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Downtown chapel offers a wedding alternative

August 24, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A wedding chapel intended to fill a niche between expensive church weddings and civil ceremonies will open next month, the chapel owner said Monday.

Blessed Beginnings Wedding Chapel will open at 121 E. Franklin St., across Franklin from Otterbein United Methodist Church. A sign in front of the business went up about a month ago, chapel owner Vicki Bodnar said Monday.

Bodnar said she will use a radio signal, 92.9 FM, to publicize information about the wedding chapel to listeners in a three-block radius.

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A sign will be posted telling people to tune in to hear information about the business, she said.

"I wanted to take advantage of the street traffic," Bodnar said.

Bodnar, who ran unsuccessfully for Hagerstown City Council in 2001, said she has been a professional decorator for 25 years. She said she has no plans to again run for office.

At a time when the average wedding costs $10,000, an inexpensive alternative is needed, Bodnar said.

The actual marriage service, performed by Bodnar, will cost $100, she said. Other services, such as digital photography, cost extra, she said.

Couples will still need to pay $60 to get their marriage licenses from the courthouse, she said.

As an ordained minister through World Christianship Ministry, Bodnar said she can officiate at weddings and has done so.

Some couples can't get married at a church for a variety of reasons, while others can't afford an expensive wedding, Bodnar said.

While weddings performed by clerks at the Washington County Courthouse are inexpensive - costing $25 for the service and $60 for the license - they can't have a religious element, Bodnar said.

"It would be really nice to have a place they can have a religious ceremony. They will have better memories" than in the courthouse, she said.

Washington County Circuit Court Clerk Dennis Weaver said he thinks a wedding chapel will offer an alternative for couples.

"We, of course, can't have any religious references in our ceremonies since it is a government office," Weaver said.

Hagerstown Economic Development Director Debbie Everhart said the business will fit in well with the city government's plans for downtown development.

"It gives more diversity to what we offer downtown, one more business type. It is one more reason for someone to come downtown," she said.

Couples can choose to get married indoors at the wedding chapel's altar or in the back yard, Bodnar said.

She said she will rent wedding gowns at costs ranging from about $75 to $350.

She said she will have dresses available to rent for others participating in the wedding at costs ranging from $50 to $150. Those also will be for sale, she said.

Bodnar's husband, Ted Bodnar, said he will assist with the weddings.

While some people think of Las Vegas or Atlantic City, N.J., when they hear "wedding chapel," her business won't be like that, Vicki Bodnar said.

"It is more Victorian and old-fashioned," she said.

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