Mall-Order Brides

updated 08/29/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/29/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

WHERE WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO be married: (a) Westminster Abbey before the crowned heads of Europe or (b) in the Chapel of Love at the gigantic Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., in front of a small mob of bargain hunters? If you're Chuck and Di, with money no object, the answer of course is (a). If, however, you're like Teresa Bach and Steve Winsor of Le Sueur, Minn., working within a tight budget, the chapel snuggled between the Heartleaf gift shop and the Minne Sew Ta monogramming store is the only way to go.

Teresa, 28, a cook in her hometown Hardee's, and Steve, a 23-year-old factory worker, brought along their 1-year-old daughter, Brandi, and Teresa's three children from a previous marriage as they were joined in holy matrimony on July 9 by the Rev. Connie McCallister, a Lutheran pastor, one of eight ministers who perform weddings at the chapel.

Getting married in the small, simply decorated mall chapel, Steve said afterward, was "almost like a church, better than a judge." And talk about a bargain! For just $395 the couple got, among other things, an hour of planning from the chapel's consultant; a half hour in the chapel for the vows; recorded music of their choice; a garter for the bride; an 8-by-10 photograph of the event; two wine glasses and a bottle of inexpensive champagne. For an additional fee, they could have had a cake, a horse and carriage (outside the mall), a celebrity-look-alike singer—and 15 extra prints of the wedding picture.

Peggy Brandon and Jim Harvey, married later the same day, were swayed by the mall's proximity to their home in Crystal, Minn. "We didn't want a big wedding, nothing real fancy," says Harvey, 28, a machine-shop inspector who met his bride when he went for an eye examination at the vision-care store where Peggy, 36, works—in another mall. "We thought maybe we'd just fly to Las Vegas," he says, "but having it here, our families could come."

Reverend McCallister, who heard about the chapel from her hairstylist in the mall, says she was skeptical at first but was converted after meeting with chapel owner MaryAnne Gears. "They make each wedding very special," she says. "For me it's an opportunity to be an instrument of God's love."

For Teresa Bach, newly married and heading off to a reception at her father's farm in Henderson, Minn., there is time now to linger and take stock, time to take a spin on the Camp Snoopy carousel. "It was everything I'd hoped for," she said, glowing.

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