Bookings for Sevier County wedding chapels on the rise since pandemic began

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — In East Tennessee, many brides and grooms-to-be had to rearrange their wedding plans last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many couples turned to wedding chapels.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare spoke with a wedding chapel owner who says 2020 was a very good year for business.

The wedding chapel industry in Sevier County is big business. Historically, nearly a quarter of all marriages in Tennessee each year are recorded in Sevier County. Chapel operators report the years 2006 and 2007 set records.

Despite the shutdown to business last spring because of the pandemic, the number of weddings at chapels in 2020 nearly equals that of ’06-’07.

The pandemic now in its 11th month is not slowing couples down from tying the knot at wedding chapels. In Gatlinburg, wedding coordinator Maureen Campbell says bookings in 2020 at the two chapels she operates more the doubled the numbers from 2019.

The chapels she owns were closed for about five weeks in the spring of last year and when they reopened business took off.

“We were doing a lot of weddings during the week. On the weekends we were doing weddings pretty much at both chapels,” Maureen Campbell, Wedding Chapel Owner, said. “We’re booking, we’re starting to get them on the calendar, (Valentine’s Day) is a Sunday this year, so it’s going to be a pretty big weekend. A lot of the people who can’t be here on Sunday, will chose either Friday or Saturday.”

The Reverend Robbie Groover performs ceremonies at the wedding chapels. Strict health guidelines are followed inside the chapels during services — and many brides and grooms have their pictures taken wearing masks.

“I think one of the things that is coming out of last year is the fact that people are taking more personal responsibility in how they are caring for themselves,” Reverend Robbie Groover said.

Since weddings are sacred ceremonies, chapel operators are doing more than just hoping for a prosperous 2021.

“I think we do have to be safe in how we do things, but at the same time I think we must trust in a higher authority,” Rev. Groover said.

With the new year just underway, bookings for the spring and even the fall have started. Will it be another banner year?

“We’re staying positive. We think everyone will still want to get married and Gatlinburg is the perfect place to be,” Maureen Campbell said.

Nationally, Sevier County is known as “the wedding capital of the south.” Maureen Campbell’s The Chapel on the Glen and the Chapel on the Glades are just two of dozens of wedding venues in the county. One interesting fact she told us is the masks that many brides and grooms choose to wear have inscriptions that show their sense of humor, such as “Married During the Pandemic” or “Shut Down and Tied Down.”

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