I’m no stranger to lavish weddings. When I graduated college I took a summer job as a banquet caterer, serving at $60,000 to $200,000 receptions. While the bride and groom always insisted on having a “hand tailored” and “unique” wedding, most of them ended up looking exactly the same to an outsider. Which explains why the trend of “alterna” weddings (smaller weddings often held in unusual locations, with zany themes) has skyrocketed in popularity in the last 10 years. As more and more people look to make their experiences more individual, or to cut costs, they are seeking different and more exciting ways to tie the knot. In Williamsburg, newly opened retail and event space 303GRAND will be holding the first ever Pop-Up Wedding Chapel this summer where for one week only (June 25th through 30th) couples will be able to rent the space and marry to their hearts’ content.
I recently sat down with partner and co-creator of the space, Ruth Heronemus, to talk about the inspiration behind the pop-up chapel and why it’s such a sweet idea: Flavorpill: How did you get the idea for the event?
Ruth Heronemus: The idea actually came from a day I spent in line at the courthouse waiting to see the judge for having a glass bottle on the beach… I was on the sidewalk outside of the court, waiting in line with about 30 other proto-criminals. On the sidewalk there was a red rope separating people waiting into two lines. Left side were the other lawbreakers like me, and the right side were people waiting to get hitched. This line had to have had about 15 or so brides and grooms, all gussied up waiting to get married in this septic courthouse. Then I started thinking about how I could probably provide a cheaper (and more private) alternative to the courthouse for local folks wanting to get married. When I got back from court I mentioned the idea to Street Attack (303 GRAND’s parent company), and everyone really loved it. There was just something so odd about these folks having to share their wedding day in line with delinquents and petty criminals waiting to see a judge. We thought this to be such a good idea we then contacted Claudia at The Wedding Library and Vane at Brooklyn Bride, who both were really into the idea of a Brooklyn Pop-Up Wedding Chapel- something new and different and very New York. Both of these wonderful ladies have an amazing arsenal of wedding connections and are proving to be the perfect partners for this event.
FP: What have been some of the bride/grooms requests? Have there been any crazy theme ideas?
RH: We haven’t really announced the whole call for brides via any media outlets yet but we’ve already received some requests via word of mouth. My favorite so far is the couple that met on Grand Street in Williamsburg, then fell in love on Grand Street, and now want to get married on Grant Street. So getting married at our chapel at 303 Grand Street would pretty much just make their wedding day complete.
FP: What do think of the whole “alterna-wedding” trend? Why do you think quick and offbeat weddings have become so popular?
RH: I think specifically in NYC, it has a lot to do with the price of getting married. We did a quick search when we were brainstorming the idea and found out people spend up to $15k just for the location alone in Manhattan, and that doesn’t include food, the service costs, the decorations! So I think for most New Yorkers, doing the alterna-wedding, or just finding a celebrant or clergy to marry you and doing it guerrilla style at the Brooklyn Bridge or in Central Park, is just as memorable, and maybe even more meaningful, as doing a massive wedding in some overpriced generic venue in midtown. I think it’s a great trend and will only continue to grow in this economy. And as for having weddings in Brooklyn, 303GRAND is definitely an offbeat place filled with people marching to their own beat so why the hell wouldn’t we be having offbeat weddings? 🙂
FP: Speaking of, what type of people have contacted you?
RH: We have had folks from all walks of life contact us so far. We’ve had a ton of press talking with us about following the story, wedding vendors wanting to be a part of the event, wedding clergy wanting to marry folks in here, and of course brides wanting their weddings done by us. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people that want to just come see 303GRAND turned into a wedding chapel. People that have no interest in weddings and no desire to get married at all, are all of a sudden excited about this and want to come experience it in some way. We’ve even talked about throwing a fake wedding and inviting the public to come fill the chairs and take part in the “faux-wedding,” complete with champagne and wedding cake for all.
By far the craziest email we’ve gotten so far was from a women requesting to have her wedding on the exact date and time that her Chinese fortune teller told her to get married. The fortune teller actually gave the woman three different options of days and exact times. Unfortunately, they all landed on days we won’t have the chapel so we wish them all the best!
FP: Who is officiating the services?
RH: The officiates will differ from day to day. We have some folks who have already chosen someone to marry them who will be conducting the ceremony. But we’ve also found two wonderful women who are non-denominational celebrants who have been marrying people in NYC for years.
We also are really trying to encourage gay couples to get married here, as the women we chose also regularly conduct commitment ceremonies and civil unions; if anyone reading this is interested we would love to have your gay wedding here!!