Tribeca Wedding Tips at Your Fingertips
TriBeCa, or the ‘triangle below Canal Street’ as it is officially known, is a unique area of the city that I don’t get to photograph often enough. In addition to being close to the Hudson River waterfront and having a fantastic view of the iconic Freedom Tower, the area is also home to one of NYC’s newest landmarks – the Oculus. The Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown is arguably the area’s most modern and beautiful hotel, and I had the pleasure of photographing Brenna and Phil’s wedding there this December. With the holiday season now behind us, let’s take a look at this Tribeca wedding and get some tips for making your own walk down the aisle at the Four Seasons a walk in the park.
Brenna and Phil’s Love Story
These two met at work, and after five years together, Phil popped the question to Brenna on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. As Phil recalls, ‘It was cold so the promenade was mostly empty. I had told Brenna we were going to brunch at a nearby restaurant, but we were instead dropped off at the promenade entrance. I think Brenna knew the proposal was happening that day, and she certainly knew when we made it to the promenade. I also had a short book made which described our relationship in a cheeky, cute way, that I gave to her before proposing.’
Photography Location Tips
From a photography standpoint, let’s start with options for your portraits. The hotel itself offers a wealth of photo opportunities with backgrounds ranging from an epic staircase to more subtle walls in the upstairs meeting rooms. The hotel is going to be your go to location in case the weather takes a downturn, as it did on Brenna and Phil’s wedding day. Unfortunately, we experienced the oh-so-common misting rain of early winter in New York City. While not a complete downpour, the precipitation was just enough to ruin the bride’s hair. As such, we didn’t have much of an opportunity to take photos either at the Oculus or the waterfront. But with that in mind, here are my top locations for taking photos around Four Seasons Hotel:
Photo Locations Inside the Four Seasons Hotel
The staircase should be the first stop on your wedding portrait shot list. I found that the staircase offered a wealth of opportunities, both for individual as well as group portraits. The staircase should be shot from all different levels, and I found the fairy string lights at the top of the staircase to be useful both for engagement ring shots as well as for offering an interesting bokeh effect. Don’t forget to shoot both down on the couple as well as up on the couple from the base of the stairs. From a group portrait perspective, the staircase also offers an interesting option for large bridal parties. This was also my back up location for the bride and groom’s first look in case the weather got too bad outside.
The outside terrace is a gem of a location. Thanks to Mark Schwindenhammer, the Four Seasons Hotel venue manager, who kindly offered the terrace as an option for the Brenna and Phil’s first look. We lucked out and the weather wasn’t too bad during the time when Phil saw Brenna in her dress for the first time. Note that the terrace is a narrow strip of property, so in order to get a good horizontal view of the couple, I actually had to position myself in the flower bed in order to get enough space between myself and the couple. It was worth the awkward climbing, because the photos turned out lovely. You can get fantastic canyon views of the city along Church Street, and most importantly, you can get a great view over the Oculus at the corner of Church and Fulton.
For the family and bridal party photos, I was seeking a basic background that wouldn’t compete with the people in the foreground. The dark walls of the Warren Room (which were used as holding rooms for the bridal party and the location of the ketubah signing) were perfect for all of my group photos. I chose to mix things up for the bridal party photos by also shooting on the staircase. The meeting rooms of the Four Seasons Hotel are wonderful blank canvases for basically any photo. Note that at the time of Brenna and Phil’s wedding, the windows faced out onto scaffolding below, so the view from the windows was not as great as I would’ve liked. I’m sure that will change in a week however.
Brenna stayed in the bridal suite at the Four Seasons Hotel, and this was truly one of the most glamorous and spacious suites I have ever had the pleasure of photographing. The suite came complete with lots of large windows and plenty of space for both detail shots and photos of the bride. The bridal suite also offered a hallway leading into the main living room area, which was perfect for Brenna to reveal her dress to her bridesmaids. In addition, the suite has one of my favorite assets: a full-length mirror that can be moved. One of my favorite shots is when the bride reveals her dress to her father or parents for the first time. By positing the full-length mirror across from the bride, I was able to get both her reaction and her father’s reaction at the same time.
Photo Locations Outside the Four Seasons Hotel
Greenery wise, you don’t have many options near to Four Seasons Hotel for your wedding portraits. Right next door to the hotel is a small patio with trees that, at the time of the wedding, were festooned with bright, white fairy lights. It was a lovely scene, and the rain on the ground also gave us an option for some reflection shots. But that’s about it when it comes to park space. You can walk one block down to City Hall Park, but be prepared that this park is, shall we say, a work in progress. I don’t find the part to be photogenic at all, plus the park is nearly surrounded by ugly metal gates and signs everywhere telling you not to walk on the grass. The fountain in the center of the park is the main calling card of the space, but keep in mind that the fountain will not be turned on during winter.
Hudson River Waterfront
So if you’re looking for a bit of greenery for your photos, save yourself some time and head to the waterfront. I wish we had better weather during Brenna and Phil’s wedding, but the mist outside was proving to be too much. It’s a bit of a walk to the Hudson River, but you can take the Vesey Street overpass and head to Rockefeller Park. From here you can get a great view of not only the Statue of Liberty in the far background, but also New Jersey. There’s also a sweet little water fountain area in the park. The Irish hunger Memorial is right there as well, but I’m a little hesitant to recommend this spot since it’s a memorial to a devastating historical event and not really appropriate for wedding photos. As with the Irish Hunger Memorial, I would also avoid taking any photos at the 9/11 Memorial simply because it is inappropriate.
