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Maryland Chapel Once Wedding Hub of East Coast

Bride and groom making a toast with champagne

Forget the long, drawn out wedding — Harry Williams couldn’t wait to get married to his girlfriend Charlotte back in the summer of 1964.

Williams asked his now wife if she wanted to marry him on a Monday, that Saturday, they said “I do.” But fifty years later they decided to return to their wedding site and exchange vows for the second time in the now little known Historic Little Wedding Chapel in Elkton, Maryland.

Thirty-nine percent of proposals occur between the months of November and February, while December poses as the most common month for engagements (16%). But the Williams couple was unique: They had little time, and little money to experience a grand wedding. Nowadays, couples pay an average of $4,000 for the engagement ring alone.

“He’s been an amazing husband,” said now 68-year-old Charlottle Williams. The couple recently took a private bus, packed in their closest family members and friends from New Jersey, and set out to Maryland to renew their vows.

The little town of Elkton was once considered the marriage capital of the East Coast, with more than a thousand couples tying the knot there each year due to Maryland’s lax marriage license laws. These days, New York City is the most popular East Coast City to get married in, with the average cost to get married there being $86,916.

At it’s peak, the town’s “Marriage solicitors” once greeted buses and trains as they came into the area; there were billboards advertising wedding services. However, in 1939, the state passed a 48-hour waiting period for couples wanting to marry, which resulted in the number of weddings held in the town to reduce drastically.

Today, the church the Williams couple was married in still stands, yet it is the only remaining chapel in town and sees around 200 couples get married every year. This may be due to falling marriage rates around the nation, which fell more than 5% during the recession. People are getting married at an older age now, or can’t afford to be married.

“People aren’t getting married like they used to,” said chapel owner and minister Rev. Frank Smith. “There’s not that pressure [to be married].”

Even though the ceremonies at the Historic Little Wedding Chapel are short, “we take weddings very seriously here,” said Smith. And the chapel and town of Elkton is still well known as a wedding mecca.

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