A vintage Valentine’s story
When is a chapel not a chapel? The answer to that one is a partial. The chapel in question, St. John’s Episcopal Mission, built in 1892 sits on the grounds of the Kern County Museum. It has since 1950, when it was rescued from a road-widening demolition on Rosedale Highway. Most times, it is not a working-chapel. But when special events require the opening of its doors, it has a unique, resilient quality that inspires local couples to seek it out for marriage.
Such was the case on Feb. 14, 2011, when not one, but six consecutive marriages were conducted inside its old wood frame structure, capacity 65 people. The museum billed the event as “A Vintage Love Story.” First come-first served couples paid a premium of only $300 to be married there, and thanks to the museum’s collaboration with lots of local sponsors, the wedded ended up with lots of special “perks” for their small investment. Among the provided items and services were the minister, official photographer, wedding cake, wedding toast, chauffeured vintage limousine, organist, cosmetics for the bride, a bride’s changing room, bouquet and floral arrangement.
Among the select few who got their names in on time to take advantage of this special day were two employees from the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office —Safety and Loss Control Specialist Kirsten Bellamy, who was wed to her “high school guardian angel” David Hickman and Teacher Development Program Secretary Christina Rosales betrothed to her “knight and best friend” Scott Marler. Other than the very reasonable cost for a wedding, why did the two choose the museum’s chapel for their ceremonies?
“It has lots of memories,” Kirsten Hickman said. “My son’s first birthday was here. It’s a place we bring visitors. There’s nowhere more beautiful to get married in Bakersfield.”
Christina Marler, echoed that feeling.
“It’s a beautiful place, it had the ideal price, and, hey, it’s Valentine’s Day,” Marler said. “We thought of the beach, but it was too far away and besides most of the family and friends from work probably wouldn’t have made it.”
How did the museum come up with the idea for this Valentine’s Day mass marriage marathon?
“It came about while I was talking with one of my colleagues about what we could do special for Valentine’s Day, since not much goes on in the way of weddings,” said Elizabeth Herrera, museum visitor services manager. “Before long the word got out to our wedding vendors, and they were interested. So, we racked our brains to come up with a name and picked ‘A Vintage Love Story’ because it says romance and keeps with the setting of the museum. Vendor’s included Mary Kay Consultant Cathy Wolfe, Jennifer Williams Photography, Rev. Albert Haywood, Rangel Catering & Event Planning, My Sorted Affair, Vintage Limited Car Club, JoRonco Party Rentals and the organists were museum volunteers. In all six couples signed up to be wed here.”
Once the word got out, Kirsten and David jumped on it. “We were worried we wouldn’t get our names in on time,” Kirsten said “We were on the phone to poor Elizabeth at least six times that day.”
Each couple was chauffeured to the chapel’s front door in a vintage chauffeured car. Each paused outside the entrance to reflect on their own history before making more inside. Nervous looks, turned to smiles, cameras flashed — which probably didn’t happen a lot in 1892 — and vows were exchanged in front of a stained glass window donated by Saint James Cathedral in Fresno years ago.
There was even humor, when Christina had a little trouble getting Scott’s ring on his finger.
After it was all blissfully done and everyone was outside, the couples took a few minutes to absorb what they had just done.
“We were really excited about the whole vintage theme because we’re both traditionalists,” David said. “It really has special meaning marrying in the chapel. We are grateful it opened up to us. It will be our most special day from now on.”
As Scott put it, “We’re a part of history.”