Unique unions

Once the ring has been selected and the question of marriage has been popped, then comes the task of planning the big day. For many couples, the first place to start with their wedding is selecting a date, which goes hand in hand with finding a memorable venue.

“I think it’s a little girl’s dream to get married in the little, white chapel,” says Kathleen Gussert, manager of corporate relations & private events for Heritage Hill State Historical Park.

Weddings today can go from the extravagant to the quaint, but for those wanting a site outside the norm, chapels and churches on the grounds of area nonprofits may just be a dream come true.

Boynton Chapel at Lawrence University’s Bjorklünden

Tucked away in the woods on the grounds of Lawrence University’s Bjorklünden in Baileys Harbor is Boynton Chapel.

Photo credit: Rachel Crowl

Photo credit: Rachel Crowl

“It’s a charming, magical place in a beautiful setting,” says Kim Eckstein, office coordinator.

The small, wooden chapel looks like something found in a fairy tale at first glance. Built in the late 12th century stave church style, it was handcrafted by Winifred and Donald Boynton. It was constructed between 1939-1947 on the grounds of what was once their summer residence. The chapel is home to 41 painted frescoes and fine carved wood furnishings. It is modeled after the Garmo stave church at Maihaugen in Lillehammer, Norway.

“Door County is a popular place to be and the venue is so unique. Bjorklünden is a 425-acre estate with 1.2 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline,” Eckstein adds. “In addition to being simply a unique building, when one knows the history, it only makes it more charming.”

Since 2010, the chapel has hosted 10 to 15 ceremonies in a year, but 14 are already on the books for this year, Eckstein notes. Weddings can be held year round in the chapel, but there is no heat in the building. The chapel is available for a two-hour block. As many as four ceremonies could be held in a day. There is no bathroom or facility for dressing.

“I like to give a cushion in between (ceremonies) so folks have plenty of time for hugs and pictures. We want them to feel like they’re the only ones using the venue on their special day,” Eckstein says.

Reservations for the chapel are often made through Lawrence’s website so there are times that Eckstein never meets the couple in person, but there are some couples who choose to revisit the site of their nuptials.

“One couple comes back every year to visit the chapel and take pictures. Their visits now include their two children!” Eckstein shares.

EAA’s Fergus Chapel

Behind the big red doors of Fergus Chapel on the grounds of the Experimental Aircraft Association is the makings of

Photo courtesy of EAA

Photo courtesy of EAA

a quaint, old-time chapel nestled between the EAA Nature Center and Pioneer Airport near a quiet pond. The Oshkosh venue was built in the 1980s as the vision of EAA founder Paul Poberezny who sought a gathering place on the grounds, notes August Hoeltzel, events coordinator.

The nondenominational chapel began hosting weddings about seven or eight years ago as a revenue stream and to further EAA’s mission. It seats up to 88 people in the pews and up to 100 people with additional seating. A working organ, sound system, eight aviation-themed stained glass windows and a working fireplace at the front of the church add to the atmosphere, along with a functioning bell.

“A lot of couples ring it as they walk out,” Hoeltzel shares.

A priest used to be onsite daily when regular services were offered. The chapel is now open for weddings, baptisms and memorials, in addition to services held during AirVenture.

“The majority of the couples that we do have coming through the doors have some ties to aviation,” Hoeltzel says.

Fergus Chapel is open from May to November with other times of the year for special circumstances. Up to two weddings can be held on any date. Weddings have not been held during AirVenture due to the busy nature of the event, but aviation opportunities are available for a couple’s big day. Brides and fathers have arrived by helicopter, for example. There’s also the Ford Tri-Motor.

“We do have the capability for having it be a really big wow factor,” says Hoeltzel. “At EAA, we want to make it a memorable experience for every single one of our guests.”

Bridal parties can get ready in the nearby building that was once the priest’s office. While there are no restroom facilities in that building, there are in the church. In addition to the chapel, the EAA grounds also provide other sites for weddings, and receptions also can be accommodated. While Hoeltzel has openings for 2016, she does have two ceremonies scheduled already for 2017 and suggests booking a minimum of six months out from your preferred date.

“Getting your wedding venue and reception site should be first on your list,” Hoeltzel advises.

Heritage Hill State Historical Park’s Moravian Church

The nondenominational Moravian Church at Heritage Hill State Historical Park features eight 15-foot tall windows that let in natural light and make for a quaint venue showcasing natural beauty. “It’s not all about the glitz and glamour,” says Kathleen Gussert, manager of corporate relations & private events. Gussert adds that she’s seeing couples who are looking to bring the wedding day back to family and the unity itself.