The oculus, architect Santiago Calatrava’s stunning creation for the World Trade Center transportation hub, is truly a sight to behold and located only one block away from the hotel. Walking towards the Oculus you get a great shot of the Freedom Tower in the background, and there is also a colorful mural on the right side of the street just before you reach the Oculus. As with any downtown NYC location, there are fantastic opportunities for city shots along the way such as we did here with Brenna and Phil in the crosswalk.
As for shooting inside the Oculus, you should know that this is technically off-limits. I spoke with a security guard in the Oculus (and yes, the Oculus has security guards dotted throughout the space so it is doubtful you and your camera will go undetected). He said that any interior photos need to be approved by management first. I always say ask forgiveness, not permission so I would go ahead and chance it, but you need to have a game plan in place ahead of time and let the couple know that you are taking photos on the down low. Of course, wearing a white wedding dress inside a building is a bit like waving a red flag in front of a security guard, so I would concentrate your photo efforts outside the Oculus before working your way inside since you might not have many opportunities to take photos. When you walk into the Oculus you’ll find it crammed with tourists doing the exact same thing and taking photos, so I don’t think you’ll have any private moments with the bride and groom inside the space. But that said, I still think it’s worth the chance.
Brenna and Phil’s traditional Jewish ceremony was held in the Greenwich Ballroom, the same space used for their reception. In order to make the room feel more intimate, the room was split in half with wall dividers. The room is beautiful, and has a modern, metallic ceiling with interesting light fixtures. The problem, however, is that the room is quite dark. Brenna and Phil were specifically trying to cultivate a candlelit atmosphere, and while their ceremony was exquisite, you have to take into consideration the effects of low light on your photography. If I were to have used flash during the ceremony, this would have been a huge distraction for guests. As such, I only used available lighting on the couple under the chuppah. Brenna and Phil’s photos came out great, but there weren’t many opportunities to take photos of guest reactions. My suggestion would be to add a bit more ambient light so that I can also take photos of guests from any angle.
One other issue was the lighting under the chuppah. Because of the branches of this stunning chuppah, the result is dappled light on the participants. My recommendation is to always make sure that your chuppah gets lit from within so that the guests, and of course your photographer, can see the main players in their best light. Ideally, you would also arrange your seating so that the outside aisles are clear and your photographer can stealthily take photos from the outside without being in the way of guests. Finally, be sure when working with real candles that you take the upmost care so that your lighting does not prove a hazard to guests.
The Four Seasons Hotel has the advantage of having an extra space outside the Greenwich Ballroom where guests can wait before the ceremony. The room is a beautiful space where guests can mingle with cocktails in hand before the ceremony begin. This room also served as the main bar area for the reception and the location of the photo booth. Because the crowds around the bar and the photo booth were corralled to this outside area, the reception space never felt cluttered cramped.
Reception Space and Surprises
Brenna and Phil put together a fantastic wedding with the help of Jennifer Taylor, the event planner at A Taylored Affair. Her expertise, plus the professionalism of Mark Schwindenhammer’s staff at the Four Seasons Hotel, and the beautiful flowers of Vioet + Verde, made for a wonderful evening that went off without a hitch. Some highlights of the reception include the use of clustered, yet low centerpieces. The tables were beautifully filled, but there were no huge centerpieces obstructing my view as a photographer. The ceilings in the reception space aren’t that high, so these low centerpieces felt perfectly appropriate for the size of the table.
In addition to the usual schedule of events, from toasts to special dances, the couple also had pizza delivered to the room in an entertaining fashion near the end of the reception. Waiters paraded into the room with the pizza boxes held high above their heads, and then offered slices to dancing guests. In addition, guests were offered precious desserts served out of terra-cotta pots.
This was my first time photographing a wedding at the Four Seasons Hotel in Tribeca, and I sincerely hope it will not be my last. The staircase alone is worthy of many more photos. If you are planning a Tribeca wedding sometime soon, give me a call and let’s chat about how best to photograph your Four Seasons Hotel wedding.
Ceremony & Reception Venue – The Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown
Catering & Staffing – The Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown
Event Planner – Jennifer Taylor, A Taylored Affair
Florist – Violet + Verde
Live Band – Storytellers
Photo Booth – It’s Electric
Cantor – Nancy Bach, The Village Temple
Wedding Dress – Wedding Atelier
Bride’s Shoes – Clarita 75 Leather Sandal in white, Alexandre Birman
Groom’s Tuxedo – Enzo Custom
Groom’s Shoes – Van Damme Belgian Loafer, Paul Evans
Wedding Rings – London Jewelers
Bride’s Hair Stylist – Jen Davis
Makeup Artistry – Carly Giglio
Specialty Rentals – Chiavari Chair Rental & Decor
If you would like to see more examples from my wedding photojournalism portfolio, then please visit my website – www.KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com