The vast majority of my clients come from out of town. And it seems to me that for many of these visiting couples, the major competitor to my offering of a wedding somewhere secluded and peaceful within the stunning 843 acres of Victorian splendour of landscaping and leafy beauty in the centre of Manhattan is… City Hall. OK, I’m biased but I do find this rather baffling. Alright, Manhattan’s City Hall is the oldest City Hall building in the US, and it’s not bad-looking. It is in the middle of downtown’s hustle and bustle and pretty close to the Brooklyn Bridge, for a great photo opportunity. But I hope to convince anyone reading this that a wedding in Central Park is the wiser choice. Did I mention how biased I am on this issue…?
A wedding at City Hall is cheap, I will grant you that. As far as I know the charge is $25. But, I’ve been to these weddings where the couple just show up and have had no input in the writing of their ceremony. The officiant can do the ceremony from memory because they have said the same thing time and time again. The couple say “I do”, exchange rings and that’s that. Ceremonies in City Hall probably take less than two minutes. I will admit that there is an appeal to the no-nonsense ceremony, and only having to say the bare minimum will attract some people. I write every ceremony with a couple. I ask questions that allow me to write something about them as a couple – their past and their future, to thank certain guests by name, and to mention those who cannot attend or those who are no longer with us. My couples can write long and personal promises that they want to make to each other, and we can incorporate specific traditions from their culture or religion. I my opinion, what a couple says to each other during the ceremony and the promises they make is what the wedding is about. Not the dress, or the flowers, or the reception, or the photos. All that stuff is the icing on the wedding cake, so to speak, but the wedding ceremony is where you make huge and important promises to your significant other. I think that is a pretty big deal, and taking a standard version might be fine for you, but a wedding in Central Park with us gives you the option to personalise things a little if you would like to.
A City Hall wedding is quite popular for eloping couples, it doesn’t really suit a larger group. They have two chapels at the Manhattan City Hall and they are not huge rooms. So, only a small party can fit in there at any time. Did I mention that Central Park is 843 acres? OK, most locations that suit weddings would fit under 25 people, but there are locations that are appropriate for 100 people.
Any couple marrying in New York will have to make a visit to City Hall anyway, because they are legally obliged to pick up their marriage license from there, together and in person. Actually, where couples need to go is the Marriage Bureau at the Office of the City Clerk, but everyone calls it City Hall. I have been there several times myself, to collect paperwork when I got married and also for my clients on a few occasions. I quite like going there. You take a ticket with a number on it and you wait to get called. So, if you get married there, you can’t make a reservation for a time slot, you just show up and wait. While you wait you can do some people-watching and see other couples who are there to get their license, or certificates or to get married. I like people-watching, it’s fun. I tend to take something to read, though, because it’s not *that* much fun, after an hour or so of waiting. I was pretty nervous when I got married, I’m not sure why, but I’m glad that I didn’t have to do all that waiting around before I got married. For weddings in Central Park, we apply for an event permit for the location, so we can make a schedule for the day. We know there won’t be any waiting around so couples can book a car to pick them up at a certain time and make reservations at a restaurant, or perhaps a time slot at the Top of the Rock or the Empire State building for some fabulous photos. Waiting times at City Hall are notoriously difficult to predict – there is no busy season or quiet season. If you like to have a plan, City Hall may not suit you.
The marriage bureau is open from 8:30am until 3:45pm. I have only ever done one wedding before 8:30am (the couple were in the St Patrick’s Day Parade later that morning and wanted to get married first), but I have done numerous weddings after 3:45pm. In truth, you just have to get in to City Hall and have taken your number to get in line by 3:45pm, the wedding can take place after that, but I’m willing to bet anything you like that a sunset wedding in Central Park is prettier than a late afternoon wedding in City Hall. The most common time for the weddings I arrange is about 1pm-3pm. So, I’d expect that this is true of City Hall, too. They are not open on weekends, so Friday is their busiest day. So, if you go in to City Hall after lunch on a Friday, expect to wait a long time for your ceremony, I’m told it’s a couple of hours’ wait then. With a wedding in Central Park, once you have your event permit application accepted, then you have your time slot. Weddings take place in Central Park 365 days of the year, and at any time of the day.
For me, the major reason to choose a wedding in Central Park over a wedding at City Hall is the beauty of the location. I loved saying my wedding vows next to a wide lake, as the sun glinted off the water, with the green trees all around us, and the skyscrapers of New York up above. I love our wedding photos, taken in this world-famous section of peaceful landscaped scenery in the middle of this incredible, hectic and fabulous island. Central Park is a piece of art. It is not natural, rural woods, but in places it feels like it is. It is easy to get lost in some parts, the tree cover is so dense. And then in other parts, the sky is wide and expansive and the tall buildings are so far away. The many beautiful stone and wrought-iron bridges and the several lovely fountains and bodies of water provide endless options for truly unique wedding photographs.
If I have convinced you that getting married in Central Park , 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 in the stunning beauty of Central Park. I rather enjoy a polite disagreement, so I’d love to hear any comments from people who chose to get married in City Hall and why they did it.