What are the best qualities of a wedding? Beautiful, romantic ... and 15 minutes long?
On Saturday, 13 brides chose a simple and historic wedding: a 15-minute ceremony at for $200. The event, called "Cupid at the Castle," offered discounted weddings, complete with desserts, photographers and an Irish minister.
Simply a wedding
The hall provided professional photography services by Ron Jones Photography and complimentary cupcake desserts and champagne from Whole Foods Bakery. The bride and groom could invite 20 guests or pay double for more guests and a 30-minute time slot.
Mary Railey, special events manager at Rhodes Hall, created Cupid at the Castle three years ago to replace an annual Valentine’s Tea Party. “This offers a really easy, low-cost alternative and alleviates planning stress," said Railey about the Cupid at the Castle event, noting it was especially popular in its first years while the economy was bad.
“You don't have to go through a whole lot of 'who shot John' before you get here," said Bill Underwood, an assistant at Rhodes Hall, who has worked the event for two years.
As much as the event was a celebration of love, it also was a fundraiser. Proceeds from Cupid at the Castle went to support the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, which is headquartered at Rhodes Hall. Built in 1904, Rhodes Hall once was the personal home of furniture store proprietor, Amos Giles Rhodes. The impressive structure, which is constructed of granite from Stone Mountain, and is now owned and preserved by the state. Rhodes Hall often is used for corporate and social events in Midtown.
The historic nature of the building could be heard in the creaking wooden floors, smelt in the ancient library books upstairs, and seen in the stained and painted glass windows depicting the rise and fall of the Confederate Army. But the beauty of the mahogany grand staircase and stone wall architecture outside is well preserved.
“I’ve never been in here before,” said one bride, Yolanda Bryant. “You don’t see many real hard wood floors like this anymore … everything’s really nice.”
Bride Melanie Jones, who participated in the event, said Valentine’s Day is “a day where we celebrate the love of all your loved ones, whether it’s your child, parent or your best friend, your dog.” The day is especially significant to Jones because her parents got married on Feb. 13. She and her new husband, Cedéno Buchanan, will celebrate their marriage with an extended group of guests at a reception at the Heritage Gold Club in Tucker, Ga.
Bryant called herself lucky and blessed. Her husband-to-be was Joseph Burch. “I’m real excited, he is very nervous,” Bryant said before the ceremony. The couple's only guest was Bryant’s daughter, who served as a bridesmaid. Bryant said she wanted to do something a little different for her second wedding. She wanted it to be small and intimate.
Crystal Fleming married Labeeche Gibson, and tears rolled down her face as she said her wedding vows. “I loved it,” Fleming said of the ceremony as the couple and their 29 guests whirled down the back stone staircase outside to their cars, on the way to Maggiano’s Little Italy for a reception.
Irish non-denominational minister, Jeremiah O’Keefe-West performed the ceremony, reciting the same speeches, Bible verses and vows at every wedding.
“It’s a romantic place at a romantic time,” he said. “Remember to keep the romance alive.”
“Whenever you get a bit down, take a drive over here and walk down these steps,” O’Keefe told each bride and groom.
The minister lightened the mood by saying after the couple’s consent to wed, “Are those your final answers? Now let’s go for the million -- here are your wedding vows."