Read on for everything you need to know to plan your Central Park elopement!
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Book photos, flowers, etc.
Get your marriage license
Pick your date and park location
Find or book your officiant
You'll find more info below on what Central Park is like in every season; I've shot elopements during them all and they're all unique and beautiful! Weekday mornings are going to be your best bet to avoid crowds no matter what time of year; let me know if you have a specific date or season in mind, and if you're drawn to a particular part of the park so I can recommend a ceremony spot and help set an itinerary for our time together.
Marriage license appointments can be booked for 3 weeks ahead of time. In-person appointments for licenses are released every Monday morning at 9am EST; virtual marriage license appointments are released each Thursday morning at 9am EST. You can get your license as early as 60 days before your ceremony date; you have to have it at least 24 hours before.
You'll need an officiant to get (legally) married in Central Park, but there are lots of NYC-based professional officiants who specialize in Central Park elopements and make the whole process easy (especially if you're coming from out of town): Honeybreak Officiants, Yekaterina Tsvetkova (@newyorkcity.officiant) and Rev Annie are all wonderful and I work with them often. You can also get married by a friend or family member; if you're going to go that route, make sure they're ordained in NYC, not just New York State!
I'm sure it goes without saying that I would love to take your Central Park elopement photos. I also have lots of recommendations for fantastic floral designers, makeup artists, hair stylist, and more who work magic on elopements. Feel free to reach out to me at any point in your planning process and I'm happy to help!
PICK YOUR SEASON
Central Park in the winter is full of dramatic grays and browns, and your outfits and flowers will really pop! Since it's chillier out the park will be less crowded than in other seasons, and the winter light is beautiful at any time of day. Wear a photo-ready coat and I'll bring the umbrellas if it snows!
The park usually starts filling in the second half of April; cherry blossoms are only the tip of the iceberg with beautiful flowers popping up all over Central Park in April and May. While it's impossible to guarantee what will be in bloom exactly when, I'll do my best to guide you to the prettiest weeks of the spring!
Green, green, green! Central Park in the summer is all lush greens. It gets HOT here in the summer, not to mention humid, so if you're planning a Central Park elopement I *will* try to convince you to do it first thing in the morning, before summer crowds descend and the temperature rises.
There's nothing like fall in Central Park! It's just as romantic as you've heard. Temperatures start dropping in October, and it feels like the whole city lets out a sigh of relief after a hot summer, but keep in mind that the leaves don't usually start changing until closer to November. If you don't mind a little bit of a chill, an early morning November elopement in Central Park is second to none.
PICK YOUR CEREMONY SPOT
Every part of Central Park is beautiful (okay, except for the bathrooms, but they're...fine?) and some of my favorite elopements were spent wandering the park until we found what seemed like a random spot with great light. However, there are several well-known and photogenic locations within the park to consider.
A few popular options in the 70s and 80s:
The Conservatory Garden is located in the northeast part of the park (around 105th St & 5th Ave) and has a secret garden feel, as it's gated off and does close overnight. As of early 2023 part of it is closed off for construction, and permits are required for elopement photos, not just ceremonies, so reach out if you're considering it and I'll let you know how things are looking!
Upper Central Park (The Pool, Harlem Meer, North Woods, etc) is much less touristy than the areas closer to midtown and has some hidden gems.
Why should we elope in Central Park?
It's beautiful any time of the year, it's iconically New York, and it's full of people who will cheer you on and shower you with congratulations!
You only need a permit for weddings/events of 20 people or more (in which case it costs $25 and can take up to 30 days to process, so plan accordingly). It can be useful to apply for a permit if you want to have your ceremony in a popular spot (like Wagner Cove or Ladies Pavilion); having a permit means you'll have the right to be in that area at a specific time, and most other people will be respectful and leave. If you want to get married OR take photos in the Conservatory Garden a permit is required and it's more expensive than elsewhere in the park ($500 for ceremony + photos, $100 for photos only). Here's the general Central Park permit application (and here's the Conservatory Garden permit application).
Do we need a permit?
Your officiant will be able to guide you through what's needed for paperwork (generally plan to bring your IDs, your marriage license in a sturdy folder and a couple of pens). I'll have my ID and a pen to sign as your witness if you don't have any other guests! Besides that, try to travel as light as possible and condense everything you're bringing to a single tote bag, if you can, so I can handle/hold it in between photo spots.
What should we bring with us?
I get this question a lot from couples eloping in NYC, and it's obviously a really personal choice, but I do have a few more general tips. Don't be afraid of wearing something colorful or unconventional! Try to avoid a long dress with a train that will drag behind you; as beautiful as the city is, the ground is DIRTY everywhere and you probably don't want to be thinking about holding up your dress or keeping it clean while we're moving around. Also, if it's going to be cold out, think about wearing a coat you don't mind photographed. We can take coats off for a few photos but I like to shoot elopement days as they happen; if it was cold and wet out, let's lean into the romance of NYC on a rainy day. And wear shoes you can walk in; changing into sneakers in between shots really slows down the flow of the day!
What should we wear?
What time should we elope?
Early morning is always best! The park fills up later in the day no matter what the season, so if you're willing to meet up early and have your ceremony at 8 or 9am we'll have beautiful light AND the fewest number of people in the backgrounds of our shots.
Where else can we take photos?
Just about anywhere in the city, depending on the amount of time we have together. In 2 hours we can cover a lot of Central Park; if we have 3 hours or more we can add in more of your favorite NYC spots. A few ideas: my favorite empty subway car trick; DUMBO; champagne and cake in a hotel; The Met; side streets and brownstones on the Upper West Side, and lots more... We can figure that part out together!
What if it rains or snows?
I'll bring a couple of clear umbrellas, and hand warmers if needed, and we'll lean into the weather! If there's a downpour or blizzard in the forecast and rescheduling is an option, we'll discuss ahead of time, but if there's just a little rain or snow we'll find a few covered spots for photos and brave the weather (either with or without umbrellas) otherwise!
Who brings the confetti?
"As soon as we found Sylvie on instagram we were blown away by her work and knew that she had to be our elopement photographer! On the day, she made us feel relaxed and comfortable and used her expert knowledge of the City to plan our route and captured some amazing shots around Central Park and the Upper West Side. She really captured our personalities and the fun that we had on the day."
Linsay & Marc