Why I Perform Marriage Ceremonies in Jacksonville, Florida
My name is Chaplain Scott, and I run the Walk-In Wedding Chapel in Jacksonville, Florida. It is my honor and privilege to marry couples every weekend who come from all over the area to my chapel.
This blog covers some of the background behind how a retired Navy Chaplain opened a wedding chapel in Jacksonville, Florida. It also explains why I keep my prices so low and try and create a beautiful experience for each couple and family that comes to see me.
The Last Navy Chaplain in Iraq
Before I joined the Chaplain Corps of the Navy, I graduated from Bible college and seminary while working full time and raising a young family. I found deep comfort in Christianity and wanted to learn from its best and brightest minds.
I had been a member of the Navy Chaplain Corps for just over a year when the request came in for a Chaplain in Iraq. I’ll always remember the conversation with my supervisory Chaplain when I volunteered. He had been in Iraq for a shorter time than these orders requested. He gently tried to steer me away from volunteering, but I was determined to serve.
Anyone who has been in a war zone knows that the challenges you face are hard to describe. I did not have to carry a gun and fight, but I was a solitary source of support for thousands of men and women who were far from home and facing the most grueling experiences of their lives.
An Expanded Ministry
As a Christian minister in a local church, my congregation would represent relatively homogeneous beliefs and experiences. It can be easy in that environment to hold onto ideas that might see one group of people as different from another.
On the base in Iraq, all of my insular beliefs were shattered. I ministered to people of every background and of every faith, including those with no religious beliefs at all. I found myself in touch with a deeper understanding of God – that he is for everyone and loves everyone regardless of which church or group you may belong.
This transformative experience broke me out of the mold of a traditional Christian minister. While it challenged some of my beliefs and forced me to look deeper into the scriptures, it only strengthened my relationship with God.
Back Home… But Different
I have the deepest admiration and respect for those who serve in our military and a special place in my heart for people who lived through war. It is not only your time in the conflict that is challenging. Coming home and finding your way back into “normal” life can be devastatingly hard.
As I re-entered life in Jacksonville and eventually retired from the Navy, my first thought was to start a church and build a congregation. This is what I was trained to do in seminary. However, after my experiences in Iraq, it seemed too small and contained. I wanted to share God’s love with more people.
Weddings for Everyone, Not Just Members
Friends and family started asking me to perform marriage ceremonies for them. At first, we would meet in parks, at the beach, or at various local venues, and I would perform the ceremony. The word spread, and I started getting more and more calls.
One day I reached out to the biggest churches around Jacksonville and asked if they performed weddings for people who wanted to get married but did not attend their church. I was shocked to hear one “no” after another. Someone could join, they said, and then have their wedding in their facility, but they did not have the capacity to perform ceremonies for non-members.
I realized why I was getting so many calls. Many people who might not be regular church-goers still wanted a spiritual marriage ceremony, and it was hard to find. The God of love I had come to know during and after my time in Iraq did not reserve his blessing for members of a church. He loves everyone unconditionally.
The Walk-In Wedding Chapel Was Born
The first Walk-In Wedding Chapel was inside a sandwich shop near the Duval County courthouse. Couples could get their marriage license and come to me for a blessing and ceremony. The location was convenient, but the smells of food permeated the shop, and I had to speak over the bustle of their customers.
As more people learned about my service, I moved to my current location, 9119 Merrill Road, Suite 16, in Jacksonville. It’s a private space dedicated only to weddings where we can host up to 20 guests.
Weddings Are My Ministry
Some couples come into my chapel who have known each other for a few months; others have lived together for ten to twenty years and have children. I welcome same-sex couples and people of all backgrounds and religions.
Your wedding is an important moment in your life. It’s true that marriage is a legal contract that becomes critically important when one spouse becomes ill or passes away, but it is also a spiritual union that represents a bond between two people who want to face life together.
You can have a notary public marry you. That creates a valid contract, but does it mark the moment in a truly memorable way?
Affordable, Easy, and Memorable
Couples who come into the chapel after many years together often say they were putting off marriage until they could afford a big wedding. I don’t want people to have to spend $5000 to $30,000 to have a memorable marriage ceremony they are proud to share with friends and family.
That’s why I offer affordable ceremonies and pair them with photo packages – so each couple can remember the moment and share it with the people who matter. Business friends often tell me to charge more for my services. I tell them that weddings are my ministry, and I want to make a beautiful ceremony available to as many people as want it.
If you are ready to get married and want to save yourself the expense and hassle of planning a wedding or are looking for a more meaningful and memorable option than a notary public, you can book your Beautiful Wedding Ceremony and Photo Package here.