Keilani and Thomas’ Wedding in the Conservatory Gardens

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Keilani and Thomas got married in the Conservatory Gardens in July 2004.  I met her through her online community Big Love Small Weddings, a site she set up for brides and wedding professionals who are interested in small and intimate weddings to find each other.  She is a lover of elopements and small weddings, which the vast majority of the weddings in Central Park I help to plan are.  I was interested to talk to her about her experience since she got married some time ago when there weren’t the resources then that we have now.

Keilani is originally from Brooklyn, and Thomas is from Staten Island.  They met through their work in the fitness industry.  Thomas proposed to Keilani at the historic Mohonk Mountain House, which is just at the southern border of the Catskills, a popular vacation place for New Yorkers, and where myself and my husband spent our honeymoon after our own small wedding in Central Park.  They were visiting the area the weekend of Keilani’s birthday, which was a week before Christmas.  “I had no desire to have a big wedding and certainly not plan one.  The only part of the wedding planning I had any remote interest in was the planning of my honeymoon,” says Keilani.  “Back then there were limited resources for small wedding planning, and I basically winged it.  I planned everything in six months,” she added.

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Like many couples back then who want to tie the knot in a no-nonsense style, and still quite commonly now, their first thoughts were Las Vegas.  “We were planning on eloping to Vegas and marrying at the Bellagio, then continue to the South Pacific Islands for our Honeymoon,” Keilani told me.  In the end, they decided to stay in New York for the wedding to include their families, but they stuck with the original honeymoon plan, because that was very important to them, and what they considered worthwhile to spend their money on.

They chose the Conservatory Gardens for their wedding ceremony location.  This is level with around 105th Street, so quite a way up North of Central Park.  And since Keilani and Thomas were locals, they knew this area would be much quieter than the South end of the park, which is very busy with tourists.  “It is a semi-private space and the grounds were serene,” she said.  It was easily accessible for their guests, from all over the boroughs of New York City, and it was inexpensive.  I think it’s important to point out for people who are not New Yorkers just how important the city’s parks are to locals.  Many people will have heard Central Park being described as “New Yorkers’ backyard” but it is so true.  So many family events and get-togethers take places in these parks; I would see kids’ birthday parties every weekend in all the parks, not just Central Park.  So, it was the natural choice for these two New Yorkers to marry in this world famous park that was so close by.

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Keilani chose a simple satin ribbon style dress with an open back and carried long stem calla lilies, purchased from RK Bridal, and she did her hair and makeup herself.  They had an acoustic guitarist at the wedding ceremony, then a backyard garden reception at Thomas’ Aunt’s house on Staten Island.

Their wedding party was a small one.  They just invited immediate family and just a handful of close friends.  “If you weren’t a part of our everyday life, you weren’t invited,” Keilani said.  “It wasn’t the purpose of our wedding to invite everyone we knew,” she added. “I just wasn’t the type of bride to have a major shindig!”

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“I wish back then there were resources for the type of bride that wanted something small,” Keilani said.  “I am happy with how things all came together, but at that time there were no websites I could go to for anything related to elopements and intimate weddings”.  Of course this may seem hard to believe for younger people planning their weddings now, but there wouldn’t have been the vast choice of blogs and online information that people can be swamped with now.

The couple married over thirteen years ago, so I asked Keilani if she had any regrets.  She said that if she had known then what she knows now then she would have taken more time choosing a photographer.  The photos used in this blog are digital photos of original prints, since that was the norm in 2004.  Now that she works as a wedding photographer herself, she would have given the decision more thought, but at the time the wedding wasn’t the priority for them, they were focused on the honeymoon.  And in my opinion, it looks like they had their priorities right – the wedding day shouldn’t necessarily be the focus when a couple gets married – the marriage should be, and they’ve been married for over thirteen years so they must be doing something right!  As it turns out the photographer they used for the wedding has now gone out of business.

I asked Keilani what people say when she tells them that she got married in Central Park.  “Usually when I say that I got married in Central Park, people tell us how lucky we are, and I guess they are right,” she said.  I asked if she’d do it all again; “I would recommend it to anyone!  Keep it small, keep it real!” she said.

