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Dulcinea: the Famous Free Wedding Chapel

By Courtney Clark

Roy and Pennie Williams understand that weddings can be outrageously expensive. To help couples marry affordably, they built the Chapel Dulcinea on the campus of their nonprofit business school in Austin, Texas. What is the cost of a ceremony at Dulcinea? Only time, as the Williamses do not charge for weddings.

The inspiration to build the chapel came from an unlikely place: Roy's collecting habit. Pennie Williams explains, "It all started with a bell. Roy loves to collect interesting things and he decided one day that he needed a large, bronze bell. He found a historic church bell on the Internet and asked me where we should put it. Since we were in the process of designing our campus I suggested that we discuss it with our architect, Marley Porter. Marley immediately said that bells ideally belonged in chapels. Roy and I looked at each other and said 'let's build one!'"

The chapel was dedicated on April 23, 2005. The significance of the date? It is the day that William Shakespeare, author of Romeo and Juliet, both was born and died. It is also the day that Miguel de Cervantes, who penned Don Quixote, died. The chapel's name, too, comes from Cervantes: Dulcinea is the lady love of Don Quixote, who says of her, "her rank must be at least that of a princess, since she is my queen and lady, and her beauty superhuman."

Dulcinea- the chapel- has its own quiet beauty. Located on the Wizard Academy campus, a nonprofit business school that was also founded by Roy and Pennie, it sits on a plateau, at the edge of an ancient Indian trail. "Many people have commented on the tranquility they feel on our campus," says Williams. "We totally agree and that's why we wanted to share it. When we built the chapel we decided to make it free a gift to the world. We hope we can keep it that way!"

The outdoor chapel is equipped with a Bride's Room so that the bride has time to prepare before the ceremony. Hand-chiseled stone benches allow seating for up to twelve people, but couples can invite up to 150 people who will fit inside and overflow onto the patio. At the end of the ceremony, couples are encouraged to ring the historic bell that started Dulcinea.

A free chapel in a gorgeous location is bound to attract plenty of brides and grooms- and it does. Last year, Dulcinea hosted 964 weddings! Visitors are not deterred by distance or weather: some couples have traveled from countries such as Denmark and Kenya, while others continue with their plans despite freezing or outlandishly hot temperatures. Williams tells us, "My biggest surprise has been the couples willing to take any time slot available - middle of the day, middle of the week?- and they come from every continent."

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