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Weddings with a view

January 08, 2006|By JULIE E. GREENE

The church was plain with old highback wooden pews. With no electricity, light for the evening wedding ceremony was provided by battery-operated candles. The scent of firewood filled the rustic church.

"Elegant," is how Madonna Zimmerman remembers her wedding ceremony in Antietam National Battlefield's Dunker Church last September.

Zimmerman, 26, and her husband, Wesley, 24, hadn't originally planned for a wedding in the historic church.

They thought of getting married at the battlefield after finding out they wouldn't be able to get a Pennsylvania marriage license in time to get married on their planned wedding date -- Sept. 17 -- in the Waynesboro, Pa., church they attend.

"I had always wanted an outside wedding," says Madonna Zimmerman, of Funkstown.

The battlefield was the site of the couple's first date. Wesley Zimmerman was a member of the 1st Tennessee Volunteer Regiment, a Confederate re-enactment group that had a living history event at the national park that weekend.

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"I think it was meant to be," Zimmerman says of getting married at the battlefield.

When they called the park to inquire about having a wedding ceremony there, they found out couples had been married in Dunker Church.

The church was scarred by bullets during the Civil War's Battle of Antietam in 1862 and served as a temporary medical aid station for the Confederates when the battle ended.

With one more change in their plans, pushing their planned wedding date back a week so it wouldn't conflict with the Battle of Antietam's anniversary weekend, the couple was married by their Waynesboro pastor at the historic church on Sept. 24, 2005.

"I just wanted something simple and intimate, and that's exactly what it was," Zimmerman says.

"I thought it was very intimate because our friends were so close to us," she says.

For couples looking for an unusual venue for their vows, several places in the Tri-State area, beyond churches and courthouses, permit ceremonies.

Among them are:

o Antietam National Battlefield

Basically, wedding ceremonies can be held anywhere on the battlefield except for the visitors center and surrounding grounds to accommodate the privacy of the ceremony and the public's access, says Linc Beers, law enforcement ranger. In addition to Dunker Church, couples have been married at Burnside Bridge and the Maryland Monument. "We hope that visitors have enough respect not to interrupt the wedding," he says. The special use permit application review costs $50. Additional fees may be charged if a ranger has to work extra hours. The wedding party is responsible for setup and cleanup. To get an application, call 301-432-2243 or go to www.nps.gov/anti.

o The Mansion House in City Park

The historic house, built in the 1840s by miller, horticulturist, home builder and artist John Heyser, is occasionally available for weddings, either inside or on the porch, says Diane Wollard, Mansion House Gallery co-director. The drawback is the house's busy schedule. Open dates are few. The volunteer Valley Art Association, which rents the house from the City of Hagerstown, asks for a donation to cover costs, such as cleaning. The donation usually runs from $50 to $200, depending on the ceremony's length, size and usage of the building. For more information and reservations, call the Mansion House Art Center at 301- 797-6813.

o Municipal Stadium

The Hagerstown Suns will work with couples who want to get married at the City of Hagerstown-owned baseball stadium. Couples can have a five-minute wedding ceremony for free as part of game-day festivities and have a small number of people on the field.

Couples have said their vows at home plate, the pitcher's mound and in the infield, says Kurt Landes, Suns president and general manager. Suns players have been involved, holding up baseball bats like military personnel cross weapons under which newlyweds walk.

Junior Mason, parks superintendent for the city, says a wedding has not been held at the stadium on a nongame day, but it could be done. The cost could vary depending on the time of day.

For more information about having a wedding on a day with no game, call the Parks and Recreation Department at 301-739-8577, ext. 169. For information about scheduling a wedding on a game day, call the Hagerstown Suns at 301-791-6266.

o Berkeley Springs Castle in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

The price for renting the privately owned castle for a wedding starts at $1,000 for small groups, says coordinator Pamela Unger. The price is $1,200 for four hours for a wedding party of 70 people and includes decorating and the wedding rehearsal the prior evening. The castle is a half-scale replica of the Lord Berkeley Castle in England and has a medieval décor. For more information and reservations, call 1-304- 258-4000.

o Renfrew Museum & Park

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