We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.
Top seven tips for planning a destination wedding or elopement in New York
Claire has been planning destination weddings in New York’s beautiful Central Park since her own wedding there in 2011. It gave her the idea to help other visiting couples get married there, so she started her business; Wed in Central Park. Many of her clients getting married in Central Park are visitors to New York, mostly Brits. Some of her couples bring a group of family and friends with them, and some elope to New York, just the two of them. For some of her clients, it’s their first time in New York and for others, they have visited before and feel like they know the city and it means something special to them.
Each wedding is unique, just as all of her couples are, but here are her top seven tips that might be helpful to anyone considering getting married in New York:
1 Research before you go.
The big decisions to make at the start might be choosing the accommodation you stay in, and also choosing the location where you actually get married. There are lots photographs and reviews available online to help you to get a good idea of what somewhere is like in real life when it comes to choosing where to stay, where to hold the wedding ceremony, where to eat, and where to celebrate afterwards. This may apply to where you want to get married, or just spots where you would like to take photos. If you’re looking for an answer to a tricky question, plenty of reading what other have said online will usually find you the answer.
Before you even book those flights, consider the weather for the time of year that you plan to visit. New York sees extremes of both heat and humidity in high summer and cold and snow in winter. Although some people don’t mind temperature extremes and some people don’t mind the idea of saying “I do” in the rain, the weather can be an important factor.
Think about where you want to stay. We have lots of couples who stay in chain hotels close to Times Square. There are of course hotels all over the city, so consider whether you want to be close to where you will hold the wedding ceremony, or the other stuff that you want to see. There are also AirBnBs and other rentals all over the city, so it doesn’t have to be a hotel.
When it comes to the big day, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort by just hiring a wedding planner such as myself. I’ve helped hundreds of couples to get married in Central Park (and a few other places in New York!) and it’s rare that someone asks me something that I haven’t been asked before. Many couples tell me that I’m answering questions for them that they hadn’t even considered! This makes sense because there are many things that just won’t occur to you if you haven’t been married before and/or don’t know New York as well as you’d like.
2 Make sure your wedding will be legally binding.
If you get married in the State of New York, you must get a marriage license at least 24 hours before the wedding. You and your partner are legally responsible for getting you marriage license yourselves, together. You can either pick that up in person yourselves from City Hall, or you can get it through a virtual appointment over Zoom, but that must be done from the state of New York. The license costs $35, you need to take along your passports and if you have been married before, proof of death or final divorce of your former spouse. You can get the license anywhere between 60 days and 24 hours in advance of the wedding. Check the the City Clerk’s website for lots of information about that. You must take the license with you to the ceremony. Your ceremony must be performed by a New York State registered officiant. After the ceremony, the couple sign the license with the officiant and at least one witness. Then the officiant sends it back to City Hall for you, they register your marriage and send you a certificate in the mail to your home address.
3 Think about where you want the ceremony to take place.
Getting married in New York is so appealing to so many people partly because the city itself is so iconic and many locations are so easily recognisable. I do find that some couples can get distracted by thinking about the stunning photos they will get because New York and specifically for us, Central Park, is such a photogenic place. Remember that the location of the ceremony is not the only location you will be at throughout the day, and that if you choose to, you can take pictures over the city while wearing your stunning wedding attire. Therefore, don’t simply think about the aesthetics or the background of a ceremony location; also think about whether it’s the right place for you to exchange these important vows.
4 Make the most of your day.
Many British tourists arriving in New York will experience some jet lag, which may cause you to wake up early. Make the most of the long day if that does happen! Making a clear and achievable schedule for the day is a big part of the planning process that I go through with many couples. They tell me where they want to go that day and what they want to happen, and I’ll devise a realistic plan to get them there.
If you’re in New York for just a few days and one of those days is your wedding day, my advice is not to spend too much of it in your hotel room! Of course, most people want to look fantastic on their wedding day, so will need to spend some time getting ready, but it seems such a pity to spend too long in front of the mirror when you have a limited time in this awesome city. If getting ready is a big thing for you, consider having your wedding photographer come to your hotel to take pictures of you getting ready with your party. After that, maybe they could take some shots around the hotel, doing a “first look” if there’s somewhere in the hotel that suits doing that.
5 Consider the timings.
One thing that many visitors struggle to get their heads around is the size of the city and the travel times involved. You can get a decent sense of the size of things by spending some time looking at a map of the city and of Central Park online. Although it is notoriously difficult to predict New York City traffic, I do have some experience in doing so. We can usually put together a schedule with a realistic view of travel times and enough of a buffer in case you hit traffic so the day will go without a hitch and you will feel at ease. This holds true for navigating New York City’s roads in whatever transport you choose, as well as navigating Central Park on foot. Depending on your group size and a number of other criteria, I can give you advice on how long it will take to go to any particular photo location.
6 Take photos!
If you’re eloping to get married, then nobody else except your partner (and of course many, many strangers in New York!) will see how incredible you look unless you take photos. I do advise hiring a professional photographer for at least part of your day, even just a couple of hours to cover the ceremony and then a short portrait session. Some couples choose to have a wedding guests take some informal photos, but they just won’t be of the quality that a professional can achieve. If you have travelled a long way to get married, even if you’re on a budget, I think it’s very important to capture a lasting memory of the wedding.
Lots of couples like to travel around the city in wedding gear for photos, going to spots such as Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge, the Top of the Rock, Grand Central Terminal, the Statue of Liberty, or many other iconic New York places (and of course there are plenty of off-the-beaten track cool locations with stunning street art for photos). If you have a group of loved ones with you then taking photos around the city is still a great option, and a memorable and fun activity to share with your nearest and dearest, but transporting a big group around New York City will have more logistical issues than doing it alone.
7 Check the reviews.
Lots of clients tell me how daunting it can feel to hand over a large amount of money to someone they have never met. This is completely understandable, especially when planning a very special day such as a wedding day. Online reviews are so very beneficial because of this. Take into account how frequently you submit your own reviews. When reading reviews online, bear in mind that most people only do so if they have strong feelings about the service they have received. Never be reluctant to question the service provider about a negative review or one that raises an interesting issue.
Pretty much everyone who gets married in Central Park with us, celebrates afterwards in the city with food and drink. There are so many choices in New York, it really is a city with something for everyone. If you’re in town for a while, then each meal you eat there can add to the fun of your stay in New York, but you probably want to save the meal or restaurant (or view from a restaurant!) that you think will be most memorable for your wedding day. In choosing a restaurant, online images and reviews can be so very helpful if you’re not able to visit in person!
If you would like Claire to help you with planning your own Central Park wedding or elopement, whether you live locally or are planning on traveling to New York to get married, visit their website. Keep updated with their news and see lots of beautiful photos, follow them on Facebook, follow them on Instagram and follow them on Pinterest.