Getting married at Wayfarers Chapel has been a dream of mine for years. I first discovered this location when it was used on the TV series, “The OC”, and have always wanted to see it in person. I visited the chapel for the first time in 2018 and fell more in love with this venue. It is truly one of the most stunning places I have ever visited. In this blog post, I am sharing helpful information from my Wayfarers Chapel wedding experience.
The Wayfarers Chapel Wedding page on their website is a helpful resource as you begin to do your research. You can find pricing, rules, and other helpful information on their website. This blog post will not focus too much on the information that can be found on their website, as I want to share the details of my own experience. If you are considering this venue, be sure to do your own research through their website as well. At the bottom of this post, I’ll share some information on the vendors that I used.
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click on a link and buy something, I will earn a small commission from the advertiser at no additional cost to you.
Is It Worth It To Have A Wayfarers Chapel Wedding?
Yes, but depending on what you want from your dream day it might not end up being the best choice for you. It is pricey and I am so thankful that I was able to get this amazing location as my ceremony venue. You can only have your ceremony at the chapel and cannot set up for your reception on the grounds so you would need to book two separate venues. Most reception venues will be 30 minutes to an hour away unless you are planning a reception at the nearby Terranea Resort.
I did a lot of research before booking the chapel. This has been my desired venue for years and once my husband and I started talking about our future I began looking into whether or not my dream to get married here could be a reality. I looked for blog posts so I could truly get an idea of what a bride’s experience with the chapel was like but I mainly just found reviews on Yelp. I knew from reading Yelp that I would most likely have bumps along the road, but this venue is so incredibly special so to me that outweighed any potential issues. I do want to say that the rehearsal day and the ceremony itself were both perfect and everything we wanted. The staff on those two days were wonderful.
We are both so thrilled that we booked this venue and will forever cherish our memories from our big day. It has also been such a joy to hear from our family and friends how impressed they were with the chapel. Multiple people have told us that this is the best ceremony venue that they have ever been to. My cousin’s husband kept telling my parents that he didn’t want to leave the chapel after the ceremony because he loved it so much. It truly left our guests in awe and I felt like they all enjoyed their experience.
My Wayfarers Chapel Wedding Planning Experience
Wayfarers Chapel is one of the most popular places to get married in Southern California. They can do weddings every single day of the week, and on some days can accommodate up to 6 weddings. Ceremonies can be booked up to 18 months in advance, and I believe that one of the only reasons I got lucky enough to get both my desired date & ceremony time was due to COVID. I wanted a 2:00 pm ceremony so that there would still be daylight for most of my beachfront reception. You have exactly two hours on the grounds. I arrived at 1:00 pm and had to be in my car by 3:00 pm.
When I was dreaming of a Wayfarers Chapel wedding I never anticipated getting engaged/married during a global pandemic. However, I also wasn’t going to let COVID steal my joy or let it stop me from moving forward with my life. Like so many other businesses and places of worship, Wayfarers Chapel had to close its doors throughout the beginning of the pandemic. By the time that I got engaged, they had only recently begun doing outdoor ceremonies. COVID or no COVID, if you need to change the date of your ceremony they will move it one time but it has to take place within a year.
Even though this was the only ceremony venue I wanted to consider, it wasn’t a decision I wanted to make without my fiance. We set up a tour since he had not seen it in person. Due to COVID, it was a self-guided tour which is perfectly fine since it is such an intimate venue. It did not take long for Elliott to agree that this was the perfect venue.
The next day we paid the deposit to put a hold on the date and time. However, even with the deposit, until you sign their paperwork the chapel is not officially booked for your wedding. A packet will be mailed to you and both the bride and groom need to fill out the paperwork and get it back to the office within a specified time period. The paperwork came inside our wedding packet within one week, so luckily we did not have to wait too long.
What’s Included In The Wedding Packet:
You will find information on music, flowers, video, as well as their recommendations on reception venues, and florists. There is a script of the ceremony for you to read over. A booklet is also included that has their rules and other important information.
When I booked the venue in November I had no idea if I would be able to have an indoor ceremony or how many people I would be able to invite. COVID guidelines continued to change and fluctuate up until two weeks before the wedding which always kept me on my toes. The main requirement to get married at the chapel is that you have a planning conference, a meeting with the minister, as well as a rehearsal. It is not required that you be a member of the church or that you have to be religious. Please note that you are required to use one of their ministers.
The planning conference would normally be set up close to the time that you book so that they can help make recommendations on vendors and reception locations. When I reached out to the office in November to see about setting this up, they let me know that due to COVID guidelines changing so much they were trying to do the planning conferences as close to the ceremony as possible. When I did finally get to have the planning conference, the planner could not actually give me up-to-date information on what the COVID guidelines were. She kept telling me I would have to call and ask the front office as they were the ones who had that information.
