If you’re looking for a Chapel Dulcinea wedding photographer, you’re in the right place. I’ve been capturing weddings and elopements at this stunning free chapel located on the campus of the Wizard Academy for years. I’m also one of their few preferred wedding photographers. Please scroll down to see some of my favorite photos from these beautiful and intimate weddings and elopements.
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Chapel Dulcinea elopement photography is available Monday-Friday. Saturday and Sunday elopements are only offered two weeks prior to the elopement date.
Located on the eastern edge of the Texas Hill Country, nearly in Driftwood (but not quite), the Wizard Academy’s campus sits perched atop a limestone cliff overlooking stunning hills covered in live oak, juniper, Texas oak, and honey mesquite. You’ll find it off of FM 1826, at 16221 Crystal Hills Dr. Austin, TX 78737. If you’re coming from downtown Austin, you’ll be able to reach it in 30-50 minutes depending on traffic.
The free chapel offers six time slots per day. You have access to the chapel and Diamond Pavilion for 1.5 hours. You have access to the changing rooms 30 minutes prior to your time slot.
The time slots are as follows:
8:30 AM – 10:00 AM
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
1:30 PM – 3:00 PM
3:30 PM – 5:00 PM
5:30 PM – 6:30 PM (Only available if you rent the Veranda Room)
7:00 PM – 8:30PM
In my opinion, based on the many Chapel Dulcinea weddings I’ve photographed, the best time slot is the closest one you can get to sunset.
The 3:30-5:00 slot is ideal from November through mid-February. You may not catch the actual sunset, but the later slots give you either partial or full darkness. That’s both bad for photos and potentially very chilly.
The 5:30-6:30 slot (which requires renting the Veranda Room) is best for mid-February through March 10th (daylight savings time begins) and September-October. It’s expensive to rent the Veranda Room, so you’ll want to really consider whether a sunset wedding is worth it to you.
The 7:00-8:30 slot is what I would choose for a wedding from May to August. A later wedding also has the added bonus of letting a bit of the day’s heat dissipate so it won’t be quite as sweltering. It will probably still be very hot, and remember that this is an outdoor venue.
Try to avoid the 1:30-3:00 and 3:30-5:00 slots in the summer.
You’ll definitely want to check the sunset time for your wedding date before deciding what time slot you want. Just Google "your date sunset."
It’s hard to believe there is really a free wedding venue in Austin, but it’s true. Chapel Dulcinea is 100% free.
You must pay a $200 deposit for weddings scheduled Monday-Thursday, a $400 deposit for weddings scheduled Friday-Sunday, and a $500 deposit for weddings scheduled more than 12 months in advance. This deposit is your “no-show fee.” If you don’t check in at the front desk on your wedding day, you will forfeit your deposit. They will mail your deposit back within four weeks of your wedding day.
If you do decide to donate your deposit to the chapel, you can have a Legacy Brick—etched with your names and your wedding date—placed next to the walkway leading to the chapel. What a lovely way to commemorate the date!
You can choose to sponsor the 18 gas lamps at the chapel on your wedding day (or any other day). A sign along the path to the chapel will let everyone know who sponsored the lamps that day. Many couples choose to sponsor them in memory of a loved one or loved ones who couldn’t be there.
If you can time it right, the grounds are covered in bluebonnets and other native Texas wildflowers. The walkways to the chapel are lined with them and it’s absolutely stunning. The drive out to Driftwood can also be magical during this time of year. If you’re able to plan a spring wedding here, you won’t be disappointed.
Let’s be clear: outdoor summer weddings in central Texas are going to be hot. Sometimes really, really hot. My personal record for an outdoor wedding was a heat index of 117°. If you and your guests don’t mind the heat, go for it. Otherwise, either try for the 8:30-10:00AM slot or wait until fall.
Fall weddings in Central Texas are wonderful. As the weather starts to cool down and the plants get a respite from the heat, the world starts to look beautiful again. Although you won’t get much fall color--hill country trees are generally evergreen--cedar elms may be turning yellow and orange behind the chapel and make for a lovely view.
Be prepared for cold and windy conditions. Since the chapel is on a cliff, it’s unprotected from wintry wind and I’ve seen some very chilly couples and guests. I’d recommend picking an afternoon time slot so the day will have warmed up a bit. It’s also a good idea to dress warm--this is the time for cute wedding shawls or wool suits.
