Sunday, 7 May 2017 by Claire Ady
New York is an incredible city with countless attractions for all sorts of visitors, and Central Park is an iconic and beautiful spot in the centre of Manhattan. It is a popular place for couples wanting to elope, or to bring their friends and family for a destination wedding.
I have been given various reasons why the couples I work with have decided on a destination wedding in Central Park. The reason that comes up most frequently is to be unique. We have all been to the traditional big wedding near to the home of the couple who are getting married, and they are great fun to attend, but couples can find it hard to make their special day stand out for their guests.
Another frequent 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, even including flights, hotels and other travel costs. Increasingly nowadays we 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 are my twelve tips to make the day run smoothly, so that you can relax and enjoy it all.
Get to know Central Park a little before you go
Some of my clients have been to New York a few times, several got engaged in Central Park and that is why they want to get married there, but some have never been to New York before. Even if you know Central Park a little bit, 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. This will make the photography part of the day much more efficient, and you won’t miss out on anything.
Discuss the plan with your family and friends
Many of my clients told me that once they had made the decision to have a destination wedding in Central Park, they were concerned about what their family might say. But then in most cases, once they discussed their reasons, their family supported their decision and often got very excited at the idea. 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. If they know all the fantastic things you have planned for them, any worries will soon disappear.
Think about what else you want to do on your wedding day
Whenever a couple asks me what the best time to get married is, I always ask what else they want to do on the day. Some parties want to take the whole morning to get ready, then get married in the early afternoon. Depending on the time of year, it might be better to get married in the morning when it’s cooler during the Summer, or it might be better to get married in the middle of day when the light is better during the Winter. If couples have small children with them, then they should keep their schedules in mind. Some couples get married early in the day, have a celebratory lunch then go to the Top of the Rock for the great views and more photos, or have a ride in a helicopter, or take a river cruise. 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.
Apply for an event permit
Once you know when and where you want the ceremony to be, make a reservation for the spot you like. The Central Park Conservancy do not require weddings to have an event permit for those with less than twenty guests, but I always recommend applying for one, no matter how many people are expected. If you do not have an event permit, there is always the risk that you may arrive at your chosen ceremony location to find another couple getting married there. If this does happen, then you can simply wait for them to leave, but you may have made other plans for the day, and perhaps have reservations in a restaurant after the wedding ceremony and photos.
Try not to worry about the weather
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. Bare in mind that you will have to walk to the ceremony location and you are likely to get at least a little wet on the way. If you are getting married in the Winter, it will be very cold. Either wear something warm or take a coat that you can put on 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.
I have seen many brides and wedding guests carrying their shoes after just half an hour or so. Much of Central Park is paved, but there are several lovely ceremony locations that are rough underfoot, or only accessed by uneven steps. You can get a pedicab from the Park entrance to the ceremony location, but you will have to do some walking, especially if you would like photographs taken in some of the iconic spots around the Park. A long gown with a train will get grubby if you get married outdoors, that’s unavoidable. Although we can usually find ways to edit out any grubbiness on photographs. Also keep in mind that you will be outside for some time when having your hair done.
Bring your marriage license with you to the ceremony
The couple must go together in person to the City Clerk's Office to collect their marriage license. This is a legal requirement, it is when you show your photo ID and prove you are who you say you are. 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. Check this blog for more information on what you need to know about getting your marriage license in New York City.
Keep the ceremony brief
I write each ceremony for the couples I work with. I ask them a series of questions that allows me to write the ceremony wording especially for them. Most of the ceremonies I write last fifteen to twenty minutes and many couples find that is a nice length for them. The Central Park Conservancy do not allow people to put out chairs for weddings. 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, try to keep the ceremony short and sweet.
Leave your MP3 player and confetti at home
I can supply couples with flowers for their wedding, delivered to their hotel room on their wedding day. I am quite frequently asked if couples can decorate their ceremony location with flowers. The answer is no, the Central Park Conservancy does not allow this, and does not allow guests to throw rice or confetti. Also, amplified sound is not permitted either. I can provide an acoustic musician to play at your wedding instead. Central Park provides beautiful outdoor space and repose from the hustle and bustle of the city for many people. It is important to consider other people close by who are also using the Park, and we should not pollute their environment.
Take plenty of different 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 the Park. 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 the Park and take photographs in various different places. 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 can show the video to any friends and family who were unable to make the trip to New York to be there in person.
Book a great restaurant to celebrate in
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 in this incredible city that will suit your needs. The couples I work with tend to book a table in a nice restaurant, or go for 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.
Celebrate in New York style when you get back home
Some of my couples have held a bigger party for their extended family and wider group of friends on their return from New York. They have kept to the New York theme for their parties with the invites and decorations. This does not appeal to everyone, but it is a nice way to include a larger group if you feel that you want to.
Since 2012 I have been running a business planning weddings for couples who want to get married in New York’s Central Park. I have planned around one hundred and eighty weddings at the time of writing.
About Claire Ady
Wed in Central Park is run by Claire, who can provide all you need for a wedding in New York’s Central Park. Claire has been planning weddings for five years, and has planned around 180 weddings to date. Whether you are planning a destination wedding with a large group of guests, a small wedding with your nearest and dearest or even an elopement Claire can help. She will tell you everything that needs to be done, and guide you through the decisions you need to make to get the wedding day of your dreams. She can arrange for a celebrant, photographer, flowers, video, music and anything else you need so that you can relax and enjoy the day.
Visit Claire's website for more information on planning your own Central Park wedding.