The thing I do for almost all of my couples when I start to plan their Central Park wedding is to apply for an event permit for them from the Central Park Conservancy. To avoid any confusion, I wanted to get the whole process and any FAQs about it written out in a blog, so that I can share it with everyone and we can all be clear on what to expect.
If you have less than twenty people at your wedding you are not required to have a permit. However, I like to apply for a permit for two major reasons. The first is because the upkeep of Central Park is funded partly by charitable donations and partly by things like event permits. They get no money from the government. I think that it is a beautiful and unique place and if you are having your wedding there then you probably think so too, and I think it is worth a small payment to them for the privilege of holding your wedding there. The second is to secure the area. If you do not get a permit for your wedding for your chosen date and time then someone else could, and you may get to your chosen location and find that another couple is having a wedding there, then you would have to wait for them to leave before having your wedding, or move to a second choice of location, which may hinder any other plans that you might have for your day, such as restaurant reservations.
The Central Park Conservancy need at least three weeks’ notice to get an event permit. I can arrange last-minute weddings with less than three weeks’ notice, but if I do this then you will not have an event permit for your wedding. If you have fewer than twenty guests then this is allowed. It does mean that you run the risk of getting to your chosen location and find another couple getting married there.
Weddings in the Conservatory Gardens carry an extra charge to everywhere else. My package prices include the permit charge for every other location but if you choose the Conservatory Gardens then I will pass that extra charge on to you. The permit fee is $400 for the Conservatory Gardens with an extra charge of $100 for photography. There are various other terms and conditions which apply to event permits for the Conservatory Gardens. For more info check the Central Park official website.
I cannot confirm if a location is available until I receive a deposit from a couple. I get lots of enquiries from couples who are just considering a wedding in Central Park. I have to pay a fee to apply for a permit, so I need to secure a deposit from a couple before I make that financial outlay myself.
If your wedding is this year then once I have your deposit then I will apply for your event permit straight away. If your wedding is next year then I cannot apply for your permit until the end of the current year. If your wedding is the year after next then I cannot apply for your permit until the end of next year. The good news is that everyone else is in the same situation. I will apply for event permits at the earliest date that I am allowed, but of course so will everyone else.
Usually the Central Park Conservancy will get back to me within a day or two if there is a clash in event scheduling. If your chosen location date and time is already reserved then I will ask you for a second choice of date, time or location. There is no extra charge for this.
If there is not a clash in event scheduling, ie if your location is available, what usually happens is that I do not hear anything from the Central Park Conservancy at all. For all the weddings that I have planned, if there is a clash, they get back to me within a day or two, if there is not, I do not hear anything until they send the permit out, which could be a matter of weeks or months. In the past I have tried to chase them up on this and they just say that it is under review. So, unfortunately, we just have to assume that everything is fine with the permit if I do not hear from the Conservancy within a few days. I appreciate that this is annoying for couples who want certainty about their special day, but in practice historically this has always been true. If I do not hear from the Central Park Conservancy within a few working days, and therefore if the couple do not hear from me asking for a second choice of location, then we should all assume that the permit will be approved.
I will pass on a copy of your permit in time for your wedding day so that you can show it to people if you need to. If you have a permit for a location it is still a public right of way. There should be no other events going on in that location for the period which your permit is for. You may politely ask people to move along from structures where you intend to hold your ceremony. There are some places that are busier than others. For example, we can hold weddings on Bow Bridge or Bethesda Terrace, but we cannot close it off for this purpose, people will still walk past you. I do find that with a big enough group, the guests can stand around the couple and the officiant and that will give some privacy. Expect some New Yorkers or tourists to stop and watch a wedding. Couples rarely notice them. They may well congratulate you as you walk through Central Park but they will not interrupt a wedding.
There are several conditions of your permit. They include:
No smoking of alcoholic beverages permitted.
No amplified sound permitted (I can provide an acoustic musician, please ask for more info)
Pathways should not be blocked
No tents, chairs or canopies (but some location do have benches, please ask for more info)
No flowers, balloons, banners or signs to be affixed to Park property or trees