Last April, Kelly Brickley and her husband, Richard, were sitting down to dinner, turning on the news to hear about COVID-19, which had recently begun to spread in Indiana.
The couple, who had been married for two and a half years, had just closed on a Yorktown home. Richard had been preparing a ham dinner in a slow cooker all day, and was excited to share it, Brickley remembered.
The 56-year-old set his wife’s plate down along with a glass of wine, instructing her to go ahead and eat as he went back to prepare his plate.
“The next thing I know, he tapped me on my shoulder, and I turned around and said, Richard?′ I thought he was choking,” Brickley said. “He was having a massive heart attack. He died right in my arms.”
If you had told Brickley then that she would be living in that new home, without her husband, but with a wedding chapel in her backyard 10 months later, she wouldn’t have believed you.
But months after her husband died, Brickley was able to begin healing, with “Brickley’s Little Wedding Chapel” becoming her reason to get up in the morning.
“Here we are in February, and he’s gone, and I own a little wedding chapel,” Brickley said. “It’s just really strange. It’s almost out of my control, but I’m rolling with it.”
Now a certified justice of the peace, she’s ready to help other couples on their big day.
When Brickley married her first husband decades ago, she opted out of a big wedding, going straight to a justice of the peace. Her then-husband was stationed on a military base across the country, making it difficult for any family to attend.
Brickley said when many brides plan a wedding, they don’t have a lot of choices, especially when it comes to venue and style of event. They might spend too much money on an event they go crazy trying to perfect with lackluster results. Or maybe they don’t have enough funds, but want something a little more decorative than a government office.
“I think a lot of girls go through that, and sometimes you can even see pictures on Facebook, and you think, ‘What in the world?’” Brickley said. “My thought has always been, it didn’t have to be that bad.”
Her brother and his wife decided to elope when a difference in their religions would make a traditional ceremony impossible. They drove all the way to Tennessee after finding the perfect chapel and held a reception for family back home.
Brickley has seen instance after instance in which a true wedding chapel is needed locally, one that keeps the stresses of a big wedding away while catering to the couple’s needs.
Once her chapel opens, she hopes it can put Muncie, Indiana on the map for a wedding destination. Her chapel joins the list of wedding venues — albeit larger ones — that have opened locally in recent years, such as the North Church Venue and the Barnside Bloom and Events business.
“I’m the one to help the majority of the brides out here,” Brickley said. “The little people who want something beautiful, but for some reason, don’t feel that they’re able to achieve that."
The white chapel with a burgundy door sits in Brickley’s backyard, with two rows of evergreen trees creating a natural walkway to the front steps.
Created by Keith Betteridge and Jesse Hart, owners of Crossroads Solutions and All Seasons Landscaping, the chapel has a rustic feel inside, with white walls and gray wood flooring. Hanging between two beams is a crystal chandelier, which her husband originally picked out for their new home.
In line with her vision for small venues, about 16 chairs line either side of the chapel in pairs. Above the door is a sign saying, “Truly. Madly. Deeply.”
While there are other wedding chapels in Indiana, Brickley believes hers might be the only authentic chapel. She’s not trying to sign marriage documents and call it a day; she wants to create an authentic ceremony.
“Not everybody can afford a big venue. Not every bride has a lot of money. Not every bride has a lot of family. Not every bride has a lot of friends,” Brickley said. “But every bride deserves to just have that one day, regardless of her circumstance.”
Typically, an engaged couple will hire people separately for music, decorations and photography. And when couples elope, sometimes those options aren’t even available. To ensure every bride has a great experience, Brickley has created a one-stop shop, doing it all.
Despite having a full-time job, she’ll decorate the chapel, whether it be a theme or color scheme, put together bouquets and decorate candles. For the unity ceremony, she has sand, candle and rope tying options.
With a capacity for 20, the chapel has two small television screen on the wall, to show photos and videos of the bride and groom. There’s speakers for music and a mounted camera to capture the big moment.
“If you want a day wedding, I’ll give it to you. If you want a midnight wedding and you just want your friends and beautiful lighting, I’ll give that to you. If you want a theme wedding, I can give that to you,” Brickley said. “I have the seats, I have the music. All you have to do is give me a call, tell me what you want, and I’ll create it.”
Planning for a bride with a budget, Brickley said an event will cost no more than the price of a car payment (and she’s not talking about a Cadillac Escalade).
She hopes to open “Brickley’s Little Wedding Chapel” just in time for Valentine’s Day.
“There’s no reason why it can’t be beautiful for anybody,” Brickley said. “That’s my been my only goal, and that would’ve thrilled my husband.”
While the chapel is just now opening for guests, Brickley already has various plans for the space.
In addition to brides looking for a small wedding or an elopement, she also hopes to assist couples in renewing their vows and those who might be re-marrying. Her idea is simply love.
“I will marry anyone. I don’t care what color they are, I don’t care what gender they are and I don’t care where they’re from,” Brickley said. “They just need to love each other. This is about love.”
Earlier, COVID-19 briefly halted the project as lumber prices skyrocketed, and at one point, caused building materials to become scarce as people turned to home improvement projects to keep them active during stay-at-home orders.
Now, the virus might even help the little chapel’s business, as couples cut down guest lists to avoid spreading COVID-19.
As things begin, Brickley hopes to create better experiences and more beautiful ceremonies, right here, so couples don’t have to drive hours away like she once did.
”(I hope) that we can spread love in so many different ways and that my little chapel is busy,” Brickley said.
For more information, people will be able to visit Brickley’s Little Wedding Chapel on Facebook, or call 260-571-2901 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.