Going to the Chapel': A Look at Weddings on Grounds

July 31, 2009 — Whether they choose the University of Virginia Chapel, a Pavilion garden or Jefferson Hall, U.Va.'s Grounds are a popular wedding site for hundreds of couples every year.

Last year, 183 weddings took place on Grounds, 120 of those at the chapel. During the busy spring and summer seasons, five or six weddings a day can take place there, said Dorothy Lippincott, Newcomb Hall event planning assistant. The chapel hosted 31 weddings in May, June and July this year. Weddings are not held during Finals Weekend in May or Reunions Weekend in June.

Charles Emmet Cassell of Baltimore designed the Gothic Revival chapel, located at the corner of University Avenue and McCormick Road, in the late 19th century. The nondenominational chapel was dedicated in 1889 and seats 250 people.

Besides the U.Va. Chapel, other popular ceremony venues include Jefferson Hall and the Pavilion Gardens, with gardens V, VIII and IX being particularly popular.

For reception sites on Grounds, Alumni Hall hosts approximately 30 receptions a year and features a ballroom, annex and terrace. The Colonnade Club has 15 weddings booked for 2009, and is also the site of many rehearsal dinners. Reception space includes Pavilion VII, Pavilion Garden VII and Hotel E.

U.Va. is a special place for Brian Andes and Elyse Carreno-Andes, who met while he was attending the U.S. Army's Judge Adjutant General School and she was finishing her undergraduate work at U.Va. They married on June 20 at the chapel.

"It was so solemn yet joyous, with the afternoon sun streaming through the stained- glass windows and all the wood glowing," Carreno-Andes said. "The chapel is full of so much soul, and as we were there it felt like the echoes of so many other people who have passed through there were present to give us their blessing."

For U.Va. alum Emily McMullin Carroll, the beauty of the chapel and U.Va.'s convenient location in central Virginia made the chapel an ideal ceremony location for her May 9 wedding to Mark Carroll.

"The church is just beautiful inside and out," Emily McMullin Carroll said. The chapel's proximity to the Lawn made it easy for the couple to take photos on the steps of the Rotunda after the wedding.

Although a popular engagement and wedding photo spot, the Lawn is not available for weddings. Couples are not generally permitted to wed in the Rotunda, but there have been exceptions.

Rey and Virginia Barry, longtime Charlottesville residents, wed in the Rotunda on Feb. 14, 1970.

The couple did not want a civil ceremony, due to their objections to the Vietnam War, or a traditional religious ceremony. Instead, they opted for a Quaker ceremony, although neither is Quaker.

"We wanted a wedding that united us with Thomas Jefferson," Rey Barry said. While the couple considered Monticello, they decided it was too touristy, and instead asked then-U.Va. President Edgar Shannon for permission to use the Rotunda.

'He said, ‘I'll take care of it,'' said Rey Barry, who attended U.Va. in the late '50s.

Around 50 people, including Shannon, attended the ceremony, where a string quartet played Mozart and the couple exchanged vows.

As snow began to fall, the newlyweds and their guests moved to the south portico of the Rotunda.

"It was just gorgeous to see the Lawn inundated with snow," Rey Barry said.

Alexander "Sandy" Gilliam Jr., former secretary to the Board of Visitors and current protocol and history officer, recalls a time when summer weddings at the chapel were not so pleasant.

After some disturbances at the chapel in the 1960s, in which rocks were thrown at the windows, officials placed protective panels on the outsides of the windows. The panels protected the beautiful stained glass, but, because the chapel wasn't air-conditioned at the time, guests occasionally passed out during longer ceremonies, Gilliam said.

— By Laura Hoffman