How to Plan a Destination Wedding or Elopement in New York from England

Published by Claire Gould on

Two brides in Central Park by Florencia Saav Photography

A guest blog by Claire Ady. Images by Florencia Saav Photography

Claire specialises in planning weddings for couples who want to get married in New York’s beautiful and iconic Central Park. She is English herself, and has planned hundreds of weddings since she started the business in 2012. If you are considering getting married in New York, you may be surprised how simple and straightforward it can be.

If I were advising a British couple who had recently started to consider travelling to get married in New York then I would suggest the travel and accommodation arrangements would be the first part to think about. They should discuss the bigger questions;

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

To answer those questions, a couple will need to know a bit about New York City. They will have to think about what else they will want to do while visiting, and what else they want to do on their wedding day.

Two brides in Central Park by Florencia Saav Photography

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 for the wedding part. I can sort out everything for a couple to get married in Central Park, except for the marriage license, which a couple is legally required to get themselves from City Hall.

British couples are often surprised at how easy it is to get married in the US. They just need to take their passports and $35 to City Hall (and proof of divorce or death of previous spouse if they’ve been married before) and they can walk away with a marriage license. Then at the ceremony, the couple sign this with a New York State registered officiant and either one or two witnesses and the officiant sends it back to City Hall for you. They then register your marriage and send you a marriage certificate in the mail to your UK home address within 6-8 weeks. And that’s it!

To decide what time of year is best for you, give a little thought to one of our favourite national subjects – the weather. It is frequently the biggest worry from couples I work with, since we’re planning a wedding outdoors. We can work out a bad weather backup, and there are some lovely locations in Central Park that have a roof, but when planning a wedding outside, then the weather will always be a concern. The weather will also affect what you are going to wear on your wedding day, and you may want to think about this early on. If a bride has always dreamt of marrying in a light and airy gown then a wedding in New York in January is not for her!

I am told that in England couples are only allowed to get married in certain locations. This is not the case in the USA. So, if you want to get married in New York, you really can say “I do” wherever you like. Some couples get married in City Hall, which is kind of like a UK registry office wedding. You take a numbered ticket and wait your turn to have a quick and impersonal ceremony. I write a unique ceremony for each couple based on some questions that I ask them about themselves and their relationship.

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 in New York. The city offers endless choices for all types of people. We usually have couples hold their ceremony at a lovely spot in Central Park, although I have planned weddings in other outdoor spaces in New York. I can help a couple consider all the locations in Central Park and decide which spot suits them best for their wedding ceremony. I apply for an event permit from the Central Park Conservancy to secure their date and time slot. After the ceremony, couples usually have a short photo session taking photos in some beautiful locations in Central Park, and some go off around New York City taking photos in iconic location sin their wedding gear. Some popular spots are Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central, the Top of the Rock and often either hailing a yellow cab or taking the subway.

A wedding day is always finished off with the couple (and their guests if they have them) eating and drinking and celebrating somewhere awesome. Choosing the dinner or reception location is a big decision, because New York has so very much to offer when it comes to places to eat and to celebrate. If couples are eloping, then they can choose a restaurant that they know they personally will love, but if they have guests then they need to consider their tastes, too. There are thousands of restaurants in New York City – offering everything from romantic dinner options, exciting and new cuisines, and places with private rooms for large or small parties.

Whether you intend to bring guests or not, I would recommend discussing your plans with your families at quite an early stage. If you want to elope, then you may need to manage the feelings of loved ones who may have been expecting something more traditional. Lots of our eloping couples have a party with wider friends and family on their return home, to get the best of both worlds. If you want to invite guests away with you to New York, then you will need to be clear on what you will pay for and what you expect them to pay for. Often our couples ask the guests to pay their own expenses for the trip, but everything on the wedding day is paid for by the couple.

Lots of clients tell me how daunting it can feel to hand over a large amount of money to someone far away who they have never met. This is completely understandable, especially when planning a very special day such as a wedding day. The internet can be so useful when checking out locations that you have never been to or don’t know very well, so you can check restaurants and photo locations out online before your trip. Online reviews can be so very useful. Consider how often you personally leave a review. Most people don’t take the time to write a review of a product or service unless they feel quite strongly about it, so keep that in mind when checking reviews online. If you find a review that raises an interesting point, don’t be afraid to ask the service provider about it.

So, read up, check all the images online, or just hire me to answer all of your questions! If you would like me to help you with planning your own Central Park wedding or elopement visit our website or drop me an email at

I’m used to working with couples planning to come a long way to get married. More than half of my clients come from the UK, and many come from Ireland. When couples first contact me, it’s common for them to be quite nervous about planning a wedding from so far away. So, right at the start of our communications I always try to make them feel confident that all will be well by the time we get to the end of the planning process.

Some of the couples I work with are eloping to New York just the two of them, and some are bringing a group of friends and family with them to celebrate their special day. If couples bring a group, often it will be around 6-12 people, but I have worked with parties that have ranged in size from just two or three up to around fifty.

I love Central Park. I used to live quite close to Central Park and I ran there and walked my dog there. I got married there myself. I love New York City and how much there is to do there – it is truly a city that has something for everyone. And I love how Central Park provides such a peaceful contrast to busy Manhattan.

I do not book travel arrangements or hotels, focus on the wedding itself. Everyone has vastly different budgets and needs and tastes so I think individuals should handle that themselves.

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.


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