The Central Park Wedding Guide
As an elopement photographer, most of my clients are coming from out of town. Many couples are very interested in weddings in Central Park, it’s one of the most popular spots for wedding photography in the city. You can’t stroll through the park on a weekend without seeing at least one wedding party. And no wonder, having traveled the world over I have to say, Central Park is hands down the best big city park I’ve been to. As an Upper East Side resident, I’m in the park nearly every day whether for shooting or recreation and I can say with confidence I’m an expert on weddings in Central Park.
If it’s a hidden cove, the best views, or a quiet path to stroll you’re after, I’m happy to share all my Central Park secrets. So without further ado here is my official Central Park Wedding Guide!
What are the best places for a wedding ceremony in Central Park?
It really depends on what your needs are for your wedding or elopement. Privacy? Views? Places for elderly guests to sit? I’ve compiled a complete list in my Favorite Places for Central Park Weddings post, but here is a brief overview of some of the more popular spots based on what you might be looking for:
The best places in Central Park for privacy at your wedding ceremony:
•Wagner Cove: I’m so pleased this space has re-opened as of February 2016. If you’re looking for privacy for your Central Park Elopement, this is about as close as you’re going to get in a public park. Wagner Cove is a tiny pavilion hidden down a little staircase just by the Cherry Hill Fountain. It’s right on a cove of the lake and is very secluded. People can see from across the cove, but you won’t be in amongst a crowd so it has a much more private feeling. It should be noted that it is very small and this space is rather compact so it’s not appropriate for elopement with more then a guest or two.
•Dene Shelter: This is my other favorite spot in the park. It’s on the East Side and is usually fairly quiet. It’s a small shelter, but slightly bigger then Wagner, and has benches around the edges so if you have guests that need to be seated, the could do so. I’d say more then 5-7 guests would be crowded.
•The Ramble: There are a few spots in the Ramble that are quite secluded. While you will have the possibility of people strolling by, this area of the park is usually very quiet, especially for weekday elopements. There are also many areas that have beautiful views.
The best places in Central Park with a view:
•If it’s a skyline view you’re looking for, Cat Rock is my recommendation. This spot can get crowded, especially around sunset and in the evenings in summertime, but it’s perfect for early mornings especially during the week. It’s located right above Wollman Rink just south of the Mall.
•Turtle Pond/Belvedere Castle: If you’d like a view of Belvedere Castle, you can get married on the pond with the castle in the background. If you’d like the east side skyline behind you, you can get married on the castle terrace. (Take note: the Castle is often quite busy, so best to chose an early morning times for a ceremony here)
•The Lake/Ramble: There are lots of gorgeous views all around the Lake and at various outcroppings in the paths of the Ramble. Behind the Ladies Pavilion at Hearnshead is actually a great spot if you’re willing to hop over a rock or two.
•Gapstow Bridge: Either in front of or behind the bridge offers some lovely views of the Central Park South skyline.
Places in Central Park for a wedding ceremony with a seat:
If you’re looking to find a spot that older guests can take a seat, my recommendations are:
•Cop Cot: This is one of the largest shelters in the park and has plenty of seating on the benches.
•Dene Shelter: Benches surround the inside, so you’ve got a decent amount of seating space.
•Shakespeare Garden: If you get married in the front of the garden, there are two benches, one on either side, perfect to seat a grandparent or two.
How many guests are allowed for a wedding in Central Park?
You do not need a permit if you have under 20 guests. More then that requires a permit from the parks department. Most spaces couples tend to use for weddings in Central Park are quite small, so keep that in mind and chairs are generally not allowed for weddings in the park. Most of the weddings I photograph in Central Park tend to have 5 or fewer guests.
What about permits?
The park is a public space and you may get married without a permit anywhere you like (except Conservatory Garden) if you’re having fewer then 20 guests, with no chairs or amplified music. However, if you would like to formally reserve one of the pavilions or have chairs or more guests a permit is required. You can apply for those online here: Central Park Wedding Permit.
A City Parks wedding permit is $25. While not required, if you are getting married at one of the more popular spots like the Ladies Pavilion or Cop Cot it can be a good idea to have the space reserved for you, especially if you’re getting married in busy season.
