Going to the chapel

Two hearts unite at Dry Creek Wedding Chapel

By LaReeca Rucker


It’s the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, and Crystal, whose last name is about to change, is in the dressing room of the Dry Creek Wedding Chapel curling the hair of her flower-girl, Brandy. In less than an hour, she will be dressed in white with a new ring.

Her family sits inside the living room area. A grandfather lifts his granddaughter into the air. The flower girl, whose hair is now curled and topped with a halo of flowers, bounces. And Kay Wallis, co-owner of the chapel, watches her husband, Jimmy, a Southern Baptist preacher, fill out the certificate, officializing the marriage of Crystal and Scott Waldo.


During his 45-year career as a preacher, the reverend has united around 500 couples, but only 12 have wed in his small chapel since its grand opening three months ago in the Dry Creek community about five miles off of Highway 30 East.

"It kind of fills a void," said Wallis. "People may not have a church here, or it may be their second marriage and they don’t like to go out to the church."

For two years, the reverend married couples in his brother’s two Gatlinburg chapels. One day he tied the knot for 24 pairs. But the Wallises decided to return to the area to be closer to their family.

Jimmy was raised here. Kay is from Tupelo, and both attended Lawhon school. The couple lives next door to the small chapel, which was once their home. After a bad rental experience, they decided to convert their former residence into a business.

"We lived here and wanted to keep it nice," said Jimmy, "and we weren’t going to rent it anymore. We wanted something that would be feasible that would not be an arm and a leg. You could have a wedding in a church and you would have to bring the greenery and have to take it back. Here, you can just walk in and walk out."

Simplicity was one of the things that attracted the Waldos to the chapel.

"It saves a lot of frustration for the bride and the groom," said Crystal. "It’s already decorated. It’s not expensive and it was close to home. We really wanted to just have our immediate family and friends."

The Wallises say couples get the same treatment, but they offer different packages for different prices. They will provide the cake, the music, a Christian ceremony and a photographer if you provide the groom or bride. If you would like to bring your own cake, music and photographer, that's fine too.

They also sell unity candles, goblets, flower decorations and disposable cameras.

"I’ve learned this," said Jimmy. "You can’t tell whose going to make it and whose not. There’s no way. Some that I didn’t think would make it are still married, and some that I thought would make it, didn’t. That’s always sad.

"In Gatlinburg, you would have people come in dressed like you wouldn’t ordinarily think about dressing to get married. I've seen them dressed like hippies and the ole boy would cry during the whole service.

"And I’ve seen those who would come in having to get married. It felt like everybody just looked down on that, but I always tell them that as long as you’ve got each other and the grace of God, you don’t need anything else."

The Wallises will celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.