Your wedding venue shut down unexpectedly. Now what?

Trees are seen through the glass walls of a chapel. Inside, rows of pews are bordered by potted greenery.
The Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes has closed.
(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Sunday, Feb. 18. I’m Andrew J. Campa, a Fast Break reporter for The Times. This is the first Sunday Essential California! We hope you’ll be a regular reader. Here’s what you need to know to start your Sunday:

    Their dream wedding was canceled

    As someone who married within the last few months, I can tell you that the one thing no one wants is a last-minute venue change. Yet, several couples received emails within the last week informing them of the sudden closure of the picturesque Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, a highly coveted Southern California wedding venue.

    The famed glass-walled chapel designed by architect Lloyd Wright, scion of Frank Lloyd Wright, provides stunning ocean views from its hillside perch. The venue’s future is imperiled, however, as increasing land movement on the heels of a deluge of rain closed the chapel indefinitely. Couples who spoke with The Times’ Andrea Chang and Samantha Masunaga were sympathetic to Wayfarers’ plight but were also left scrambling to salvage their special day.


    Disappointed but trying to keep it in perspective

    Up until a few days ago, Brooklyn literary agent Ryan D. Harbage planned to wed fiancée Jazmine Robinson at the chapel on March 24, a springtime celebration.

    The couple quickly bounced to a new venue — the Long Beach Museum of Art — which will also host the reception. The move wouldn’t have been possible without the chapel’s staff directly contacting the couple and immediately issuing a refund.

    “I’d much rather get married in an art museum than die in a mudslide,” Harbage said. “It’s really not a contest.”

    Still, the shift from a storybook venue and the scrapping of months of preparation have been difficult to accept.

    “We’ve been imagining this dream ceremony at a place that is singular,” Harbage said. “It’s such a beautiful blend of nature and spirit, and we’ve been planning for a year to get married there, and it’s really, really hard to let go of that vision.”

    Queen (Mary) for a day


    During their courtship, Dawn Sicare and fiancé Howard Newman fell in love with the Wayfarers Chapel. So when they decided to get married, they scheduled their nuptials there for March 9.

    “It was perfect,” Newman said. “It’s obviously beautiful up there. We got the ball rolling, and we were excited, until two days ago.”

    The couple couldn’t change the date since it aligned with spring break for Newman’s children. Plus, they had already booked their stay at the Queen Mary hotel in Long Beach.

    That’s when the couple inquired about the availability of the famed ocean liner for the ceremony. The date was available, and now the couple is just waiting to sign the paperwork.

    “The initial shock and all that stuff, it’s dissipated,” Newman said. “It is what it is. We move on.”

    Here’s more on how couples have coped with the last-minute wedding venue changes.

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    For your weekend

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    Have a great weekend, from the Essential California team


    Andrew J. Campa, reporter
    Carlos Lozano, editor

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