By Claire of Wed in Central Park
Meet guest blogger Claire of Wed in Central Park. Claire will be presenting some of her best tips for planning a destination wedding at Central Park in New York. If you would like her help planning your wedding, you can contact her at the links provided at the end of this post.
Central Park is a popular place for couples to bring their friends and family for a destination wedding, or to elope for a quiet ceremony with just the two of them. I have been planning weddings for couples who want to get married in New York’s Central Park for the past five years. In that time I have planned around one hundred and eighty weddings.
Many couples contact me at the very beginning of the planning process, with no idea where to start. Couples give various reasons why they have decided to have their wedding ceremony in Central Park. The reason that comes up most frequently is that they want their wedding to be unique. Those traditional big weddings can be great fun to attend, but some couples really want to make their special day stand out for their guests. Another commonly cited reason is that the traditional big wedding at home costs a lot of money, and the couple often find that they can get married in Central Park for a lower cost than having the big wedding, even including flights, hotels and other travel costs. Increasingly nowadays people are meeting and falling in love with someone from far away from our home town, sometimes from a different country, and I also have couples contacting me who find that New York is a neutral location in the middle for some families to meet and spend some time together celebrating a wedding. Couples always tell me how their guests were delighted to have an opportunity to visit New York and are always happy to spend a few days being a tourist in the city, as well as spending quality time with other family and friends in town for the wedding.
Whatever your reasons for considering getting married in New York’s beautiful Central Park, here my eight top tips and suggestions to make the day run smoothly, so that you can relax and enjoy it all.
Discuss your idea with your loved ones.
This is the first thing you should do if you are considering a destination wedding at all, whether or not you know where you want to be, and whether you want to bring guests with you or go it alone. Many clients tell me that they were concerned about what their family might say about their decision to get married in Central Park. But then in most cases, once they discussed their reasons, their family supported their decision and often got excited by the idea. Whether they are coming with you or not, much will be improved if you involve your guests with the planning side of things, and communicate well with them your ideas on what you want to do while you are in New York, and on the day itself.
Think about what else you want to do on your wedding day.
Very often a couple will ask me what the best of time of day to get married is. The answer is that it depends. Everyone is different. If you are getting married in the Summer, it might be better to get married in the morning when it’s cooler, or if you are getting married in the Winter, it might be better to get married in the middle of day when the light is better. Some couples get married early in the day, have a celebratory lunch then go to some iconic New York location like the Brooklyn Bridge or the Top of the Rock or Grand Central for more photos, or have a ride in a helicopter, or take a river cruise. Some prefer to spend the morning getting ready, then get married in the early afternoon. It is best to plan your other activities for the day, then work backwards from there before deciding on what time you should get married.
Plan when you will get your marriage license.
It is a legal requirement that the couple must go together in person to the City Clerk’s Office to collect their marriage license. Nobody else can do this for you. Check this blog for more information on what you need to know about getting your marriage license in New York City. You must pick up your license at least 24 hours before the ceremony, so keep this in mind when making your travel plans. When you come to Central Park for your ceremony, bring the license with you. After the ceremony you will sign it and the officiant will take it away and send it back to the City Clerk’s Office. Without this, you are not legally married.
Get to know your wedding ceremony location before you go.
You will need to choose which spot in Central Park that you want to hold your wedding ceremony in. Here are my favorite wedding ceremony locations in Central Park . I strongly suggest applying for an event permit from the Central Park Conservancy for a wedding ceremony. Even if you know Central Park somewhat, have a look through the Central Park Conservancy website and decide in advance which areas are the ones you would like photographs to be taken in, so that you can let your photographer or Central Park wedding planner know in advance. I generally make a route map that takes in all the photo locations and make a plan of timings to make the photography part of the day much more efficient, so that the couple doesn’t miss out on anything.
Try not to worry about the weather.
This is a difficult one for many people, but if you have chosen to have an outdoor wedding then you will have to accept that you are at the mercy of the weather. There are only a few sheltered spots in Central Park where you can hold a wedding; under Bethesda Terrace is the best for providing cover from rain. This may well be obvious, but if you are getting married in the Winter, it will be very cold. So, I would suggest either wearing something warm under your wedding gear, or taking a coat that you can put on in between photographs. If you have less than a dozen guests, the Ladies’ Pavilion will provide some shelter from rain or strong sun. Click this link for more information on seasonal weather in Central Park.
Keep the ceremony short and sweet.
The Central Park Conservancy do not allow people to put out chairs for weddings (nor do they allow amplified sound or confetti). Some of the structures which can be used as ceremony locations do have some seating, though, so elderly guests or those who have trouble standing for some time can have a rest. So, if you think your guests will get tired standing up for a while, choose one of these locations, and also try to keep the ceremony brief. I write each ceremony for the couples I work with. I ask them a series of questions and their answers allow me to write the ceremony wording specifically for them. Most of the ceremonies I write last fifteen to twenty minutes, and many couples find that is about right.
Take lots and lots of photographs.
I strongly recommend that couples book a professional photographer to take pictures of themselves and their guests throughout the ceremony, and then later on, around Central Park. I suggest having a photographer for at least two hours. A professional will frame and edit the photos well so that everyone is looking their best. If you chose not to have a professional photographer, then encourage your guests to take lots of pictures. Take a walk around Central Park and take photographs in some of the many lovely spots. I can provide a videographer to make a short film of your wedding ceremony, and capture the scenes in Central Park on the day. Then when you come home you will have a lasting memory of your ceremony, and you can show the video to any loved ones who were unable to make the trip to be there in person.
Go somewhere awesome afterwards to celebrate.
New York has a huge choice of awesome places to eat, drink, and celebrate your wedding. Whatever your tastes or budget, there is sure to be something New York can offer you that will suit your needs. The majority of my couples go to a restaurant and bar after their wedding, but another very popular option is to take a cruise on the Hudson River. Some couples reserve a table in a nice restaurant, and some book a private room, depending on their group size and budget. Some order a cake to be delivered to the restaurant, or on some occasions, they have eaten the cake in Central Park! After the wedding party has dined, then there are many choices of great bars to choose from, it is very popular to choose a bar with a great view of Manhattan, and there are plenty of those.