The Pop Up Chapel Prepares For Same-Sex Ceremonies

on Wednesday, Jul. 20th

Same-sex marriages can legally take place in New York starting on July 24.

The Pop Up Chapel, started by a group of friends, is eagerly preparing for 24 special ceremonies that will take place at the Merchants’ Gate entrance to Central Park on July 30.

24 gay and lesbian couples will exchange vows in the Pop Up Chapel to commemorate June 24 — the date that New York legalized same-sex marriage. The couples were selected on a first come first serve basis, according to the New York Times.

The creators of Pop Up Chapel wanted to celebrate with newlywed same-sex couples. They put out a call for chapel designs that can be built in less than eight hours. The winning designer will get $3,000 for construction. The chapel designs must be no bigger than eight feet by eight feet. Each couple can invite 12 guests, and even though the patent is still pending, the Pop Up Chapel is busily preparing for spectators.

The Pop Up crew is providing the wedding ceremonies for free.

“They’re providing the photographer, the flowers, everything,” said Jay Strauss, who will be married to his partner John Williams on the 30th. “We even get goodie bags of champagne…Moet Chandon.”

Williams and Strauss were one of the first couples to be chosen for a Pop Up ceremony. For them, this day has been a long time coming. Now in their mid 60’s, they met at a club in 1974. It was love at first sight.

“We didn’t stop looking at each other for hours, but no one would break the ice… Four months later we moved in together. We started producing shows together–he was the music director and I was the stage director,” said Strauss, who still works as a film actor. Their wedding ceremony will include original vows and a recitation of Broadway show lyrics that they’ve chosen for each another.

Natalie Jones and Teresa Stoll (soon to be Jones), were also selected to be married in the Pop Up Chapel. They were excited to take advantage of the opportunity. “The spontaneous nature was definitely a draw since we weren’t looking for anything spectacular… “ said Jones. “What better way to celebrate our love and the legalization of gay marriage than with a bunch of other gay couples?! We really didn’t think about public spectators or even media presence…we just wanted to get married in Central Park,” she said.

The women are in their thirties, and were already planning to have a wedding ceremony in Fort Wayne, Indiana — the place where they met back in 2007.

It happened like this: Natalie’s Facebook profile picture was a Black Labrador puppy that had been dumped in her backyard. Teresa had a passion for Labradors and left a note on Natalie’s wall saying, “Cute dog.” They wrote notes back and forth on MySpace and started falling in love almost immediately. When Natalie moved to New York to pursue acting, Teresa followed seven months later.

“The legalization of our marriage means that, to the state, we are more than strangers, it means having over 100 benefits that are afforded to married couples that we could not have before… We still want federal legalization and will keep working and fighting for that,” said Jones.

Katrina Olson and Tiffany Hopkins, also in their thirties, know they are making history with their Pop Up wedding celebration –even though they’ve been living as if they were married for six years.  “This is truly such a momentous moment, not only in New York’s history, but really in the history of our country… We will be surrounded by not only our friends and family, but also an entire group of strangers that is as enthusiastic, passionate, and crazy as we are,” said Hopkins.

Choosing the Pop Up Chapel was a no-brainer for these two. “Katrina and I figured that if they were crazy enough to put all this together, we were crazy enough to participate,” said Hopkins. She is the multi-media producer for the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in Connecticut, so she can appreciate the ambition of the Pop Up Chapel extravaganza. “I know what all it takes to put on an event such as this – all the permits that are needed, getting vendors together, scheduling and coordinating everything,” she said.

Strauss and Williams said preparing for the ceremony has strengthened their relationship. “After all these years, we’ve spent so much time the last couple weeks re-exploring our relationship. Realizing again how much we have in common,” said Strauss.

“When we were sending out wedding invitations, we realized we both had photos of ourselves at age seven, wearing the same outfit, both clutching onto stuffed animals. We had big grins on our faces. Not until 60 years later did we discover these photos,” he said.

So if you’re near Central Park on the 30th, listen for the champagne corks popping in honor of these couples.

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