Once Upon a Time in New York City

Since bringing you the interview with Carly from Epic Elopement many of you have contacted me asking for more posts on eloping and advice on planning a destination wedding.

Some of the hardest parts of trying to plan a wedding outside of the country you live in is figuring out what everything will cost and trying to find reliable suppliers. In this post Claire from Wed in Central Park, provides a basic breakdown of the costs involved in a British couple getting married in Central Park on a budget…

Wed in Central Park Header

I have been planning weddings for couples who want to get married in New York’s Central Park for almost five years.  One of my primary goals since founding this business is to offer a great service with talented, reliable and enthusiastic people for a good value price.  I checked what my main competitors were charging to plan a wedding in Central Park and I was certain that I could do it for a lower price, without cutting any corners in the quality of wedding that we deliver. 

Some of the clients I work with are aiming for a big, lavish wedding with a huge group of family and friends from far away, with an expensive gown and a big reception somewhere exclusive and characteristically ‘New York City’.  I can help to provide that, and I am very happy to do so.  I am naturally a frugal person, though, so I cannot help but get excited when I meet a couple who are looking to have a great day on a budget, and are willing to be creative and work a little harder to do so.  I love that you can get married in New York City and have a unique and breath-taking wedding without breaking the bank, and I want to share this idea with as many people as I can.  What follows is a basic breakdown of the costs involved in a British couple getting married in Central Park on a budget.


There isn’t really a cheaper season to visit New York.  Flights between the UK and New York are pretty steady in price all year round.  Airlines have sales and some times are better than others to get your price locked in but you will pay between £300 and £400 per person for a return flight from the UK to New York, depending on which UK airport you go from, and whether you go to JFK in Queens or Newark, over in New Jersey.  Both are about the same distance from Manhattan, but you can get the Subway to and from JFK.  If you are eloping, then that’s £600 to £800 for the couple, and I find that most couples will ask their guests to pay their own travel costs when inviting them to a destination wedding.


This can be the biggest part of expenditure for a destination wedding, particularly in an expensive city like New York.  A lot of my couples stay in hotels near Times Square.  This is never something that I recommend.  Personally, I don’t like to spend much time in Times Square, and I think every New Yorker would agree.  The hotels there are expensive and there are a lot of restaurants in the area that are poor quality tourist-trap
chains.  If a couple asks me for a recommendation on where to stay I always suggest the Upper West Side.  It’s in between the Hudson River and Central Park, it has beautiful buildings, a vast choice of restaurants and bars, and great transport links.  There are lotsWed in Central Park (1) of nice hotels there, and real people live there, and go out there, so a restaurant only stays open if it is good.

How long you stay in New York will of course have a large influence on how much it costs you to be there.  Check when the US has holidays before you book.  There are double rooms available in the Hotel Lucerne or Hotel Belleclaire for £1600 a week, six months from now at the time of writing, in the Fall.  Both these hotels have been recommended to me by couples.  My key tip to save money on a trip to New York, though is to use Airbnb.  I’ve used this myself.  When I was living in California I visited New York alone for 10 days to attend some weddings, meet with colleagues and see friends.  I rented a room in an apartment through Airbnb where I stayed in the bedroom of an older Chinese lady, who slept on her sofa bed while I was there.  She had moved to New York in the early 80’s, and she had some incredible stories.  I loved hearing about her perspective of the city, and I would not have been able to do that if I had stayed in a hotel.  I would not suggest renting one room if you are going to be newlyweds, but I would recommend this to any wedding guests who are looking to save on accommodation in New York.  The great thing about using Airbnb in New York is that the city is so very built up that people live right next to where the hotels are (except in Times Square) so wherever you stay, there will be restaurants and Subway stops nearby.  To rent a one bedroom apartment in the Upper East Side or Upper West Side Manhattan it will cost around £110-£150 per night.  So, if we split the difference and assume a cost of £130 per night for one week, then this would cost £910 for a week.  These will not be spacious apartments, but they will be bigger than a hotel room, and will have a small kitchen, so if you are really looking to save money, you can prepare some meals in the apartment.  If you want to stay a little further out of town and are prepared to travel in to Manhattan, then there are apartments of the same size in nice areas of Brooklyn that are less than 30 minutes away from Central Park that would cost around £80 a night.