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So, now Keilani photographs elopements and intimate weddings herself.  So, many years after her own small wedding, she still truly believes in the charm and appeal of an intimate wedding celebration.  That’s why she does this for a living now, and why she started the website.  “I realized that my peers who specialize in elopements and small weddings are getting lost in the masses of websites that are geared towards more of the bigger traditional wedding,” said told me.  Her online community is a place where brides are able to communicate with one another during their wedding journey, and it’s a place of community over competition.  “Big Love Small Weddings is for the couple who desires more love and no stress!” Keilani says.

I asked her if she had any advice for anyone reading this blog, who might be considering a wedding in Central Park themselves, whether they are local or from further afield.  “If you want to keep your wedding simple and beautiful, then get married in Central Park,” Keilani said.  “I would definitely marry in the same place if I did it all over again.”

Check out the Big Love Small Weddings online community, follow them on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.  If you feel you might need some help planning your own future wedding in Central Park, then check out my website for lots more information, follow us on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for stories of real weddings, inspirational photos and helpful advice.

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Kayla and Matt’s Wedding in the Ladies’ Pavilion

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Kayla and Matt brought their friends and family over from Bristol in the UK this September to get married in the Ladies’ Pavilion.  They met when they were both sixteen years old and will have been together for ten years this November.  They got engaged when they were on holiday with Kayla’s family in Las Vegas.  They went out one evening on their own as a couple and Matt proposed in front of the Bellagio fountains, during one of their spectacular displays.  Matt had told both his family and Kayla’s that he planned to propose, but it was a complete surprise to Kayla!  The date of their engagement was the 17th September 2015, so they got married exactly two years later.  They had just bought their first house together in the June before they got married.

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They had been searching on Instagram for wedding inspiration and they came across a photo of a wedding in the Ladies’ Pavilion in Central Park, “we thought is looked amazing,” said Kayla.  “We had been to Central Park before and absolutely loved it.  It’s amazing how such a huge park can be in such a big city,” she told me.  They had not visited the Ladies’ Pavilion until after they saw that photos.  They happened to be visiting New York a few months later, so they went to Central Park while they were there to look at the Ladies’ Pavilion in person.  “It was so perfect so we booked it up when we got home!” said Kayla.

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I asked them if they had any concerns about getting married in New York, and they answered in the same way that so many couples do; they said that their only concern was the weather.  They acknowledged that getting married outside will always carry some risk, but they had a beautiful sunny day for their wedding, in fact that week was unseasonably warm, so it was quite hot for Matt’s three piece suit!

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The couple arrived in New York on the Wednesday and got married in the Sunday.  “We have good friends that are from New York and live in Brooklyn so we stayed with them a few days,” they said, so they were able to chill out a little, and spend some time with them, and get their marriage license.  Then their family and friends from home arrived on the Friday so then they all checked in to the Novotel Times Square.  They left New York the Tuesday after their wedding to go on to Hawaii for their honeymoon.

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Here’s something you need to know about Matt and Kayla; they might be twenty six years old but their taste in music is a little older.  Their wedding ceremony wording included a reading of some of the lyrics to God Only Knows by The Beach Boys, and our guitarist played that for them after they were pronounced married.  And the rest of the music?  The Beatles.  He played I Want to Hold Your Hand, All You Need is Love, Can’t Buy Me Love, and Do You Want to Know a Secret while the guests waited for the bride to arrive.  Then Kayla walked down the pathway to the Ladies’ Pavilion to Here Comes the Sun.  So, it comes as no surprise to me to hear that some of their favorite photos were taken in Strawberry Fields, by the Imagine plaque put there in memory of John Lennon, who lived and died at the Dakota building, on the corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West.

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Kayla wore a tea length wedding dress and a veil.  She said that it was the first dress that she tried on, and her mum cried at the sight of her in it.  “I tried on seven more dresses but went back to that one,” she said.  “Everyone said it suited my style. I also chose the length as I was slightly worried about a longer dress being dragged along the floor in Central Park and tea length was more practical,” she added.  I agree with her.  We have seen brides in some incredible long gowns but they always tell me that they had to lift them to walk around the park to avoid picking up leaves and the like.  She got it from a relatively new bridal chain in the UK called WED2B.  Matt wore a traditional three piece suit, it was black with a dark grey waistcoat and purple tie to match Kayla’s flowers.

