Just like the Suspension Bridge, Oglebay Park and Centre Market, The Capitol Theatre is shorthand for home for many of us in Wheeling.
Its brilliantly lit red marquee has displayed the names of famous acts as well as local schools and regional musicians. It is the place many of us were first introduced to classical music or Broadway shows. It was a destination for our first live concerts and date nights.
It was also the object of our hope when it was purchased and renovated by the Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2009. And now that it has been restored to its former glory, it can be where we celebrate love and commitment. The iconic Capitol Theatre, the same stage that has hosted famous acts of the past century, can put your wedding in the spotlight as well.
A STAGE FULL OF MEMORIES
During the four shows on the theater’s opening day — Nov. 29, 1928 —15,000 people came to see the copper marquee, silk panels on the walls and amber prisms in the elaborate light fixtures. The first of many Jamboree performances on the 44-foot-wide stage was on April 1, 1933. Since then, The Capitol Theatre has hosted the best-known live performers in country music including Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson and Alan Jackson.
Theater lovers are familiar with the stage productions the venue hosts. “Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats” and “Cinderella” have entertained sold-out crowds. The Wheeling Symphony performed at The Capitol Theatre during 1929 and 1930 and became the symphony’s permanent home in 1961. School shows, dance recitals and community programs take place in the theater.
When Rachael and Eric Haney were planning their August 2017 wedding, they were originally looking for somewhere rustic and barn-like. As huge country music fans, when they discovered they could marry “on the same stage Johnny Cash performed on,” they knew their day would be spectacular.
Nicole and Kyle McConnaughy were thrilled to be able to have the history of their hometown represented through choosing The Capitol Theatre as the site of their nuptials.
“We have been to dance recitals, musicals and local fundraisers at The Capitol. We want to see Wheeling thrive and love the direction Wheeling is headed.” As a couple who is invested in the future of the city, they brought their friends and family together at this historic location to celebrate their own future. They continue to share their love of Wheeling and their support of The Capitol Theatre by attending events there with their children.
The Capitol Theatre hosts five to 10 weddings per year between May 15 and Sept. 1. Couples can say “I Do” on the stage where they are the real stars of the day. The bride enters from the back of the auditorium and walks down the aisle to meet her groom on the stage. Because the theater was thoughtfully designed with audiences in mind, there is no bad seat for the ceremony.
Rachael noted that because of the beautiful design of the theater, she did not need much décor for the wedding or reception. The rich colors of the interior, the elaborate chandeliers, the stage curtains and the sculptures all contribute to the elegance of the event.
Weddings held at The Capitol are as unique as the couples who wed there. Smaller, more intimate weddings seat guests on stage with the couple, and the reception dinner is staged in the mezzanine level hall. The covered alley just outside the front door is perfect for photos as well as a cocktail hour.
MODERN UPDATES, HISTORIC BALLROOM
Whether a couple exchange vows on stage or not, the ballroom is available to host wedding receptions. This large open room was intended to be the lobby for the eight-story hotel that was planned — but never constructed — over the theater. During the long history of Jamboree USA, the private bar in the ballroom would host after-show performances as well as meet-and-greets with stars and their band members.
When The Capitol was purchased in 2009, the ballroom was filled with partitions after being used as office space by Live Nation. A community-wide call went out for volunteers to help restore the space, and Frank O’Brien recalls more than 150 people dedicating two days to cleaning and painting. Since then, an elevator has been installed to make the ballroom fully accessible to the public. The restrooms are new, and upgrades have been made to the electronic and lighting systems. The ballroom is comfortable for guests and offers the technology access of a modern venue.
This formerly hidden and exclusive space is now open to everyone for events and weddings. Like the theater below, the large windows and unique features mean decorations can be minimal and still look elegant. However, the high ceiling and open space also allow for endless possibilities.
Besides weddings, events of all kinds are held there — from formal black-tie dances to pre-show dinners to circus-themed fundraisers. In fact, the ballroom has become a center for socialization before and after events on the stage. Sonya Fedorko reports that it is open to the public and hour before Broadway performances and most other shows. Wheeling Symphony offers dinner prior to their monthly performances as well as receptionsafterwards that include light snacks and a full service bar. Concert-goes have the opportunity to extend of the pleasure of their night on the town through experiences in the ballroom.
Like other couples who celebrated their wedding at The Capitol, Dianna and Mark Stahl enjoyed working with the venue’s staff. They were knowledgeable and accommodating, allowing every couple to personalize the event to their tastes and preferences. Because of their fantastic reputation in the community, caterers, photographers, DJs, florists and decorators are eager to work with the space and the staff. The Capitol helps with all areas of planning and preparation so the couple can enjoy their wedding day, rather than worry about details. Cindy Johnson, wedding coordinator of the Capitol, customizes wedding celebrations to fit the desires of each couple. She can be consulted at 304-233-7000 for tours and to plan a wedding in this iconic location.
The photos, something that graces a couple’s walls for years, are always spectacular. There are hundreds of choices for stunning locations in and around the theater. The couple’s name will appear on the marquee the day of the wedding, just as music superstars have been welcomed there.
All the couples who wed at The Capitol Theatre agree they will treasure the photos and the memories forever. And they look forward to enjoying those memories every time they attend another event at the Capitol.
• Stacey Sacco is a Wheeling native currently living in Martins Ferry with her husband and four children. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work and previously worked for several social service agencies. She is currently the production editor for InWheeling Magazine and a blogger at OV Parent.