Photo courtesy of Heritage Hill State Park

Photo courtesy of Heritage Hill State Historical Park

“I think it’s the intimacy, the uniqueness of the chapel,” says Gussert of the attraction to the church. “The simple beauty of the chapel is absolutely gorgeous.”

The Moravian Church was built in 1851 and is the oldest standing building in Green Bay. It was moved in pieces to the Heritage Hill grounds in the 1980s and has been hosting weddings ever since. It went through a complete restoration, Gussert says. The pews are original to the church.

The smaller, more intimate venue seats 150 and includes a pipe organ and baby grand piano. Up to two weddings are held a day. It is not uncommon for the church to host 60-70 weddings annually.

“People enjoy and appreciate the historical setting,” says Gussert. “It’s your own personal space. … A lot of the feedback I hear is the love of history.”

Receptions can be hosted on the grounds and a bridal room is available. Guests also are welcome to wander the park as long as it’s open. Some couples have chosen to incorporate horse and carriage rides, too. The scenery and seasonal backdrops of changing leaves lend themselves to amazing photo opportunities, Gussert shares.

Niles Church at Pinecrest Historical Village

Making a moment in history is what draws couples to Pinecrest Historical Village.


Photo courtesy of Oh! Photography

“A lot of people comment that people have been getting married in that church for 150 years and now they can,” says Amy Meyer, executive director, of the nondenominational Niles Church.

The church was moved to the grounds of Pinecrest in the late 1970s. The first wedding was held there in 1980. It has attracted couples that have a connection to Manitowoc County through family or those who recall touring the village during a school field trip. A few re-enactor weddings also have taken place at Pinecrest.

The organ within the church was moved from a silent movie theater that was once in Shoto and the pews came from three other churches. Niles Church seats 80 people. Weddings can be held there any day or time unless there is an event planned. Only one ceremony per day is held at Pinecrest.

According to Meyer, couples enjoy the peace and tranquility of the site, along with the historical context. They also like to ring in their new beginning.

“The bell is often something people comment on. They can ring the bell before, during or after the ceremony,” Meyer says. While the bell is not original to Niles Church, it did come from another church.

In addition to the church, couples also have chosen to get married in the Nennig Dance Pavilion and outdoors at Pinecrest. The historical village also offers the option for beer in the tavern and exploring the grounds. Pinecrest hosted 13 weddings last year, half of which were in the church.

“What I really enjoy from the weddings is when the bride and groom come back to us with a photo or memento from their big day,” Meyer shares, adding that a scrapbook with photos is kept in the Welcome Center.

Old St. Joseph’s Church at St. Norbert College

Despite abiding by the guidelines of the Diocese of Green Bay, Old St. Joseph’s Church isn’t your typical Catholic Church.

The majority of couples who decide to hold their weddings at Old St. Joe’s have met on the St. Norbert College campus and want to get married at the church, which is at the heart of campus. The stained glass windows and cross outside the church also include hearts, says The Rev. James Neilson, administrator of the parish.


Photo courtesy of Jerry Turba

“Usually, the biggest thing I hear is it’s coming home,” shares Marie Marsh, administrative assistant and bookkeeper to the parish, noting there have been proposals both on campus and in the church itself. “That gives them a chance to really tie it all into their experience on campus.” Couples who are alumni or parishioners can be married at Old St. Joe’s.

The church has been around for more than 300 years, but underwent a remodel in the 1990s. The exposed brick and timbers that were sourced and cut locally also serve as links to De Pere’s history. Up to 440 people can fit in the church. Seating is arranged so half the congregation faces the other half.

“The orientation is to surround the couple,” Neilson explains. “There’s something about being enveloped by your loved ones on your special day. … We certainly like to open the doors wide to those who like to celebrate the sacrament of marriage here.”

A memorable ceremony took place on Oct. 9, 2010 at the church when three of four of President Thomas Kunkel’s daugters  — Helen, Claire and Katie — got married at Old St. Joe’s. The youngest daughter, Grace, served as maid of honor.

Couples looking for a more intimate space within the church, also have the National Shrine of St. Joseph available to them. The area seats 25 people.

Seasonal changes on campus and taking photos along the Fox River also are a draw to the site. While the church itself doesn’t host receptions, the Bemis Conference Center is available on campus and the Pennings Room within the church is available for the bridal party to get ready in. An officiant, however, needs to be arranged by the couple. On average, the church hosts 35 weddings annually.


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