NYC Pop-Up Chapel Will Celebrate Marriage Equality With Free Central Park Weddings

On Friday night, groups of New Yorkers stayed glued to their cellphones even in social situations -- and more than usual -- awaiting the final word on the marriage equality vote in Albany. When the good news finally arrived, more drinking commenced and for one crew of friends, the late-night celebration turned into big ideas, but in the morning they actually started to follow through on the drunken plan. Local software developer Josh French, Gothamist editor Jen Carlson, writers Lindsay Robertson and Tyler Coates, along with legal minister Bex Schwartz, whose day job is as a writer and director, will host a New York City pop-up chapel the first weekend same-sex marriage is legal in New York, on Saturday, July 30, at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. We spoke with Schwartz this afternoon to get a few more details.

Using the skills of their network, the pop-up chapel already has a website up, in addition to a Twitter and Facebook, where they promise, "We provide the wedding! And the photographer! And the officiant! And witnesses! And cupcakes! And everything you've always dreamed of! A free and legal wedding, for anyone who wants to get married."

And that includes heterosexual couples, Schwartz told us, like "all those people who said 'I'm not getting married until everyone can.'"

Schwartz was ordained by the Universal Life Church in 2006, and became legal in New York City two years ago. "I just wanted to do as many gay weddings as possible," she said, but she didn't expect it to happen so soon. When the law passed, she put out a message on Twitter offering to marry anyone for free and was so thrilled about the possibility that she even said she would take some time off of work to so.

"But then Josh said we should do a pop-up chapel," she explained, and instead of City Hall weddings, provide people with a "beautiful, joyous" event. "Take it outside and do it in front of the world," Schwartz said.

The pop-up chapel is applying for a permit with the city, which charges $400 for a wedding in Central Park, but hopes to strike a deal and work together with local government to plan a larger, multi-couple event, but not in a "creepy Reverend Moon mass wedding" way. Everyone's moment will be "customized."

Schwartz estimates that each couple could take between 15 and 20 minutes, but that additional officiants could be added if necessary. The chapel will also be reaching out to bakers, florists, musicians and the like to set the scene. A full weekend of weddings, or a day in Brooklyn, are also options.

Already, Schwartz said, hundreds of emails are coming in with questions or to express support. And maybe Bloomberg or Cuomo could stop by. "They wouldn't have to stay for the whole thing," Schwartz said, "but just to say, 'What up, New York?'"

For more information here's the pop-up chapel website, Twitter and Facebook. Volunteers are welcome!

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]


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