Chapel of Love
L.A.’s First Congregational Church: iconic, inclusive, and ready for your fabulous wedding
It’s among Southern California’s most historic churches, the home of one of LA’s most inclusive congregations, and a regular venue for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. Founded when the city was just a modest hamlet of 5,000 people, in 1867, the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles celebrates its 150th birthday this year, making it the city’s oldest continuously operating Protestant church. Since 1932, it’s occupied a stunning Gothic Revival–style building at 6th and Vermont Streets, one that’s been featured in many films and TV shows, from Into the Wild to Ugly Betty. The sanctuary, complete with stone floors and soaring stained-glass windows, is home to the world’s largest working church pipe organ—with some 23,000 pipes.
“FCCLA is a very special, unique church,” says wedding and events manager Craig Kraynick. “It’s extremely progressive and open, but at the same time very traditional. Our LGBT church members don’t attend because it’s a ‘gay church.’ They like that it’s just a church that’s open to all.” Since 2008, FCCLA has performed same-sex weddings for couples who typically—although not exclusively—”have a connection with something bigger and greater than themselves, whether that be God, a higher power, or just a strong sense of spirituality,” says Kraynick. Still, both members and nonmembers of the congregation are warmly welcomed to exchange their vows here.
Wedding ceremonies can be held in either the beautiful sanctuary (capacity 1,000) or the intimate Shatto Chapel, which seats about 130 guests. The church also offers a few gorgeous reception settings, among them a lovely outdoor courtyard with lighted trees in front of the sanctuary. In addition, couples can choose their own pastors or officiants, although the FCCLA’s own resident ministers are also an option. And if you’re wondering, secular music is both supported and encouraged. Indeed, couples can even request a favorite song to be performed on the famous pipe organ (previous picks have included “Stairway to Heaven” and “Purple Rain”).
“My favorite thing is to see guests who have never experienced an LGBT wedding, and how excited they are for the couple,” says Kraynick. “They realize it’s not so different than any other wedding—except it’s usually a little more special and fabulous.”