Monday, August 10, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 23

Santa Maria Sun / Music

The following article was posted on February 11th, 2015, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 49 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 15, Issue 49

Harmony is perfect for the musically minded wedding


From the moment my wife and I first wandered through the red brick courtyard of Harmony, Calif., and entered the quaint chapel there, we knew that it was the place we would one day have our wedding. We eloped last year, enjoying a courtroom marriage in San Diego, and this year, we will be reserving the date for our wedding, celebrated with family and friends, in the charmingly tiny town, enjoying a small and untraditional ceremony in the chapel followed by a reception in the rustic courtyard and chapel grounds.

The Harmony Chapel’s bridal suite includes a classic, Victorian-style place for brides to prepare for the intimate ceremonies conducted in the Harmony Chapel.

The little town, which boasts the population of a whopping 18 people, including the surrounding cattle ranches, has become a favorite destination for those seeking small weddings. The unconventional beauty of the chapel and surrounding courtyard is particularly picturesque, but it’s the name of the town that attracted my wife and me. As musicians, we find the name to be a powerful metaphor for the life we are building together, one part at a time, whether we are making music or not.

“People just love the idea of a wedding in Harmony, there’s something special or magical about the name itself,” said Harmony Chapel manager Aarika Wells. “People often times just see the sign and wonder what’s here; they come in just to explore, so I think the people who end up getting married here are those who are meant to get married here.”

The Harmony Chapel itself is a standing relic of the small town’s history as the location of the Harmony Valley Creamery Association founded in the early 20th century. The chapel was once a cooling house for the milk, butter, and cheese stored before the advent of modern refrigeration. The cool house was artfully refurbished into a chapel in the early 1980s.

Complete with a hardwood floor, stained glass windows, and four long pews, the chapel can seat 40 and has standing room for more, providing an intimate ceremony space. Right next door to the chapel’s carved wine cask doors is a small bridal suite decorated in a fancy Swiss style akin to the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. Two beautiful murals deck the walls of the hallway leading to the small space where brides prepare for the ceremony next door.

The wood carved door of the Harmony Chapel illustrates the special character of the tiny town’s namesake and why so many couples wed there each year.

“The thing about Harmony is people have been creative here, craftsmen and artisans have left their thumbprint,” Wells said. “It’s small enough that it doesn’t take an act of Congress to get things done.”

The entire plot of Harmony, which includes the more than 2 acres that encompass the small unincorporated town, was recently purchased by Alan Vander Horst, who is investing in restoration of the main building across from the chapel as well as raising the uneven and often precarious red brick paths in the courtyard and chapel grounds, Wells explained. The restoration is slated to be complete in May, so those who book their weddings can enjoy Harmony after it gets a long-needed facelift.

Those who would welcome elderly or disabled guests, as my wife and I will, definitely look forward to the update of the bumpy paths and retrofitted buildings. The courtyard space will include a few other cosmetic changes, Wells explained, including a slight move of the gazebo and an updated stage area for live bands or outside ceremonies. The efforts are to provide a more complete celebration space, Wells said, with the interior reception hall, chapel, and chapel grounds becoming a more unified location.

Learn more
More information about booking a wedding in Harmony is available at or 27-1028. More information about the history of Harmony is available at

“We use imagination here,” she said. “It’s that sort of old-time, funky, sort of vintage look that is kind of sweet and that couples just fall in love with.”


Contact Arts Editor Joe Payne at

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