I used The Knot app as my digital wedding planner but if you want to use a hard copy Amazon has great wedding planning books to choose from.
I highly recommend that you Create an Amazon Wedding Registry. We decided to register at Macy’s, Target, and Amazon. That way our family and friends had in-store options as well as an online option and made sure to have a variety of price points. Our Amazon registry was the most popular with our guests.
What Happens at the Planning Conference
For a COVID wedding, it consisted of deciding if it would be indoors or outdoors based on the guest count and the current guidelines. We listed the order of who would walk down the aisle. Our planner asked what songs we wanted. We wanted specific versions of songs played from our phones. It was about five weeks before someone could answer our question about the music. All we needed to know is can we play the music from our phone or do we need to put it on a cd or flash drive. Only the music director could answer that question. The wedding planner had no idea nor did the minister or front office. Though, the front office did at least ask the director to return my email.
For the music, you can have live music or use pre-recorded music. Our music choices were the following:
- “Married Life” by Michael Giacchino from the film Up was the prelude.
- “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri (The Piano Guys cover version) for everyone walking down the aisle.
- “Piano Theme – The Portrait” by James Horner from Titanic for our candle music.
- “The Throne Room” by John Williams from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope for the end of the ceremony.
At our reception, our guests raved about our Star Wars song.
The candle lighting is optional. If you do decide to do it they have the option for you to buy a special keepsake candle or you can use theirs. I am really happy that we did it but we decided not to add a special candle for us to keep. You each light a candle together during the ceremony if chose to do so. They will go over the specifics at the rehearsal. You each light one candle together so it does not add much time to your ceremony.
We ultimately decided not to add any extras at the chapel. The aisle flowers were something that we considered adding but since it was up in the air for so long on whether or not our ceremony could be indoors we planned on different centerpieces. If you do the aisle flowers you have to remove them from the chapel when you leave so I think it would be great to reuse them at the reception.
When it comes to flowers, candles, or videography these are all things that you can change your mind about. If you are unsure at the planning conference if you want those or not it is completely fine as you have time to work with them. They have candles that you can choose to add to the aisles but I would only imagine that it would make sense to have them for an evening wedding.
The planning conference ends with a tour of a few areas at the chapel. You’ll see the area where you’ll sign your marriage license and paperwork as well as the area where you can get ready. They’ll also show you the books they have filled with the names of everyone who has gotten married there. You’ll see the getting ready area as well. There is a vanity, restroom, and a floor-length mirror in the getting-ready room. It is recommended from a time standpoint to only put your dress on at the chapel so it won’t get wrinkled on your drive. Be sure to do your hair & make-up before your arrival. The meeting will not take more than an hour.
Meeting with the Minister
After your planning conference, the chapel will reach back out to you to set up your meeting with the minister. Our minister was Reverend Robert McCluskey. He was a great fit for us and I loved that he incorporated a special moment into our ceremony to honor our family members who have passed on. Located in the packet the chapel sends you after you book is an outline of the ceremony. They ask that you both look it over before your meeting. I had asked the Reverend if we could swap out the Lord’s Prayer for my favorite bible verse as it says in the packet and on their website that they will customize the ceremony.
While they are willing to help customize the ceremony for you the minister does get the final say. When we asked to replace one part of the ceremony with my favorite verse the Reverend suggested we replace a different part of the ceremony. You are also welcome to participate in premarital counseling through the chapel. This was something that we were interested in but were unable to make work with our schedule as they only do it on Saturdays.
Our COVID wedding was different than what I hope future weddings will be as I continue to pray that the world heals from the pandemic. We were very lucky that our guest count was able to increase a few weeks before the wedding. Previously, a portion of our guests were only able to be invited to our reception. We did have to create a seating chart to ensure that our guests were socially distanced. The chart only arrived in my inbox the week before the wedding and I had 48 hours to fill that out as well as create a contact tracing list of information for all our guests.
My Mom had contacted the chapel asking for these forms so that we could fill them out when we had more time. We had also called and asked how many pews there were inside the church so that we could get a head start on the seating chart on our own. No one in the office could answer our question about the number of pews so we looked up photos and videos and counted on our own. It was disappointing how few of our questions could actually be answered by the staff.
It seemed that the staff as a whole had very few answers to our questions. I am still happy that I got my dream venue and I would do it again but I do want to be honest and transparent to help set your expectations about the staff. Our favorite staff member was Debra who was there for our rehearsal and ceremony. She never told us she didn’t know the answer to our questions and was very warm and kind.
The only blessing about our ceremony taking place during COVID was that the grounds were off-limits to anyone who was not invited to the meetings or our wedding. During normal times the chapel is open to the public, which is great if you want to come & see this beautiful place. It is not that great when you are trying to take your wedding photos and have strangers in the background. I previously blogged about my experience of visiting the chapel which you can check out in this post.
