Chapel of Love

“You may now kiss the bride.”

Upper school Chaplain Father J. Young’s words were almost drowned out by the fireworks show that commenced as soon as James DeMatte, director of campus operations and construction, pressed the button on the remote control concealed in his suit.

The song “New York, New York” followed the native New York newlyweds out of Saint Saviour’s chapel and straight into their reception in the Feldman Horn art gallery catered with a special Italian menu designed by the school’s cafeteria staff.

“I’ve been working at Harvard-Westlake for 17 years, so when it came time for me and my wife Christie to get married, the chapel at school was perfect,” DeMatte said.

“It was also convenient. I didn’t have to find some random priest and a cold empty chapel hall to get married in. Father Young did the ceremony, and we’ve been close for many years. We had 90 guests and because all the teachers could come as well as my friends and family from New York, it was like everyone there was family.”

The chapel was built in 1914 in a different location than it stands today. It sat on the western side of the original Harvard campus, and then had to be moved piece by piece when the school relocated to Coldwater Canyon.  

Designed after Saint Saviour Chapel, the school’s Chapel has a capacity of 160 people and has long stood as a historic center-point of the campus. 

This significance is one of the reasons Young believes couples choose to “tie the knot” at Saint Saviour’s Chapel.

“I think the two primary reasons for couples getting married here is firstly because of a certain pride and love for the school that the chapel represents and secondly if they have an individual relationship with me,” Young said.

Young has been marrying couples at the Chapel for 10 years. 

In that time he has performed 20 marriages. 

All couples that wish to be married in the chapel must have a relationship with the school and go through an interview process with Young in order to be “approved.”

This process allows Young to not only form a closer relationship with couples that he does not formally know, but also to make sure they fit the proper criteria. 

“The Episcopal church requires I do pre-marital counseling to evaluate the couple,” Young said.
“Technically I can say no, but I haven’t done that yet.  Also I want to get to know the couple so it’s not just like, ‘It’s nice to meet you, now let’s get married!’”

All couples must have some affiliation with Harvard-Westlake for example, one member must be a staff member, alumnus, relative of staff members or relative of alumni.

“For example, the next wedding I am doing is on June 16 and it is the daughter of an alum whose parents were married in the chapel,” Young said.

Although there are specific restrictions the couple must have in order to get married at Saint Saviour Chapel, religion is not one of them.

 “Couples don’t have to be Christian. There are no religious requirements and I have married Jewish people before,” Young said.

“I was willing to tone down the more Christian aspects of the ceremony.  However, I will not marry someone who wants a totally secular service.”

In addition to not having to be a certain religion, couples can also choose to be married in the chapel by their own minister, not Young.

Attendance Coordinator Gabriel Preciado and Business Office employee Shirley Preciado were married in the chapel in 1998 by their own minister.

Although the service was not performed by Young, the connection to the school and the experience was just as meaningful.

“My wife and I attended many school events while we were dating,” Preciado said.

 “We were chaperones to many proms and grad nights and faithfully attended basketball games at home and away (even up to Sacramento). We were very much involved with H-W.  So, we thought that because H-W sort of got us to meet, why not have us get married in it?” 

They also chose to have the reception at another location, not Feldman-Horn.

The chapel’s proximity and significance can prove to be a very meaningful place to get married for someone who is close to the school community.

“It was just perfect,” DeMatte said.