Some couples may be married in a chapel made of three-dimensional plywood letters arranged in a circle. Others could find themselves in one composed of interlocking pipes connected with plastic zip ties. Certainly, the couples who marry inside such structures intend to form unions far more permanent than the sites where they will exchange vows.
On July 30, the first Saturday that same-sex marriage will be legal in New York State, two dozen couples will be wed inside two pop-up chapels that will appear for about 10 hours at the Merchants’ Gate entrance to Central Park, near Columbus Circle.
The designs for the two chapels will be selected from entries to a contest that began last week and ends July 21. The winning design will be announced the next day, giving architects only eight days to bring their concepts to fruition.
“This is basically wedding planning on steroids,” said Carley Roney, co-founder of the Knot, a wedding-planning Web site that is an organizer of the event, called Pop Up Chapel.
The idea for Pop Up Chapel was born among a bunch of friends — including a software developer, several writers and an editor at Gothamist — immediately after the same-sex marriage bill was passed in Jule. Their initial plans that night were lofty — hundreds of couples would be married at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, with cupcakes and champagne for everyone.
“We were the most excited people in the universe,” said Bex Schwartz, a writer and director who is one of project’s organizers.
Soon they had to come to terms with several hurdles: they would need the permission of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation; they had no budget; they had no chapel. They had, however, already spread their idea via Twitter.
Someone from Architizer, a social-networking Web site for architects, saw the original Twitter post and invited Ms. Schwartz and her friends to team up with them on a design-a-chapel competition.
“You can think of the chapel itself as sort of a combination between a huppah and an altar,” said Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, the blog editor for Architizer, referring to Jewish and Christian settings for weddings.
According to the rules of the contest, designs must be installed in no more than two hours, and have a footprint no larger than 8 feet by 8 feet. A jury of architects and wedding planners will select two winning submissions, whose designers will receive $3,000 for construction and installation.
The 24 gay couples — 24, for June 24, the date the law was passed — were chosen on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the parks department has agreed to allow the chapels at the Merchants’ Gate plaza, near West 59th Street. The permit is still pending, as the organizers negotiate the cost with the department, organizers said. Each couple will be allowed 12 guests, though there will be a blocked-off area in front of the chapels for people to watch.
So far, Architizer says it has only received one submission, from an architect in Germany, but others, including seven architectural firms, have expressed interest.
Aaron Jones, from Detroit, said he intended to submit a design for a chapel made of interlocking pipes. He said he had been playing around with similar architectural concepts and was excited to create a structure that would represent the progress symbolized by marriage equality.
Wayne Congar, a Brooklyn-based architect, said the plywood letters in his concept would produce a space that would be “more signage than inhabitable space” and would inspire people to walk around the chapel during the ceremony.
The Knot, which organizes 14-couple wedding events on Valentine’s Day at the top of the Empire State Building, will ensure that each wedding is tailored to the couple’s preferences, Ms. Roney said.
“It will be rich and lovely,” she said. “Not Vegas-style.”