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  • Writer's picturethomascaterers

The History and Progress of the Willow Chapel

As we mark the 6th Anniversary since the inception of the Willow Chapel at Black Iris Estate, A Thomas Venue, it's an opportune moment to reflect on its journey from conception to its current state, and the promising path ahead. What began as a year-long endeavor is far from complete, yet its allure and uniqueness continue to captivate. Nestled at 5801 E. 116th Street in Carmel, Indiana, the Willow Chapel stands as a testament to ingenuity and relentless dedication.

Kelly Early, the visionary behind this architectural marvel, embarked on a mission to redefine the wedding landscape in Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, and Zionsville. With a vision to enhance the estate's gardens and provide couples with an unparalleled setting for their nuptials, Kelly conceived the idea of a "living chapel" after extensive research.

In her quest for the perfect flora, Kelly prioritized resilience and rapid growth to withstand the periodic inundations from Cool Creek. Willow Rod emerged as the ideal candidate, renowned for its affinity for water, resistance to flood damage, and remarkable growth rate of up to 8 feet annually.

The realization of Kelly's vision required not just botanical selection but also the meticulous construction of a sturdy training structure. Two tons of black steel piping were meticulously assembled, akin to constructing a giant erector set, to provide the necessary support for the willow rods to flourish.

The endeavor, which commenced in the first week of July 2018, involved the coordination of a 30' crane, 2 - 20' scissor lifts, and a dedicated crew of 15 individuals, culminating in the planting of 1,300 willow rods in a criss-cross pattern.

As the willow rods began to flourish, the process of training them to grow along the roof ensued. Six years hence, the Willow Chapel hosts wedding ceremonies every weekend from May to October, a testament to the success of Kelly's vision and the ongoing evolution of this botanical marvel. While the roof's complete growth may take several more years, the current result is nothing short of stunning, with each passing day adding to its allure and magnificence.

Cover Image by Chloe Luka Photography

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