Church vs Chapel: 7 Key Takeaways For Your Wedding Ceremony

By The Sanctuary On Penn

First thing’s first, what’s the difference between a Church vs. Chapel anyway?

Every religion of the world has its own house of worship, and for the Lutherans that built what is now The Sanctuary on Penn, it’s churches. But, does that mean The Sanctuary on Penn is still a church? Well, that’s where it gets a little tricky. We need to dive deeper into the battle of Church vs chapel.

In the ‘Church vs. Chapel’ debate, “church” is, by far, the broader term. The term “church” can refer to both a worship space, i.e. a building, and a congregation of people that meet within that building. Nearer the words’ conception in the 13th century, the term “church” referred almost exclusively to a building designated for holy worship. 

However, in the 21st century, church services can now take place in secular locations, and former churches are commonly converted into private residences, bookstores, and even wedding venues like The Sanctuary on Penn.

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Chapels, on the other hand, are frequently smaller spaces, and sometimes even a single room within a church. During our building’s life as Mt. Pisgah Lutheran Church for example, what is now our cocktail room would have been considered the congregation’s chapel. This would have been an area in the church where worship didn’t necessarily take place, and did not necessarily need to be on consecrated ground. 

To be concise, a chapel does not require adherence to any particular denomination or service. And since our building has been converted into a wedding venue that hosts nondenominational and interfaith services, we also fall into the category of “chapel.”

So, Church vs. Chapel – which one is right for your wedding?

Whether you envision yourself preceding down a quant aisle in a synagogue or a sprawling aisle in a massive cathedral, a church or chapel wedding may be the perfect fit for you!

There are many benefits to having a church or chapel ceremony; following tradition, partaking in religious customs, and receiving sacraments, and simply getting to revel in the marvelous architecture to name a few, but there are also a few drawbacks depending on your goals for your big day. So, here’s the pros and cons layout of church vs chapel for you!

Happy Wedding Day in Church vs Chapel
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Pros – Church vs Chapel

Churches and chapels are prepared to host your guests – they’re designed to host congregations after all. There’s no need to worry about planning the “where will the alter go?” and “where will my guests sit?” details, because it’s already laid out for you! 

Both options usually have ample seating on hand for ceremonies, as well! Whether it’s a church with rows of pews or a chapel used to seating banquets, they’re likely to have you covered.

There’s also no need to keep an eye on the forecast, as churches and chapels are generally indoors. Most will have air conditioning, heat, and a dry place for your guests to enjoy your big day with you.

100% chance of rain

And of course, you’ll get to take part in the tradition. Many couples choose to receive sacraments on their wedding day, and whether they’re in a church or chapel, they’ll be able to. Having a ceremony here is also a great way to celebrate familial traditions that may have been used by past generations on their wedding days. 

Cons – Church vs Chapel

If you’re not part of their congregation, there’s a good chance that a church is going to turn you away. Even if you’re not turned away outright, the process can still be a struggle – there are frequently waitlists for non-parishioners, and being in limbo can certainly make it hard to plan a wedding. 

Not to mention that if you make it through the waitlist, they will likely tell you what day of the week you can get married (don’t even think about asking for a Sunday), and several times of the year, such as Lent, Epiphany, and the Christmas season, will be off-limits. Luckily, if you opt for a chapel, none of this is a concern. You’ll still be able to get the traditional feel with none of the hassle.

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It’s also unlikely that you’ll be able to host your reception in a church. While they always have ample seating for ceremonies, they very rarely have any seating at tables for a reception. A chapel, on the other hand, is far more likely to be equipped to host your entire wedding day, from start to finish. Because chapels are frequently churches -turned -venues, they will almost always have tables, chairs, and staff on hand so that you and your guests don’t have to travel from location to location on your big day.

Churches frequently come with a lot of restrictions on what you can and cannot have on your wedding day. Decor arrangements generally have to be kept at florals only because you’ll be unable to move furniture, statues, and other sacred items to your liking. Once you’ve made the few decor choices that you can, the next worry is attire. 

Many churches have guidelines for not only what your guests can wear, but also what YOU can wear. If your dream dress is sleeveless with mesh and a plunging neckline, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to cover up with a bolero or wedding shawl to walk down the aisle. 

Now that you’ve chosen your decor and outfit, there’s a chance that your photographer is going to struggle to capture it. Many churches don’t allow flash photography, and since they also frequently have high ceilings and stained glass windows, you’ll want to take extra time (and money) to find a photographer that is skilled in low-light settings. And once again, none of these restrictions apply in chapels

Many chapels offer optional decor for several denominations, and whether you want all or none of it, they’ll be ready to accommodate your style. And your dream dress with the plunging neckline?

Dancing at wedding in Church vs Chapel

Chapels won’t even bat an eye – it’s your day, after all, you can celebrate it any way you’d like to. If you’re looking to save money in the photography department, they’ll also save you from having to find a photographer that specialized in low light. 

Whoever you choose to capture your big day will be able to use flash photography at their discretion, ensuring that each of your photos is perfectly balanced. 

Now that you’ve got the facts, best of luck in deciding which is right for you, church vs. chapel!

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