I’ve always been a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to weddings. Call me old-fashioned, but vampire weddings and swimming with sharks are not typically on my matrimonial radar. So when I began to dive deeper into the countless love stories at Mall of America in the last 25 years, I was fascinated. Tales of costume weddings (yes, Elvis has been in the building), underwater proposals, and out-of-the-box ideas are all part of what makes the Mall’s DNA wholly unique.
My quest to understand this unique venue and all it has to offer began at the Mall’s most iconic love locale—Chapel of Love. A quick chat with MaryAnne London, its founder, told me that there’s more to this quaint ceremony space than what meets the eye.
When London opened the chapel more than 23 years ago, she thought it would draw patrons looking for a Las Vegas experience. But most of the 4,000 weddings she documented over her 11 years as owner were less Vegas and more Minnesota.
“They were really very beautiful,” she says. “Most of the people either wanted a church wedding and couldn’t get one or it was a second marriage.”
That’s not to say she didn’t have her fair share of unusual nuptials. On Valentine’s Day in 1999, she hosted 21 drive-thru weddings on live TV—all from the Mall’s parking lot. She also kept the lights on for a midnight wedding at the turn of the century.
The Chapel’s current owner, Felicia Glass-Wilcox, who purchased the venue from London in 2005, agrees that of the approximate 15 weddings she hosts a week, it’s inevitable that there will be some surprises. Her most unusual request to-date? A nude wedding.
“I had to turn it down,” she joked. “Where would I find an officiant?”
Seeking a Soulmate
As I continued my journey through the Mall’s romantic archives, I found one story particularly riveting: the tale of David and Elizabeth Weinlick’s arranged marriage.
It started in 1994 when David declared that June 13, 1998, would be his wedding day. As the date neared with no bride in sight, he ran a campaign to find his better half. The Mall hosted a bridal campaign mixer for the final 28 candidates, and David’s family and friends overwhelmingly chose Elizabeth. They wed at the Mall. 19 years later, they’re still together. Take that, “The Bachelor.”
And last, but certainly not least, there are the proposals. The Mall is a hotbed of activity from one knee. From patrons popping the question atop the Log Chute to impromptu asks outside Chapel of Love minutes before marrying, the Mall is home to many charming—and sometimes unusual—spots to promise to love and cherish.
John Sullwold, marketing manager at SEA LIFE® Minnesota Aquarium, said that his team helps coordinate at least five proposals a year.
“A lot of people choose to get engaged here because it’s where they had their first date or maybe their first kiss,” he said.
Some patrons even use the “underwater ask” for prom. But the real pièce de résistance that SEA LIFE brings to the Mall’s love story is underwater weddings. The aquarium’s first submerged service, which was held in 2005 and aired live on the “Today Show,” took place in the shark tank with a sea turtle as their most curious guest.
“There’s something to be said for how creative people can be,” Sullwold said. “Everyone wants their wedding to special, and that was certainly unforgettable.”
Unforgettable. Unusual. And undoubtedly unique—all straight from Mall of America, with love.
Emily Sefton is editor of Mpls.St.Paul Weddings magazine. When she’s not scouring the Twin Cities for new bridal trends, she can occasionally be found at Mall of America on Toddler Tuesdays with her two young children.