ZOLLARSVILLE – Karen Spin was attending an unorganized wedding several years ago in West Virginia and decided to take matters in her own hands in order to get the bride and groom smoothly to the altar.
The Marianna nursing director had been asked to sing at the ceremony and soon learned she could make a career out of wedding planning.
“Sure enough, I got certified as a wedding planner. I decided this would be my retirement profession,” said Spin, the new owner of an old Zollarsville Methodist church that closed a year ago.
“It is pretty,” she said of the quaint brick building on Marianna-Beallsville Road she has converted into the headquarters of her business, CountrySide Weddings.
The West Bethlehem Township congregation had dwindled to eight members by 2010, when the announcement was made to close the church the following July.
“I grew up in this church. My grandparents put their life, blood, sweat and tears into this place. I was married in this church. My mom was frantic.”
Spin then wrote a proposal to use her wedding planning skills at the church to help raise some money to keep it open.
“They had a board meeting and came to me and said, ‘Do you want to buy the church?’”
“I thought, ‘I can’t buy a church.’”
The congregation believed it would take a long time to sell a church in such a remote area of Washington County and wanted to place the grounds, including a small cemetery, into the hands of someone who would take care of the property. Spin changed her mind and bought the place.
“I feel somehow I was meant to be a caretaker of the church. It has been here for so many years.”
She closed the sale June 28, 2012, and held an open house a month later. Forty-five people showed up, and, in no time, she booked her first wedding in the chapel that seats 150 people.
A minister has partnered with Spin to officiated marriages there, and she is marketing the business to couples of different faiths who no longer attend church, but still want to get married in one.
The chapel is offered to couples who live together before exchanging vows and belong to churches who preachers frown on such marriages. Spin also is opening the chapel doors to same-sex couples who want to hold their commitment ceremonies in a church.
Renovations are under way in the basement, due for completion in September, to create a space for small banquets and wedding showers, said Spin, who has organized a half- dozen weddings in the chapel since it opened last fall. More are scheduled this year.
“It’s going well. I want to do Christmas carols here so people can still feel like they can come to this church.”