Choose Your Ceremony Site. “Consider getting married in a historic church or temple, surrounded by sacred objects.”
Know Your Style. “For your ceremony, pick a setting with an architectural style that befits both your personalities and your commitment to each other.”
Add a Touch of Eternity to Your Wedding
“The last few decades have seen weddings move into some highly unorthodox spaces,” says Victoria Chen, event coordinator of Christ Episcopal Church. “For some, ‘I do’ has become an opportunity to say, ‘We did.’ ”
We did our wedding on the water, or underwater. We did the ceremony in an airplane, or skydiving out of one. There have been unions on bridges, or bungee jumping off them. “If you’re looking to make an unexpected statement with your vows,” says Victoria, “you can do something truly shocking. Hold your ceremony in a church!”
Weddings often inspire a longing for the authentic and the lasting. For those who want to add a touch of eternity to their wedding, getting married in a historic church or temple might be a special choice, and there are many such places of worship in the area.
Historic Ceremony Sites
“Nothing is more romantic than being surrounded by beautifully crafted Tiffany stained glass windows,” says Victoria. “These can be found in St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Tuxedo Park, NY or in the historical Central Synagogue in midtown Manhattan, with its landmarked exterior and sacred objects.” In New Jersey there is Northern Valley Affairs at Temple Emanu-El, with its majestic sanctuary and dome, which is almost 100 years old.
“Because they connect us to our roots and our forebears, these historic places of worship help us rise above ourselves.” Ask someone to envision a “church” and they’ll probably mention pointed arches, steep-sloping roofs, and fancy carvings, suggesting a Gothic-Revival building. In the 19th century, New York was at the center of this resurgence in Gothic architecture for buildings and churches.
The most prominent builder and advocate for these revivalist structures was the New York firm of Richard Upjohn and Company, which designed Manhattan’s Trinity Church and some 30 other churches and cathedrals in the mid 19th century.
Both Upjohn and his son-in-law partner Charles Babcock were followers of the English-rooted ecclesiological movement in church architecture, which held that good liturgy and good architecture enhanced each other. The Gothic style represented church architecture’s highest ideals.
Upjohn and Babcock were responsible for many of the stone Gothic churches up and down the Hudson Valley and nationwide, from Wisconsin to Alabama. “These hidden gems include places like the historical All Saints Church in Briarcliff Manor, NY, or St Marks in Mount Kisco.”
A “Chapel Church” of the English Countryside
After years with the Upjohn firm, Babcock left to study for the priesthood, but continued to design churches. “Babcock designed our sublimely beautiful Christ Episcopal Church in Sparkill as probably his last work before ordination. He went on to help found the American Institute of Architects and Cornell University’s School of Architecture, but he produced the plans for our church building at no charge.”
With its Gothic architecture and Norman-influenced interior, Christ Church is quite similar to the many small and charming “chapel churches” found in the English or Irish countryside.
In 2014, the church is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its Babcock-designed building. “Throughout the afternoon and into the early evening, depending on the time of year, the rose window entry casts multicolored light down into the church, flooding it with reds, yellows, and blues.
“By getting married in a venue with a strong history of its own,” reflects Victoria, “you are saying that your marriage bond, like the building in which you celebrate it, truly belongs to the ages.”