City won’t approve cemetery as wedding venue

Peonies adorn a hillside at Oak Hill Cemetery in this file photo from 2008.

An engaged Lawrence couple who wanted to use a city cemetery as their wedding venue had their request shot down by the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department this week.

Marrying in a place that’s the end for many was supposed to be a “nice, memorable” beginning for Abbie Stutzer and her fiance, she said.

Stutzer envisioned a Halloween evening wedding in Oak Hill Cemetery this year, away from gravestones but surrounded by the cemetery’s fall foliage. But the request “ruffled a few feathers” at City Hall, she said via email.

Mark Hecker, assistant director of Parks and Rec, said simply that it “wasn’t a good idea.”

“It seemed like a bad PR thing to us,” Hecker said. “If there’s a funeral that day, it creates a whole other thing… it’s one of those not-a-good-idea things.”

Stutzer said she was willing to cut the wedding party from about 80 to about 30 if that would mean she could marry at the cemetery. There would be no music or decorations, she said.

About a week after she submitted her request, it was denied.

“My fiance and I just really dig them,” Stutzer said of cemeteries. “They are beautiful, in general, and in the fall, Oak Hill is gorgeous. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. We both thought it would be a nice, memorable place to start our new beginning.”

Hecker said getting married on land owned by Parks and Rec doesn’t take a special permit. For example, if a couple want to marry at Burcham Park, they can just do it. A reservation is required for facilities like the South Park gazebo.

When asked whether Stutzer could’ve just had the ceremony without asking, Hecker responded that it “just wasn’t a good thing to give permission for.”