Rehearsals can only take place on Wednesdays or Thursdays due to their wanting to keep the other days fully open for ceremonies. For us, that meant that very few of our family and bridal party were available to be at the rehearsal. You will not be at the chapel for longer than an hour. Our day-of coordinator Debra showed us where everyone would stand and had us practice walking down the aisle. She went over a few of the big parts of the ceremony script and that was about it. It was perfectly fine that our bridal party couldn’t come as it was easy for us to let them know what to do on the big day.
The Wedding Day
I got to the chapel a little bit before 1:00 pm. I parked in the spot that Debra recommended to me and then headed to sign the paperwork before slipping into my dress. You will get a folder that will have information on getting copies of your marriage license, the chapels certificate of marriage for you to keep, and information on purchasing a commemorative brick to have placed in their flower garden.
My photographer, Amy Theilig, helped make sure we were all in the right spot at the right time. Elliott and I had our first look in the rose garden and then we each took photos with our families. Before I knew it, the time had come to walk down the aisle.
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The ceremony is roughly 20 minutes but it never feels like it is dragging. It was so beautiful and special! As long as you speak clearly and a little louder than you normally would, your guests won’t have a hard time hearing you at all. When the ceremony is over you’ll be guided to the rose garden side of the chapel for a quick chat with the Reverend. After that, we finished up our family photos before we took photos inside the chapel. Having a photographer like Amy who has shot at the chapel multiple times was such a blessing. She knew when to encourage our guests to head on to the reception and how to time when certain photos should be taken. We cannot get enough of our wedding photos. They are stunning!
Tips for the Day Of:
- If you have elderly guests attending be sure to request chairs for them to sit on while waiting ahead of time. Even though they ask you to tell your guests to arrive early, they will not be allowed inside the chapel until 10-15 minutes before the ceremony. The chapel will be roped off until then.
- Be at the chapel at least five to ten minutes before your time officially starts so that you are ready to go and don’t waste a minute as your time will go incredibly fast.
- Hire one of their recommended photographers if you can. Having someone who knows exactly what they are doing at that location is such a time saver.
The Vendors I Used for my Wayfarers Chapel Wedding
Photographer – Amy Theilig
I found Amy through the recommended photographers on the chapel’s website. There were a few things that made Amy my first choice for our photographer. I loved the blog posts on her website that shared some insight into some of the weddings she has done. Her packages include a mini engagement shoot which is a huge plus! Her costs are reasonable and her work is wonderful! She was really responsive and incredibly helpful.
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For our mini engagement shoot, we took photos at the Terranea Resort. We were so pleased with how everything turned out and we loved getting to meet and work with her prior to the wedding. Every time we talked with the chapel and mentioned we had booked Amy they had such nice things to say about her which really made us feel great about hiring her. We even had guests at the reception who commented on how on top of things they thought she was. I highly recommend using Amy even if you don’t choose the chapel for your venue.
You can visit Amy’s website here.
Hair & Makeup – Karissa from Vanity Belles
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When I was doing my research for a wedding hair and makeup artist in Orange County I found several places that I felt did a great job with one but not the other. Once I found the Vanity Belles Instagram I knew I had potentially found the place that I trusted the most to do the best overall job. I was hesitant to consider Vanity Belles due to the cost. However, when I was not convinced another place could do it better I decided to book a trial.
The biggest downside to booking with Vanity Belles is confusion and miscommunication due to the online booking tool that the owner uses. They will not let you book over the phone or via email. It must be done using an online software called Honeybook and they use that same tool to communicate with you. This led to a lot of confusion and frustration on both ends throughout working with them. As much of a pain that this part of the process was my artist, Karissa did such a phenomenal job that ultimately I do still recommend using them.
Even though the trial adds on quite a bit to your expenses it was so important that I did one. I had not realized how dry my skin had gotten which caused the airbrush makeup to cling to dry spots on my face. Since I had my trial 3 months before my wedding Karissa was able to give me tips on how to get my skin in great shape for the wedding. By the big day, my dry skin was gone and my makeup looked flawless. I had shown Karissa ideas on how I wanted my hair & makeup and she was able to do even better than what I was envisioning.
You can visit the Vanity Belle website here.
Bouquet – Green Leaf Designs
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I found Shelby from Green Leaf Designs through her Yelp reviews and she was such a blessing. We worked with her a lot on different projects for our reception and had her do the bouquets and boutonnieres for the ceremony as well. I had a photo of my dream bouquet that I found online and she was able to do exactly what I wanted. Our reverend told me that my bouquet was the most beautiful one he had seen so far and that the blue galaxy orchids were hypnotic.
You can visit the Green Leaf Designs website here.
I really hope that this post has helped you with your planning and reserach.