In a little over a decade, at least 200 couples have exchanged vows in the multi-function chapel on the Texas Tech campus.
When their days are tough, Sarah and Timothy Sanders revisit the place where it all started.
They stroll hand-in-hand down sidewalks lined with wispy grass that lead to intricate wooden doors accented with metal panels, underneath a circle of ornate stained glass.
It was inside this Spanish Renaissance-styled building, the Kent R. Hance Chapel, on Oct. 29, 2022, that the Sanders united.
“It kind of makes me tear up,” Sarah said. “It's something we will always remember.”
This special ceremony was the culmination of their relationship that began after they met online in March 2020.
At first, they had several obstacles between them: she lived in Roswell New Mexico, he lived in Lubbock, then the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Despite these challenges, they continued to get to know each other until they finally met up the following November in Ruidoso, New Mexico.
“He asked me to be his girlfriend that same weekend,” Sarah said, with a smile.
Six months later, Sarah decided to move to Lubbock. She received the most unexpected gift the next Christmas Day, when Timothy proposed to her at the National Ranching Heritage Center.
“It just worked out perfectly,” she said. “It was a really cool experience.”
When it came to wedding planning, Sarah did not exactly start with a blank slate. From the time she was a child, she daydreamed about getting married in a chapel one day.
“So, when I started looking, I came across the Kent Hance Chapel and I absolutely fell in love with it,” she said.
Timothy and Sarah are both Red Raider fans, so they agreed tying the knot on the Texas Tech University campus would suit them best. But just to make sure, Sarah called to get more details.
She spoke with Camrey Sanchez, an event specialist with Top Tier Catering, who takes pride in sharing the chapel with interested couples.
“When you walk in, it doesn't really feel like Lubbock,” Sanchez said. “It is that homey Texas Tech feel.”
At 6,879 total square feet, the multi-function chapel seats 240 guests and is open to all groups and faiths.
“It really is a large space, but it doesn't feel like it,” Sanchez said. “It makes weddings really cozy.”
Since the chapel's doors first opened in 2012, it has housed about 200 weddings. Sanchez has helped with 15 of those.
“I've seen people do a lot of decor in there, and a few people hardly do anything other than some flowers and candles, and it really looks gorgeous,” she said. “It really doesn't need a whole lot.”
Besides the aesthetic incentives, renting the chapel also includes two event staff available both at the rehearsal and wedding, audio-video capabilities, and bride and groom rooms. There is even a discount and a commemorative brick placed on campus when rented with the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center or Frazier Alumni Pavilion as the reception venue.
Perhaps the best perk comes after the wedding ceremonies, though – when the chapel bells ring proudly from the bell tower across campus and beyond.
“It's movie magic,” Sanchez said. “You're newlyweds exiting the chapel and the wedding bells are ringing for you. It's really special.”
It is for those reasons and more that Sanchez said the chapel books quickly, especially the summer and early fall weekends. Since they schedule around holidays and Red Raider home football games, she said they end up hosting about 15 to 20 weddings each year.
“As soon as that football schedule goes out, our phone goes crazy with people trying to book the chapel,” Sanchez said.
Thankfully, Sarah was proactive. When Sanchez told her Oct. 29 was still available, she booked the date immediately.
“They made me feel so at peace with my decision,” Sarah said. “They talked to me, answered every question I needed and made it personal. I noticed that's not something everybody does.”
Sarah knew she made the right choice when she met Sanchez at the chapel about a month before the wedding.
“I walked through those doors, and it was absolutely jaw-dropping,” she said. “Me being from New Mexico, the architecture had a western, Santa Fe vibe that reminded me of home.”
As she toured the chapel, Sarah found she agreed with Sanchez. She did not need many decorations to add to its beauty.
Once the big day arrived, Sarah made sure to give herself enough time to stand in front of the gold accent wall under the ringed chandeliers in a moment of pure bliss.
“It was stunning,” Sarah said. “That's something everyone should do, for sure. It's something you'll always remember, to look around and say, ‘OK, this is worth it.'”
Sarah dressed in the quiet bridal suite alongside her bridesmaids, got her hair and makeup done in the stylist chair and headed to the chapel's entrance.
Then, she reached around the iconic doors and grabbed her soon-to-be-husband's hand.
“We did a first touch instead of a first look before I walked down the aisle,” Sarah said. “We were able to hold hands, read our handwritten vows to each other, pray and just be in a moment before our wedding started. The pictures from that moment are absolutely beautiful.”
When it came time for the ceremony, Sarah beamed with joy as she entered a room of 100 people that looked full, thanks to the way Sanchez and her teammates arranged seats.
From the decorations to the music and timing, by the time the chapel bells rang, Sarah said her wedding coordinator and Top Tier Catering ensured it was a seamless occasion.
“After the wedding, guests came up to me and said how beautiful and wonderful the ceremony was,” Sarah said. “They had never seen a perfect wedding like that.”
While the pictures on Sarah and Timothy's walls serve as a daily reminder of their vows, there is nothing quite like their peaceful walks at the chapel – a cornerstone to Texas Tech campus, and a milestone in their love journey.
Which means, there is only one romantic spot to find the Sanders as they celebrate their first married Valentine's Day.
“I think we will go to the chapel, hold hands and just enjoy the moment of peace and quiet,” Sarah said. “We do that even before Valentine's Day, and we'll definitely do it long after.”