How Do I Start to Plan a Central Park Wedding or any Destination Wedding?

I am a wedding planner, specialising in weddings in New York’s Central Park.

I have been doing this for five years and have planned well over two hundred weddings to date. It is my job to guide couples through the process of planning their wedding. All weddings are unique, but the decision-making process is similar for everyone.  

The following advice should be helpful to anyone who is starting to consider a destination wedding anywhere, but my experience is of Central Park, so I can’t help but mention it a few times.

I suggest a couple work through to make some decisions to help them in the early stages of planning a destination wedding.

Here are 4 questions to consider:

  1. How long do we want to be in New York City (or the wedding destination)?
  2. Who will we invite? (or will we elope, and go it alone?)
  3. When do we go?  (and what will the travel/flights cost?)
  4. Where do we stay?  (and what will that cost us?)

Before a couple can ask themselves these questions, they should have some idea about where they want to get married.  

In my experience, there are two types of destination wedding couples; one type is the couples who have come to the conclusion that they do not want the big, traditional wedding at home and they are looking for other options with an open mind, and the other is the ones who know they want to get married somewhere in particular and they have an exact vision.

If you are in the first set of people, and you just know that you want to be somewhere other than at home; either to save money, to avoid the fuss and hassle of planning a big wedding, or just to make the day as unique and special to you as a couple as you can, then the world is your oyster, although I’d suggest checking the legalities of marrying wherever you choose, because different countries have vastly different laws.

The answers to those four big questions will help a couple get to the answer to the biggest question that many couples are concerned with: what is this whole thing going to cost?

Then they will have something to compare to the options they have if they stay at home to get married.  It is possible to get married in Central Park on a fairly frugal budget, and of course it is very easy to have a big, lavish and expensive wedding; New York offers endless choices to all types of couples.

Whether a couple intends to bring guests with them on their adventure or not, I would recommend discussing plans with close family at this early stage.  If you’re inviting them, they will need to know what is going on, and if you’re not inviting them, you may have to deal with some family members’ expectations.

Once a couple has got the basic travel plans (and guest list) thought out, then I would suggest getting me or someone like me involved. I can sort out everything a couple needs to get married in Central Park, except for the marriage license, which a couple is legally required to get themselves from City Hall.

How easy is it to get married in the USA?

It is pretty simple and straightforward to get married in the USA, but many other countries have laws surrounding how long you must be in the country before you can marry, or the language the ceremony must be in, and where the ceremony can take place. So, many destination weddings tend to be the ceremony and celebration only, with the legal part having to take place at home.

This is not the case with US weddings, and that’s one of the many reasons why my clients choose Central Park – their official wedding date is their real date, so there’s no deciding when to celebrate an anniversary.

Some of the couples I work with visit New York alone, and elope for their wedding, some bring a group of nearest and dearest with them to celebrate their special day.  The weddings I have worked on have ranged in size from just two or three guests up to around fifty, but most party sizes are between six and twelve.

What about Travel Plans?

The part of the trip that I plan is the wedding ceremony in Central Park. I do not book travel arrangements, hotels or restaurants. I’m not allowed, since this falls under the categorisation of travel agency, which requires certain insurance that I do not have. Also, I don’t want to get involved with that side of the trip, everyone has vastly different budgets and needs and tastes and New York City is huge, so I think individuals should handle that themselves.

I can help a couple consider all the locations in Central Park and decide which spot suits them best for their wedding ceremony. I will apply for their event permit from the Central Park Conservancy and this will secure their date. I will work with the couple to write the ceremony wording for them and secure a suitable officiant, photographer, and anything else they may need for their wedding ceremony.

Making those Big decisions…

The process that I usually take my clients through is to start with those high-level questions, go down to the next level, and eventually deal with the smaller details as we get closer to the date.

It is easier to make decisions that way, the smaller stuff will follow logically once you have made the big decisions.  Many couples can find that making decisions for their wedding can be stressful.

It is important to keep in mind that the wedding is the start of your married life together, so:

a) there’s more stress to come, and you’ve got to get good at compromise for it to work

b) this is your one chance to have a wedding, and it should be about you two and what you want as a couple so don’t let anyone else’s expectations stop you from having the wedding day you want.