In the South, the big church wedding is tradition. And you don’t mess with tradition.
But these days, couples are choosing places that give their guests a snapshot of their relationship. And often that place is a Nashville landmark.
Morgan and Rachel Kyle did just that by getting married on the Shelby Street Bridge.
“We picked the walking bridge because we were looking for a unique outdoor experience for our wedding,” said Rachel, a bartender at the Tin Roof where husband Morgan is the general manager.
“I originally wanted a ‘farmy’ kind of feel ... but I realized neither of us are really country or ‘farmy,’ ” said Rachel.
“My friend told me that the bridge is kind of like a reflection of us as a couple, who we are, where we came from, and what makes us happy.”
And so it was settled.
One in four men proposes during November and December, according to a survey published by the group that owns Modern Bride magazine. So for many, January is when the debate over where to get married reaches full force.
Luckily, Nashville offers a lot of options that are not chic museums or antebellum homes.
From The Belcourt to the State Capitol to Robert’s Western World, The City Paper takes a look at five unusual places Nashville couples have said “I do.”
The symbolic cityscape: If you’ve ever watched ABC’s Nashville, you know that all serious conversations take place on the Shelby Street Bridge. And while that would be truly inconvenient if locals actually did it, most agree that the pedestrian bridge linking downtown and the east bank is a spectacular place to celebrate.
“The dramatic lighting at night was awesome,” said Rachel Kyle. “And the city of Nashville and the bridge itself are so beautiful I didn’t have to do much in the way of decorations.”
Since both are in the bar industry, Rachel and Morgan Kyle felt it was important to find a place where the party didn’t have to end at 11 p.m.
“Most of our friends are night owls, so it was nice having no time constraint,” Rachel said. “And the fact that we didn’t really have a supervisor watching us meant everyone could really let loose ... because, let’s be real — bartenders get crazy.”
Rachel also liked the idea of crossing a bridge together to start a new life (though she winced at the inherent “cheesiness” of that phrase), but the Kyles and their guests quite literally moved across the whole bridge as the celebration went on.
“We did the ceremony towards the stadium, dinner in the middle of the bridge, and partied on the side closest to downtown,” Rachel said.
“I really liked how versatile the area was, despite being ‘just a bridge.’ ”
The Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge is already much more than just a bridge for many in the music industry. Country music stars like Big & Rich, Emerson Drive and Dolly Parton have all shot videos there. Rachel thinks people are drawn to the bridge because it represents what Nashville is.
“It’s old and historic, has adapted through time, got a $15 million facelift, and is loved by celebrities. That pretty much describes Nashville!”
Honky-tonk honeymoon: Robert’s Western World on Broadway is a great place to get loud and get rowdy — and possibly get loaded — but for some couples, it’s also the perfect place to get hitched.
“We have had over a dozen couples to date, and the types of people we marry are all across the board,” said Halie Fisher, director of special events for Robert’s.
The lead singer of the house band is a licensed officiant, and couples come from near and far to make it legal on their famous stage.
“Newscasters, Vanderbilt grads, Harley Davidson bikers from Boston, musicians ... The one thing they all have in common is they want a laid-back, fun environment to start their lives together. They have a passion for traditional country music, and they want to keep that alive on Broadway.”
Robert’s performs closed-door services upon request, but often the ceremonies are open to the public.
“When you are at Robert’s you may hit a ‘flash mob’ wedding,” said Fisher. “We close the door, announce the ceremony, and for that 10-minute time frame, you become a wedding guest,” said Fisher.
“People feel a sense of surprise and honor that they just witnessed that moment in a couple’s life by chance.”
Aside from the country music clout, Robert’s also brings a down-home feel and sense of history to the proceedings. Before it was a music venue, the building was home to a steel guitar company and a Western-wear store.
“You feel like you are walking back in time walking through our doors,” said Fisher. “People say it feels like home.”
The politics of marriage: Most decisions about where to get married require two families to agree, but few require a vote of the state legislature.
Rachel and Brent Easley’s did.
“Brent is part of the House staff for the Tennessee state legislature ... and they thought that it would be very meaningful to have their reception there,” said Erin Lee, photographer for The Collection and for the Easley’s wedding.
“In order for this to happen, it had to be voted on. We got engaged out on one of the balconies,” said Rachel, “so this was already a special place to us.”
“From the marble floors to the grand light fixtures, we knew our guests would love the opportunity to visit the inside of the Capitol. It’s not everyday that you get the chance to do that.”
Despite having photographed dozens of Nashville weddings, Lee said this one stood out.
“When Rachel told me that she and Brent were planning on having their reception inside of the Tennessee State Capitol, I was thrilled,” said Lee. “I have photographed some extremely unique places in Nashville, but this location was absolutely grand.
“The building was completed in 1859, and there’s a dead guy buried in the wall!” said Lee.
William Strickland, the building’s famous architect, is buried in a crypt in the north wall of the Capitol. He considered the building his greatest achievement.
“It doesn’t get more unique than that,” said Lee.
The movie moment: Many of The Belcourt’s films — and arguably the theater’s staff — are considered “artsy” or “unique.” So it’s no surprise that people who choose the theater as a wedding venue are looking for something decidedly creative.
Casey and Trent Summar got married at the Belcourt in 2007. Casey is the executive director of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville.
“We were looking for a spot other than the usual plantations, churches and event venues. ... Something that felt more ‘us,’ ” Casey said. “We love the role the space plays in Nashville’s history. It’s beautiful and kitsch-free, so it didn’t even need decorations.”
The laid-back attitude of the staff also put the Summars at ease.
“They allowed us to take our time and just make the place our own for the day,” said Casey. “No sense of being rushed through the normal ‘steps’: tossing the bouquet, cutting the cake, the first dance … many of which we didn’t do anyway. It was all up to us to let it unfold at our own pace.”
“They also have these great old dressing rooms downstairs that we used to get ready in, and they put our names on the marquee over the doors.”
Stephanie Silverman, executive director of The Belcourt, thinks history is key.
“The Belcourt has been part of Hillsboro Village since 1925,” said Silverman.
“It showed silent films when it first opened, was home to the Grand Ole Opry for a couple of years, and was truly ‘saved’ just over a decade ago by grassroots passion and local generosity from Nashvillians.”
She added, “For a couple that calls Nashville home, loves films, loves their movie dates — and in some cases, maybe even had their first date at our theat — The Belcourt really becomes a part of why they care about this town.”
Neighborhood nuptials: When singer Jackie Wilson decided to tie the knot, Printer’s Alley was a logical choice, and not just because she sings at Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar. She was also marrying the bar’s owner.
Phil Martin and Jackie Wilson got married in the alley on a Thursday night in October. Jackie liked the idea of the memorable anniversary date of 10/11/12 “so Phil would easily remember it.”
“Printer’s Alley has become our second home since we bought Bourbon Street,” said Wilson. “We were able to transform the alley into a magical, whimsical outdoor wedding venue ... yet we kept the cool urban feel of the alley.”
“And we added a new meaning to ‘dancing in the streets.’ ”
Nancy Henderson, co-owner of neighboring Printer’s Alley bar Fleet Street Pub, said the event reflected the character of the neighborhood and its residents.
“Phil and Jackie’s wedding felt open and welcoming and was as much a community celebration as a private event,” she said. “It was like a downtown, city version of those old-time village weddings you see in the movies.”