Weddings any way you want them

Published 12:11 pm Friday, September 12, 2008

Las Vegas and Gatlinburg finally have some Alabama competition for the low-cost, low-key wedding crowd.

Rev. Carol Parker is working overtime to get the Helena Wedding Chapel, located in Old Town Helena, finished and open for business in two weeks. Wedding packages for the chapel start at $250, which is the basic package and includes the ceremony and photographs.

Parker was ordained as a nondenominational minister in February so that she could perform weddings.

“Judges don’t like to do weddings because they’re busy,” she said. “Ministers who have their own churches don’t like marrying people who aren’t members of their church.”

Parker’s husband, Mark, is a professional wedding photographer. Parker would go along with him to weddings as his second photographer, which gave her the idea to take pictures when she performed ceremonies at the courthouse.

“I would take pictures during the ceremony and couples were thrilled,” she said. “Everybody deserves at least one good wedding photo.”

That idea blossomed into Parker’s desire to have a wedding chapel designed for anybody who wanted to get married, any day of the week.

“When you get married at the courthouse, you get married by the water cooler,” Parker said. “How romantic is that?”

Parker happened upon the chapel’s prime location by accident. She went to meet her husband at a meeting of Helena business owners. After she walked in and identified herself as a minister, she mentioned she wanted to own a chapel someday.

Upon hearing that, Joseph Habshey, a prominent Helena landowner, asked if she wanted a chapel now.

“A week later, I had it,” Parker said.

Parker’s now off and running, excited to be part of the Helena wedding scene.

“It’s a great town. There’s no need to drive and spend $3,000 in Gatlinburg when you could spend half — or less — here,” she said.

Even though the chapel is still under construction, a wedding has already been performed there. Melissa and Brandon Streety of McCalla needed a place to get married quickly, and the Helena Wedding Chapel was the perfect place.

The two planned to go to a justice of the peace on the morning of Sept. 5, but a call to the courthouse told them all the judges were busy.

“This is a second marriage for both of us, so we wanted something kind of low-key,” Melissa said. “I looked on the Internet and found (Parker’s) number, and she said, ‘If you can be here in an hour, I’ll marry you.’ I said, ‘OK.’”

The stressful experience turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“After it was all over, it was a real blessing because it was better than just going to the courthouse,” Melissa said. “It was fun and it was a great experience. We really weren’t looking for pictures or anything, but when we saw the photos on the Web, it was really special.”

Parker said it’s her goal to make her couples feel special.

“I just enjoy the moment of spending the best day of somebody’s life with them every day,” she said.