Who wants to get married in Hell? These couples say "I do!"
When Dante took his famous journey through the circles of hell, he saw a river of boiling blood, a pit filled with monstrous reptiles, and a large demon wielding a bloody sword, hacking and mutilating sinners for all eternity.
He didn’t say anything about a mini golf course. Or a kayak rental. Or a saloon.
However, those are all things you’ll find in Hell, Michigan. At the center of it all is Screams Souvenirs, where you can buy everything from Hell-themed t-shirts and mugs, to devil horn headbands and a Hells Bells cowbell.
You may also see some newlyweds, looking for the perfect souvenirs to commemorate their nuptials. That’s because for less than $250, you can be married in Hell’s Chapel of Love.
Newly-married couple Jennifer and George Sousa first heard about Hell’s wedding chapel on TikTok. They knew right away it was the perfect venue for their wedding, especially when they realized Friday the 13th was in October this year.
“I really like horror movies,” Jennifer Sousa said. “We’re from Blairstown, New Jersey, and they’re very big on (the movie) Friday the 13th, because it was filmed there.”
“The stars aligned,” added George Sousa.
The Sousas came to Hell alone, but they’re planning to have a celebration with family and friends sometime in the next year.
As George put it, “This was just for us.”
Standing among the racks of keepsakes is John Colone, the self-proclaimed mayor of this unincorporated Michigan community. As Colone sees it, there’s one simple reason to get married in Hell:
“A marriage that starts in Hell has nowhere to go but up,” he said.
Colone owns the various business that make up this unique hamlet, including Screams Souvenirs. Nearly 20 years ago, he had the idea to add a wedding chapel to the grounds of Hell.
I've always been (someone) that would do things completely different than most other people,” he said. “I thought (a wedding chapel) would be something that would draw folks to our community. Evidently, it's worked out alright."
Colone said last year, Hell hosted somewhere around 270 weddings and is on track to beat that this year.
"We guarantee every marriage. If it doesn't work, we'll do it again free for you and your next partner, and we've only had two redos in all these years," he said.
Meanwhile, the next wedding party has gathered outside a small office in the back of Screams, where the bride and groom are filling out some paperwork. Emmaline Tervoort, of Zeeland, Michigan, is standing near a rack of t-shirts. She’s clutching a bouquet of flowers in deep oranges and purples, with several silver skull ornaments mixed in.
Trevoort is the maid of honor in Hell’s 13th and final wedding this Friday the 13th: Her mom’s.
“I was actually crying outside our hotel room an hour ago, before my makeup,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, they’re getting married!’ I’m so happy for them.”
When Trevoort’s mother Brooke Loggins and husband-to-be Dustin Wauchek announced their choice of venue, Trevoort wasn’t surprised.
“(My mom and Dustin) have always been those witchy kind of people. They love Halloween and everything about it, so (getting married in Hell) is probably their dream.”
Her mom agreed.
“Friday the 13th in Hell, Michigan, where can you get more spooky?” said Loggins.
Loggins and Wauchek actually met at a Halloween party. Turns out, she bewitched him.
“He was dressed in normal clothes, and I came dressed as a witch,” Loggins said. “We instantly became best friends. There was nothing that could’ve kept us apart.”
When Loggins first came to Hell eight years ago, she fell in love with the place. It was meeting Hell’s officiant though, that made her want to have her wedding there.
Enter Reverend Vonn Williams. She’s been officiating weddings for 13 years, with eight of those years spent as Hell’s official minister. She has an infectious laugh and a feisty personality to match her spiky red hair and bright red boots.
Rev. Vonn said weddings in Hell are special, because the people who choose to have them here really want to be here.
“For some people, it’s their budget. We’re cheap as hell,” Rev. Vonn said. “We have all ages. We have people on their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 12th wedding. We also have the first timers that just love the idea of Hell and what we offer.”
Even though this is Hell, home of Damnation University and an ice cream place called the Creamatory, Rev. Vonn said the weddings are taken very seriously. She’s seen some beautiful ceremonies over the years, along with some that were, shall we say, unique.
The most memorable was just last year, she said. It was a midnight ceremony that Hell offers at triple the price of weddings during normal hours. Still, as the reverend puts it, “cheap as hell.”
Before the ceremony, Rev. Vonn stepped outside for a moment to check on the bonfire that would be part of the evening’s festivities. Back in the chapel, there was a surprise waiting.
“The best men were in adult diapers,” she said.
Whatever face you’re making right now, it’s probably the same one Rev. Vonn said the mom had on her face.
“She was horrified. She asked me, ‘Are you going to allow this?’ I said, ‘Hell, it’s their wedding, not mine. They can do whatever the hell they want!’”
Tonight’s ceremony doesn’t involve adult diapers. In fact, as the wedding party and I follow Rev. Vonn outside and across Hell’s grounds to the wedding chapel, I can’t help but think how wedding-classic this all is. A groom in a swanky suit with a boutonniere. A bride in a beautiful white dress that her mother gave her. An officiant wearing a pair of black devil horns in her hair.
Okay, that last part is a little offbeat. The chapel, though, is pretty much what you’d expect. It’s quaint, with a red roof and steeple. The double doors are painted pale blue and meant to ward off evil spirits, according to Hell’s website.
Inside, Brooke Loggins’ and Dustin Wauchek’s families sit in slip-covered white chairs that line the aisle. At the front, Rev. Vonn stands behind a lectern with Wauchek at her side, as Loggins makes her way down the red-carpeted aisle.
“Thank you to the friends and family that are here today to celebrate the marriage of Brooke and Dustin,” said Rev. Vonn. “This occasion marks not only the beginning of their marriage commitment together, but it is a commemoration of the love nurtured and shared between these two.”
Wauchek and Loggins face each other and read vows they’ve written themselves. The vows are said softly and are very sweet.
“I will keep your heart safe and never take for granted the love that we share,” said Loggins. “Whether our tomorrow is grey skies or sunshine and rainbows, I will walk down each path that life lays at our feet.”
“I promise not to stop loving you until I take my last breath. Then as soulmates, we’ll find each other’s souls again,” said Wauchek.
By this point, sniffling can be heard from all corners of the chapel. Even the best man, who will later swear he didn’t cry, is dabbing his eyes.
The ceremony concludes with an exchange of rings, and then Rev. Vonn pronounces the couple husband and wife. There’s a kiss and a round of applause, followed by laughter when the bride tells her husband, “I love you so (expletive)-ing much.”
“May they live one hell of a happy life together,” said Rev. Vonn. She handed the couple their paperwork and a Hell-themed goodie bag that includes a pair of wine glasses and a special “United in Hell” magnet.
Outside, the wedding party gathered beneath the “Gates of Hell” archway for photos. Rev. Vonn headed back inside the gift shop to the office, where she kicked her feet up on the desk.
“It’s been a long day.”
Hell had 13 weddings this Friday the 13th, and Rev. Vonn performed 10 of them. She said the number of weddings doubles on Halloween, with one every half hour. Fortunately, she gets help from other officiants.
Back in the gift shop, the staff is shutting things up for the night. They’re letting one couple linger, though. Kelsey Hunt, who grew up in Pinckney, and her boyfriend Alex Van Winkle traveled to Hell from Cincinnati.
When asked if they could picture themselves getting married in Hell someday, Van Winkle started laughing as Hunt exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, when we rolled up and saw that people were getting married, he immediately said, ‘Friday the 13th, get married in Hell? I’d do that.”
“I’d 100 percent do that,” said Van Winkle.
Sounds like a future match made in Hell.