No Rest For the Dead: Manhattan Graveyard Becomes Event Venue

marble cemetery No Rest For the Dead: Manhattan Graveyard Becomes Event Venue

Great for weddings or funerals. (The New York Marble Cemetery)

Green space in New York is at a premium. Graveyards have it in spades. It was only a matter of time before some enterprising cemetery started offering itself as an event venue. The New York Marble Cemetery in the East Village has already hosted weddings, a Stella McCartney show and a Vogue fashion shoot, reports The New York Times.

Sure, you might literally be dancing on someone’s grave, but not, you know, spitefully. And the bodies are in catacomb-like compartments—156 vaulted rooms of marble, connected by passageways—so at least there is a bit more remove than a mere six-feet of dirt between the coffins and the grass. Also, having walls with the names of the dead inscribed on them rather than headstones makes the space a lot more accommodating than most graveyards.

The trustees of the the Marble Cemetery, who are the descendants of those buried in the vaults, faced a problem familiar to many aging cemeteries—decades after the cemetery ended its “active” life, i.e. stopped accepting new burials, they desperately needed money for upkeep.

Trustee Caroline S. DuBois told The Times that the trustees mulled ways to make the cemetery pay for itself before deciding to rent it out as a venue, at New York prices, of course—the fee for a wedding is $2,500.

It “has morphed into a business,” she said.

From a historical perspective, it’s not all that weird. New Yorkers have long played above former potter’s fields, including Washington Square Park, Madison Square Park and Bryant Park. But apparently there are some lines that cannot be crossed—a promotional tequila event, for example, was turned down.

As for starting a new life together amid the dead, the prospect apparently doesn’t spook couples as much as the brutal battle for coveted outdoor event space. Of course, now that it’s been written up in The Times, it will probably be as hard to get into the Marble Cemetery as it is to get into, well, heaven.

kvelsey@observer.com