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Kayla chose artificial flowers.  This is something I am seeing brides do more and more frequently.  “They were exactly what I wanted and I can keep them forever,” she said.  She bought herself and her bridesmaid matching purple bouquets off eBay.  They had lace around the handle with diamanté brooches attached.  Kayla did her own makeup, “I’m very fussy about how I have my makeup so decided to do it myself!” she said.  Kayla and her bridesmaid did their own hair, too, but the mothers of the bride and groom had their hair done in a salon that morning.

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The wedding party was twenty-four guests in total.  Some of them had never been to New York before, so the couple said how great it was to share the experience their first visit with them.  They loved the photos of them all together and the guests all commented on the beauty of the wedding location.  The wedding ceremony took place at 3pm, then they went around Central Park taking photographs with their photographer Justin Tinapay.  After that they went to the rooftop bar at STK, then walked along the High Line park a little until they got to the Chelsea Pier, where they boarded a cruise ship for a three hour sightseeing and dinner cruise.  We had made a plan of timings to make sure they could easily fit this all in, so that things went smoothly for the large group.  “The cruise was unbelievable; the food and atmosphere were amazing, we even got to have our first dance and they cleared an area on the deck to do our speeches, all with views of the New York skyline and Statue of Liberty,” said Kayla.  “I would highly recommend that to anyone, not just wedding parties” she added.

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I asked for any advice for anyone else considering a wedding in Central Park.  “Be prepared to be centre of attention,” Kayla said.  “So many people were stopping to congratulate us and take pictures of us!” she told me.  I hear this a lot from couples, and they tell me that the friendliness of New Yorkers adds to the experience of getting married in this fantastic city.  After they returned home they had a fabulous New York City themed party with wider friends and family.

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For more information on planning your own Central Park wedding, visit our website, or “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and follow us on Pinterest where you will find lots of lovely photos and many more inspiring stories of real weddings.

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Joe and Amber’s Cherry Hill engagement

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Joe and Amber were visiting New York from their home in the UK to celebrate their five year anniversary.  So, Joe thought it would be a great time to propose.  He had the ring and a loose plan so he contacted me with help with the logistics and the details.

Joe wanted to propose on Cherry Hill with Bow Bridge in the back ground.  He had the plan to have a picnic and then pop the question.  We looked at a few options for purchasing the picnic food, but in the end he decided that the Tavern on the Green had a good menu (which I got for him in advance) and was not out of their way.

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On the morning of the proposal the couple visited the Central Park Zoo in the South East corner, then took a walk up through Central Park to the Tavern on the Green to pick up some food.  They sat under a tree on Cherry Hill and as they ate, our photographer casually got herself in to position, and took some photos of the views.

I had made a map for him, showing the route to walk and gave him a little guidance on what time they would need to leave the Zoo to be able to walk over to the restaurant, pick up the food, get to Cherry Hill, eat, and then be ready to propose at the agreed time when the photographer would be there.

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We arranged for Joe to give the photographer a signal of having the two of them stand up for a selfie with Bow Bridge behind them.  Them standing up was her cue to know to get ready to photograph the proposal, but it had the added advantage of getting Bow Bridge aligned well in the background for when he popped the question.  These engagement shoots are really quite difficult, because one of the couple is very nervous and the other one doesn’t know they are being photographed!

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So, Joe asked, and Amber accepted!  Then he let her know that the photographer was there and they were able to take lots of nice posed photos in the area around Cherry Hill.

If you are considering asking your partner to marry you in Central Park, or another outdoor location in New York City, contact me if you think you might need some help.  Check the website for more information on prices, I’m finding that everyone is quite different in how much support they need with a proposal so I can be flexible with my prices.

