The Rev. Betty Love, and Augusta's "Little Chapel on the Boulevard"
by Brennan Meagher
A short, petite woman wearing a bright blue muumuu ushers a nervous girl out of consultation, all the while assuring her, “You will make the most beautiful bride.”
Tucked away on a small lot on the corner of Wrightsboro Road and Monte Sano Avenue, and originally purchased to be a hypnotherapy clinic, Love’s Wedding Chapel bears witness to weddings almost daily, all performed by the Rev. Betty Love,
After losing her husband to lung cancer, Love decided that she wanted to open a hypnotherapy clinic in order to help people correct their bad habits before it was too late. In 1990, Love opened a clinic that specialized in smoking cessation and weight reduction.
It was during this time that Love decided to become a minister.
“I was told that if I was going to run a hypnotherapy clinic that I should become a minister because it was better to have those credentials when you’re working closely with and touching people, “Love recalls.
After becoming an ordained minister Love found herself sending many couples to Aiken, S.C., to be married, because, at that time, the state of Georgia required blood tests and other paperwork before a couple could be married, but South Carolina did not.
Eventually couples started to question why Love didn’t perform marriage ceremonies herself.
“Every woman wants to lose weight and we all need to quit smoking. “ Love said. “I wanted to be able to help at least one person. That’s why I originally bought this building to be a hypnotherapy clinic, but then people kept asking me, “Why don’t you do weddings?”
This prompted Love to call the courthouse and find out what she needed to do in order to be able to legally marry couples. It was then that she found out that Georgia no longer required couples to submit a blood test. So in 2001, two years after opening her clinic, Love began officiating marriages.
“I hung up my shingle for weddings, and I got so busy that hypnotherapy went on the back burner.” Love said.
The wedding business occupies much of Love’s time these days, and she no longer actively solicits patients for hypnotherapy. Weddings keep her so busy in fact, that she found herself in the hospital being treated for exhaustion after performing six weddings on Valentine’s Day and six the following day. She now limits herself to three weddings per day. Despite all of this, Love enjoys what she does and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“I’m gonna marry couples until I fall out,” Love said.
The passion that Love feels towards her job is infectious and is apparent to the cou0les that Love encounters. Jose and Melissa Maldonado were married by Love and continue to keep in touch with her.
“We visit her all the time, “said Melissa Maldonado. “She is like a family member now. She’s an amazing woman and a good person, not just on the job but 24/7. She is the sweetest person I could ever meet.”
Love marries many elderly and military couples, like the Maldonado’s. She also believes many people come to her chapel when they either don’t wish to spend much money on a wedding or don’t want a big ceremony.
Love married Lillie Stephens and Jon Marshall Jr., a member of the Tams, a musical group from Atlanta that was popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s, in March.
“We just wanted the marriage,” explains Stephens of her decision to get married at the chapel.” We wanted a simple ceremony, that’s it. That’s why we didn't bring a crew with us. We wanted something quiet and simple. Besides, a lot of people already think we’re married because we’ve been together so long, 25 years.”
Although she enjoys her job, like most businesses, weddings don’t always run smoothly, and Love has found herself in a few unlikely situations.
There is one wedding in particular that Love describes as “the most shocking” wedding that she’s ever performed.
At this particular wedding, everything seemed to be running according to plan until Love asked the couple to say their vows.
“I asked, “Do you take this man to be your husband?” Love said.
Rather than responding with the expected answer, the bride said, “I would prefer to marry a woman.” To which Love responded, “Lady, I can’t help you with that. That’s illegal and I’m not getting arrested for you.”
Despite these potentially awkward situations, Maldonado insists that Love always handles herself with poise and grace.
“She knows how to talk the talk to people and how to help them, “Melissa Maldonado said, “She always has the words to say, and doesn’t like to turn people down. She is straight-forward, but always has a good attitude.
Love also recalls another story of an interesting wedding. Onthe day she was set to marry a couple, Love got an angry phone call from the groom’s ex-wife.
“The man you’re fixing to marry is my husband,” Love recalls the woman explaining. “You should know that. You married us last July. We filed for divorce, but it’s not yet finalized.”
Although there is the occasional sticky situation, Love insists that most weddings go of without a hitch.
"There is always something, but mot of the time they’re sweet and fun." Love said, “I’ve cried a few times. You get caught up in the couple you’re marrying. I try to gear every wedding to each individual couple.”
Love feels as though she has found her life’s calling in marrying couples through Love’s Wedding Chapel. She plans to marry couples until the day she dies, and then she believes her son will take over the business.
“I’ve worked a lot of places over the years,” Love recalls. “I’ve been in banking, real estate, I even got a cosmetology license and did in-house hair for the elderly, but this has been the most rewarding. I have been appointed and anointed by God to do that, and besides, my name’s Love!”