In case you weren’t aware – I am a destination wedding photographer. I love to travel, and welcome the opportunity to take my camera beyond the limits of the New York City subway. Quite often, however, the shoe is on the other foot, and I am hired by clients for whom New York City is the location of their destination wedding. I am always asked for planning tips, so I have put together a NYC destination wedding guide. Enjoy this definitive list (in my opinion) of where to go and who to book for your New York City nuptials.
Neighborhoods of New York and Safety
- Here is a great map of the city with the neighborhoods marked on it.
- Have Google maps (not Apple maps) installed on your phone so that you never get lost.
- With a few exceptions, the city is quite safe – even late at night. All the streets are well lit.
Getting Around the City
- The quickest way to get around New York is almost always the subway.
- Here is a link to the subway map.
- The price of a ticket is almost always changing, but in short, get a MetroCard and put a given amount of money on it. If you will be traveling extensively on the subway (most people end up getting a cab here and there and walking a lot), then and only then, does it make sense to get an unlimited MetroCard. Due to price hikes, paying as you ride is usually cheaper.
- If you are not using the subway, then use Lyft.
- Finding a free bathroom in the city can be a tourist’s biggest challenge. Here is a nifty map showing the most easily accessible restrooms in the city.
- My personal favorite is the restroom in Eataly.
WiFi and Recharging
- Wifi is largely available for free throughout the city.
- The city has just installed new kiosks with wifi and which also allow you to charge your phone.
- You can also find outlets to charge all of your electronics in Bryant Park.
- Weather is a constant enemy of tourists and residents alike. We get unpredictable, overcast skies from November until May. The weather is nice in spring and fall, but both seasons are short. Expect lots of rain in June, and plenty of humidity in July and August.
- October is always considered a great month for weddings, but note that Hurricane Sandy happened on October 29, 2012. Just sayin’.
- Everyone has their own favorite weather app, but when I have to know what’s coming next in the city, I go to NBC New York. I just like their weather people.
- If you left anything at home and need to pick up any last minute items, there are delis or bodegas (read this to understand the difference between the two) on just about every corner. Most are open 24 hours a day.
- Target is a great place to pick up just about anything, and the Macy’s in Herald Square will have everything from kitchenware (last minute gift ideas) to a new suit.
What to Do in New York
- Time Out New York is still the best resource for finding things to do in the city. You can also check out these links:
Where to Eat
- For restaurant reviews, Yelp is king.
- My personal best resource for restaurant reviews is New York Magazine.
- For a fun night out, I can personally recommend Peking Duck House in Chinatown.
Finally, in case you are wondering about the ‘etiquette’ of how to be a real New Yorker, check out this video.
First off, just say no to these locations:
- Brooklyn Bridge: Waaaaay too crowded unless you get there at sunrise. You will never get the Carrie from Sex in the City shot unless you have a film crew block off the bridge for you
- Central Park: read this article to find out how to do Central Park right if you must go to Central Park
- Battery Park: too much harsh sun; get on the Staten Island Ferry for the best view of the Statue of Liberty
- Lincoln Center: the security guards will chase you off the grounds
Note that there are two locations in New York City where you must have a permit in order to take photos:
- Central Park Conservatory Garden
- Gantry Plaza State Park
I recommend you try these underrated locations for a real insider view of New York City:
- South Street Seaport: Stage your own Woody Allen scene with the best view of the Brooklyn Bridge
- City Hall Park: This is your best (and closest) park option near the City Clerk’s Office
- Crosby Street: Fashion chic meets cobblestone streets with less crowds than in the Meatpacking District
- Riverside Park: The best park in the city, and waterfront views to boot
- The Roosevelt Hotel: Total glam balcony view of the hotel lobby
- Roosevelt Island: Who doesn’t love a good tram ride? Also, some of the best cherry blossoms in the city if you time your wedding just right.
