wedding in central park
November 19, 2012 9:35 AM   Subscribe

help me help my friend plan a simple wedding in central park with a reception in a nearby restaurant

My best friend is getting married, and I'm her maid of honor! Yay! I want to help her plan but I'm usually living far away. She's feeling really overwhelmed about this, please help us plan it. She's also on askme, so don't be surprised if she chimes in.

She's envisioning something simple in central park with a reception afterwards in a local restaurant. Think thirty people. So please send us your:

1) understanding of how a wedding in central park works
2) ideas for reasonably-priced very tasty restaurants in the area for the reception
3) any other ideas that you have to pull off a simple, budget-friendly, amazing celebration to remember for a lifetime, but not get overwhelmed about planning

Thank you!
posted by saraindc to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I did this! I started by filling out an application at the Conservatory Garden. Since my guest list was so small (similar to your friend's), the ladies there suggested I do it somewhere else in the park because then the fee is only $25. They recommend the Ladies Pavilion near Hernshead which is near 77th Street on the west side (this is where I ended up getting married). It's a beautiful little iron gazebo on the lake. The path leading up to it makes a sort of aisle.

I got married in June and the flowers and greenery and everything was just beautiful. No need for additional decoration.

I'm sure she has seen this:

Feel free to ask more specific questions or to memail me.
posted by valeries at 9:50 AM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, and the meal we had afterwards was at Gramercy Tavern. We just all hopped in cabs after taking some photographs in the park and in the Museum of Natural History.
posted by valeries at 9:51 AM on November 19, 2012

1. you can hold any kind of party in the park you want- but if there are certain restrictions (like when you have to have a permit, what stuff you can bring, what you can't) so check out the park service website.
2. That park is huge. Basically all the restaraunts are near by. Like all of them. You're probably going to want to choose a place closer to the actual location of the wedding in the park- so us saying "oh this place on 95th and lex" would be unhelpful if the ceromony is by columbus circle.
3. for the fun of it.
posted by Blisterlips at 9:53 AM on November 19, 2012

I don't know NY but I always recommend for inspiration and a healthy dose of sanity in wedding planning. Lots of budget friendly and DIY inspiration but no pressure that you have to have perfect paper pom poms or whatever. Best of luck and best wishes to your friend :)
posted by hungrybruno at 10:14 AM on November 19, 2012

We briefly considered getting married in Central Park a few years ago.

Make sure you have a rain plan or are able to bring umbrellas for your guests. Even if it's not raining, the ground may be wet from rain the previous night.

The rules also specify no amplified sound, no tables, and no chairs. Other things to consider: Are there elderly guests who will be attending that absolutely require a chair? How long a walk is it to the site within the park?

Strangers passing by may also stop to watch, and you won't have any control, really, over your surroundings. I've seen someone's wedding in Washington Square Park happen next to a very loud acrobatic dance troupe. I attended a friend's wedding in Madison Square Park where there was jackhammering going on. Hopefully, Central Park will offer more privacy.

This Cheat Sheet for Small Events/Weddings in Central Park should help (PDF).

1. you can hold any kind of party in the park you want- but if there are certain restrictions (like when you have to have a permit, what stuff you can bring, what you can't) so check out the park service website.

Well, not exactly. No alcohol in public parks. :)

That park is huge.

Exactly. Central Park is 843 acres -- from 5th Avenue to 8th Avenue, from 59th Street to 110th street. Upper West Side will probably be cheaper than Upper East Side, and further uptown might help as well.

But any large group in Manhattan starts to get very, very expensive -- private room fee, food/beverage minimums, automatic gratuity of 20%, plus the cost of alcohol.

Lunch will be cheaper than dinner, usually. If you are willing to go "out of the box" for the reception, especially to Chinatown (like a Chinese wedding banquet), that will help keep costs down. Non-Western cuisines may also be better for those on a budget. It's hard to make specific recommendations without knowing a bit more about your actual budget. $50 per person? $75pp?

I would also flip through this New York Magazine wedding venue guide and do a search for what they have marked as a "good value" for restaurants.
posted by kathryn at 10:31 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

We did this!

The permit was $25 and available online. If you / she already know where exactly you want it to take place, specify it -- we wanted the Wisteria Arbor but were afraid to be too specific, and asked for around west 72nd street. Whoever issued the permit had to guess what we wanted and we received a permit for Bethesda Fountain - there was no issue with our going ahead and using the site we chose, but it did cause us a bit more worry than I liked that we had a permit for a place we weren't.

You also may want to have some folding chairs, and people to bring them - a surprising number of people want to sit for a wedding and the park doesn't provide them.

I also highly recommend finding a rain space - even if it's just asking the restaurant for a longer hold time (if they're big enough). We felt like paying the deposit on the space was our rain insurance that it would be sunny - and it worked.

We did ours on a Sunday morning, which made it a bit easier for us to book a reception at a place that wasn't normally open for brunch - they didn't have to close or lose any business, just agree to open earlier.

Seconding that you will have gawkers and many photos taken by strangers. We also had two guests we asked to be unofficial bouncers on either side, to warn off joggers from running through the middle of our ceremony - this turned out to be a necessary precaution for us.
posted by Mchelly at 12:14 PM on November 19, 2012

Just saw Kathryn's post -- not sure if they didn't allow chairs then or if the rules have since changed, but if you're only bringing a few I don't think people will care. There were police officers out and around, and none of them said anything other than congratulations (they didn't even ask to see our permit).
posted by Mchelly at 12:17 PM on November 19, 2012

Yes, we had men in Speedos preening behind us in a number of photos - they were intentionally showing off. We thought it was funny (and they settled down before too long). You have to be pretty laidback to have your wedding in the park among the public - lots of things won't go according to plan. If you can look at it as a bonus, you'll be fine.

That said, the Ladies Pavilion is more private / hidden than someplace like the Bethesda Fountain. You can find hidden areas that won't be swarming with tourists.

We bought huge black umbrellas as our rain backup, but luckily didn't need to use them.
posted by valeries at 1:17 PM on November 19, 2012

We also did a champagne toast, but technically it's against the rules, and honestly, it was more trouble than it was worth.
posted by valeries at 1:18 PM on November 19, 2012

lots of great input so far! Thank you so much- you have no idea what a relief this is.

specific recs for restaurants would also be appreciated. I know that there are a ton of options but that's just why it's so overwhelming to choose. To narrow things down, I'd say "standard" type food options, like the sort of thing where there's a meat, starch, and a vegetable, no ethnic food. It'd be great to see suggestions where you guess it'll be less than $50 per head.
posted by saraindc at 1:23 PM on November 19, 2012

There are tons of options but most ofthem will be out of your price range.

A budget of under $50pp for standard "American" meat/starch/vegetables for a sit-down dinner is going to be very, very, very tough in Manhattan. I assume this is before any alcohol, tax, or tip?

The Brindle Room is in the NY Mag guide I linked to above, and they can do dinner for $50pp, but I'm guessing it's also before any alcohol, tax, or tip.

Are you willing to go with a less traditional restaurant? Maybe something more casual, like Otto (pizza) or Hill Country (BBQ)?

How about a buffet, instead of a sit-down dinner? Trattoria Trecolori in the Theatre District does a buffet for $35pp with a two hour open bar for $30pp more. Note: this is before 8.875% sales tax and 20% gratuity. So you will end up paying closer to $83pp in the end.

Honestly, many people who are on a budget end up doing their reception in Brooklyn or Queens.
posted by kathryn at 7:19 PM on November 19, 2012

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