of the 2-hours staying at the Wayfarers chapel. Keep in mind that the ceremony will last about 20 minutes, not longer.
- Interior & Lighting
Walls are glass and provide views of the surrounding gardens, the ocean, tall trees, and blue sky. The Wayfarers chapel weddings offer a great compromise between an indoor and an outdoor wedding because you get soft natural light and an amazing view without wind or sand. At the noon wedding that I captured, the lighting was perfect. I believe it would look even better at sunset. During dusk day or evening ceremonies the venue provides additional candlelights.
The chapel does not allow decorations inside the church because they have usually a minimum of two weddings in one day. Honestly, the atmosphere and design of the chapel’s interiors don’t require many decors. There are planters filled with greenery built into the walls alongside the pews and there are always fresh flowers on the altar. For sure, you can bring your flower decors such as bouquets and boutonnieres. But if you like to add aisle/pew flowers, you have to hire the Chapel Preferred Florist and order it through their Reservations Office.
Music for your wedding is played on the Chapel’s Yamaha Clavinova that can sound like a piano, organ, or harpsichord. Only the Chapel keyboardist is permitted to use it. The ceremony service includes the cost of the musician. You could hire your musicians (who should arrive one hour before the scheduled wedding time) or musicians from the Chapel Musician’s list. Your favorite recordings you can bring as well.
The venue does not allow a photographer to capture the ceremony from the altar side, as I’ve already mentioned. He must stand behind the last pew during the wedding ceremony. After the ceremony, it’s possible to take any photos inside the chapel.
- Special option
The venue offers the option to install a paving stone or brick engraved and placed in the chapel gardens. People make it to commemorate anniversaries and other memorable dates and help the chapel by sponsoring.
Other servicese of Wayfarers chapel
Some other remarks to the features of the Wayfarers chapel weddings are:
- the venue allows same-gender weddings,
- it’s also possible to use the wedding service for non-believers or couples of mixed faiths. The chapel offers two options for your vows. The first is a traditional religious ceremony. The name of this second ceremony is the Humanist ceremony.
- there are no facilities to make a reception at the venue. But nearby there are some options: Point Vicente Interpretive Center (in the evenings), Trump National, Terranea Resort.
Advantages of Wayfarers chapel weddings
This place is one of the venues that have lots of ceremonies. They know exactly what they’re doing from experience. As many couples said in their reviews after the payment they basically didn’t have to worry about anything at all. They met about twice with the management of Wayfarers before the ceremony and it was all done perfectly.
Guests are usually blown away by unexampled views, green gardens and trees, and overall tranquility. Not to mention that everybody can take hundreds of stunning photos.
You get the feeling that you are outdoors with the light shining through the trees and chapel’s glass walls, but still, you are in the traditional chapel.
You don’t need to puzzle over decorations during the ceremony, it’s a piece of very natural simple beauty.
Wayfarers Chapel is one of the most remarkable and original chapels — an essence of spirituality and nature all in one. In this enchanting and peaceful place, you will only wish to have more time to stay and enjoy the surroundings.
If you wish greenery, calmness, and simple beauty, the Wayfarers chapel will be perfect for your ceremony.
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