The Big Apple’s famous Central Park entices millions of couples every year to seal their romance in many different ways: a horse drawn carriage ride, a skate on the ice rink in winter or a romantic picnic for two. But did you know it is probably one of the most romantic places to say your vows? Claire, a British wedding planner who works for couples who want to get married in New York’s Central Park and organises destination weddings of all sizes (including elopements, blessings and vow renewals) gives us her top ten tips for holding your wedding in the beautiful park.
Get to know Central Park a little before you go. whether or not you have been to Central Park before, you may not know every part of it. There are lots of hidden beauties. Have a look through the Central Park Conservancy website and decide in advance which areas are the ones you would like your photographs 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. Good advance planning will mean that the day will go nice and smoothly and you will get all that you want out of your photographer.
Agree on a meeting place. Check a map of the city and think about where you and your guests are staying, how you intend to get to Central Park and where is the best entrance for you, then agree a good meeting place. I can help with this. There are several gates to Central Park, some suit being a meeting place better than others, some are close to Subway stops, have pedicabs or horses and carriages waiting to pick people up, or have benches to sit on while you wait for people to arrive. This is good advice if you are planning to meet guests at Central Park, or your photographer.
Try not to worry about the weather. This is a difficult one, because everyone does. 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. Even then keep 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 outdoors in New York in the Winter, it will be very cold. Either wear something warm and layer up under that dress, or take 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. Actually, British couples tend to worry about the weather a lot more than other nationalities, New York does not see as much rain as Britain does, and I’ve only had to reschedule two or three weddings in the five years I have been planning weddings in Central Park.
Apply for an event permit. The Central Park Conservancy do not require weddings to have an event permit for a those with less than twenty guests, but I always apply 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 in there. If this does happen, then you can simply wait for them to leave, but this may cause problems if you have planned your day and you want to be somewhere else, such as a restaurant, soon after the ceremony. Also, an event permit does not carry a huge charge, and Central Park is run entirely on things like event permits and charitable donations, and I think it is only fair that you contribute a small fee if you are tying the knot in such a beautiful place.
Keep the ceremony brief. 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 have some seating, though. The Ladies’ Pavilion is one of them. So, if you have pregnant or elderly guests, or just think your guests might get tired if they have to stand for a while, try to keep the ceremony short and sweet, or choose one of the locations with a few seats, these also come in handy for leaving (supervised) bags on when it is time for group photos.
Remember to bring your marriage license. The couple must go together in person to the City Clerk’s Office to collect their marriage license. This is a legal requirement, and where you prove to a State-registered employee that 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. Check this blog for more information on what you need to know about getting your marriage license in New York City.
By Laura Pennace – http://www.facebook.com/pennacephotography
Wear comfortable shoes. Either that, or bring some comfortable shoes to change in to. 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, Wagner Cove is one of them, and it is accessed by walking down uneven stone steps. You can get a pedicab from the Park entrance to the ceremony location, but you will have to do some standing and then some walking, especially if you would like photographs taken in some of the iconic spots around the Park.
Leave your speakers and confetti at home. 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. This will be stipulated in your event permit. Central Park provides beautiful outdoor space and repose from the hustle and bustle of the city for many people, tourists and residents alike. It is important to consider other people close by who are also using the Park, and we should not pollute their environment.
Go to the bathroom before you go. Central Park was built in the 1870s, so the plumbing is perhaps not quite up to the standards that it would be if it was built today. There are a few bathrooms around Central Park but there are areas where bathrooms are quite a walk away. Check where the closest bathroom is to your ceremony location before you go. There is a large bathroom close to Bethesda Terrace, and the Central Park Conservancy staff and volunteers do a great job, but the floor can be pretty unpleasant on busy days so keep that in mind if you are wearing a gown.
Take plenty of different photographs. My strong recommendation is to employ a professional photographer to take pictures of yourselves and your guests throughout the ceremony, and then later on, around the Park. A professional will frame and edit the photos well so that you are all looking your best. Many people spend a lot of money to get to New York for their wedding, it seems worthwhile to spend a little extra to have some photographs to remember the event. 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.
For more information on planning your own Central Park wedding, visit our website for photos and more inspiring stories.