July 20, 2007

For weddings, downtown churches in hot demand

Steve and Lindsey Kovecsi celebrate their wedding at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis, one of the most desired churches in Indiana for a wedding.

Steve and Lindsey Kovecsi celebrate their wedding at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis, one of the most desired churches in Indiana for a wedding.

By John Shaughnessy

Here is how competitive it can get to secure one of the most sought-after churches in Indiana for a wedding on a prime summer Saturday afternoon:

On Dec. 31, 2004, Steve Kovecsi and Lindsey Torzewski had already known for months that they wanted to be married at the beautifully ornate St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis during June of 2006.

Steve and Lindsey also had been told by the wedding coordinator at St. John’s that she wouldn’t start accepting first-come, first-serve reservations for wedding dates in 2006 until Jan. 1, 2005.

So on New Year’s Eve of 2004, Steve and Lindsey went to an early dinner before returning home to watch Dick Clark’s countdown to 2005 on television. Then, as soon as the clock struck midnight, Steve gave Lindsey a quick kiss and began dialing St. John’s, leaving their wedding date request on the church’s answering machine at 12:01 a.m.

When St. John’s wedding coordinator, Bridget McClellan, checked the answering machine later, the first message on Jan. 1 was from Steve. She phoned Steve and Lindsey to tell them they had secured the wedding date they wanted: June 24, 2006.

“We knew it was the church we wanted,” Steve recalls. “We were downtown and we saw it. It was an older church, very nice and lovely. We really liked it. We liked the older churches.”

Indeed, the combination of the downtown Indianapolis setting and an ornate, traditional, beautiful interior have combined to make several Catholic churches “the church of first choice” for weddings.

Besides St. John’s, other popular churches for weddings in the downtown Indianapolis area include St. Mary Church, Sacred Heart of Jesus Church and SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral.

“I’ll tell you how popular this church is,” McClellan says about St. John’s. “People who aren’t Catholic want to be married here because it’s so beautiful. I tell them at least one of the people getting married has to be Catholic.”

McClellan also gets a lot of interest from Catholics who used to live in Indianapolis and want to return to their home city for their wedding.

“If people are coming in from out of state, we have a lot of hotels downtown and it ties into the reception as well so that’s another reason St. John’s is popular,” she says.

With St. John’s in such demand, the parish has two people who work together concerning weddings. McClellan schedules the weddings and handles the paperwork and pre-wedding details. Eileen Ahrens is the wedding hostess at St. John’s, making sure everything goes smoothly on the day of the wedding.

When McClellan couldn’t accommodate a wedding for her goddaughter at St. John’s, she contacted Cheryl Nickels, the wedding director at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish—another popular site for weddings. Nickels arranged the wedding for McClellan’s goddaughter.

“Sacred Heart is a very popular place for two reasons,” Nickels says. “It’s always been a beautiful church, but since the restoration after the fire in 2001, it’s absolutely glorious. And there’s the downtown proximity. The majority of weddings at Sacred Heart involve a downtown reception.”

She pauses and says, “We’re booking a year ahead. I’ve had to refer people to St. Mary’s, St. Patrick’s, the cathedral and St. Joan of Arc.”

Paola Alejo knows firsthand how the traditional beauty of St. Mary Church attracts couples hoping to be married there. An administrative assistant at the parish, Alejo not only schedules weddings at St. Mary’s, she was married there in October of 2004.

“It was the most beautiful wedding, a Hispanic wedding,” Alejo says. “Most of the people say they like the church because it’s older and it’s so beautiful. They also say they have a lot of guests coming from out of town and it’s more convenient to the downtown hotels.”

Diana Hay gets the same reaction at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, where she serves as the parish’s executive assistant and as one of the wedding hostesses.

“I get a lot of wedding information requests from brides,” Hay says. “I bet I send out 150 packets a year.”

So the phone calls from couples keep coming at the downtown area churches every year, starting as early as 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Day for the following year.

“I get e-mails, too,” says McClellan at St. John’s. “I check the time of the calls and the time of the e-mails to see what order they come in. They crack me up. Most of them want June.”

Still, McClellan advises all couples to keep the proper perspective as they search for what they consider the perfect church.

“They can get carried away with all the wedding things, and I have to remind them that they’re receiving the sacrament,” she says. “That’s what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter what the church looks like. What matters is that the couple begins their marriage with God.” †

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