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The History of the Willow Chapel

It has been 4 years since the initial construction and planting of the Willow Chapel at Black Iris Estate, A Thomas Venue. We thought this would be a good time to reflect on where it started, where it is and where it is going. It was a year in the making, and its not finished yet. Black Iris Estate's crown jewel is as unique as it is stunning. Located at 5801 E. 116th Street in Carmel Indiana, The Willow Chapel can seat over 230 people for a wedding ceremony before holding a wedding reception in the glorious Ballroom of Black Iris Estate. This breathtaking space didn't just happen, it took quite a bit of imagination and hard work.

Kelly Early set out to create something not seen before in the Wedding Industry in Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers or Zionsville. She wanted to create something that would enhance the Gardens and be a one-of-a-kind place for couples to enjoy their nuptials. After a great deal of research she began to develop the idea of a "living chapel".

She wanted fauna which could be trained into the traditional shape of a church. "Anything planted in the lower portion of our property needs to be flood resistant", said Kelly. "We get flooding from Cool Creek about twice a year, so it needs to stand up to some very wet conditions". Kelly is an impatient person as well, so it had to be a plant that would grow quickly. She decided on Willow Rod as the material of choice because of its need for lots of water, resistance to flood damage and its growth rate of up to 8 feet a year.

Once the plant material was settled, a training structure needed to be erected so that the willow rod had a good solid foundation on which to grow. It took two tons of black steel piping used to create the training structure.

It was like building a giant erector set. We started the first week of July, 2018. It took two weeks, a 30' crane, 2 - 20' scissor lifts and a crew of 15 people to complete the steel structure.

Then there was the matter of planting 1,300 willow rods in a criss-cross pattern.

Once the willow began to grow out the process of training the willow to grow along the roof began.

Now, after 4 years, of growth and training wedding ceremonies are taking place in the Willow Chapel every weekend from May - October. The roof will not be completely grown in for some years now, but the result is already stunning and getting prettier and more breathtaking every day. Cover Image by Chloe Luka Photography

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