Wedding ceremonies held in cemeteries allow the bride and groom to be near dearly-departed loved ones 

By Brett Auten

It had nothing to do with creepy, mysterious or spooky. It was all about sharing, intimacy and love.

Kira Phelps and Aaron Hawkins were searching for the perfect location for their September wedding. As the months were drawing near, Kira kept feeling the pangs of having a ceremony without her father, who passed away four years ago.

“He was my best friend, my biggest fan and my biggest cheerleader,” Phelps said. “He is who I am and I couldn’t see doing this without him. I thought about just going up to the courthouse. It was just so sad to think about.”

And to compound matters, her brother had passed away in March of this year.

When all seemed lost, a friend had jokingly suggested that maybe they could have the wedding ceremony at his graveside.

“We all kind of chuckled and laughed and dismissed it in my mind because I didn’t even think it was an option,” Phelps said. “But after a few days, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. All I could think about was how to make it possible.”

Enter Ally Walters.

Walters is the Manger of Service Development at Baue Funeral Home. She has been with the well-established St. Charles funeral home since 2016. But her previous work experience coincided perfectly with Phelps’ wishes. Walters helped plan hundreds of weddings when she was an event planner at Bogey Hills Country Club.

“When Kira reached out, told her story and asked what we could do, it was unique,” Walters said. “It was a first in our 83 years of service to families in our community. We had to make sure we did it with respect to the people who are buried here.”

Less than an hour after their initial conversation, Walters called back and said it was a go. With Walters at her disposal, Phelps plan was going to be a reality.

“Ally was a Godsend,” Phelps said. “Within a few weeks the ball was rolling and I could picture everything in my head and it was beautiful.”

Over 75 of Phelps and Hawkins’ family and friends joined in celebrating St. Charles Memorial Gardens, in the Garden of Whispering Waters. The event circle at the center, and heart, of both families’ Gardens was romantically lit with dozens of warmly glowing string lights for the reception. Phelps’ father, Bryan Phelps, and brother, Tim Matousek, are rested in the Garden of Whispering Waters, where the ceremony was held. Hawkins’ father, Jeffery Hawkins and brother Nathan Hawkins are rested in the nearby Garden of Prayer. The nearby lake and sunset added a romantic nuance to ceremony. And not only was having the ceremony and reception in St. Charles Memorial Gardens special for Phelps and Hawkins, but also the date itself had significance. Sept. 28th would have been Phelps’ father’s 60th birthday.

“It could not have been more perfect if I had years to plan it,” Phelps said. “There were zero bumps in the road. For me, I didn’t cry one time during the ceremony. I kept thinking, he’s there, but not. But just being there was so calming. I didn’t realize the magnitude it had on people and their emotions until I saw the photo the next day. I was so in awe over how many times that night that people came up and told us it was the best wedding they had ever been too.”

For Baue Funeral Home and Walters, playing host to a unique and memorable occasion left them grateful.

“I feel honored to be able to do this for the first time,” Walters said. “I have seen hundreds of weddings and many of them have tears but this was touching in a different kind of way. You could feel the meaning and impact it had being with their loved ones on this special day.”

CUTLINE: Submitted photos