One quite important part of a wedding ceremony is the way it begins. The arrival of the people who are getting married is always exciting. Traditionally, the arrival of the bride has been a very big deal. Everyone else is ready and waiting and she appears to a big gasp from all in attendance. In recent times, I’ve seen grooms make a grand entrance too, or couples arrive together, and that might be same-sex couples or heterosexual couples. This blog post is not intended to advise on *who* should be making the grand entrance. Instead it is to discuss the various popular wedding ceremony locations in Central Park and the opportunities they give for couples or individuals to make their entrance.
There are two areas that suit a small wedding party in the Shakespeare Garden. One is a wooden platform with steps leading up to it towards the bottom of the garden. The other is a large stone bench in the shade, with an area to the side of it that suits a wedding ceremony. The bench is at the top, so you could make your entrance from the direction of Belvedere Castle, but to do that you would have to enter the park from the East side and then walk quite a long way.
The most logical entrance to take to get to the Shakespeare Garden is the footpath that entrance the park at Central Park West ad 79th Street. That way, you enter the Shakespeare Garden at the bottom of the garden and walk up to either location. If you walk in to where the wooden platform is then you can walk up the steps to the officiant and/or your partner who would be waiting there for you. If you walk up to the stone bench, or Whispering Bench as it is known, then you do have a short uphill walk through the garden. If you do that, then you will want to pause to catch your breath before your arrival!
Belvedere Castle Terrace
This is the highest point in Central Park. Belvedere Castle Terrace is reached by stone steps. The best route to get to the castle is through the Shakespeare Garden, so it’s an uphill walk and then some steps after that. So, a bride or couple can easily stay out of sight of their guests while a photographer can check that everyone is ready before they make their entrance.
The Ladies’ Pavilion is a structure set in a clearing beside the Lake. There is a pathway that leads down to the clearing. This is a nice location for the arrival of a bride or couple because the pathway takes a gentle curve down to the location through the trees. The closest entrance to the park is at Central Park West and 77th Street.
We usually have the guests wait in the area around the Pavilion, with the officiant inside the structure and the photographer meet the bride and her party at the entrance to the park and then walk in with them. The photographer can then leave the bride out of sight at the far end of the pathway and walk down ahead of her to check everyone is read for her arrival, and give the signal to the musician to play the processional if they have one.
The only way to reach Wagner Cove is to walk down some stone steps. There is another route that takes a footpath alongside the Lake, but that way is not a practical way to arrive at a wedding. The wooden structure at Wagner Cove is right on the water.
The best way to get to Wagner Cove is to enter the park at Central Park West and 72nd Street and walk up to Cherry Hill. The steps lead down to Wagner Cove from the pathway at Cherry Hill. Those steps provide a striking entrance for anyone arriving at Wagner Cove for their wedding. They don’t go straight down, rather taking turns among the foliage. The drawback of course is that they would be an issue for anyone with restricted mobility.
This is a good spot for a larger group, gathered underneath the trees, overlooking the Lake and Bow Bridge. To make an entrance here, you would walk into the park from Central Park West and 72nd Street, past Cherry Hill Fountain and then downhill into the grassed area of Cherry Hill. It’s a short and pleasant walk, but the view of Bow Bridge will be behind anyone watching you arrive this way.
Another option is to enter that same way, walk around the hill, past Bethesda Terrace and then along the pathway that passes Bow Bridge. It’s a longer walk, but it means you enter the group by walking uphill to the grassed area, and this is how you’d have Bow Bridge behind you as you make your entrance – making for a much more striking photo.
There is more space at the North end of the park, and that is why the bigger weddings tend to be held in the Conservatory Gardens. The permit fee to get married here is $500, which is considerably higher then the $25 permit fee everywhere else in Central Park. The Conservatory Gardens are divided in to three areas, each with its own distinct style; Italian, French and English. Permits are issued for one of these three areas. The main entrance to the Conservatory Gardens is through the stunning Vanderbuilt Gate on 5th Avenue between 104th and 105th Streets. Posing beside the gate makes for a striking photograph, but if your guests are waiting for you in any of the gardens, they are unlikely to see you arrive by the gate.
If guests gather either in the North Garden or South Garden, they are likely to be surrounding a fountain, and they will see a bride or couple approach just as they walk into the garden, it’s lovely but not very dramatic. If the guests gather underneath the Wisteria Pergola they won’t see anyone approaching until they reach the top of the steps, so it’s a shorter walk for an arrival in that location.
There is just no sneaking up on Bow Bridge! The benefit of holding a small ceremony on Bow Bridge is to enjoy the view. It looks out over Cherry Hill and the Lake, so anyone can be clearly seen as they approach it. A ceremony on Bow Bridge will not be private, there will be people passing by. That’s the price you pay for that beautiful view!
This is probably the wedding ceremony location that needs the shortest walk to get to from the street, but it is an uphill walk. A couple and their guests can be dropped at the curb at Central Park South and 6th Avenue and be seen from the entrance way to Cop Cot. It is for this reason that if you want your partner to have that dramatic “first look” as you walk through the entrance way to the structure, then they need to be standing well inside with the officiant as you arrive.
The photos we have of brides walking up the hill to Cop Cot with their fathers and/or bridesmaids are quite striking, because they have that iconic backdrop of the trees of Central Park, with the buildings of Central Park South right behind them. The doorway to Cop Cot is prettily framed with wisteria foliage in the summer, so provides a lovely framing for anyone arriving at the structure.
This bridge is quite a way into the middle of the South-East area of Central Park. Some couples want to get married in the bridge itself, and some choose the area of grass next to the Pond, with Gapstow Bridge in the background. The bridge is surrounding by winding pathways and is within quite an undulating area, so it’s easy enough to stay out of sight until you’re almost right there. That approach makes for a nice entrance to a ceremony in this area. The backdrop around Gapstow Bridge is that iconic view of trees with the tall buildings behind, so photos of your entrance are likely to be beautiful.
If your guests are waiting for you beside Bethesda Fountain then you have the opportunity to make an incredible entrance down those beautiful stone steps of Bethesda Terrace. The Fountain, topped with the famous Angel of the Waters statue, is an iconic part of Central Park.
Photos here will be striking, but this is probably the busiest part of Central Park, so there will be members of the public in your photos – that’s unavoidable. Someone can easily stay out of sight of a group by the Fountain if they wait on the Terrace Drive before walking down the beautiful stone steps to their guests.
Underneath Bethesda Terrace
If you are worried about rain on your wedding day, then this is the location for you. It is also strikingly beautiful underneath Bethesda Terrace, with the sandstone walls, Minton tile ceiling, and the view out to Bethesda Fountain through the arches.
When guests gather underneath the Terrace, they won’t see you approach down the beautiful stone steps of Bethesda Terrace, but if you don’t want to be watched as you walk down roughly forty steps then this might be a blessing! Those arches provide a stunning frame as you walk into the ceremony.
If you would like me to help you with planning your own Central Park wedding or elopement, visit our website. If you have any questions about making an entrance to your wedding in Central Park after reading this blog post the drop me an email. Keep updated with our news and see lots of beautiful photos, “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and follow us on Pinterest.