Reverend Alison Caiola, an interfaith minister, has performed hundreds of same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies. As a secondgeneration minister, she grew up witnessing both of her parents perform ceremonies for same-sex couples and is thrilled that now she can carry on the tradition—legally—in New York State. We spoke to Rev. Alison about her background and her upcoming "Marrython" in Central Park, in which she and her coofficiants at Rainbow Wedding Clergy will marry as many gay couples as possible on July 31—for free. (Couples can find information at rainbowweddingclergy.com.)
How do you prepare to marry couples?
There is no difference between a same-sex couple and a heterosexual couple, as far as my process is concerned. I sit down with them and I get a good feel for who they are, and what they mean to one another, and because I'm also a writer, I'm able to custom-craft a ceremony for them. People think that I've known the couple for a very long time, and really by the time they do get married we do know each other, and they do feel like they're being married by a friend.
Does it feel like something political to you, growing up with your family's history?
Because I was on board for so long, I'm now getting so many couples that are wanting to make it legal, and they're sitting in my office and we end up crying. Think about it: You're together with somebody for 25 years, all you want to do is marry that person, and you're told you cannot. Am I a politician, or political? Absolutely not, I'm a minister. But to me it's very important that people have the right to be with the person they love, legally and spiritually.
Tell us more about this 'Marrython.' The fact is that through the years, I've been performing the same-sex commitment ceremonies, and now these people can finally stand up, and they can finally, in the eyes of the law, be married: this is a celebration. So it's not a publicity stunt.
We're having individual ceremonies, with a choice of spiritual or civil, in the Belvedere Castle area. I want to try to make it as beautiful as possible. I wanted it overlooking Turtle Pond Bay; I do a lot of weddings there for people from the U.K. and Australia. We'll have flowers, there's a photographer who's going be there who's documenting it for his book.
I just want it to be mellow. I'm not doing four or five ceremonies at a time. A lot of people are doing that—and that's fine—but that's not me.
Do you think that we're going to see a big commercialization of a whole separate gay marriage cottage industry?
What I'm hoping is that we don't say gay marriage anymore; we don't say samesex marriage—because it's legal. So now, it's just marriage. I think that this is very good for the wedding industry, because it just brings so many more people, their target audience has just grown. It's going to help the economy a huge deal, because you'll have people booking venues that wouldn't have done it a year ago. I don't think you're going to see a commercialization: It's going to be like the regular wedding industry. The more people that get on board, the better it is for everyone.
Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.