Friday, June 10, 2011

Going to the Chapel…Cemetery Weddings

It’s June, the season of weddings.  So I decided to see what people thought of the idea of  ‘tying the knot’ in a cemetery.  It turns out this may be a trend of the future!

According to The Mortician Journal, out of a list of ‘25 Funeral Trends for 2011’, #8 is “More and more funeral facilities will be used for other services (like weddings and birthdays.)  Funeral homes and cemeteries are now starting to utilize their chapels and grounds for ‘celebration events.’

Community Life Center
In Indianapolis, Indiana, Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Centers built a ten-million dollar structure they call the ‘Community Life Center’  Opened in 2009, the Center was the site of ten weddings that year.  It now holds several events each month and has over 100 weddings booked for this year and into 2012.

Research indicates that more and more couples, within the past five-year, have entertained the idea of, if not actually been married in cemetery and funeral home chapels.  This interest has caught the attention of cemetery superintendents, sextons and funeral home directors, who are now viewing their sites as places to celebrate life as well as mourn the dead.

Wedding Carriage
Events being held in cemeteries have included birthday celebrations, anniversary parties, seasonal musical events, historic grounds tours, proms, holiday gatherings, banquets, family reunions, business conferences and weddings.  According to a survey conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association,, almost 10% of over 600 funeral homes in the U.S. have or are offering an event center for use by the community.  Some funeral homes also offer their expertise in planning a wedding.  And that does make sense.  What a funeral home director can accomplish in three days for a funeral, they can also achieve for a wedding, in record time.  In this new market, wedding planners are just beginning to take consider this a viable wedding option.

Norman Chapel
Inside of chapel
The appeal of a cemetery as a wedding location is easy to understand.   According to Leigh Hensley, Executive Assistant at Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretun in Cincinnati, Ohio, there are many reasons for couples to choose to be married in a cemetery.  For Spring Grove, it may be because of the historic nature and beauty of the grounds, or the gorgeous Norman Chapel, which is non-denominational.  And many times the location has to do with family members being interred there and the sentimental act of including those who have gone ahead.  Hensley said that Spring Grove hosts around 45 wedding per year in the Norman Chapel or their rose garden.

Cemeteries weddings are also considered to be more ‘green,’ or environmentally friendly, than most regular wedding and reception sites.    And, as an added bonus, the price is usually much less than traditional wedding venues. 

But we are not the first to be drawn to cemeteries to celebrate our life events.  In the mid-1800’s, people treated the cemetery as if it were a park, picnicking, enjoying boat rides on the lake, or taking a quiet carriage ride through the grounds.

During WW II, the Forest Lawn Cemeteries in California buried during the day and married during the night.  Today the cemetery group has eight chapels that are used for funerals and weddings.

And the interest in cemetery weddings is not just occurring in the U.S.  Cemetery weddings have been reported this year in many parts of the world including Indonesia and China.  The main reasons given overseas for having a cemetery wedding are the same - the beauty of the location, the meaningfulness of being married near ancestors, and the lower cost.

I asked readers of A Grave Interest, friends on my personal page, and members of A Graveyard Rabbit and Cemetery Explorers, all on Facebook, if any of them had been married in a cemetery and how they felt about cemetery weddings.  The overwhelming response was very positive.  While it was a novel idea to some, almost all felt it would be a very peaceful and beautiful location for a wedding.  Here are some of the replies:

Katie Killian wrote: "I would do it in a heartbeat if there was one that I found pretty enough or interesting enough to do it in. There aren't any in Indy that I have any ties to, though."

Steve Kalland thought it was a “Great idea.”

Save A Grave stated:  “I think it’s a cool place to have a wedding.  You can find some great places that would be beautiful for a wedding.  I don’t know anyone who has done it.”

Stewart Dashwood replied: “Sounds interesting!  I like the idea but my fiancé (despite loving cemeteries) isn’t quite sold on it.”

Tricia Neal responded: “Had some pictures taken after the wedding with the old church cemetery in the background, but didn’t actually get married IN the cemetery!  (And the fact that the cemetery was in the background in the pictures was unintentional, although if I’d thought about it at the time, I would have made sure it happened that way!)

Cheryl Mason wrote: “A cemetery in Savannah…under oaks draped in Spanish moss….”

Only a few people were somewhat wary of the idea –

Allison Butt commented that she didn’t “know of anyone doing it.  I don’t think I like the idea, although the setting would be peaceful!”

Beverly Ross Nance replied: “Hmmm, no.  But my family used to picnic in them...”

Thanks to everyone who replied!  So what do you think?  Would you get married, or renew your vows in a cemetery?  I definitely would!  But then, how would you decide, between all of the beautiful cemeteries and chapel out there, which one?  Something to ponder during the next wedding you attend.

~ Joy


  1. Hey! I just stumbled upon your blog, but I just wanted to chime in and say that I actually got married at Atlanta's Historic Oakland Cemetery last year, and it was the coolest thing in the world. The photographs were incredible; they're sort of scattered around on the internet, but here's a link to one blogger who did a story about our wedding -- she's posted a lot of the pictures on her site:

    Anyway, just thought I'd share; the cemetery was a perfect location, and everyone had a great, non-dreary time!

  2. I think its awesome however my family thinks that im morbid for wanting one myself in such a wonderful place

    1. That is so sad that your family does not see the location as a wonderful, peaceful place for a wedding! Well, its your wedding- so you can tell them right off, if you don't like what I'm doing, then feel free to check the No box on the recipt!

  3. I would in a heart-beat if I were getting married again. (Umm....maybe I should rephrase that ; )

  4. i got maryed in a gaveyard not just a blessing .but we did it for the right my wifes mum could be was so a nice day .

