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Want to Start a Wedding Chapel? Advice From Professional Officiants

Published Thursday, Feb. 9th, 2023

Wondering how to start a wedding venue or chapel?


These pro officiants told us how they started their “brick-and-mortar” businesses… So that you can, too!



There comes a time in every professional officiant’s lives when they stop and ask themselves:


“I’m doing a lot of driving…

Should I open my own wedding venue?”


Some officiants will immediately decide it’s a bad idea and move on, but others will find themselves swept up in the idea of setting up shop in a local storefront, coworking building, or home office… Daydreaming of wedding arches, cute signage, and Instagram-worthy photo props. 


If that’s you, you’re in the right spot! 


Starting a wedding chapel or elopement space is the natural next step for a lot of wedding professionals. But how do you do it? Where do you do it? How long does it take to make it profitable? And is it worth it? 


To answer these questions, AMM reached out to three wedding officiants in different parts of the country who have successfully opened wedding venues in the past few years, to see what insights they could offer. 


Here’s what they told us! 


Keep in mind: This isn’t financial or legal advice. Everyone’s situation is different, so be sure to reach out to small business groups, financial advisors, and knowledgeable friends in your area to ask questions. The answers below have been lightly edited for clarity.



Wedding arch covered in flowers against a decorative wall with floral wallpaper

Ready to start your own wedding chapel? You're in the right place! Check out the expert advice from real wedding officiants and successful venue owners below. 


Meet the Officiants: 

Lori Prashker-Thomas is owner and officiant at Ceremonies by Lori, an established and inclusive wedding officiant business serving Pennsylvania and the New England area. Her office is located in Wilkes Barre, PA, where she performs ‘Make it Legal’ elopements and other services, including writing custom wedding scripts. 

☆ More about Lori: A Photographer’s Path to Becoming a Wedding Officiant & Advocate

Latrice Roman is owner and officiant at Put a Ring on it Dallas! and The Photobooth Elopement Place, an inclusive wedding officiant business and chapel serving the Dallas Fort Worth area of Texas. The small, hip chapel features photogenic wedding walls and fun props to give newlyweds the perfect wedding photo.

☆ More about Latrice: This Dallas Officiant is Giving Wedding Guests the Tea & Putting Couples at Ease

Margaret Hall is owner and officiant at The Matchbox Drive Thru, a new and inclusive Vegas-inspired wedding and elopement chapel located in the artsy historic district of Lafayette, Georgia, just a short drive from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

☆ More about Margaret: Don’t let her fool you, Wedding Officiant Margaret Hall is anything but ordinary


Left to right: AMM Ministers and Officiants Lori Prashker-Thomas ; Latrice Roman ; and Margaret Hall

Left to right: Officiants Lori Prashker-Thomas ; Latrice Roman ; and Margaret Hall


12 Common Questions About How To Open A Successful Wedding Venue 

Answered by the professionals!

Getting Started 


1. How did you know you were ready to start a chapel or wedding venue? 



“I opened my office in the midst of Covid… Crazy, right? I knew it was time because I was getting very busy with what I call ‘Make It Legal Mini-monies.’ Even though big weddings weren’t able to happen during that time, couples still wanted to get married. I was doing [mini-monies] at the law firm where I worked, at my home, or at the park, and I was getting so many calls that I needed a space to call my own – so that everyone was comfortable and safe.”


“When I had calls asking if I had a location, and had to turn the money down. Couples put me in business and as long as there is love and couples, I see myself keeping business.” 


“Well, becoming ordained was, on its own, a bucket list item for me! I was really content knowing that I COULD marry people. My daughter and husband encouraged me (pushed is more like it) to “do something more with it.” I insisted that I was happy knowing that if I had close friends or family who wanted me to officiate, I could legally do so, but my daughter kept saying, “No, mom… You should TOTALLY do more with this!”


