It was a whirlwind week leading up to Lena and Dan’s wedding. They started off planning a ceremony in one spot before hurriedly making plans to say ‘I do’ in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Their wedding day ended up being a beautiful, relaxed affair, but boy was it stressful beforehand. In today’s blog post I have all the details for how to get married in Brooklyn Bridge Park in hopes that your wedding day will go just as well.
Meet Lena and Dan
Let’s start off by finding out how these two lovebirds met. As told by Lena and Dan on their wedding website: ‘The story begins in sunny southern California. One fateful weekend, Lena was hosting a mutual friend, who invited Dan to join them for brunch. Their friend had no idea she was playing matchmaker that day. Dan arrived and attempted to park in Lena’s free parking spot (the value of which is like gold in California). Lena found Daniel’s car parking skills suspect, but he proved surprisingly good at a sports bar game of Connect Four. During a beautiful fall day, Lena and Daniel connected over a shared interest in 80s music, cheesy horror movies, and New York Giants football. Afterward, Lena asked Daniel out and after four years together, Lena and Daniel are looking forward to their future together.’
So who did the proposing and how did it go? Again, from Lena and Dan’s wedding website: ‘At the time of the proposal, Dan and Lena were living on different coasts. Dan had been offered a job in NYC, while Lena was finishing grad school in LA. Dan had come to visit Lena over the Labor Day weekend, and they were about to leave her apartment for dinner. On the way out the door, Dan told Lena she was ‘forgetting the most important thing.’ Not understanding the question, Lena followed Dan back inside the apartment where he stood holding a beautiful red box. Inside was an engagement ring. Lena said yes, and this brings us to the excitement of their wedding day.’
Pandemic be damned, Lena and Dan were determined to celebrate their wedding on the anniversary of when they began dating. A grand ceremony and reception at Bottino Restaurant was originally planned for September 30th, but Covid-19 put an end to all of that. And thus began the downsizing of Lena and Dan’s wedding plans.
The joyous event with a guest count of over 100 became a City Hall swapping of vows with only immediate family in tow. These plans subsequently were upgraded to a ceremony on the High Line. But when the High Line informed the couple a week prior to the wedding that there would be a fundraiser in the same space chosen for their ceremony, Lena and Dan decided to throw their plans for a High Line wedding out the window. Finally, the couple selected Brooklyn Bridge Park as the spot for their ‘I do’s’ in celebration of the fact that they had just moved to the borough. Nature, of course, had other plans, and there was a 60% chance of rain planned for the day of their wedding. At this point, the couple could only laugh and hope for the best.
Indeed, it was a nerve-wracking week leading up to Lena and Dan’s wedding as we all watched the forecast. Thankfully, the day turned out to be beautiful with not a raindrop in sight. Their ceremony was easy, breezy (thanks to waterfront wind) and one of my all-time favorite ceremonies to photograph. Their weekday service meant very few crowds, so we had the run of the park for photo locations following the ceremony. Oh, and by the way, the couple did end up having a small private reception at Bottino Restaurant following the wedding. There were no photos at the family dinner, but there will be much rejoicing (and photos from me) at the larger celebration to follow whenever we get out of this pandemic.
How To Get Married in Brooklyn Bridge Park:
Every Detail You Need to Know
Sadly, there are many couples in the same boat as Lena and Dan: they want to celebrate their wedding and actually get married, but will have to settle on postponing a larger party until we get out of this mess. As such, the options are either City Hall or an outdoor ceremony. If you are one such couple and want to find an outdoor venue to swap vows, then Brooklyn Bridge Park is the perfect location. So without further ado, here is everything you need to know about how to get married in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Permits, permits, permits. As opposed to Central Park where you can get away with a permit-free ceremony if your wedding has 10 guests or fewer, Brooklyn Bridge Park requires all weddings to have a permit. You have to apply online, and the cost is, frankly, quite expensive. There is a $25 application fee, a $1 credit card processing fee, and the permit itself costs $400. You have to pay the $426 upfront upon applying, and the fee is non-refundable.
Cancellations after your application has been submitted will not result in a refund. If something (zombies, perhaps?) does happen, you can reschedule your ceremony within the same calendar year depending on availability. If you wish to reschedule you must contact the Brooklyn Bridge Park permit office via email at email@example.com at least 24-hours in advance, Monday through Friday, of the date for which you have received a permit.
