BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — A shopping mall might not seem like the most obvious choice for a wedding venue, but for thousands of couples, the Mall of America has acted as the perfect backdrop for their vows.
The Chapel of Love, located on the third floor of MOA, has performed more than 8,300 weddings and vow renewals over the past 28 years. But after nearly three decades of "I dos," the chapel is closing its doors.
In a Facebook post, the chapel announced it will close on Aug. 28, 2022: "It's been a great 28 1/2 years but it's time to move into retirement."
"It will be a sad day, but we know that the future will hold many great adventures, plus we have our fond memories or our wonderful clients which we will forever hold in our hearts," the post read. "Thank you to all who have supported us over the years!"
The Chapel of Love will continue to perform weddings through the 28th and is offering several "going out of business" sales and specials.
Owner Felicia Glass-Wilcox said this isn't what she had wanted for the chapel, but running a business during the pandemic made her aware of the many hurdles that she had already jumped through.
"It made me even more said I think, because I never wanted to close this business," Glass-Wilcox said. "That was never ever my intent, but there has been so many roadblocks along the way. It made it almost impossible."
Lead wedding coordinator and minister Tairie Starr recalled business was also tough in the beginning.
"We were a laughing stock," she said. "People would walk by, 'oh, people really get married at the mall? What, do you have divorce across the hall?' We don't hear it quite so much anymore, but we're a chapel that happens to be in the mall."
Starr said the mall is simply a good place to get exposure, and Glass-Wilcox said she just wanted folks seeking matrimony to have inexpensive options, that are outside of the courthouse.
Monday, following Glass-Wilcox's announcement on Facebook, Becky and Mark Ginder made a trip to where they tied the knot.
"We read an article yesterday and we said we had to stop by because this is where the memories started," Becky said.
Mark said it was extremely unique when they got married at the Chapel of Love in 1995.
"When you walk through the mall, dressed, everybody kind of stared," he said. "You do all the photos-- it was fun."
Over the years, KARE 11 has profiled just a few of the couples who exchanged rings at the Chapel of Love, like Penny and Steve Partch, who married at MOA in 1995.
"Too many people had too many ideas, so we just wanted to be married, and we just simply eloped and sent out an announcement," Penny told KARE in 2017.
In 2014, Pastor Paul Marzahn shared some of his stories from decades inside the chapel. "There were several cases of cold feet. There was even one couple who wanted me to tear up the marriage license because they wanted nothing to do with each other," said Marzahn. That couple eventually agreed to attend Marzahn's counseling sessions.
And before there was "Married at First Sight," the Mall of America played host to a real-life reality show when bachelor Dave Weinlick announced he was looking for a bride.
WATCH: KARE 11 Classic: Weinlick wedding at the Mall of America, June 1998
Back in 1998, Weinlick had friends and family interview a handful of bachelorettes to be his bride. Weinlick would wed Elizabeth Runze, and the couple remained married for the next 20 years. Weinlick passed away in 2018 at the age of 48 from colon cancer, months after the couple renewed their vows at MOA.
"We have a fantastic love story, and I know a lot of people can never say that," Elizabeth told KARE 11 in Aug. 2017. "And for that, I am grateful."
In 2018 a plaque was added to the Mall of America carousel in honor of the Weinlick's. It reads, "In Celebration of Dave & Bethy Weinlick. One of Life’s Greatest Love Stories."
The chapter may be closing for the Chapel of Love, but Starr left us with some wisdom.
"We are in the marrying business--we do weddings and we do weddings well," she said. "We don't do people's marriages. That's up to them."
Below, KARE 11 viewers shared their happy wedding day memories with Breaking the News' Jana Shortal:
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