Catching Up With...Stacey Thomas, the Philadelphia Wedding Chapel

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I recently married my longtime partner (see Musings
Stanley (left) and me with Stacey Thomas
of a New Husband, June 29, 2014
.
Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of marrying some bright prince. And as a writer of gay romance, I’ve written gay weddings into two of my books, brilliant, extravagant affairs both. The wedding in What Binds Us,  included a groom on horseback and “Ten thousand pale pink roses—an entire crop from Holland flown in that morning,” while at the comparatively simpler wedding in Unbroken “it seemed everyone in the world was there” including a flock of startled peacocks.

Yet, when it came to my own wedding, panic set in. I didn’t know where to start. I knew I didn’t want to get married in a church and I knew there wouldn’t be hundreds, or even dozens of guests in attendance. In desperation—at that point we only had two weeks to get married on our 17th anniversary—I goggled “weddings in Philadelphia.” The Philadelphia Wedding Chapel, an LGBT-friendly business located in our East Falls neighborhood was at the top of the search results. I emailed Stacey Thomas that evening.
Our first challenge was our date because Stacey already had two weddings planned for that day but she assured me she could make our wedding happen on the date we wanted because it was a special date. I knew then that she wasn’t just someone running a business but rather someone who cared about people, who cared about making dreams come true.  
Hi Stacey! Thanks so much for agreeing to chat with me. Let’s talk about the wedding chapel. How long have you been doing this?
Hi Larry! Thanks for wanting to chat with me and giving me this opportunity to share my work! I have been doing the wedding chapel experience for almost a year and a half. I was doing full service wedding planning for close to 10 years prior to that.
So, Stacey, I know you’re a lawyer by training. I have to ask, why change from law to weddings?
I wanted a life! I was a New York lawyer and I kept crazy hours. An average time to get home at night for me was between 8:30 and Midnight every day. When I got pregnant with my son, I moved back to Philly (my home town) and stayed in the legal field but started managing paralegals…better hours. Then eventually, I decided to take a leap of faith and quit Corporate America altogether and do what I really loved to do, which was planning weddings.
I remember being very impressed when I met you—by your warmth, your groundedness and your absolute passion for what you do. You mentioned that you used to be a wedding planner and you said that when you plan a wedding for 300 to 400 people it becomes more about the flowers and the color of the napkins than about the couple getting married. Can you elaborate on that thought?
Yes, I remember after we chatted for a bit you felt inclined to give me a big ‘ole hug!  As I
mentioned, I did full service planning for a long time before deciding to open an intimate wedding ceremony venue. I have planned weddings for 100 to 400 people, with budgets from $8,000 to $80,000, from Philly to New York to Barbados to Jamaica.  While I have definitely found my calling with weddings and event planning in general, I have to say once I stepped away from the big weddings, into the world of intimate weddings, I enjoy the smaller ones much more. I don’t think it’s really fair to say they are more meaningful, however, I can say the focus is different. When planning the big weddings the focus is on the pomp and circumstance of the wedding….the perfect shade of purple flower if you will. With the more intimate weddings, the focus shifts to the actual marriage ceremony and it’s less about the event surrounding the act of getting married, if that makes sense. Sometimes it’s just the couple and a few friends like you and Stanley had and that creates a more memorable experience than having 200 people around you that you haven’t seen in years and who just came to eat and gossip about the “wedding.”
Let’s talk about your decision to move from doing big weddings to doing intimate weddings. Was that an easy decision to make?
Yep. I also had a few difficult brides in 2013 that made the decision much easier! LOL.
Do you have a favorite wedding story?
I do! I have a few but two stick out in my mind. The first couple I remember came in with her fiancĂ©, her son and her mom—just the four of them. I performed the ceremony and just as I was to pronounce them husband and wife, the bride shrieked with excitement. Literally. I said, “Did you not know this part was coming?” She said, “I am just so excited; this has been a long time coming.” I actually hear that a lot from couples who get married with us. Anyway, after I pronounced them married, she was hugging her groom and crying and then we looked over and her son, who was nine years old was also crying. She grabbed him and pulled him close to her and her new husband and they hugged as a new family. This touched me because it was so evident how happy he was for his mom. I have a son of similar age and think he would react the same way if I ever decide to marry. 
The other story that touched my heart and almost made me lose composure was again, a small party…just the couple and their two children: her son who was six and his daughter who was seven. After I pronounced them husband and wife, her son said, “Wait, I want mommy to marry Mark!” I said, “She just did.” He said, “But they didn’t dance!” We all laughed because in a child’s eye, dancing was going to make them married, not the ceremony I’d just performed. So I whispered to him, “I’m pretty sure I can get them to dance. What song should they dance to?” His mom overheard and said, “What do I sing to you all of the time?” Of course the answer was John Legend’s “All of Me,” the wedding song of 2014, which I had. I put the song on and there in the middle of the floor, the newlyweds danced for her son. Then they continued to dance with their respective children and I got the greatest shot of the little man kissing his mommy’s hand while dancing with her. It was the most tender moment ever!
One of the things I loved about your wedding packages is the scalability? You have options ranging from couple only to couple plus to up to 40 guests, and most options have tiers.  How did you come up with that idea?
All of my wedding packages have evolved based on requests from prospective clients. If someone asks “can we” or “do you” more than 12 times, I consider developing an option for it.
What was the funniest thing that ever happened during a wedding or the planning stage?
We once had a wedding that had two flower girls. One girl was four and the other one was six. The six year old went first putting down her rose petals and the four year old went behind her and picked them all up! It was a riot!
Dare I ask? What would your dream wedding be like?
I’m not sure if you’re asking about my personal wedding or a dream wedding as it relates to my business. In any event, I have learned that the concept of “dream wedding” is relative.  Personally, my dream wedding would be on Martha’s Vineyard, where I vacation every summer, with about 50 of my closest friends. It would be very informal, outside somewhere, though not necessarily on the beach. We would have lobster and crab and just hang out and then watch the sun set.
Any advice for prospective brides? Grooms?
Make the moment matter. Don’t get caught up in the all the hype of thinking you must have a huge wedding. It doesn’t make your wedding day more special or memorable…just more expensive. Almost everyone I know, from friends to prior clients, said if they had to do it all over again, they would not do a huge, expensive shindig again. It would be exactly like we do at the Philadelphia Wedding Chapel.
Stacey it’s been so great meeting you and chatting with you here. Anything you’d like to add in closing?
Just that I am so grateful you walked through our doors! You have been a rock star and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  

