Your Guide to Getting Married at Pretty Place Chapel



Pretty Place is aptly named. It’s stunning in pictures and even more magical in person.


Pretty Place Chapel (formally, Fred W. Symmes Chapel) is one of the most beautiful places to get married, located in the Blue Ridge mountains that border North and South Carolina. Not only is it a popular local venue, folks travel from across the country to tie the knot here - it’s that special! It’s perfect for an elopement, intimate or micro-wedding, or even a more traditional wedding ceremony under the right circumstances.


Now, I LOVE Pretty Place and think it’s the perfect venue for some folks, but there are a few things you need to know before you select it as your wedding venue. Here are my tips and tricks from a Greenville, SC wedding photographer who’s seen quite a few weddings here.

Tips & tricks you MUST know for your Pretty Place Chapel Wedding


My first and most important tip: Choose a photographer with Pretty Place experience. No, I’m not just trying to sell you on hiring me specifically (though I love photographing Pretty Place weddings!) — I truly want you to have photos you’ll love forever from your wedding day. Pretty Place is notoriously difficult to photograph if you don’t know what you’re doing. This is not a place to skimp and hire a newbie charging less, unless you don’t mind the possibility of having no usable photos from your wedding.


Why is it so difficult to photograph weddings here? There is a dramatic exposure difference between all those beautiful mountains in the background and the dark overhang of the chapel, especially on a bright, sunny day. It’s difficult to expose your photo correctly so that you can see the beauty of the nature in the background while still getting detail in the couple / wedding party. Your photographer needs to be skilled at riding that delicate line of exposure so that your photos show off the scenery and the expressions in your faces as you say your vows.


Someone with experience and plenty of photo knowledge can handle it, but they need to have a lot of practice using manual settings under quickly changing light conditions — and pressure.


Please, please, please ask to see a sample gallery from Pretty Place SPECIFICALLY when hiring your photographer. Typically, I don’t think it’s necessary to see a gallery from an exact wedding venue, but this is not an ordinary venue. This is the most challenging venue in the Upstate. (But, one of the most rewarding as well!)



Microweddings at Pretty Place are my favorite - this was a photo of every guest at this sweet couple’s wedding!


About the Chapel


Pretty Place (“Fred W. Symmes Chapel”, technically) is part of YMCA Camp Greenville. While you’ll skirt the border of North and South Carolina on the drive up, you’ll need a South Carolina wedding license to get married here as it is officially on SC ground.

Pretty Place is an covered, open-air mountain chapel. This provides shelter from rain and direct sun, but in hotter or colder months, you will feel the weather as there is no climate control. The rental includes pretty much just the space - no frills or extras (though you don’t need much to make the space beautiful.) The cross is included in the space, but can be moved on request. The space does have an adequate sound system that can be included for an additional fee.


Restrooms: There are restrooms on site.


Accessibility: There is a ramp from the parking lot to the back of the chapel, but reaching the front requires navigating some steps. The aisle also includes steps, so prepare to navigate those during your wedding processional.


Capacity: The chapel can accommodate many guests - but the biggest limiting factor is the parking lot, which the venue estimates can fit about 100 vehicles. For larger weddings, carpooling where possible can help.


Pets, smoking, and alcohol are all prohibited.


How booking works


Pretty Place books out in two hour slots. You can add more time on for an additional fee, if those hours are still available on your date. Two hours is typically enough for a quick getting ready, a short ceremony, family photos, and a few couples’ photos, but you may run into a time crunch if you’re spending a lot of time on any one of those things. It’s important to have your game plan down and streamline as much as possible. (Your wedding planner/coordinator and photographer will be crucially important in this!)


The chapel faces eastward, so if you want sunlight to stream directly in for the most drama, you’ll want the earliest slot. HOWEVER, this time slot also comes with the most chance of fog and clouds obscuring your views, especially in the cooler months. I’ve been in the chapel on a day where you could not see past the first drop off because of fog!! This can be a magical vibe too, of course, but just know it’s a possibility if you’re set on those vistas. The latest time slot - near sunset - is your better chance for colorful skies without as much risk of fog.

Getting ready

There is one “getting ready room” / bridal suite. It is cute, but small, so if you have a large wedding party, I recommend having them arrive already dressed. If you plan to get into your wedding clothes at the Chapel, it’s best to be as prepared as possible before arriving and maybe just slip into your dress, etc., to keep things simple and quick.

Make sure everyone knows the game plan BEFORE heading up the mountain, as cell reception can be hit or miss! The road is a bit wind-y, too, so be prepared if that is a problem for you.


Be prepared to navigate down stairs during your processional! Practicing in your wedding attire is a good idea.


Ceremony

This is up to you! After your ceremony concludes, I do recommend having your officiant / pastor direct all guests (other than whoever will be in your family photos) to head on out of the chapel efficiently so that family photos can begin.


Portrait location ideas

You may want family portraits done with the beautiful mountain backdrop at the altar (this is a beautiful option!) Your photographer will almost definitely need external lighting / flash to capture this well, so just be prepared for that. As always, I recommend having a specific list of the groupings you want to save time and make this portion of the day go more efficiently.


This is a favorite photo spot just in front / to the right of the chapel. There is a steep drop off on the other side, so please step carefully!


After family photos and wedding party photos are taken care of, it’s couples’ portrait time! There are some sweet spots just outside the chapel to take photos with the views, but if time is running short, another great option is to continue photo time by driving a little way down the mountain to Caesar’s Head, Bald Rock, or another nearby photo spot. You can get the same mountain views with a little more space and time to create some gorgeous photos.


(PS - I have a Pretty Place elopement photography package that includes the two hour time slot at Pretty Place, and a complimentary extra hour at a second nearby location! If that sounds good to you, hop on over to my contact page and say hey!)


Bald Rock is my favorite mountain spot near Pretty Place - easy access and tons of space. (I did have to edit some rock graffiti out of the below photo, though, so be aware.)

Reception / accommodations options


Pretty Place is a ceremony only venue, so if you’re planning on having a traditional reception, there will be a bit of a drive for your guests (30-45 minutes minimum). Brevard, NC, is the closest town at about 30 minutes away. Asheville, NC, and Greenville, SC are both about an hours’ drive from the chapel, with Travelers’ Rest / Pumpkintown / Pickens as some smaller South Carolina towns located a bit closer.


Here are some popular options within an hour’s drive of Pretty Place:


Hotel Domestique (Travelers' Rest, SC - 45 min)

Gaines Lodge at Table Rock (Cleveland, SC - 40 min)

Baxter Farms (Pickens, SC - 35 minutes)

Historic Hampton House 1908 (Pickens, SC - 50 minutes)

The Venue at Ballenger Bridge (Landrum, SC - 50 minutes)

The Barn in Penrose (Penrose, NC - 30 min)

Forever Home Farm (Brevard, NC - 30 min)

The Shamrock Room (Brevard, NC - 30 min)


I hope this has been a helpful resource for you as you consider planning your wedding at Pretty Place! If you need a photographer, I would love to discuss my Pretty Place photo package with you!

Please feel free to drop me a line via my contact form. I can let you know if I’m available for your date (hooray!) or point you in the direction of other photographers who I know and trust will do an amazing job with this gorgeous venue. Cheers! -Hannah