What is and isn’t Permitted at Weddings in Central Park

From the smallest birthday party or elopement, to the largest concert, special events take place every day in New York City parks.  If you want to have any activity in a city park with more than twenty people, or where you would like to reserve a specific area within a park, you need to apply for a special event permit.  When couples are planning their wedding in Central Park, they may have a vision of how they would like their wedding to look, but they’re not sure what is permitted in Central Park. 

Right at the top of the permit, it states:  “notice to all park users: smoking will not be allowed within parks and beaches.  No alcoholic beverages permitted.  No vehicles permitted in parks.  No unauthorized vendors.  No BBQ except in designated parks/areas.  No drugs and no alcohol permitted inside park area.  No amplified sound permitted.”

We do get couples asking if they can bring along some champagne and maybe some cake for a champagne toast after they get married.  Alcohol is not permitted inside the park area.  Although I have seen people discretely drinking wine in Central Park and other New York parks.  If you’re getting married in one of the less public spots then you’re unlikely to cause any issues with one glass of champagne each.

Couples also quite often ask if they can play music from their phone using small speakers.  This is not allowed either, although I have certainly seen people playing music from speakers.  It feels quite unfair to tell couples that they can’t play amplified music and then to see people just chilling in the park playing music on speakers.  My worry if a couple does use speakers is that they might be interrupted by a par official and asked to stop, which would interrupt their wedding.  We can provide and acoustic musician to play at your wedding, though.  I can provide an acoustic guitarist, singer, harpist, saxophonist, violinist, cellist, other classical musicians or bagpiper.

At the bottom of the first page of the permit, it states the following:

No vehicles

No amplified sound

No DJ

No speakers

So, with this part above and the part at the very start, that is three times they tell us no speakers or amplified sound, so I guess they really mean it! They do say on their website, if you want to have amplified sound, you’ll need a permit from the local police precinct. 

No set-up including tents/tables/chairs/canopies

Another quite frequently asked question is if we can provide chairs for all of the guests.  This is not permitted.  However, some of the popular ceremony locations in Central Park do have some seating for guests who can’t stand for too long.  Also, I have attended a wedding of a couple who lived quite close to Central Park who were able to bring along a few folding chairs for those who couldn’t stand for too long, including the bride’s grandmother and myself, because I was pregnant at the time.

Park and playground must remain open to the public

Do not block pathways or walkways

Couples also as if we can somehow rope off the area where they want to get married.  The answer I that we cannot.  As you can see from the two items above on the list, all areas must remain open to the public.  So, we can’t tell people not to walk through the area, but in practice, reasonable people wouldn’t do a thing like walk through a wedding!  If you’re getting married in a very open space such as Bow Bridge, then you should leave enough room for passers-by to get across the bridge.  This is why I don’t recommend a big group in these smaller spaces.  If you’re getting married in one of the structures, such as Wagner Cove, Cop Cot or the Ladies’ Pavilion then it’s not necessary to rope the area off.  If there are people hanging out in the area when the guests stat to arrive, it is helpful to have the permit in your hand if you need to politely ask people to move along.

No smoking on parkland

No alcohol, no inflatables, no balloons, no bouncy houses

So, that’s no smoking mentioned twice and no alcohol mentioned three times.  They say no balloons, but we have had a guest nominated to hold some balloons in the past to make it easier to spot the group in an open space, for arriving guests such as Bethesda Terrace.

No water or electrical connections

No banners or signs affixed to park property or trees, no staking into the ground

Couples sometimes ask if they can decorate the structures or affix a sign and the answer is no, we are not allowed.  The officiant can hold a sign before the ceremony begins so that arriving guests know that they’re in the right place.

No cooking/BBQ/openflames

No vendors/no selling

No raindates

As we have found with the huge amount of rescheduling we had to do due to the pandemic, they cannot reschedule a permit due to rain.  Once you purchase your event permit for a set date and time, then that’s your slot.  If you want another slot, then you have to apply for another permit.  We can apply for a permit for a two hour window.  They need at least three weeks’ notice to process a permit, so you can’t get anything under three weeks from the day you apply.

Must clean up during and after event – all event related items and trash must be removed from park

This one is why I tell couples that they can’t throw confetti.  If you throw stuff on the ground in Central Park then it will be viewed as trash.  If you drop confetti or rose petals on the floor, then it is a condition of your event permit that you pick it al up afterwards. 

Permit must be present on site

I always send the permit to the couple in advance of the wedding, and also to the officiant, just to be on the safe side that we have two copies if necessary.  We rarely get asked to see the permit, but it’s sensible to have it on site for the wedding just in case anyone does. 

If you have any further questions on what is and isn’t allowed at a wedding in Central Park, then drop me an email and I will try to help, if I don’t know the answer to your questions, I’ll point you in the direction of the Official Website of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.  If you would like me to help you with planning your own Central Park wedding, visit our website.  Keep updated with our news and see lots of beautiful photos, “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and follow us on Pinterest

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