A Delightful Dilemma
Over the past five years, I’ve had the pleasure of attending a bounty of weddings as nieces, nephews, sons, and friends have tied the knot. Venues included a rustic barn and a historic house; a contemporary art museum and a Finger Lakes vineyard; a Buddhist temple and a Catholic church; a French bistro in New York City and a Victorian town hall outside of London. Each reflected the couple’s love as well as their culture and style. My next event is a ceremony in a Keuka Lake chapel. Two chapels, located within ten miles of each other, the Garrett Memorial Chapel (pictured below) on a bluff overlooking Keuka Lake and the Norton Chapel (pictured above) on the Keuka College campus by the shore of Keuka Lake are both distinctive wedding venues.
Garrett Memorial Chapel
It’s meditative to wend your way along Skyline Drive toward the Garrett Memorial Chapel. The curving, two-lane road forces you to slow down and contemplate the sights—the forested lands of Keuka Lake State Park, neatly tended farmhouses, abundant vineyards, and glimpses of the lake itself. Midway down the road, tucked into the woods, is the Garrett Chapel. The Little Chapel on the Mount, as the Garrett is known, is a gem in the Finger Lakes. The meditative mood deepens as you walk down the wooded path or make your way up the formal driveway and into the chapel. Soft lighting warms the walls, hand-cut stone archways, trusses resembling oak beams, granite from Pennsylvania, slate from Holland, crab orchard marble from Tennessee, and Xanadu onyx from Algeria form the chapel interior floors and patterned outdoor terrace. But what draws your attention as you first enter the chapel are the ten stained glass windows designed by Frederick Wilson. Wilson, an artist in stained glass, became the head of Tiffany’s Ecclesiastical Department in 1899. Wilson’s bold windows, the last he designed before his death, echo the chapel’s architecture but also capture the azure of Keuka Lake. Paul Garrett’s hope was that the ecclesiastical windows would evoke the Second of the Ten Commandments, “love thy neighbor as thyself,” as well as “emphasize that an enduring civilization can be built only on the foundation of family life, with love the keynote.” He wrote these words almost ninety years ago when the chapel was consecrated. Today love is celebrated by couples from all over the world who select Garrett Chapel for their wedding. Open from May through September (garrettchapel.org/weddings.php), the chapel holds seventy-five guests, just right for an intimate wedding.
Just down the road from Garrett Chapel is the lakeside setting for the Norton Chapel. With its soaring beams constructed without a single nail, an imposing array of organ pipes forming the backdrop of the marbled chancel, and the natural materials used in its construction, Norton Chapel is an architectural delight. It’s also a perfect site for a wedding ceremony. Opened in 1964 on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of Keuka College, Norton Chapel (www.keuka.edu/weddings) is considered “a physical symbol of the centrality of religion in adventurous living.” The range of building materials—the Douglas fir trusses from Oregon, the white marble from Vermont, the Italian hand-blown glass in the chandeliers—reflect the welcoming spirit of this non-denominational chapel. Adding to the warmth of the natural materials are the abstract mosaic windows designed by twentieth century French glass artist Gabriel Loire. Rising from the floor to the rafters, the three vertical windows are intended to “create an atmosphere of blues.” Loire’s windows and the clerestory created between the planes of the steep roof bring dramatic light into the interior of the building. Up to 650 guests can be accommodated in the chapel’s facilities, which also includes preparation rooms and an onsite chapel coordinator for the rehearsal and wedding ceremony.
For discerning brides and grooms these two Finger Lakes destinations both offer well-designed chapels. Although one Keuka Lake chapel was built ninety years ago in the style of traditional Norman architecture and the other constructed in the 1960s modernist style, the beauty of both buildings is a result of artistry and fine craftsmanship. Plus, the interiors and the grounds around the chapels provide stunning scenery for wedding photography. All that’s left is to say “I do.”