How to Plan a Wedding in a Public Space

Central Park wedding, coordinated by  Wed in Central Park

Central Park wedding, coordinated by Wed in Central Park

So over the ballroom wedding? Looking for a venue with a little more oomph? Tying the knot at a public park or landmark is one way to land yourself on the favorite wedding list. I locked it down at Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia, and have zero regrets, but there are a few things you should know when planning a wedding at a public place.  

Claire Ady, New York wedding planner and specialist in park weddings, knows a thing or two about public venues. In the past five years, she has coordinated more than 200 weddings in Central Park and other New York landmark destinations with her company, Wed in Central Park. While the rules and regulations vary per venue, Claire has summed up what it means to go public on your wedding day. 


Public Weddings are Cost-Effective 

"Many couples are attracted to public park weddings because the fees can be quite low. Sometimes there are no fees, which helps a lot if you are trying to keep to an overall budget. Check the fees for an event permit in the park you have in mind."


Each Venue has Regulations 

"Each public park will have its own website. Check it out and make sure you read all about the area. Each park in the US will have a different procedure (and fee!) for permit applications. Read the permit carefully when you get it. There will be conditions and regulations that you should be aware of. For example, confetti is not allowed in Central Park, and neither is amplified sound."


Weather Patterns Need to be Considered 

"You may want to consider where the sun will be when planning the ceremony. You don’t want to be squinting as you make the biggest promise of your life! Try to have a bad weather backup plan in mind. Maybe it's a different undercover location in the park, or perhaps you can move your ceremony to the reception area. Maybe you can even incorporate umbrellas that match the color scheme of the wedding. Keep in mind that musicians often cannot play in the rain."


Logistics are Everything

"Think about the degree of privacy in the location you like.  Does it work for the number of guests you have in mind? Can all your guests get there? Check pathways and steps, especially if you have elderly guests or anyone who has trouble walking. Also, many parks do not allow the setup of chairs so if you have guests who will not be able to stand for too long, consider a location which already has seats. Also, where is the nearest bathroom? Central Park was built in 1869, so the public bathrooms are not as frequently placed as they would be if it was built today."


Transportation is Key

"If you have lots of guests, you may need to advise them on public transport or parking facilities around the location. Walking from public parking to the wedding location takes time.  Make sure that everything is communicated clearly to all involved including the vendors, guests and wedding party. Also, you may need to provide guests with maps or signage to help them to find their way from the entrance to the park."


Less is More when it Comes to Décor 

"Marrying somewhere naturally beautiful means that you don’t need to pay for extra decorations. If you have a park in mind for your wedding, the first thing to do is to check out the space you like and imagine your group in that space.  If it is local to you, then go together as a couple to see it. In the case of a destination wedding, check out the photos available online and get advice from your wedding planner or photographer."


Public Means Public 

"Be mindful of those around you.  I have found that passersby are very respectful of a wedding and do not interrupt. Many couples tell me that having New Yorkers stop them as they walk through the Park adds to the experience and excitement of getting married in a public space. Public parks are mainly funded by the people who live nearby so couples should always respect those whose park they are enjoying for their special day."


Feel like you just got woke? Same.


Here are a few highlights from  My park wedding :

A permit lottery system


Luckily, I got my first choice event location, or there would have been hell to pay. Kidding. Kind of...

A less than ideal rain plan


Picture my guest list sitting at their table assignments from 5:30 PM - 2 AM. No bueno. (Thankfully I didn't have to use it.)

Tulle-wrapped caution tape

It looked like a crime scene or a craft project gone wrong. Seriously, you will most likely need security, and they will most likely bring caution tape so bring some tulle. A lil dab will do ya. 



The world's longest processional

It took me at least 10 minutes to walk from the edge of the park to my hubs, which resulted in an excessive amount of pre-nuptial eye contact.


Major  nostalgia

I cry whenever I see a Savannah ad with our historic fountain at Forsyth Park. We got married right there!