When the coronavirus pandemic closed down Washington state last spring, Bronwen Stevenson shuttered her Pioneer Square business of 10 years, a Vegas-style wedding venue named Shotgun Ceremonies.
Yet after she boarded up her storefront and locked the doors, couples continued to call Stevenson. During the early months of the pandemic, people were looking for a quick and safe way to get married due to visa requirements, medical insurance, and, well — love.
“There really wasn’t any options,” Stevenson said. “Being in the pandemic and not being able to visit a loved one in a hospital was an issue. There was need to feel safe and connected. It was a scary time. People really realized how much value it is to have someone with them.”
During March and April 2020, Stevenson started to marry couples on the front porch of her Tukwila home. Her husband served as a witness and signed paperwork. She officiated from her lawn. Big potted plants on her patio were used as backdrops for photos.
“I had brides in full-on wedding dresses,” she said. “Even though it was in the middle in the pandemic, they still want to dress up and feel beautiful.”
After hosting about a dozen socially distanced weddings on her porch, Stevenson heard about an intriguing opportunity on social media. A shipping container at the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall — an collection of artisan and vintage retail shops and rotating businesses — was available to rent.
In May 2020, Stevenson and her husband transformed the old shipping container used for storage into a tiny chapel. They painted it bubblegum pink, decorated it with two tiny benches, and installed carpet and an arch. The floor-to-ceiling metal doors could be kept open to allow for airflow.
“Away we went with a shipping container, a small gazebo and a trailer,” she said.
Over the last year, Stevenson has married more than 100 couples at the chapel. Some plan their wedding for weeks. Others call the night before. As state restrictions have eased, a handful of guests, as well as pets, have been allowed to attend.
Shane Cobane, a longtime Elvis impersonator in his 60s, recently started officiating weddings again.
Stevenson said there aren’t any other shipping-container wedding venues in the United States that she knows about.
“There’s a lot of people who like a traditional wedding, and there’s a lot of people who don’t. Some people want it simple, fun and quick — and that is Shotgun Ceremonies.”