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Rafael and Becca’s Engagement at the Ice Rink in Central Park

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Rafael and Becca had been together for two years when he proposed to her at the Wollman Ice Rink in Central Park last November. They had met at the engagement party of Becca’s brother and Rafael’s cousin. Both of their families had suggested that they would be very well suited to each other and had played a bit of a matchmaker role in their meeting.

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They were both born and raised in Massachusetts and live there together now, but when they met Rafael was living and working in New York City and Becca was in Massachusetts. They would travel to see each other on weekends and holiday and many of their early dates were in New York. Rafael said that one of their most memorable early dates was at Wollman Rink in January so it was a special place for them.

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They are both good skaters so Rafael’s plan was to go skating for a while and then propose to her on the rink. He had invited some of their friends and family along to join in the celebrations so they would be in hiding along with our photographer, who would capture some pictures paparazzi style, until Becca (hopefully) said yes and Rafael could surprise her that everyone was there.

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I contacted the manager of the rink and he was extremely helpful with all my questions on the specifics of when they clean the ice and various other questions that allowed me to make a clear plan of who should be where and then, so as not to spoil the surprise. The manager suggested the quietest time of day at the rink would be the best time to do it. He was so great, and nothing was too much trouble for him. Rafael’s sister was an important part of our plan, she made sure that the friends and family along to witness the proposal arrived in good time and were safely hidden out of sight.

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Rafael wanted their special song; Jason Mraz’s The World as I See It playing as he proposed. We arranged for the manager to play another song they liked before that, Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud, so that Rafael knew that their song was coming next. Then their song came on and he got down on one knee. Our photographer managed to capture the proposal, but it’s a tricky thing to get right – if they’re not at the right angle you can’t just ask them to move! You can see in the photos as the people around the couple realize that Rafael is popping the question!

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And of course Becca said yes! Why wouldn’t she want to marry someone as fantastic as Rafael, who had put so much effort in to getting this right?! By then their friends and family had moved so that he could point them out and they could give them a round of applause! The original plan was for just a few of their nearest and dearest to be there for the proposal, but in the end they had twenty-two friends and family that were in on the surprise and there at the rink to help them celebrate.

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The Wollman rink opens late October and closes early April, each year the dates will be slightly different. At the time of writing, they open seven days a week at 10:00am, with closing times of 2:30pm Monday and Tuesday, 10:00pm Wednesday and Thursday, 11:00pm Friday and Saturday and 9:00pm on Sundays. Check the website for skater and spectator entry and skate rental prices as they may change over time.

The carousel nearby is also a great place for photograph opportunities, some of our bride and grooms have had photos taken there. It is also open seven days a week, from 10:00am until 6:00pm, weather permitting.

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If you are considering a marriage proposal in Central Park, or another outdoor location in New York City, contact me if you think you might need some help.  My prices are pretty flexible on proposals, because everyone seems to need very different levels of support.  For a little more information on what we can offer, check out the website.

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I will be at the National Wedding Show at the Birmingham NEC

I will be at the National Wedding Show at the Birmingham NEC on Saturday 30th September 2017.  Please let me know if you would like to meet up for a chat if you have any questions about getting married in Central Park, or any other outdoor location in New York City.

I will not have a stall, so if you would like to have a no-strings, no-obligation chat about all things Central Park weddings over a coffee (or a prosecco) then drop me an email at info@wedincentralpark.com

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GIVEAWAY – Help me to Find Clients for 2018

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I am looking for ways to reach new clients for 2018.  I’ve been taking it a little slower these past couple of years, with having two young children, but now I’m ready to take on more clients for next year.  I need your help and I am offering something in return.

I have been running this wedding planning business since 2012.  In the first couple of years I worked so hard at promoting this business.  As anyone who knows anything about online marketing will agree, it is all about the search engine optimization.  I was busy planning weddings, but probably spending more time on promotion.  Towards the end of 2013 I had a baby, Thomas.  Then, 21 months later, in 2015 I had another baby, Joseph.  This meant that I had two very little kids to look after and a small business to run.  As a consequence I reduced my workload a lot through 2016 and most of 2017.  I decreased the number of weddings I took on, and I did very little promotion for 2016 and most of 2017.  But, my youngest just turned two, so I am ready to be busier with more weddings next year.