If you cancel your wedding or decide to change days/times more than 30 days from your wedding, you will receive a 50% refund. You will not receive a refund if you cancel or change days/times within 30 days of your wedding.
If the weather is bad on your wedding day, the chapel does allow you to reschedule for free. You must call to confirm or else you will lose your deposit, be considered a no-show, and will be blocked from using the chapel in the future.
The chapel is very small. There is seating for 12 people. You can either rent chairs from Chapel Dulcinea or bring in your own to accommodate more or let some guests stand. With extra chairs or standing guests, the chapel accommodates approximately 30 people. You can technically have guests standing outside the chapel but it will be difficult for them to see and hear.
If you’d like to find out if your wedding date and time are available, you can find out on their calendar.
Chapel Dulcinea is handicap accessible. There is a relatively low-grade 200-yard paved walkway from the parking lot to the chapel. There is no vehicle access to the chapel.
The Wizard Academy does allow pets on a leash. If your furry friend is going to be part of your ceremony, they’re cool with that. Just make sure to clean up after them.
When you book a time slot, you have access to the Diamond Pavilion during your 90 minutes as well. The Diamond Pavilion, located about 50’ from the parking lot, allows you to have a quick, small reception after your ceremony. Food and drink are permitted in the Diamond Pavilion (but not the chapel itself), so it’s great for a quick champagne toast and cake-cutting.
If you’d like a larger or longer reception, there is a space called the Veranda Room available for rent. You can rent the Veranda Room for either a half day (10:00 AM-3:00 PM/5:00 PM-10:00 PM) or a full day (10:00 AM-10:00 PM). As of July 2019, half-day rentals are $1500 Monday-Thursday and $2000 Friday-Sunday. Full-day rentals are $2200 Monday-Thursday and $3500 Friday-Sunday. Chairs, linens, tables, and clean-up are included.
For even larger weddings and receptions, Chapel Dulcinea offers another venue on their property--Tuscan Hall. Tuscan Hall is a beautiful Italian-style building near the front of the property and is separate and private. As of July 2019, half-day rentals (10:00 AM-3:00 PM/5:00 PM-10:00 PM)are $2750 Monday-Thursday and are not available Friday-Sunday. Full-day rentals (10:00 AM-11:00 PM) are $3900 Monday-Thursday, $5800 Friday and Sunday, and $6200 Saturday. Chairs, linens, tables, and clean-up are included.
Tuscan Hall rentals also include access to a private suite for getting ready. The suite has two salons, a bedroom, bathroom, a kitchenette and two lounges.
Nearby reception locations include Trattoria Lisina, Thurman’s Mansion, Creekside, and Garden Grove.
For those of you who are coming from out of town, there are lots of hotels nearby.
Sleep Inn and Suites in Dripping Springs is 10 miles away and is a good cheap option. As of summer 2019, it has a 4.3-star average on Google.
Holiday Inn Express in Dripping Springs is also about 10 miles away. It has a 4.2-star average on Google and is slightly more expensive than Sleep Inn.
Lucky Arrow Retreat in Dripping Springs is 15 miles away. It’s the top-rated option in Dripping Springs, with a 4.9-star average on Google. They have multiple hill-country-chic cabins for rent. Guests love it. They do have weddings there, so you’ll want to book in advance.
Salt Lick BBQ makes any trip to Driftwood complete. Although it’s not my favorite barbecue in Austin (that honor goes to Valentina’s), it’s a solid choice and THE place to take out-of-town guests. Barbecue and sides are served family-style around oversized wooden tables. Bring your own beer and settle in for a memorable evening.
Trattoria Lisina has excellent Italian food and is a true hill country destination. A beautiful Italian villa complete with vineyard, this casually elegant restaurant has excellent wine choices. There’s very nice outdoor seating for when the weather is cooperative.
Pieous is my personal favorite wood-fired pizza joint and is just a short drive away. They also have homemade pie. It's the perfect place for a casual dinner.
Torchy’s Tacos is right next to Pieous. Although I haven’t eaten at this location, it’s my favorite place to get tacos in Austin. Get the queso and order the Trailer Park “trashy.”