Recent statistics show that the average American wedding costs $20,000. Not only is that the cost of a car or four years at a state university spent on one single day, we guarantee you that most of your guests will be too drunk or bored to care if the bridesmaids' shoes match the ushers' socks. So why not get economical about the affair? At Harmony Wedding Chapel the cost of the average wedding is about $200. And that includes taped music and use of the "Bride's Room," a pink-carpeted waiting area with a picture of Jesus hanging on the wall. For nearly 40 years, this little blue-and-white building off the Gulf Freeway has been the place to get hitched for couples from all over the Houston area and beyond; they handle as many as ten weddings each Saturday. Yes, the chapel's carpet is seafoam-green, and there's a large sign in the office that warns "NO REFUNDS ON WEDDINGS." But everywhere you look there are photographs of happy couples who have sent notes to Harmony with thanks for hosting their special day. So who cares if it's not the Four Seasons? After all, love is blind.

The Rice University campus is a world unto itself. When you drive past its stately gates, suddenly you're enveloped in a collegiate, oak tree-shaded enclave populated with old brick buildings. Unlike most other parts of Houston, the campus has a sense of history. Lovett Hall, which has been around since 1912, is a beautiful building. There's an air of permanence to it -- which is why starry-eyed engaged people want to pose in front of its graceful arches for their wedding photos. Perhaps (against all odds) their unions will be permanent too. Note: Backpacked folks wandering to class are a background hazard.

Where will you be when a giant ball of flame engulfs Houston's skyline? If you're smart, you'll hightail it to Bread of Life Church. Or at least that's what the ominous ad in the yellow pages seems to be saying. "Experience Revival Fire and the Presence of God," the ad proclaims, and with that kind of pitch, it's no wonder this humongoid congregation has about 2,400 members. Pastor Dusty Kemp has been with the church since it opened in 1979, but he leaves the Sunday-evening Spanish services to another preacher. Yes, Bread of Life has something for everyone, especially the kids. Check out the two-story, 40,000-square-foot "Kids' Kastle," a real treat for those who like to mix up their devotion with some creepy-looking faux-medieval architecture; it'll put the fear of God in them for sure. Services: Sundays, 10:30 a.m., 7 p.m. (Spanish); Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 7 p.m. No membership fees. Nondenominational.

Rothko Chapel
Every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. you can step inside the cool peacefulness of the Rothko Chapel and leave the sights and sounds of Inner Loop life behind. Founded by John and Dominique de Menil in 1971, the chapel is part gallery, part sanctuary. The quiet, minimal interior is a place of reflection for those of all faiths as well as a showcase for 14 paintings by Mark Rothko. It's a haven for Houstonians and a place where travelers from all over the world come to seek shelter from the storm.

Spanning 60 acres east of Studemont, between Washington and Memorial, lies Glenwood Cemetery, the final resting place for a who's who of Houston families. Names such as Binz, Cooley, Elgin, Foley, Hermann, Hofheinz, Hobby and Jones all can be found here. Perhaps the most famous people interred at Glenwood are Hollywood celebs Gene Tierney, famous for her role as Laura in the movie of the same name; Maria Gable, wife of Clark; and Howard Hughes, the eccentric billionaire businessman and heir to his father's tool company. The sprawling, hilly grounds were first laid out in 1871 by an Englishman named Alfred Whitaker. Upon entering, you'll see a Victorian-era cottage, which is the caretaker's residence. Gothic monuments, along with examples of Greek and Roman revival style, abound in the carefully manicured lots. And, of course, the place is rumored to be haunted.

This is one of the strangest statues in town. The life-size angel itself isn't that odd. But if you walk a little closer, you'll see a plaque that says the limestone for the statue's pedestal was taken from room 301 of Brackenridge Hall, the now-demolished University of Texas dormitory where "The Eyes of Texas" was written. (Former cemetery owner Thomas C. Hall lived in room 301 with John Lang Sinclair, the student who wrote the song.) The lyrics about not being able to escape the eyes of Texas until Gabriel blows his horn are inscribed on the back of the pedestal. According to TexasExes.org, Hall was walking to class one day in 1902 when he saw prohibitionist Carrie Nation threatening to break the windows of a bar; he persuaded her to speak about temperance on campus instead. To quiet the crowd that had gathered, university president William Prather admonished: "Remember, young men, wherever you are, and wherever you may be, the eyes of Texas are upon you. You are expected to uphold her tradition and not act as hoodlums and cheer this poor deluded woman." The song was written. And years later, the statue of the angel Gabriel was erected.

Compaq Center (née the Summit) has been everything from the home of the Rockets to the host of rock and roll superstars like the Rolling Stones. But the place that once held a shimmying Mick Jagger and a slamming Hakeem Olajuwon will now house charismatic Lakewood Church preacher Joel Osteen (when you think about it, all three men are similar in that they've each earned huge followings). After several court fights and City Council debates, the "Oasis of Love" will take over the Compaq in November. The church's Web site promises a grand vision: a production studio, a health and wellness center and even a dining and retail plaza. But don't worry, the Compaq won't lose touch with its roots. The building's history "has been one of excellence, crowning champions in the world of sports," reads the church Web site. "And continuing in that great and awesome tradition, the Lakewood International Center will become a place that will crown 'Champions in Life.'" Can I get an amen?

Down but not out: Mecom Fountain, at the gateway to Hermann Park, is undergoing repairs but should be back up and spouting in time for the Super Bowl. This 40-year-old, three-bowled fountain has appeared in wedding pictures, travel spots and even the early-1980s flick My Best Friend Is a Vampire. Bob Hope noted the fountain and the tree-lined boulevards that lead up to it when he said the view from the penthouse at the Warwick Hotel was the most beautiful in the world. Thanks, Bob. RIP.

This Museum District median was immortalized in the film Rushmore (Bill Murray and Olivia Williams stared at each other under its arch of live oaks), but the pretty street would make anyone feel like they're on the set of a movie. The sunlight slicing through the branches warms the quaint cobblestone path, and the live oaks seem to go on forever. Even better, this upper-crust neighborhood is a great place to pretend you're loaded. Just grab your dog or put on your running shoes and travel up the median nodding hello to all your wealthy neighbors. You'll be tempted to ask Jeeves to pull the car around front.

Magnolia Hotel
While more and more old downtown structures are getting well-deserved restorations, this makeover is much more than skin-deep. The former 1926 Post-Dispatch building had long been an example of urban blight, a boxlike building that was boarded up and hardly worthy of notice for decades. But the Magnolia hotel chain, headquartered in Denver, has turned this ugly duckling into dynamic new lodging -- and given it an exciting new look for all of Houston to enjoy. Foremost for visitors is the ultraposh and sleek lobby, a showcase of wavy walls, luxurious woods and modern furnishings. Don't miss the upstairs billiards and bar area. And taking a lap-pool dip on the roof right across from the stately Christ Church Cathedral is some kind of scenic experience.

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