Landslide risk derails dream weddings at Wayfarers Chapel: ‘We’re devastated’

The beautiful symmetry of the Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Wayfarers Chapel, the famed Midcentury Modern wedding venue, closed abruptly due to land movement. That’s a big problem for the couples scheduled to get married there.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

It’s said that rain on your wedding day is good luck, but what about when a deluge of rain forces your venue to close days before your nuptials?

That’s the situation for couples with upcoming weddings at Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, one of the most coveted event venues in Southern California.

The ocean-view chapel closed abruptly due to land movement after recent storms. The venue promised reimbursements to those who had booked weddings at its so-called “glass church,” known for its Midcentury Lloyd Wright design. Couples who spoke with The Times said they don’t blame the venue for taking precautions. But they now find themselves facing a dizzying series of eleventh hour decisions.

They described dealing with disbelief and disappointment as they tried to figure out how to salvage their big day.

It was announced on the website for the famed chapel and event space that accelerated ground movements had led to its closure.

Feb. 15, 2024


‘I’d much rather get married in an art museum than die in a mudslide’

Ryan D. Harbage, a literary agent from Brooklyn, was scheduled to marry fiancée Jazmine Robinson at the chapel March 24.

Ryan D. Harbage and his fiancee, Jazmine Robinson
Ryan D. Harbage and his fiancee, Jazmine Robinson, were supposed to get married at Wayfarers Chapel on March 24. They will now hold their ceremony at the Long Beach Museum of Art, where their reception was already being held.
(Ryan D. Harbage)

“We’re devastated,” Harbage, 47, said Friday, a day after receiving an email from the chapel announcing the closure. “We’ve been imagining this dream ceremony at a place that is singular. 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.”

The couple figured out a solution quickly: Their reception is at the Long Beach Museum of Art, which will now host their ceremony too.

“My fiancée and I are holding disappointment in one hand and excitement in the other,” he said. “We’re still getting married, our lives are fine, but the ceremony just won’t be as special as it would have been there; there’s no getting around it.”

He commended the chapel’s staff for reaching out directly and for immediately refunding the couple’s money.

“It’s a total drag and climate change is real. This is what it looks like,” he said. “What else can you do? Listen, I’d much rather get married in an art museum than die in a mudslide. It’s really not a contest.”

‘We definitely cannot cancel the wedding’

Sam Ng’s wedding was just 10 days away when she learned that Wayfarers was closing. It was too late to reschedule the date, especially with nearly all of her 60 guests flying in from out of state or internationally.

“We have friends that already booked Airbnbs, hotels and flights, so we definitely cannot cancel the wedding just like that,” the flight attendant from Chino Hills, 30, said.


Ng had wanted to get married at the chapel ever since her sister used it as a venue for her wedding in 2019. After scrambling to see if local golf courses or churches could accommodate the wedding on short notice, she was able to secure a spot at Santa Anita Church in Arcadia.

“We understand it’s not anybody’s fault,” Ng said. “It’s a natural disaster. No one wants that to happen.”

‘Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?

Howard Newman, 48, and his fiancee, Dawn Sicard, 42, booked Wayfarers Chapel for their March 9 wedding after seeing the seaside church when the two were still dating and not yet engaged. When the two started planning their wedding, Newman threw out the idea of Wayfarers Chapel, and Sicard loved it.

Howard Newman and his fiancee, Dawn Sicard
Howard Newman, 48, and his fiancee, Dawn Sicard, 42, planned to marry at Wayfarers Chapel next month. After the chapel announced it would be shut down due to threat of landslides, the couple are hoping to marry at the Queen Mary.
(Howard Newman)

“There was no more searching,” said Newman, a Riverside resident and account manager for an auto glass distributor. “It was perfect. It’s obviously beautiful up there. We got the ball rolling, and we were excited, until two days ago.”

That’s when Newman got an email from Wayfarers Chapel staff, notifying him and Sicard that the venue was closed immediately due to landslide activity from the recent rains.

“I’m scrolling through, I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?’” Newman said. “I was hurt for her because she really, really had her mind set on getting married there.”

The couple considered rescheduling their wedding, but Newman’s kids have their spring break from their universities then, and so the couple chose to stay with their date. They were already planning to stay at the Queen Mary after the wedding, so they inquired with the historic ship about availability on March 9 for a wedding. The ship ended up being available, so Newman is now just waiting on the venue contract to arrive, hopefully soon, so the couple can sign it.

Situated on a steep hillside on the Palos Verdes Peninsula with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, Wayfarers Chapel is one of the most photographed places of worship in Southern California.

Dec. 19, 2023

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


The price difference between the two venues is significant — the Queen Mary costs $1,600 and Wayfarers Chapel was $6,400. Newman said he’s still waiting on his refund from Wayfarers Chapel, though he said he thinks the venue handled the situation as best as they could.

The wedding was already planned to be small and intimate — just the couple’s children from their previous marriages and their own parents for a party of 12. “The families have really just joined together beautifully,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”

‘Let’s just go to Vegas’

Amanda Temple, 29, had just finalized her booking with Wayfarers on Monday. “They were super upfront that it wasn’t if but when they would close, so it doesn’t come as surprise,” she accountant from Irvine said. “I probably should have had a Plan B, but nothing really compares to it.”

The one upside is that her wedding isn’t until May 2025, so she has “the luxury of time” to figure out what to do, unlike other couples with much closer dates.

She and her fiance, Zach Smith, already booked their reception at a brewery in San Pedro, so they’re stuck finding a new ceremony location nearby.

“We’re considering canceling our reception and taking a loss just because there aren’t a lot of options in the area,” she said. “He’s like, ‘Let’s just go to Vegas, I can’t do this anymore.’”


‘I’ve always pictured getting married there’

Naomi White, an occupational therapist from Temecula, had just booked Wayfarers as her wedding venue less than two weeks ago, paying a $200 deposit for a July 18 date.

A chapel employee that day warned her about the accelerated land movement in the area, but “I didn’t really take it seriously,” White, 28, said. “I just thought it was a precaution.”

Naomi White and Pete Lorenz had just booked Wayfarers Chapel as their wedding venue less than two weeks ago.
Naomi White and Pete Lorenz had just booked Wayfarers Chapel as their wedding venue less than two weeks ago. They were scheduled to get married there on July 18.
(Naomi White and Pete Lorenz)

Now she and her fiance, Pete Lorenz, are trying to figure out what to do.

“I’m sort of just recalibrating,” she said. “My family’s from San Pedro and I grew up going to that chapel, so all my life I’ve always pictured getting married there.”

White said she’s thinking of postponing her wedding in the hopes that the chapel will reopen down the line.

“Whenever we were in the area we would stop by the chapel. It just became very special to me,” she said of her childhood memories. “It just has everything: It has the artistry, it has the architecture, it has the coast, it has the trees.”