- Pell Street in Chinatown
- Grafitti in Astoria or around the Queensborough Bridge
- Coney Island
- Governors Island
- Staten Island Ferry
My approach to this list is to recommend the vendors I have worked with previously and whom I would be proud to hire for my own wedding. All of these vendors are professional, creative, and will absolutely get the job done. In my seven years of photographing weddings and events here in New York City, I have worked with a lot of vendors. These are the ones that stand out to me personally.
- If you are planning your wedding from afar, then I always recommend having a set of feet on the ground and to use a wedding planner.
- Even if you want to just have someone to take care of day-of details, an event planner is never a bad investment. And for this task, I would put my money on Hold Your Hand Events.
Saying ‘I Do’
- If this is a small wedding, you will probably be tying the knot at City Hall. To find out all the details of what you can expect for a NYC City Hall wedding, read this article.
- If you want to host your own private ceremony, I always recommend Rev. Mary-Rose Engle. She is so sincere, and can customize your ceremony completely.
Unique Venues and Places to Stay
Again, if this is a small wedding, you will probably be getting hitched at City Hall. If not, try these beautifully intimate spaces:
- The roof of the Grand Hyatt Hotel: Sarah and Chris
- Linden Terrace in Fort Tryon Park: Julie & Emeric
- The roof of the Empire Hotel: Nicole and Brian
- Gramercy Tavern: Jill and Ed
- Locanda Verde Restaurant: Susan and Tim
And for places to stay, try these venues. The staff at each of these hotels bent over backwards for the sake of my clients:
Wedding Attire and Accessories
- Looking for wedding attire at the last minute? I would go to BHLDN for the ladies, and J. Crew Men’s Shop for men. (Remember that J. Crew has shut down their bridal department.)
- Other options for dresses include convertible wraparound dresses from Two Birds Bridesmaids found at Bella Bridesmaid. These dresses are great for last minute bridesmaids dresses.
- You can also try the Rent the Runway store.
- For shoes, try Bergdorf Goodman to get your hands on the Manolo Blahnik Hangisi blue satin heels, Christian Louboutin in the Meatpacking District if you are feeling decadent, or Bloomingdale’s for just about any other shoes.
- For rings and jewelry, try The Clay Pot in SoHo.
- If you want cheap chic bling, then try Laila Rowe or Charming Charlie. Charming Charlie has a great selection of faux pashmina scarves.
Makeup and Hair
- You can never go wrong with Sephora, and they offer makeup application as well. The Sephora in Times Square is open until midnight, by the way.
- If you want to stay away from the crowds, I recommend Pucker makeup salon in SoHo.
- For hair, try any of the Ricky’s Revolver salons. I have always had good luck with their stylists.
- If April showers bring May flowers, then we are due for a blooming spring. (Seriously, I am sick of the gloomy, rainy weather.) In any case, check out Flowers by Richard for a beautiful, but quick bouquet.
- If you are in Brooklyn, check out Sprout for lovely succulents and truly unique arrangements.
- Since we are probably talking about a small wedding, you won’t need much in the way of decorations. But if you do, try one of the many Paper Source stores throughout the city. They have paper flowers and other interesting options that can work for centerpieces in a pinch.
- There are also a few Michael’s craft stores in the city that have wonderfully creative options and a great selection of candles and frames.
Cake and Desserts
- I am a huge dessert fan, but narrowing it down to two unique bakeries was quite easy. Prohibition Bakery makes the most distinctive cupcakes I have had in my seven years of photographing weddings. Their cupcakes are all cocktail-inspired (big surprise that I’m a fan), and they have a dark-and-stormy-flavored cupcake that is to die for. Confession: I ate seven of them during Joanna and Ruben’s wedding at the Housing Works Bookstore.
- The other great bakery option is Mille-feuille Bakery Café. In addition to wonderful pastries, you could get a traditional French wedding cake, a croquembouche. Why be boring?
So that’s my list. If you need anything else, from restaurant recommendations to directions, feel free to drop me a line. I am always here to help.
And if you would like to see more images from my portfolio, please visit my website – www.KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com