A special permit is required for weddings and photography in the Conservatory Garden. You can apply for that online here: Conservatory Garden Wedding Permit.
How Do I Get To Central Park?
Central Park is very easy to get to. However, it’s HUGE, so knowing where in the park you’re headed is key. A guide to common wedding ceremony destinations for subway and/or what to tell your taxi driver is below.
Cop Cot: This larger pavilion is in the southern area of the park up on a small hill just past the entrance on Central Park South.
Subway: The closest subway stop is either the 57th Street F or 5th Ave/59th Street NQR.
Taxi: Tell them to bring you to 59th Street and 6th Ave. You’ll be dropped off right at the entrance to thepark. You can walk right up the smaller path to your left and the pavilion will be right in front of you.
Ladies Pavilion: This pavilion is right on the lake but you have to walk through a bit of a hidden path through the greenery to get here. There is a sign directing you to the Ladies Pavilion on the main walkway. From Central Park West, the closest entrance is at West 77th Street.
Subway: You can enter and walk north from the 72nd Street B/C Stop or walk a few blocks south from the 81st Street B/C Station.
Taxi: Tell the driver to bring you to 77th and Central Park West. You’ll see the entrance to the park there.Follow the road down into the park and the entrance to the Ladies Pavilion should be just in front of you.
Dene Shelter: A pavilion on the east side of the park. The closest entrance is at off of 5th Avenue right at 69th Street. You’ll enter there and then follow the paths to your left. Dene Shelter is down a gravel path on a hilltop.
Subway: This spot is a bit of a walk from the nearest subway stop off the 6 Train at 68th Street.
Taxi: Have the cab drop you at 69th Street and 5th Avenue. You can walk into the park from there.
Wagner Cove: Wagner Cove is closest to the 72nd Street entrance to Central Park on the West Side.
Subway: 72nd Street on the B/C Train.
Taxi: Have the cab drop you at 72nd Street and Central Park West. Walk down into the park and follow the walking path across the main park drive. You’ll walk see Wagner Cove from the path on your left. Follow the path up the hill to your left, the entrance to the Cove will be at the top of the hill just across from Cherry Hill Fountain.
How Far is Central Park from City Hall?
Lots of clients wish to take photos in the park after getting married at City Hall. Travel time depends on if you’re taking the train or a taxi, however, I would usually recommend allotting at least 30 minutes, potentially more if during rush hour.
Are music and decorations allowed at Central Park Weddings?
Amplified music is not allowed unless you have special permission. Acoustic music is permitted.
According to Central Park official rules, decorations are not allowed nor is the throwing of rice/confetti/flowers, etc. (I’ve had it happen before and no one said anything, but this is the official policy of the park.) You can have a chair or two if you have guests who can not stand for long periods of time. If you require more chairs then that, you will need to apply for a permit
What if it rains?
This is where it gets tricky and is up to you. Unless it’s a torrential downpour, I can work in the rain, however I know some people aren’t up for getting wet in a wedding dress. Whether you want to get married in the rain is entirely up to you. I’m happy to offer back-up ideas and can switch locations pretty last minute.
Spots that are covered in Central Park (though you have to walk outside to get to them…) include Ladies Pavilion and the Bethesda Terrace. There are also several gazebos around the Lake that are covered as well. Check out my What to Do if it Rains on Your Wedding post for more ideas.
Do you know someone who can marry us for our wedding in Central Park?
Of course! I regularly work with excellent officiants with reasonable rates. Once you book I send over a welcome packet with all my trusted vendor names/contacts.
What are your thoughts on Carriage Horses or Pedicabs?
The carriage horses are a very contentious issue in NYC. As a heads up, I personally do not photograph couples in the carriages as I feel the conditions of Manhattan streets aren’t appropriate for the horses. If you’d like to take a pedicab, we can certainly do that. There are lots of drivers right around the Boathouse and at the entrance to the park around Columbus Circle.
Have more questions? I’m always happy to help!
Check out my blog for more Central Park Elopements.
Send me an email via my contact page and I’ll respond as soon as possible!