763 N. Sunset Avenue (at Badillo)West Covina, CA 91790-1298
The sign out front says "Bethany Church, a place for new beginnings." It's a fairly normal looking church in West Covina and nothing out of the ordinary stands out. But, looks are deceiving.
When I write wedding venue reviews I try to keep in my the broad sense of what the role of the church is to brides I've spoken with. Some are extremely into their churches, others treat it on par with stopping by city hall and getting a marriage license. They're kinda into how pretty the church is and if they will let them come and go without much issue. Some people are attracted to a pretty church and places like South Shores Church certainly are popular. On the other end of the spectrum is of course the bride and or groom who don't care as much about how pretty a church is and are more focused on making a connection. Regardless how religious they are there is one thing that is super important, it's their wedding day and they want to feel special. They want to feel that they matter as a couple and that their wedding is more important than a sterile business transaction. If that's you, then you've found a hidden gem!
Going inside the building and meeting the players involved There is Doug Wilson, the pastor. Well, pastor is just one of his many job titles, he's about as hands on as I've ever seen anybody in the church. The church also has a school associated with it, and his wife is the principal. His son Stephen is the youth pastor. Doug does everything from routine maintenance of the sanctuary to editing their website. He is very engaging, super nice, and makes you feel like you're welcome and special. He's also very sincere. The one thing that I can tell you about Doug that is most surprising is that when you're with him in his church you feel like you're in his living room. The church exudes a feeling of warmth and tranquility from within. When you're in Bethany you know you're among friends.
If you're looking for smaller hands on Christian Church this is certainly a great place. For an average wedding (under 200 people) this church is large enough to accommodate your needs. The other thing that is interesting about this church is that it has a hall associated with it. One of the weddings I did at the church had a cake and punch reception after the ceremony with a formal reception off site for a smaller crowd in the evening. This is an important point. Often couples struggle with logistics on their wedding day. A perfect example, one of my brides is a kindergarten teacher. Her students want to come to ceremony but really can careless about going to a wedding reception. They would be bored to tears. A small cake and punch reception afterwards is ideal.
I've also seen the hall used as a wedding reception site. It was actually very nice. This may be an ideal solution for something I've seen from time to time, a larger wedding held elsewhere such as another state or an country. Then there is the "California Reception." The bride can get dressed up one more time and go through the ceremony once again, and walk 200 feet to her reception. Nice and low key.
One other thing to consider of course is the though of intentionally not going the hotel/golf course reception route and putting your money elsewhere. So, for example, if you're finding a golf course that is cutting you a deal to charge your $45 a person for rubber chicken a lackluster golf course you can instead choose to be different. You can hire my buddy Bobby Hathaway (Chefbobby.com) and he'll make you a meal that would blow your mind. Or you can have the Southern California quintessential dream of having your wedding reception hosted by In & Out Burger (its around $1800 for the truck to show up and make 175 meals). The truck can pull up right into the parking lot. (Right about now some brides are thinking "Yeah!" and others are praying their finances never read this!).
There is a grass field in the back we've used for a couple weddings. We can make it work. It actually does have it's charm. The church photographs nicely and has some incredible overhead lighting that makes for some very dramatic images. For a change of scenery you can use some local parks for your wedding photography.
It's in West Covina, but it's not exactly off the freeway. There is around a five minute drive to get to the church. There isn't a set of hardened rules at the church. In fact I've never heard them say "Can't" before. Its one of the few churches I am actually free to go up onto the alter and move around to get interesting images. This place is so accommodating I can't think of many distractions nor work arounds needed.
Many of the bridal couples I've worked with over the years seem to tell me about growing up and going to the family church in their youth. Then by the time they went to college the visits to the church became less frequent. Then they've met someone and felt strongly enough about their religion to want a church wedding.
In Southern California we don't really have homogeneous communities like you find in Chicago such as the Polish community or the Italian community. What we have are people we invite to our weddings of different faiths and varying ethnicities. Every Sunday these churches are talking to their parishioners at the services. These are people who are in agreement of what is being said at the service. However the Saturday crowd is a different story. They may not be of the same faith, and even if they are, maybe they aren't tuning in.
I've spoken with Doug about doing more weddings at their church to the outside world who aren't affiliated with their church. He really likes the idea, it's icing on the cake for him. But instead of booking more weddings to help bring in more money he's really about the principles of the religion. He's very much a 'people person' and wants to connect. As the sign out front says "A place for new beginnings" it eludes to the fact that this is a church that performs for the people. Instead of rigid rules and jaded perspectives this is a church that wants to impress your family, your guests and most importantly you. In the larger picture, they really want you to have a good experience with the church on your wedding day. Even if you will be attending another church in the future they know that if you have a good experience on your wedding day that hopefully you'll stick with a church as you start a family.
When you visit the website there really is no information about hosting weddings, for now. You'll have call Doug and talk him about what they offer. But after years and years and years of hearing services from nearly every church and every religion all I can say is a lot of services sound like they are on auto pilot. Doug is warm, welcoming, and speaks in a voice that sinks in. He's profound and impactful. Your service is going to be special, so be certain to get a videographer for your wedding because you'll want to relive it again.