|What You Need To Know BEFORE You Book Your Wedding|
Chapman Chapel in Orange, California, was the setting for my parents’ wedding in 1979 and being a romantic I always dreamed of exchanging my vows there. While attending college on the East coast, I became engaged and even though it was a year before the wedding date I booked Chapman Chapel and sent them the required $675 deposit. Six (6) months later I graduated and returned home to plan my special day. It wasn’t until I started actively putting together the décor that personalizes my event that I realized Chapman Chapel was not the ideal wedding location for me.
Hopefully this website will help future brides avoid making some of the same mistakes I made, and avoid the frustration and disappointments I’ve encountered with Chapman Chapel and Bonnie Luther (CWPC/Christian Wedding Planning Center).
When I first booked Chapman Chapel, I did so without inspecting it because I was in college 3000 miles away. I already knew that the Chapel was cute, small, and quaint in its presentation. On a later visit I went to the chapel and decided that it was everything I remembered but it needed some minor decorative changes which would enhance the overall look of the Chapel. This included placing a runner down the aisle, my flower colors on the pews, and I was hoping to remove the dirty plastic looking foliage and flowers the Chapel uses to decorate.
Then, during a visit to the Chapel I met Bonnie. This was a chance encounter as she told me earlier on the phone that she NEVER meets brides at the Chapel. So imagine my surprise. I learned that Bonnie was at the Chapel to meet another prospect who was interested in purchasing her “Everything Package.” She asked me if I had purchased her “Everything Package” and when she learned I had not, she seemed very uninterested in me and my wedding (even though I had already reserved the Chapel.) I tried to discuss my decorating ideas with her but to everything she told me “no.”
I thought my requests to Bonnie were reasonable, but everything I asked for was denied. Many traditional and simple parts of a wedding are not allowed by Bonnie and nothing I requested is listed as prohibited from the site in the contract. Below are a few of my requests that Bonnie refused. None of the request seem unreasonable to me, but I will let you decide:
I understand that CWPC gears their hard sell on their “Everything Package” because that is their bread and butter. The late afternoon wedding is reserved only for those who purchase the $8,000.00 + “Everything Package.” For me, it wasn’t about the money. The quality of the “Everything Package” could not compare with the quality we knew we would be getting at the Orange Hill Restaurant.
Chapman Chapel may be a good fit for those who want an inexpensive, show-up to whatever day. However, if you have ideas and want to make it YOUR SPECIAL DAY, you better look elsewhere because there are NO enhancements allowed. Bonnie Luther wants every ceremony held to be exactly the same as the last. Nothing is personalized, nothing is unique. If you go with their package deal, BEWARE, they can make whatever substitutions/changes THEY want - it's in the contract. It’s Bonnie’s way or no way!
So, before you place your deposit, please be aware of the following we found out applies for a Saturday wedding:
CEREMONY TIME – If you want a late afternoon wedding at Chapman Chapel to flow into an evening reception, you must purchase the “Everything Package.” Otherwise, the ceremony times are ONLY 9:30 a.m. or 2:30 p.m.
REHEARSAL TIME – Traditionally, the wedding party arrives the day before and a wedding rehearsal precedes a rehearsal dinner. We asked for our rehearsal to be held on Friday at 5:00, but were refused. We were assigned Thursday at 3:45. (With many out of town guests, this was yet another bump in the road for us.)
NO AISLE RUNNER – I wanted to have an aisle runner with rose petals (also to use the aisle runner to cover the dirty carpet) but Bonnie Luther said, “It is a fire hazard and is not allowed by the Fire Department.” I called and was informed by an Orange Fire Department inspector that they do not regulate use of aisle runners and therefore do not consider an aisle runner a fire hazard or safety issue. When I informed Bonnie of this, she still would not allow a runner.
NO ROSE PETALS OR ANY TOSSING OF MATERIAL – You’re not allowed. If you have a flower girl, what is she suppose to toss?
FAKE PLANT POLES ON PEWS – Notice, they are removable. On Sunday mornings, the pew poles are removed for the church service. However, when we asked them to be removed for the wedding, Bonnie Luther would not allow the removal. She said, “All brides want them up." Later in the conversation she said she may consider taking them down for a fee.
Sentimental reasons DID NOT outweigh the aggravation and disappointment of not being able to do something special on what I want to be memorable and OUR SPECIAL DAY. We’ve lost all our deposits, but have searched other avenues and discovered The Jones Victorian Estate. The estate is managed by Michelle Gregory, and she is the professional that Bonnie should strive to be!
I hope this website saves future brides from the stress and aggravation I faced with booking at Chapman Chapel. Please feel free to sign in my guestbook and if you would like to share your experiences, I'd love to hear from you. Or you can email me - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following are my recommended vendors (more to come after our June wedding):
The Jones Victorian Estate
Orange Hill Restaurant
Patty or Jody, Catering
The Flowery, Villa Park