I am often reading marketing advice telling me that I need to look at my customer base and find more clients just like them.  So, how do I do that?  My clients are from all over the world.  Their ages range from early twenties to late fifties.  Some follow me on Facebook, some find me on Instagram, some chat with me on Twitter, some find me through Pinterest, but most have just found me through Google.  Some have found me through recommendations, and I thank my friends and previous clients for passing on my details to others.  Some of my clients want a very quiet and private wedding with very few guests, or even elope alone to get married, some invite a huge group of friends and family to New York with them to celebrate.  Some of my clients are gay, some are straight.  Some of my clients are keeping to a strict budget for their wedding, some throw a large and lavish affair.  Some have met fairly recently, some have been together for many years.  Some have kids from a previous relationship, some have kids as a couple, some have no kids (yet, or ever).  Some want to keep to religious traditions for their wedding, some want a straightforward and simple ceremony, some want some strange and unique thing adding to the ceremony that I have never heard of before.  Some want many hours of photos and a video for evidence of their wedding, some want a musician to play at their ceremony, some want extravagant flowers, some want professional hair and makeup, and some just want the wedding ceremony, with nothing else added on top.

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All of the couples I work with are different and their relationships and stories are unique.  So, their weddings are, too.  So, how do I find people just like them, who also want to get married in Central Park, to boost my bookings for next year?  My great idea is to ask my previous clients, and my friends and wedding industry associates, to share my contact details and my website to as many people as they can think of, in whatever medium they choose.  OK, it’s mostly social media these days, but people also chat in the workplace, and socially with friends and acquaintances.  So, if I guided you through the process of planning your wedding in Central Park, please tell others about me.  Tell them to contact me (preferably through email, those two kids still make big demands on my time).  This is the important part for you, though: tell them to tell me you sent them!  I am offering a giveaway to anyone whose referral leads to a booking for 2018.

I have three New York / Central Park themed gift bags for the first three people whose referrals lead to a booking for a wedding in 2018.  The gift bags contain accessories for the home and for out and about.  I have a stylized picture of Bow Bridge in Central Park with that skyline, NYC coasters, Central Park magnets, a luggage tag, air freshener, keychain, and the NYC tote bag it all comes in.  Lots of gifts I think make a great souvenir for anyone who got married in Central Park.  If you don’t want these gifts, then I will send you flowers or a gift voucher of a similar value.

So, please, go out and tell everyone you know about me.  In particular, anyone who seems like they might be going off the idea of the traditional big wedding at home, since so many of my clients come to me that way.  And recently, I’ve done a few weddings in other public spaces in New York City, so it’s not just Central Park any more.   Share my Facebook page, website or blog on Facebook, share your wedding photos on Instagram with my info, tell your work colleagues about your wedding at the water fountain, pin pictures from my website to your Pinterest boards to share with your followers, entertain everyone in the pub with tales from your trip to New York to get married then give them my number, Tweet my website or blog, email your address book with my contact details, include my details with your wedding photos if you send them with your Christmas cards this year, just tell everyone that they really need me to help to plan their wedding in Central Park!  You might just win a reward!  Remember to tell them your name and that you set me so that I know where to send the gift to.

If you are considering a Central Park wedding, please visit our website, or “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and follow us on Pinterest where you will find lots of lovely photos and many more inspiring stories of real weddings.

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Five Things I Loved About My Wedding – Hanna

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts about the aspects of a wedding that made it unique and special to the couple. It is called Five Things I Loved About My Wedding. This series is intended to provide inspiration for couples who are planning their wedding. Many couples have a big vision of what they want on the day, but this is more about the details. Many of the weddings discussed in this series will have taken place in Central Park, but weddings from other locations will be featured. This wedding took place at Raffael’s Banquet Facility in Walpole, MA. Hanna, who blogs at Rated by Hanna, married Dana this spring. She wrote about several of these aspects in her own blog, so check it out for more information.  Here are five things she remembers very fondly from her wedding.