The Wedding Ceremony

I have used my connections in New York and my five years’ experience of planning weddings to find great quality officiants, photographers, videographers, hair and makeup artists, florists and musicians.  Of course I make a living from doing this, so if you’re prepared to do your own searching online then it is completely possible to find some great people to be involved in your wedding all by yourself, just make sure to check reviews.  My basic “Just the Ceremony” packages cost $795, but I would recommend choosing Package 1 from my website, which is the ceremony and two hours with a professional photographer, which costs $1550. 

Some couples want to save money by not hiring a photographer, but I think they are missing out on an opportunity to get photos as a lasting memory of a very important day in your life.  Some couples ask a guest to take the photos, which can work out great and save money if you have someone talented in your wedding party, but can also be disappointing if you don’t.

The other cost of getting married is the marriage license, which must be obtained by the couple, together, in person, from City Hall.  The fee is $35, for more information on how to do this please check this blog post of mine


We can get them delivered to your hotel room, but of course this costs money.  When I got married in Central Park, I was living on the Upper East Side and I had a florist on the corner by our apartment.  I ordered a bouquet of roses and a boutonniere and sent my groom in to pick them up on the morning of our wedding.  I was not especially fussy


Image provided by ‘Wed In Central Park’

about my arrangement, and I was happy with roses, so I saved some money that way.  There are florists all over New York, so I recommend that a couple do that if they want to keep costs down.  Another way to keep costs down that takes a little more effort, but also allows you to put more a personal stamp on your wedding, is to go to the New York flower market on East 28th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.  My florist strongly suggests keeping your flowers in a fridge if your room has one.


Music can add atmosphere and mood to a wedding.  The Central Park Conservancy do not allow amplified music at events in Central Park, so if you would like music at your Central Park wedding, then it will have to be a live acoustic musician.  You or I can arrange for a professional musician to attend your wedding ceremony.  Anyone who visits Central Park will notice people playing music either on the benches, on the pathways, or under Bethesda Terrace hoping for donations from the public.  Central Park is always full of musicians.  One couple asked me to find them one of these people to play at their wedding on the day.  A guest brought a chair and I found a man playing beautiful cello at the 72nd Street and Central Park West entrance to Central Park.  I offered him $50 to play at their wedding and he was glad to take it.


Some couples want a lasting record of the wedding ceremony, and a video is a great way to show friends and family who have not been able to attend, the wedding, and a particularly nice touch if the couple are having a party on their return home.  We can arrange for a professional videographer to attend your wedding.  The team I work with can stream your wedding on the internet for friends and family back home to view in real time.  They will also produce a fully edited video with footage of the wider Central Park on that day.  I have had eloping couples bring apparatus that allows them to attach their phone to the structure in which they are getting married and record the whole thing that way.  Of course, if you have guests, ‘camera-person’ is a role you can bestow on a responsible friend or family member.


If you’re eloping this part is fairly easy.  I once read that a person can eat out every night for 54 years in New York without going to the same restaurant twice.  There is truly something for everyone in New York, so an eloping couple can enjoy some fabulous eateries throughout their whole trip to New York, saving something special for their wedding day itself.  And there are plenty of places to choose from that don’t charge the earth.

If a couple is having a destination wedding with friends and family then this could be a part of the wedding that costs quite a lot.  If you have a smaller group, then it would be acceptable to book just a table in a restaurant and pay for everyone’s meal.  If it is a bigger group then you may need to consider booking a private room.  The cost of this varies greatly over New York, but an example of a classic old-school family Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side charges a minimum of $1500 for a room that holds up to 40 people.  It would take some shopping around to find the restaurant that fits your taste and budget and has a room the right size for you. 

Hopefully you’ve found the hints and tips provided by Claire helpful. If you’re thinking of getting married in New York, or have been dreaming of saying ‘I Do’ in Central Park then click any of her links below to find out more about her and ‘Wed In Central Park’. 

7 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time in New York City

  1. Great insights from Claire, thank you for sharing them! Central Park in New York City is such a magical place and I’m sure many couples will get inspired with this post 🙂

  2. Thanks very much for posting. This blog is a great resource for money saving tips, and other great ideas on how to keep to a budget when wedding planning. I hope my guest post will help a few couples to get married in Central Park if it tickles their fancy!

  3. Pingback: Round-Up: Advice from the Professionals | idoonabudget

  4. Pingback: 3 Books, 3 Blogs With Wed In Central Park – Gin & Lemonade

  5. Pingback: Tiny Weddings Fair – a wedding fair for small weddings and elopements | My Budget Life

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