  5. I like that! A lot of couples are now considering exchanging vows in cemeteries where parents or grandparents are buried. Its a way to have loved ones close on that special day.

  6. I'm a wedding planner and guess where my daughter wants to get married... yep a cemetery! This will be my first! Kinda excited to scout locations. She would like something old with really cool headstones or Gargoyles... outside with a possible stone arch? Any suggestions for Orange County, CA. or surrounding areas? Just getting started in the search. So far Hollywood Forever is topping the list for possibilities. Any suggestions can be sent to - Thanks!

  7. Don't know of any in Orange County, California, but I could recommend Barcelona, Spain for the Gargoyles! Truly amazing!! Good Luck Rhonda!

  8. My ex-husband and I were married at Cedar Park Cemetery, just south of Chicago, on Oct. 31, 1987. We was dressed as Frankenstien in a tux with tails and I was the bride of.. and wore a white leather wedding dress I made myself. Our wedding party wore black cloaks and skeleton masks and carried candles. I had a man of honor and he has a best woman. The cake was in the shape of a headstone and said RIP with our names and the wedding date. It was on the news and in the local paper, but I have not been able to find anything on the web. Halloween has always been my favorite time of the year. When we decided to get married in a cemetery we had a hard time finding one that would let us. Some of their responses were any day but.. because they were afraind of vadalism, one wanted to charge us alot of money and some just just NO! Cedar Park Cemetery said yes with no hesitation and that we would be the second couple to get married there. The first couple met at the cemetery greiving from the loss of their spouses. The cemetery has no above ground headstones, has live deer and a gorgeous pond with swans and a bridge with a small island, (thats where we were married). Although the marriage did not last the memories of the wedding will last a life time!

    1. I can imagine the trouble you had in the eighties just getting a cemetery to say yes to a wedding. It's nice that cemeteries now understand why many of us would want to get married there. In fact, many promote it! With lovely grounds, pleasant chapels, and such tranquility, a cemetery is a perfect wedding location.

  9. I'm actually planning a wedding for a friend who wants to get married in a cemetery. Any Idea of ones in Portland, Oregon that might allow it??

  10. Savannah,

    You might want to contact River View Cemetery in Portland. They have a gorgeous chapel with a hospitality room that they rent for various events. They might also allow a ceremony on the grounds.

    Good Luck!!

  11. Hi there,

    I work on a popular daily Live UK TV programme called Daybreak.

    We are looking at doing an item around unusual weddings on the show next week. We are keen to talk to couples who have chosen to get married in unusual places, like a cemetery. I’d be really grateful to hear from anyone who has any suggestions.

    Many thanks,


  12. My dream wedding has always been in a cemetery, and Im thinking next year will be the time. I am looking for a cemetery in Southern California, that has lots of tombstones and preferbaly trees, as well as being cheap. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    You can respond back to me on here or my email address:


  13. My fiancee and I are actually getting married in a historic cemetery in Columbus, GA this October. We couldn't find "that perfect place" then one day we rode by and we both had that look!!! It was perfect!! I also love to see the look on people's faces when I tell them where I'm getting married! =)

    1. October is always a beautiful month in the cemetery! Congrats!!
      (And please email me some wedding pics to post afterwards ; )

  14. I totally would get married in a Cemetery! I, too enjoy strolling through cemeteries and have passed a few areas in local cemeteries and thought "what a perfect backdrop for a wedding!" It is much cheaper than spending 300 dollars to rent a church, plus a hall and DJ. At least with a cemetery, you don't have to worry too much about decorations and other conflicts. Now I just have to find a guy who agrees....

    1. If I were doing it again, it would definitely be in a cemetery. In fact, I'm surprised more cemeteries aren't going after the wedding business. As you said, Mandy, it is cheaper and you couldn't ask for a more natural and serene location.

  15. Are there any venues in Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, GA, or St. Augestine, FL?

  16. Check with Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, and Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah.

  17. I was trying to find ideas for a wedding venue for a Halloween wedding in Suffolk, VA. Out of all the holidays in the year and seasons, my fiance and I love Fall and Halloween. It is the ONLY holiday we look forward to. I have been trying to think of ideas of what I would like and I was thinking a wedding outside near a line of trees in all their fall glorious colors would be a very beautiful sight for a Fall wedding. I had also an idea of a place that is now a wedding venue but used to be a funeral home owned by a friend's father. I thought this was ironic and was thinking this may be the place for such a day, but though I like the decorations and garden scenery it seems the place is quite pricey even for a small guest list of 25 and a simple set-up. Then, I remembered there was a cemetery in Norfolk, VA called Elmwood that had the perfect line of trees along a road that would fit what I wanted. Also with all the beautiful statues, masoleums and serene peacefulness what could be better? The fall foliage would provide way more beauty then I could ever produce and for FREE. I had been thinking or dreading though that this kind of place may not seem as perfect to me as to my guests that would attend but after reading this blog I am shocked to find out I am nowhere near the only one who has had this idea! I am also glad that cemeteries are also realizing this trend! I have written an email to the person who runs this cemetery and am hoping for a good response. It would truely be a nice place to have a wedding in my eyes and might not be so bad on my budget! I am in no way a girly girl and not a picky person when it comes to elegance and flair at a wedding. I don't want a million dollar wedding. Just something simple, small and serene and I think I've found it in Elmwood! Thanks for the blog and post this gives me a little more hope in the idea. :)

    1. Glad it was useful for you! I'm finding that cemetery sextons and superintendents really do understand people wanting to hold weddings in their cemeteries. Most of these people love their grounds and enjoy sharing them with others. A one-on-one with a small cemetery sexton may get the results you want.

      Cemeteries in the cities are realizing what beautiful locations and great grounds they have, and are becoming more and more open to allowing weddings. (It's about time ; )

      Best of luck!!