Historic Church Markets Itself as Attractive Wedding Venue

It isn’t unusual for a church to be a popular spot for wedding ceremonies and receptions. But one local house of worship is now actively marketing itself as a choice for people searching for a venue that is close to home and has everything anyone could need to celebrate their special day.

The Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Chappaqua is hoping to land on the radar of those looking for a place to hold their wedding. Aside from its spacious property outside, where a large tent can be easily erected, it also has an outdoor altar, the sanctuary and a professional grade kitchen with the parish hall, where smaller receptions could be held.

“It’s a perfect place to have a wedding,” said John Priscantelli, the warden at the South Greeley Avenue church. “We have a beautiful church, we have beautiful grounds, you can literally have a wedding inside or outside. We have an outside altar, the church is beautiful, it’s well-kempt and we have a beautiful front lawn.”

It also has entered a partnership with Susan Lawrence Gourmet Foods, the popular downtown Chappaqua café and boutique caterer that is within walking distance of the church, to prepare the reception if a couple wants to go that route. Its owner and acclaimed executive chef, Mark Kramer, has been involved with the church for years, Priscantelli said.

A couple or the family of the bride or groom doesn’t need to be a St. Mary’s parishioner, although Rev. Chris Lee, who became the church’s priest-in-charge in October, said people should be aware that it is an Episcopal church.

If a couple has their own Episcopalian priest that would be fine for them to officiate. It’s also likely people from most other Christian denominations could be accommodated, although they should speak to him first, Lee said. He also plans to consult with members of the Chappaqua Interfaith Council regarding mixed marriages, which have become quite common.

Lee said inviting more people to see the beauty of St. Mary’s and what it can offer was part of the motivation.

“We’re doing it just to get more people into the doors and to get to know about our mission,” Lee said. “For me, there’s a financial aspect to it, obviously, but to me it’s also what I call sacramental evangelism. Anytime somebody who’s not familiar with the church can come in and have an offering and have a joyous and full experience of something happening at church, I think it’s a good thing.”

Priscantelli said most houses of worship today have to do more than simply open their doors for weekend services. St. Mary’s is no different, so the church’s leadership sought ways to attract people to the nearly 120-year-old church that was built by the daughter and son-in-law of Horace Greeley, Gabrielle Greeley Clendenin and Dr. Rev. Frank Montrose, in memory of their daughter, Muriel, who died when she was five years old. The church was consecrated in 1906.

“We’re trying to leverage our property, our physical property, our church, our beautiful physical property as well as our beautiful parish hall here in any way we can to help us out in the long run for the greater community, as well as for our parishioners, to build the church and identify it as a really friendly and good place to come,” Priscantelli said.

The idea had been kicked around for several years, and then within the past year, two weddings were held at St. Mary’s. A larger wedding last August, that was held outside with a lighted tent, provided a beautiful event, Priscantelli said. There was live music and a dance floor and enough space for everyone to feel comfortable, he said.

At least 100 people can be accommodated at the church. The plan is to offer the grounds from spring until sometime in the fall.

“We’ve got a lot going for us at this point in time, and it’s an opportunity to give to younger families coming in,” Priscantelli said. “It’s a good place to be in. We haven’t found the sweet spot yet, but we’re hopefully at the sweet spot soon.”

To learn more about holding a wedding at The Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Chappaqua, call 914-238-8751, e-mail parish-office@smtv.org or visit https://parish-office.wixsite.com/smtv/rentals.