I get asked for my best Chapel Dulcinea tips all the time, so I figured it was time to condense them all into the ultimate guide to my favorite wedding venue in Central Texas.
Chapel Dulcinea is hands-down one of the most beautiful venues in the Texas Hill Country… and it’s free.
Free?!? Yep. You pay a deposit and you get it back if there are no shenanigans. (Or, you can donate it to the chapel to help it keep running.)
Chapel Dulcinea holds an incredibly special place in my heart. It is both where I got married myself in 2018 and where I photographed my first wedding, ever. I’ve seen the chapel in so many different scenarios. At my first wedding as a photographer, it rained cats and dogs. (And everyone survived!) At the second wedding I shot there, it was 30 degrees and there were five people at the wedding. At my own wedding, we seated around 20 people and despite a December wedding date, had wonderful weather. No matter the season or the weather, Chapel Dulcinea is beautiful and will leave your guests in awe.
First things first, here’s a general explanation of how using the chapel works:
- You sign up for a 1.5-hour slot in advance. Seriously, do it way in advance. Saturdays and Sundays fill up FAST, so the second you decide to tie the knot, make a reservation.
- The chapel is meant for small, intimate weddings. It seats 12 and 30-35 standing. An extra 65 people could watch from the extended patio.
- The chapel is rain-or-shine and does not do refunds. It does, however, allow you to re-schedule for free.
- The chapel does not provide an officiant or any other vendors. They do offer recommendations.
- Ringing the chapel’s bells after you say your vows is the coolest part of getting married here. Don’t skip it!
If you’ve lucked into getting one of the coveted wedding slots at the chapel, here’s my best Chapel Dulcinea tips to maximize your time and amenities.
This is an ever-evolving guide. Think I’m missing something? Let me know and I’ll include it in my Chapel Dulcinea tips!
Getting married at Chapel Dulcinea? Consider hiring me as your wedding photographer. I offer exclusive rates for elopements and micro weddings. Contact Tess Leslie Photography today.
10 Chapel Dulcinea Tips
1. Get your hair + makeup done before you arrive
Absolutely do not waste any of your precious time having your hair + makeup artist come to the chapel. The dressing room is not very well lit, anyways. Instead, consider using the money you saved getting married at a free chapel to treat yourself to a spa-like treatment before you arrive.
- Salon 1826 http://studio1826.com/ - 10 minutes
- Yellow Door Salon http://yellowdoorsalonatx.com/ - 9 minutes
- Salon Mystique https://salon-mystique.com/ - 15 minutes
- Blushing Belle Beauty Bar https://www.blushingbellebeautybar.com/ - 15 minutes
- D’Flores Hair Studio https://www.vagaro.com/dfloreshairstudio- 13 minutes
2. Get there 30 minutes early
Chapel Dulcinea allows couples to arrive at the venue 30 minutes before your reservation actually begins. Definitely use that extra time! Check into the Welcome Center—with all of your check-in forms completed—and then use that extra time to take detail shots around the gorgeous venue and getting-ready photos in the dressing room, and then you’ll still have time to squeeze in a first look before the ceremony.
3. Get creative with decor
Chapel Dulcinea is already gorgeous on its own, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add your own personal touch to the chapel. For example, if you have a winter wedding you could have a little Christmas tree! This may be a personal preference, but real florals are totally the way to go and many florists will give you a reduced rate for a small venue.
If you’re planning to do a lot for decor, make sure you hire someone or have friends who can decorate the chapel as you get ready. You won’t have time to do it all.
Just remember the chapel’s main decor-related rules:
- No fake petals, rice, or confetti. Real petals and bubbles are OK.
- No Sparklers or sky lanterns. But Candles in glass containers at the front of the chapel are OK.
- No attachments to the walls using tacks, nails, staples or other things that might leave a mark.
4. Renting chairs at the chapel is worth it
Yes, $6.50 per chair might seem like a lot—especially in comparison to local rates—but you’ll be grateful you didn’t have to lug a ton of chairs up the hill by yourself or worry about set-up the day of. The chapel takes care of everything for you, making seating one less thing you have to worry about.
5. Lighting the gaslights in honor of a deceased loved one will mean more to your family than you think
We lit the gaslights in honor of my husband’s deceased aunt, who died from cancer years earlier, and it meant so much to his mother. The chapel lists their name on a sign and its a simple reminder that your loved one is there in spirit.
6. For music, hire a string-based musician—or use a small Bluetooth speaker
While Chapel Dulcinea does not allow amplified music, many couples have used a small portable Bluetooth speaker to play music.
If you’re looking for something more romantic or formal, I suggest hiring one of Austin’s many talented guitarists, violinists, harpists, or string quartets. This is the Live Music Capital of the World, after all!
7. Plan accordingly for the weather
Because Chapel Dulcinea is an open-air chapel, there is no air-conditioning or heating at the venue. Make sure your guests are aware and dress accordingly. Since the venue is in an elevated area, it is colder and hotter than the city of Austin.
Consider using the weather as inspiration for your gifts. For example, supply blankets or fans when your guests arrive.
8. If it rains on your wedding day, embrace it!
The very first wedding I ever photographed at Chapel Dulcinea—actually, EVER—experienced inclement weather. Since its an open-air chapel, that reality might seem daunting. But from my experience, it’s actually not that bad. The covering of the chapel keeps you and your guests dry.
Plan ahead and recommend your guests bring umbrellas since there is a walk from the parking lot to the ceremony site. In fact — this could be a great opportunity to create cute and useful thank-you gifts from guests. You could also bring a nice-looking umbrella to use as a prop for your photos.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that a little bit of rain on your wedding day is actually a sign of good luck.
9. Take advantage of the Spence Diamond Pavillon
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a couple use the pavilion after the ceremony before, which is a shame because it’s really nice. This is the perfect place for a champagne toast, cut into your cake, toss your bouquet, or do any other tradition you’d like. (Just note that champagne and wine — no hard liquor — must be served by a TABC server, and no other food except cake is allowed.)
10. Host your reception at one of these reputable restaurants
Of course, Chapel Dulcinea does recommend you rent the Tuscan Hall and Veranda Room, which is a short walk from the chapel. It costs a couple of thousand dollars to rent either spaces and that doesn’t include catering. For slightly more affordable options, check out the restaurants below. Most rent out private rooms.
- Trattoria Lisina — 15 minutes
- Mandola’s on William Cannon — 20 minutes
- Jester King Brewery — 20 minutes
- Duchman Family Winery — 20 minutes
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