In late September 2021, Snopes spotted reports about an alleged "Church of Dirt" near a hiking trail in rural Utah where couples were reserving space for outdoor wedding ceremonies at no cost.
The alleged wedding venue was indeed a genuine spot, and couples were using an honor system to book their times to exchange vows there, as explained via the evidence below. For those reasons, we are rating this claim "True."
According to a Google Maps search, "The Church of Dirt" was in the Empire Pass area, about five miles south of Utah's Park City.
Searching social media, we found multiple pictures displaying rows of wooden benches, an aisle lined with rocks, and an arch where officiants could indeed lead wedding ceremonies. Users who uploaded those photographs used a "Church of Dirt" geotag or a #ChurchOfDirt hashtag in the posts.
For example, the Instagram user whose photo is displayed below seemingly chronicled her wedding at the Utah location via multiple grid posts on the social media platform.
Additionally, a Facebook page dedicated to the "Church of Dirt" described the location as an "Interdenominational Church" located in the mountainous area and displayed numerous wedding photos.
"What a view and this wedding venue is FREE!," read a post's caption on that Facebook page.
We also uncovered multiple websites where wedding photographers showcased pictures of similar scenes. For instance, a business called "Austen Diamond Photography" said of the outdoor site for one couple, "this makeshift chapel was the perfect place for these outdoor lovers to tie the knot."
In other words, a plethora of digital evidence existed to confirm the site's authenticity and that couples have exchanged wedding vows there. A Google review of the location says:
You reserve your time and day by placing your information on a rock and writing your name in the planner (sometimes the planner is there sometimes it not) people are pretty good about respecting the time and date. There is not a lot of parking and it is a very popular biking spot so you will have strangers walking/riding by. I am almost hesitant to post about so it will stay low key, but it’s a great choice for a low key wedding.
Other reviews, however, shared stories of couples supposedly disrespecting the honor system for booking reservations, forcing other families to adopt a "plan B" for their wedding site at a moment's notice.
"My sister and her husband ... were pushed out by a large wedding party day of their wedding," one review said.
Next, we obtained a July 2021 broadcast segment by KPCW, the NPR-affiliated station for Park City, which said families had reserved dates for the remainder of the year (the site is closed for the winter) and into September 2022.
"It's really cool to like save money," said someone who got married there during the COVID-19 pandemic. "That's the thing that was for us. We're like, 'Man, if we could only get ski resort views for no ski resort price.'"
Furthermore, a local TV news station, Fox 13 Salt Lake City, interviewed a couple from Atlanta who made the trip to the Utah site for their big day. “It’s unique, at least where we’re from, for people to come here and have that special moment,” one of them told that media outlet.