Before you read this post, I highly suggest you jump back and read my post on How to Elope in New York City if you haven’t already. I think it’s important to know the step by step process of eloping in New York City before you start thinking of ceremony locations. So go do that, and then hop back over here to start planning your ceremony.
One of the most common questions new and prospective clients ask me when we first begin chatting about their elopement is… “Where should we get married?” If you don’t want to get married in City Hall, then trying to find an alternate location can be a little overwhelming to say the least. New York City is huge and beautiful, and there are a million little spots and corners perfect for tying the knot. Are you an outdoorsy couple? Then you may want to pick a spot in Central Park or Prospect Park. Do you want to capture the spirit of New York City in your ceremony? Then maybe Top of the Rock or the Brooklyn Bridge would be ideal. Want an indoor location that still has an amazing urban vibe? Grand Central Station might be perfect.
It really comes down to who you are as a couple and what you have always envisioned for your ceremony. (And whether you mind having random passerby stop to watch your ceremony or you’d rather get married somewhere more private.) I thought it would be fun to do a round up of some of my favorite spots in New York City, grouped by what section of the city they’re in, so that if you’re currently planning your elopement, you can get some ideas. Today… Central Park!
Central Park is absolutely massive and full of spots that might be perfect for your ceremony. But before we jump into specific locations, let’s start with the logistics. As with any location, there are going to be pros and cons, as well as rules and regulations to follow. So what do you need to get married in Central Park?
- First of all, you’ll still need all the things that you would at a City Hall ceremony: a marriage license (picked up at least 24 hours in advance); a witness over the age of 18 (your photographer can be your witness); and an officiant (I know some amazing ones, so just ask, and I’ll recommend someone).
- You do not need a permit to get married in Central Park unless you’re having more than 20 people at your ceremony, but it doesn’t hurt to have one. Especially if you’re marrying in a very public area of the park, such as Bow Bridge or the Ladies Pavilion. If you have a permit, and there are people milling about in the area you plan to hold your ceremony, you can nicely ask them to move/leave. A permit will guarantee your space. It is $25 and can be obtained online through the parks department: Parks Special Event Permit Request. (Side note: None of these rules apply if you’re getting married in the Conservatory Garden at the Central Park Conservancy. They have their own rules/regulations, so if that’s a location you’re considering for your ceremony, you need to contact them directly at 212-360-2766.)
- You are not allowed to bring chairs, tables, or candles into the park for your ceremony, and you may not throw anything that will affect the soil, this includes rice, birdseed, or confetti. Alcohol is also not permitted in the park.
- Acoustic music is allowed in the park during your ceremony, but amplified music is not.
- New York City can be a rather rainy place from time to time, so if you’re planning a wedding in Central Park, I would recommend coming up with a back up plan in case of bad weather. There are some spots in the park under a cover (such as Bethesda Terrace), but that still requires walking through the rain to the middle of the park, so I would do a little research and think of a spot outside of the park where you can hold your ceremony if the rain is really coming down. (Ask your officiant – they will definitely have some suggestions.)
- A lot of people ask if I will photograph them taking a horse and carriage ride to their ceremony location, and the short answer is no. This really deserves its own post, and it’s going to get one soon, but I don’t agree with the way the horses in Central Park are treated. I am very much in support of having the carriages removed from Central Park, and as a huge animal lover (who worked at the Humane Society prior to becoming a photographer), I just can’t in good conscience agree to photograph couples taking carriage rides. I would instead encourage you to consider taking a pedicab to your ceremony site! They are super nice, know their way around the park, and can be found at just about every entrance! (Side note: My clients are so awesome for understanding my feelings about this. Thank you all for being so amazing!)
So… now that you know the ups and downs of marrying in the park… it’s time to pick a specific location! It would take many pages to cover all the awesome spots in the park. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but a brief summary of some of my favorite places. If none of these strike your fancy, email me, because I have plenty of more suggestions. Your officiant will probably have some ideas too, so I encourage you to ask them as well.
Ladies Pavilion: Ladies Pavilion is on the west side, closest to the 77th Street entrance. It is a gorgeous Victorian style gazebo on the banks of the Lake. This is perfect if you’ll have friends/family with you, as there is a little bit of seating inside of the Pavilion. It is a very public area of the park, and every wedding I’ve photographed here has had an audience of random New Yorkers who stop to watch. So if you want total privacy, this probably isn’t the right place, particularly on a Saturday or Sunday. (If you marry on a weekday in the spring or fall, I find this area to be less busy than in the summer.)
Wagner Cove: Wagner Cove is also on the west side, closest to the 72nd Street entrance. Wagner Cove is also on the banks of the Lake, but it is much more private. Rarely do random passerby stumble upon the weddings I photograph here. It is tucked under a beautiful stone staircase, and there is a small, rustic gazebo. It’s in a very green area of the park, surrounded by some big, beautiful trees, providing lots of shade in the summer. It is also quiet, which is lovely. (Unfortunately Wagner Cover is currently blocked off, because they are doing a little bit of construction in that area of the park. It will reopen to weddings this summer.)
Bethesda Terrace/Fountain: Bethesda Fountain & Terrace are in the center of the park, closest to the West 72nd Street entrance. There are a lot of gorgeous spots here – underneath the terrace itself, in front of the fountain, on one of the staircases, on the banks of the Lake… lots of great options. But private it is not, so prepare for a crowd to gather around and watch.
Shakespeare Garden: Shakespeare Garden is in the center of the park, toward the west side, closest to the 81st Street entrance. I will be photographing my first wedding here in May, and I’m so excited, as I’ve been anxious to shoot here for a while. Shakespeare Garden is typically pretty quiet and a little more intimate. Depending on the time of year, it is usually full of flowers, which makes for a lovely backdrop.
Bow Bridge: Bow Bridge is on the west side, not far from Bethesda Fountain. The closest entrance is at 72nd Street. Bow Bridge is a very popular spot in the park – with sweeping views of the New York City skyline and the rowboats on The Lake. It’s one of my go-to photo locations, and if you don’t mind people watching your wedding, would be a great spot for a ceremony. (I wouldn’t recommend this spot if you have friends/family with you. It’s more suited to couples without guests.)
Those are just a few of my favorite spots; I could probably do another post, because we didn’t even really scratch the surface. What is your favorite spot in Central Park? Why do you love it? Are you planning a Central Park elopement in a spot that I didn’t include? I want to hear about it! Hopefully this will help some people planning their Central Park wedding, and I’ll be back in few weeks with some more ceremony location ideas for another part of the city, so keep an eye out!