Wedding Day Outfit

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Some brides find their perfect wedding dress instantly, others go through several salons before deciding. I consider myself a mix of both scenarios. My bridal party and mother in law thoughtfully coordinated for me to go to bridal shops to browse various bridal gowns. They all felt too stuffy, too tight or too over the top. As if it were fate I found a dress I fell in love with at first sight online and ordered it immediately! I held my breath as it arrived in the mail to try on. I even contemplated ordering 2 sizes as I was unsure of my measurements. Now we’ve all heard those horror stories for clothes that fit nothing like the display photo. Surprisingly the dress fit perfectly, even the length was right and I didn’t even need any alterations! (Unheard of for a shortly like me.) The rest of my outfit accessories all came together in the following months when I found my something blue shoes, capelet to keep warm in the cool spring temperature and fascinator with veil. I could not be happier with how the outfit I chose turned out, it looked especially gorgeous with the added petticoat and professional lighting adjustments.

First Dance & Song

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When my husband and I first started dating, the first concert ever that we attended was to see Jon McLaughlin perform in June 2012! It felt only appropriate that we should also choose another one of his songs for our first dance. We instantly fell in love with the song I Am Always Gonna Love You. We even committed to taking weekly dance lessons to make sure that we wouldn’t look too awkward since we are both awfully uncoordinated. Leading up to the wedding the dates even lined up perfectly that we saw Jon McLaughlin live again two weeks before the big day. He signed our wedding Save the Date and another keep sake at his concert Meet & Greet. We were worried we would be either too early or too late transitioning into the dip at the end of the song, but it all came together seamlessly!

4-Tier Cake

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One of the most exciting aspects of the wedding planning was definitely was designing our cake! We couldn’t decide after one cake tasting at Konditor Meister, so we went back for a second visit to try even more flavors! I can’t say the decision was easy but we narrowed it down to just four flavors, one for each layer. The bottom was the largest so we chose Tiramisu for the large Italian demographic of guests, Mango (this was surprisingly divine), Lemon Raspberry and their signature Strawberry Grand Marnier. We had about 1/3 of the bottom layer left over for us to slowly finish and share with my co-workers. For the extra touch of personalized detail we added the rolled chocolate leaves on the side of the cake, and chocolate sign with our initials! Our cake perfectly embodied our unique tastes and I dream of it to this day.

The Weather

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Despite checking the weather incessantly during the days leading up to the wedding, it completely poured on our big day! Overcast with 0% chance of precipitation predicted, proved the New England weather’s fickle nature. The good news was that we still managed to have our entire Wedding Ceremony outside by the Raffael’s Banquet Facility iconic Gazebo as it was less than 30 minutes long! Thankfully none of our guests were soaked from the immediate downpour in the middle of our cocktail hour reception and family/wedding party photo shoot. A few hours later it cleared up enough for us to go out again to take more photos. It’s good luck to have rain on the wedding day right?!

Maids of Honor & Best Man Speeches

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Yes that’s right we had 2 Maids of Honor and 1 Best Man. My husband can attest to how much I dislike surprises so I was anxious to hear what they prepared for the big day. Of course my freshman college roommate stepped up first and the waterworks started from her touching speech! My second maid of honor always prepared with tissues gave me one to wipe away my tears of joy and proceeded with her equally as heart touching recount of how we became best friends. They both effortlessly evoked laughter about the comical conflicting stories how how my husband and I met. My husband’s oldest childhood friend and Best Man wrapped up the speeches with a hilarious story about the “Kissing Monster” persona and reaffirmed our unwavering love over the past 5 years.

All the wedding photos were by Kristin Griffin Photography.

I love that Hanna purchased her dress online (I bought mine off the rack from a normal store) but they tasted lots of flavors to get the right cake! Her priorities are certainly in the right place! Also, they faced the fear that almost every one of my clients has; it rained on their wedding day. And they survived to tell the tale!  Follow Hanna and her reviews at Rated by Hanna, follow her Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest too.  If you would like to talk about the five things that really made your wedding special for you, please get in touch.  If you are considering a Central Park wedding visit our website, or “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and follow us on Pinterest where you will find lots of lovely photos and many more inspiring stories of real weddings.

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