I jokingly asked, “What more? Open a drive-thru chapel? In LaFayette?” She immediately said, “YES!!!” With that, she found our building, the building owner, and discovered that it was available. Within the week I called him, told him my idea, completely expecting him to laugh or roll his eyes at the cheesiness, and the wheels were set in motion! I guess, it wasn’t until THAT moment that I truly knew I was ready to do this!”



Pink chairs set up as seating inside the Matchbox Drive Thru wedding chapel

Pink velvet & vintage charm inside Margaret Hall's venue, The Matchbox Drive Thru, a drive-thru wedding chapel located in  Lafayette, Georgia, just outside Chattanooga Tennessee.


Money & Managing Costs


2. Did you take a small business loan or other assistance to cover the cost of starting your venue? 



“I didn’t take a business loan or have any other aid. I did it all on my own.”


“No, I worked and saved the money from weddings to make the space happen.” 


“I did take a small loan to get things rolling, but mostly have done everything on my own. I had a family member make a small ‘investment’ in the beginning as well, but we didn’t require a lot of start-up capital because of how small we are.”

Related: How to Start a Website for Your Wedding Officiant Business


3. What’s your personal ‘secret to success’ for handling business income and tax details? Software, bookkeeper, friend or spouse’s help, something else?


“I highly suggest a CPA from the beginning. Meet with them twice a year to just make sure your numbers are aligned with your goal. There are many write offs they can help you with. I also suggest a CRM [Customer Relationship Management ] system to manage numbers during the year.”


“Honestly, this has been a learning process, and I haven’t any “secret” at this point. We started out accepting cash, Venmo, CashApp, but now we use Square to accept payments online. 


[Square] has been amazing because it tracks every sale, and the EOY (End of Year) reports tell you everything from your gross sales, net sales, sales tax info, tp credits and comps, and more.  


I’ve always used TurboTax to file my personal taxes, and that is my plan this year since they guide you through EVERY little detail, but I may change my mind the more we grow! I save every receipt and invoice, from my rent and utilities to holiday decor… This year?  My goal is to fill the calendar so FULL [with weddings] that I’ll have to hire someone to do it next year!”

Related: The Pros and Cons of Popular Payment Methods for Wedding Officiants



Ceremonies by Lori office space for elopements in Pennsylvania, with a decorative wall and office / desk

 Short & sweet elopements are easy with Ceremonies by Lori, whose cute, multi-purpose office space in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, combines business and pleasure in an efficient way.


Location, Location, Location! 


4. How did you choose the location of your chapel / venue?  


“My office found me… It’s a shared space, but I have my own office. I have always wanted to be in the building I’m in. It’s a beautiful 1920s building and the architecture is fantastic. There was an opening, and I jumped at it.”


“I had visited the building that I'm in for other business. I loved the building already, and the spaces they rented. I made contact with someone inside first, who put me in contact with the leasing department. That made it easier, since she introduced us and she had a long relationship with them.”


“It was available, LOL! That’s pretty much it! And, it was perfect! Our building is a bit of a historical landmark in LaFayette. Years ago, the building was originally a full-service gas station so the drive-thru was really the deciding factor. It’s like it was MADE for us!”  



Couples pose in front of a green grass wedding wall at The Photobooth Elopement Place wedding chapel, owned by Put a Ring on it Dallas!

A 'green grass and florals' wedding wall inside the Photobooth Elopement Place offers couples a natural, relaxed vibe inside a sleek highrise in central Dallas.



5. Lease or own your space? 


“I lease my space.”




“We’re currently leasing our space. It’s very affordable and we have an amazing landlord who shares our vision, and is very involved with a revitalization project that’s ongoing in our little town.”


6. Did you have to renovate the space and if so, what did you learn from that process?


“We did some minor things, such as adding electrical outlets, painted some murals. But we were blessed to find it ready to go!”




A mural outside The Matchbox Drive Thru wedding chapel shows two bluebirds holding a red heart, and newlyweds kissing

A lovebird mural painted on the outside of The Matchbox Drive Thru wedding chapel is perfect for newlyweds who want to pose for a photo.


