I started this wedding planning business after I planned my own wedding in Central Park in just a few weeks, back in 2011. My husband and I are both British, but he had a work visa and for me to stay in the US with him we needed to be married. We didn’t spend a huge amount on the wedding, and it struck me that other British people might want to get married in this incredible place without breaking the bank so I started Wed in Central Park around six months after we got married.
My general philosophy in life is not to spend money on stuff you don’t need, and I apply that to this business. I offer a range of packages that clients can adapt to suit them, so that they don’t need to be paying for anything that they feel isn’t necessary for their wedding. I don’t cut corners, but I am efficient, and protective of my time, and we deliver high quality weddings for a reasonable price in such an expensive city.
The people I work with are reliable, enthusiastic and talented, but they keep their prices as low as they can. New York boasts a vast choice of incredible photographers, for example, and you can spend thousands on your wedding photos. We don’t charge thousands for photography, but I think that the photographers who I work with are pretty amazing. If couples do want to spend thousands on a photographer, then I think they should go ahead, and have me sort the rest out for them. I firmly believe that a couple should have their wedding exactly how they want it, and it’s my job to guide, advise and then make it all happen.
Though we can help to keep the costs of the ceremony down, if you are visiting New York from far away to get married, there are some unavoidable costs, but I do have some ideas on how to keep them as low as possible.
Many of my clients are from the UK, Ireland or Australia, and flights between those countries and New York are pretty steady in price all year round. January is often busy wedding planning season for me, and when I take most bookings. Also, it is when many airlines have their sales. So, bag a bargain if you can. Check when your country and the US has school vacation, or a holiday weekend and try to avoid travelling at these times if you are able to. There isn’t really a cheaper season to visit New York, although in general the further ahead you book, the better the prices will be.
Many couples come over to New York to get married and then go on to another part of the US for their honeymoon. I’m going to count this as a cost-saving method because if you were planning on a honeymoon in Mexico or Hawaii or Vegas, then New York is part of the way there.
This can be the biggest part of the expenditure for a destination wedding, particularly in an expensive city like New York. So many of my clients stay in hotels near Times Square, and spend hundreds on the place where they sleep. The hotels there are expensive and there are a lot of restaurants in the area that are poorly quality tourist-trap chains.
Wherever you are in New York, you are probably not far from a Subway. Think about the things you want to do and the places you want to see and check if you can stay further out and spend 30 mins travelling to save quite a lot of money.
If a couple asks me for a recommendation on where to stay I always suggest the Upper West Side. It is in between the Hudson River and Central Park, it is a beautiful area, has a vast choice of restaurants and bars, and great transport links. The Upper East Side has fewer hotels, but has great bars and restaurants, too. You could walk to your wedding from a hotel there, and choose a restaurant in this area to celebrate after your wedding, and save on transport costs. Outside of Manhattan will be cheaper still, but then the couple should consider how much travelling they want to do while they are in New York and on their wedding day.
Ask yourself how important a hotel is to you, and what you are really paying for when you stay in one. If you don’t mind making your own bed, picking up your own towels, and making your own breakfast, or walking downstairs and maybe down the street to get it then my key tip to save money on a trip to New York, though is to use Airbnb. The great thing about using Airbnb in New York is that the city is so very built up that people live right next to where many of the hotels are, so wherever you stay, there will be cool things and restaurants and Subway stops nearby. Most apartments you can rent will have a small kitchen, so if you are really looking to save money, you can prepare some meals yourself.
The Wedding Ceremony
I work with high quality officiants, photographers, videographers, hair and makeup artists, florists and musicians. Of course I make a living from doing this, so if you are prepared to do your own searching online then it is completely possible to find some fabulous people to be involved in your wedding all by yourself, just make sure that you check reviews. It is worth noting that myself, and I expect others like me, will have preferable rates with many vendors, since we pass so much business their way, so it might be difficult to beat my prices.
Some couples want to save money by not hiring a photographer, but I think they are missing out on an opportunity to get photos as a lasting memory of a very important day in your life. Some couples ask a guest to take the photos, which can work out great and save money if you have someone talented in your wedding party, but can also be disappointing if you don’t.
The other cost of getting married is the marriage license, which must be obtained by the couple, together, in person, from City Hall. The fee is $35, for more information on how to do this I have written a blog post.
The Central Park Conservancy do not allow amplified music at events in Central Park, so it is not possible to keep cost down by getting out your phone and speakers! If you would like music at your Central Park wedding, then it will have to be a live acoustic musician. We can arrange for a professional musician to attend your wedding ceremony. Anyone visiting Central Park will notice musicians playing music either on the benches, on the pathways, or under Bethesda Terrace hoping for donations from the public. On more than one occasion we have asked one of these musicians to come along to a wedding and to play for them for a small fee. They seem more than happy to do so.
Some couples want a lasting record of the wedding ceremony, and a video is great to show friends and family who have not been able to attend the wedding. We can arrange for a professional videographer to be at your wedding, and we can live stream the ceremony to the folks back home, if you wish. You can produce a basic video of your ceremony yourself by bringing apparatus that allows you to attach your phone or camera to something nearby and record the whole thing that way. It won’t be up to professional standards but it will be free! Of course, if you have guests, cameraperson is a role you could bestow on a responsible friend or family member.
I can arrange to have a beautiful bridal bouquet delivered to your hotel room, but of course there is a fee for this. There are florists all over New York, so if you don’t have a particular bouquet in mind, then you could pop in to one on your arrival in New York and order a bouquet, then nominate a guest or the groom to collect them on the day of the wedding. Another way to keep costs down that does take more effort, but also allows you to put more a personal stamp on your wedding, is to go to the New York flower market on East 28th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.
If a couple is eloping them this part is fairly easy to keep to a budget. There is truly something for everyone in New York, so an eloping couple can enjoy some fabulous budget eateries throughout their whole trip to New York, saving something special for their wedding day itself. And there are plenty of places to choose from that don’t charge the earth.
If a couple is having a destination wedding with friends and family then this could be the part of the wedding that costs the most for the couple. If your guests are paying for their own travel and accommodation, I find it common for the couple to pay for the food. Consider this when making your guest list. If you have a smaller group, then it would be acceptable to book just a table in a restaurant and pay for everyone’s meal. If it is a bigger group then you may need to book a private room. The cost of this varies greatly over New York, and again, location plays a big part in price. Expect to take some time shopping around to find the restaurant that fits your taste and budget and has a room the right size for you.
I have helped to plan weddings for a vast range of budgets, and I love to be involved in all sorts of weddings. But I am more than happy to help a couple to find ways to keep costs down if that is what they want. Email me, or check out the Wed in Central Park website if you a considering planning a budget wedding in New York, I’d love to help!