We'd Love to Hear From You!
Tell us which do you prefer, big weddings or small? Or share a favorite wedding story with us. Just enter a comment below.
 


Find out more about the Philadelphia Wedding Chapel here.
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Comments

  1. What a great post! I loved reading about Stacey's wonderful job. Now I really feel like I was there. :)

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    1. Thanks Deb. I thought being a writer was the coolest job ever and then I met Stacey...
      And I know you were there in spirit.

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  2. I love the stories Stacey shares! I'm not a big fan of weddings, but these are nice. "Wait, I want mommy to marry Mark!” I said, “She just did.” He said, “But they didn’t dance!” - love it.

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  3. Thanks for the wonderful post Larry, and congratulations on your marriage! I've been married for *cough, cough* over thirty years, but I still look back fondly on my wedding. I got married in my small town in the local church and community hall. My aunts and and my mother and her friends baked the wedding cake and made all the food. There were a lot of people there-probably 250 or more, but it felt intimate because it was mostly family-aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. It was a community gathering and celebration. I had lovely fresh flowers but there was nothing really fancy about our wedding. I don't really understand why so many couples these days feel the need to put on an extravaganza when they marry. Perhaps they should think more about the marriage and a little less about the wedding.

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    1. Thanks Jana!
      I was talking to my aunt the other dauy and she was talking about how she and her aunt (my great aunt) prepared all the food for my parents wedding in 1957. There were only about 50 people in attendance. One of my favorite photos in their wedding album is one of the food because you can clearly see a plate set out with cheese and Ritz crackers. You'd never see Ritz crackers at a wedding today.

      Thanks for shaing your story.

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  4. What an awesome post! Who doesn't love a wedding? Hearing about someone in the industry was super interesting. And I love how you choose to focus on smaller more intimate weddings. :) Also, Congrats on your marriage Larry.

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  5. Great post and what fun!! Congratulations on your wedding, Larry! I'm lifting a glass of virtual champagne to you!! :)

    Julie

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    1. Thanks Julie. I'm always up forChampagne, virtual or not! Cheers!

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  6. What a fantastic interview! these stories just brought tears to my eyes on my bus commute. Thanks for a great start to the day. And CONGRATULATIONS on your own marriage! Wishing you both many many more years of happiness together :)

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    1. Thanks AJ. When I met Stacey I was so captivated by her and her story, I just had to ask her to stop by for a chat.

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  7. To start with, congratulations, Larry and Stanley! I wish you many happy years together. Also, good for you, Stacey for not only following your dream, but for choosing a dream that brings so much happiness to others.

    I am currently in the middle of helping my son and his fiance plan (and pay for!) a wedding that will be mid-sized. (80-100ish. I have a BIG family) The kids are doing great at focusing on what really counts, but I want to club the brides' mom upside the head when she starts going off on centerpieces and dresses and such instead of the important stuff--like the ceremony itself.

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    1. Thanks Cindy.

      That Stacey not only had a dream but had the courage to follow it was one of the things I found most impressive about her.The writer in me was intrigued by the stories she had to tell. I am certain there is a book in her somewhere.

      Good luck with your son's wedding! My older brother is getting married in 2 1/2 weeks. 120 guests. Stanley and I had 6. And Stacey. And a perfect wedding.

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  8. Excellent! Congrats to you and your partner! :)

    I married my own partner in 2012 not long before same-sex marriage was legalized in Washington State, and it's awesome to hear such wonderful stories from other quarters!

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    1. Thanks and congrats to you, too!. I agree it is wonderful hearing these stories. And we must keep telling them and sharing them until they are no longer extraordinary.

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  9. What an awesome interview. I came expecting to be bored, but I was entranced and touched. Larry, I wanna read your books!

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  10. Oh Larry, I am so happy for you and your new husband! Congratulations!

    And true to form in my crying at weddings, I sniffled and sobbed all through this interview. Just gorgeous. Thanks Stacey, for sharing your stories!

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  11. Congratulations!!! SO excited for you...enjoyed the post, love her focus on small weddings. I got married in a chapel on Camp Pendleton, to my high school sweetheart and our only attendants OR guests were two of his best friends in the Corps and the chaplain's secretary! Many reasons for this...but we were extremely happy until he passed away much too young. Wishing you years of extra happiness!

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    1. Veronica, thank you. You are so kind. I am so sorry for your loss.

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  12. Thanks everyone for your kind words and support. I absolutely LOVE what I do. It is a very special thing to be able to wake up everyday, go to work and make someone's day. I am grateful and I am blessed.

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  13. These are fabulous details and photos are amazing. From Eventup.com you can also find some nice options for most affordable Los Angeles wedding venues. We too want to have a grand wedding and have just booked the venue from this spot.

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