Amidst the influx of tourists wandering around Columbus Circle and Central Park, 24 couples were married on Saturday. Summer weddings aren’t usually a big deal, but these weren’t just any weddings—these were 24 couples who, up until about a month ago, weren’t allowed to legally marry in the state of New York. But that wasn’t the case on Saturday, after the passage of the same-sex marriage bill on June 24.
Held on Saturday, July 30, the Pop Up Chapel served as the venue for two dozen weddings at Merchant’s Gate in Central Park. The number 24 was chosen in honor of the date the Marriage Equality Act was passed in June.
On that historic date, when the Senate passed the gay marriage bill, all of New York City celebrated. Bex Schwartz, Josh French, and friends were among the revelers. They drunkenly decided that they should marry as many same-sex couples as soon as they could (Schwartz happened to be a registered wedding officiant). Their idea transformed into the Pop Up Chapel.
“This is the greatest thing ever,” said Schwartz. “I can’t believe that there’ll be 24 married couples at the end of the day who couldn’t legally get married a week ago. That’s mind blowing.”
The ceremonies were provided completely free to the couples, thanks to the multitude of partners of the event, including David Stark and Gay Ever After (for event planning and production), Kodak (for printed photographs), and Alma G Salon (for makeup and hair). The Knot, a wedding magazine, was an official partner. The two chapels, winners of the design contest sponsored by Architizer, were built several hours before the ceremonies commenced. Photographers and videographers volunteered their services to document the day for the couples. Former MTV host Dave Holmes MCed the day in a dashing yellow tie.
Underneath the Maine Monument, the couples wed, with their own personal touches. One couple’s children served as ring bearers and immediately ran to their mothers as soon as they were married. Another couple incorporated several wedding traditions, ranging from Celtic (drinking wine from a goblet) to Jewish (stomping on the goblet). There was a traditional Korean ceremony, as well as one performed in English and Spanish. Musician Mike Doughty covered the Magnetic Fields’ “The Book of Love” (“I love it when you give me things/And you, you ought to give me wedding rings”). Mayor Bloomberg passed along a message as well, read out loud by Holmes: “You are writing the next chapters of your own history.”
The ceremonies weren’t projected on the sound system, so the spectacle of the day was made even more intimate by the quiet expressions and gestures of the couples being wed.
While the couples were allowed to invite only 12 attendees, the ceremonies were still populated with Pop Up staffers, journalists, photographers, and bystanders on the outskirts of the perimeter. I can guarantee that at least five people cried or teared up per wedding (myself included).
There was something special and magical about being a part of such an important moment of these couples’ lives, a moment that signified something they wanted desperately but were denied because of legalities. Now, though, that isn’t a problem, and they can get what they’ve always wanted: equality and the right to marry whomever they choose. “I’m a person, I deserve everything,” I overheard a bride say during her vow. To witness these couples in such an intimate and powerful moment, after years of struggling (some after 37 years), is powerful. There isn’t much more to say about it except congratulations to everyone, and it’s about time.