7. What’s your FAVORITE thing about your location? 


“My FAVORITE thing about my location… Hmm… so hard. I love that I have space to call my own. The architecture is beautiful, my view of my little city is spectacular, and it’s convenient to get to for couples.


“The area! I am in the heart of Dallas. There are restaurants, night life, statues all around the area.”


“Gosh… It’s difficult to pick just ONE thing! I LOVE that it’s a historic building and that mostly everything is original, from the brick to the metal ceiling tiles. It’s just a beautiful old building!  


I also love that it’s next door to some other really cool businesses. This entire side of town has historical significance, and everyone who has setup business here is unique. Our street is currently home to two delicious locally owned restaurants and The MARS Theatre, [which is] part of a 501(C)(3) called Back Alley Productions, and has a calendar of live productions throughout the year.” 


Related: Officiant Training: How to Maintain Communication with Your Couple


8. How would you describe your venue’s vibe or aesthetic? 


“I wanted people to say ‘wow!’ when they arrived, so I chose a highrise building.” 


“My daughter and I both love tattoos, and the neo-Americana or Sailor Jerry style! We knew right away that this was the vibe we wanted and went for a good mix of Vegas spontaneity with a mid-century industrial look, starting with our logo! The building was perfect for it and we’ve never looked back.”




A golden wedding arch and painted wedding wall, inside The Photobooth Elopement Place wedding chapel in Dallas, Texas, decorated with flowers, a red heart, and a decorative curtain, and newlyweds posing with a toast

Couples can pose in front of several different wedding walls inside Latrice Roman's venue, The Photobooth Elopement Place in central Dallas, including a romantic golden arch with floral accents and a wall featuring a sweet quote by John Legend.



Teamwork & Growing Your Business


9. Do you have a business partner or share your location with anyone? 


“I have shared space, so we have a few different types of businesses on my floor, but we all do our own thing.”


“I don’t share our location with anyone, but my daughter, Jessica Forester-Brushaber, has collaborated on everything from the very beginning. If it weren't for her, and the support and encouragement from my husband, I wouldn’t be here right now.  


I call [Jessica] my ‘Marketing & Creativity Consultant.’ She’s my go-to person when it comes to social media marketing, and she helps me stay focused… guiding me to the steps I need to take to grow. We don’t want to get too big too fast, before we’re ready. We want to be successful, and success takes time, determination, and commitment.”


Related: Being a Team Player: 4 Things Any Officiant Can Do to Help the Other Professionals Shine


10. Have you expanded or downsized your business since opening? 


“I have added employees who work remotely, but they come [into the office space] if they have a ceremony. I’ve also expanded my team into other geographical locations.”


“No, I am considering a bigger location sometime this year.” 


“Having been officially open for just less than a year, we still consider The Matchbox a new business.  I’m currently the only employee, taking care of all types of business from vendors, to appointments, to tours, to officiating. My daughter, since she [doesn’t live in town], handles marketing strategies and social media marketing.”


Seats set up for a small elopement inside The Matchbox Drive Thru wedding chapel

The Matchbox Drive Thru offers a mix of chic and cozy holiday decor throughout the year.



11. Best venue-related advice another wedding pro has ever given you? 

“'Just do it! People will call if you create it,' and they will. I had my first wedding within 45 days of signing my contract on the space. I started advertising as soon as I had keys.” 


“The best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten from anyone is this:  Everyone is NOT your ideal client.  As much as you want the business?  You can’t have ALL the business!  You really have to decide who is the target audience, the ideal couple, and market to THEM!”


12. What’s the *one thing* you wish you’d known before opening a wedding venue? 



“Marketing – You have to understand how to market yourself to keep the couples/business coming in…It takes a lot of work to keep the business moving forward, and I did not realize how much time it would take to do that.”


“TikTok, lol… Social media put me on the map. That app made my life easier when it came to making advertising videos. People will stalk you way before they reach out to meet you.”





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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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