Twenty minutes from historic Savannah, Ga., the land opens to panoramic views of salt marshes stretching for miles to the Atlantic Ocean and Tybee Island. Near the mouth of the Savannah River, streams wind their way through dozens of barrier islands. Dolphins jump along side passing boats while migratory birds flock nearby.
For thousands of years the Euchee tribe of Native Americans hunted and camped on Georgia’s coastal islands in dugout canoes. Tybee is the Euchee word for “salt.”
Business mogul Stacye Jarrell, often called the “Queen of Tides,” is one of Tybee’s residents who has been a leader of the island’s rebirth during a challenging economy. Jarrell is owner of Oceanfront Cottage Rentals, a Tybee Island vacation rental property with more than 85 homes that often serve as homes-away for celebrities.
Feeling that the island was perfect for weddings, Jarrell took on another project last spring of moving and restoring a chapel that was originally built for a Disney movie. After filming, the chapel, constructed as a 1908 seaside Baptist church, was slated for demolition.
Jarrell purchased the chapel, had it dismantled with the pieces numbered and moved almost two miles to a more appealing location. Her husband Lannie, a builder, refitted the chapel for its official launch.
“We recreated the chapel from the outside in,” says Jarrell, “with plumbing, wiring and making it hurricane proof. “
Jarrell brought in wedding planners and photographers for suggestions on the details. A catering chef from Paula Deen designed the kitchen.
State-of-the-art lighting was installed along with massive, sparkling crystal chandeliers. “The chandeliers make the bride feel like she has a little dazzle,” says Jarrell.
Located on the edge of Tybee’s delicate marsh ecosystems, the non-denominational chapel has timeless architecture with sweeping double staircases leading to a spacious veranda. Wooden arches grace the chapel ceiling, and classic pews create elegant ambiance.
Last August The Wedding Chapel opened in grand style with David Tutera of WE-TV’s My Fair Wedding cutting the ribbon. A reception welcomed wedding planners and media from around the country with restaurants and caterers from the island and Savannah serving their best dishes.
At the opening Tutera called the chapel “a wonderful, important venue full of charm and character.
“It feels like you are in an old chapel,” adds Tutera, “but is a modern facility with yesteryear’s charm that is fresh and comfortable. That is rare.
“You can come in here and do nothing, and it looks stunning. You can dress up an old barn, but it is still an old barn.”
Tutera feels Tybee is a wonderful location for a destination wedding with the beaches and Savannah just 18 miles away. The wedding expert advises brides, “A destination wedding provides a more lasting impression.”
The chapel features onsite parking, a baby grand piano, sound system, tables and chairs for 136 or more. After the ceremony, the sanctuary can be converted for a reception. A 1,000-square-foot porch leads to landscaped grounds.
Other amenities include a full caterers’ kitchen, a bridal parlor and groom’s dressing grooms and four half baths.
For further information on The Wedding Chapel, call 800.786.5889.
Visiting Tybee Island
Along with rentals there are more than 500 hotel and motel rooms located within one block of the beach. At Tybee there are miles of beaches, a museum, Fort Pulaski, a historic lighthouse, recreational venues and over 25 restaurants.
One of the most popular restaurants is the Crab Shack, which has grown over the years and is now almost an attraction for families, along with being a seafood restaurant. Several activities are offered, including feeding baby alligators in the gator lagoon.
Seating is available inside or outdoors under old live oaks by the water. Tables have holes in the center for easy disposal of seafood shells. A wide assortment of seafood is offered with combination platters providing a sampling of favorites. Cole slaw and corn on the cob accompany most dishes.
Sting Ray’s is another seafood restaurant providing outdoor seating under umbrellas with breezes from the beach a block away. Combination platters are also good here, such as grouper with scallops or shrimp.
If touring Savannah for the day, cool off with luscious ice cream at Leopold’s or have lunch at the circa 1935 ice cream parlor. The ice cream is considered one of the best in the country.
For additional information: Crab Shack, 912.786.9857; Sting Ray’s, 912.786.0209; Leopold’s, 212 E. Broughton Street, Savannah.