Ceremony location options. There are only a few spots within the park where you can say, ‘I do’:
- Pier 1 Promenade
- Granite Prospect (Lena and Dan’s ceremony spot)
- Empire Fulton Ferry boardwalk
- Main Street pebble beach
Note that you cannot get a permit for the Max Family Garden located next to the St. Ann’s Warehouse theater. I have seen people get married here, but this must have been without a permit.
There are pros and cons for each of these locations. None of these locations are private. In my opinion, Granite Prospect is the best spot because of the easy seating and the waterfront view. While you technically also have seats at the Main Street pebble beach location, in my experience it is a lot easier to get up and down the stairs at Granite Prospect. Also, remember that the Main Street pebble beach spot includes noise from horrifically loud subway trains barreling over the Manhattan Bridge.
When can I schedule my wedding and when can I get my permit? Wedding permits are not issued for holidays or holiday weekends. Personally, Brooklyn Bridge Park is waaaaaay too crowded on the weekends to even consider having a (somewhat) private ceremony, so go for a weekday. Seriously, this park (pre-Covid) is completely nuts on the weekends, especially in the summer. Do yourself a favor and go for a Thursday (or Monday!) ceremony.
It takes about a month to have your permit processed, and all permit applications for the upcoming year will be open on December 1st of the current year. There is no way to reserve a date in advance without a permit, and just because you request a specific date, time or spot does not mean you will necessarily be granted your wish. So don’t send out the invitations until you have your permit in hand.
I’m ready to jump through the hoops. How do I get a Brooklyn Bridge Park wedding permit?
- Go to the permit section of the Brooklyn Bridge Park website here
- Contact the permit office at firstname.lastname@example.org for any specific questions
- This is a link to the official list of terms and conditions for permits issued
Brooklyn Bridge Park wedding rules. This is a public park, and as you might expect, there are some rules to follow so that everyone can still enjoy the park.
- Wedding ceremonies cannot exceed 1.5 hours
- You are restricted to a maximum of 100 guests
- No staging, tables, podiums, tents, or amplified sound are allowed
- Chalk, confetti, powders, glitter, balloons, or any other similar substance cannot be used in the Park as they may harm the Park’s ecosystem
- Your party may bring a maximum of 10 folding chairs if there are guests in need
- Remember, wedding permits do not grant exclusive access to the location listed. Share the space with others; don’t be that couple.
- To wit, you must maintain a free and clear stairway at the Pier 1 Granite Prospect for other park visitors to pass through during your ceremony
- Receptions are not allowed in the park; don’t even try uncorking the champagne
- Permits for wedding or engagement photography are not required unless your group is larger than 20 people or you plan to use more than handheld photography equipment.
- All permit applicants who are required to provide insurance must provide a Certificate of Insurance (COI)
How To Get Married in Brooklyn Bridge Park:
My Tips & Recommendations
A few other things: while not expressly mentioned in the park rules, you do have to clean up after yourself. That means that if you decide to throw flower petals, you need to pick up each piece and dispose of it in the trash. Bear that in mind, and make sure you only bring the bare minimum with you to walk down the aisle.
Brooklyn Bridge Park is completely open to the elements, and there is no rain backup location within the park. Granite Prospect is fully exposed to the sun, wind, and rain. Also, because the park is directly on the waterfront, expect plenty of wind.
The closest (and best) restaurant in the immediate area for a reception is the River Café. It is a lovely spot with a gorgeous garden, sunroom and waterfront access for a sunset cocktail hour. I had the pleasure of photographing Lisamarie and Frank’s wedding in 2015, so check out the photos here. Other restaurants you might also try the Vinegar Hill House, Clover Hill, or even Junior’s. You can’t go wrong with cheesecake.
The best – and definitely the closest – hotel in the area is 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. The hotel backs up directly onto the park, and the suites have a fantastic view of the park and city skyline. For a peek inside, check out the getting ready photos of Max and John before their Greenpoint Loft wedding. Your budget backup is the Sheraton Brooklyn New York Hotel in downtown Brooklyn. I have had lots of brides stay here and the hotel is quite nice.
Brooklyn Bridge Park has some of the most spacious public restrooms in the city. I found the restrooms in the Brooklyn Bridge Park office to be closed on the day of Lena and Dan’s wedding – most likely due to Covid-19 – but the restroom in the Empire Stores building was open.
Come for the restroom, but stay for the view. One new place within the park that I visited before Lena and Dan’s wedding was the Empire Stores roof garden. There isn’t much to say about the roof deck since there aren’t that many plants or things to do, but it does offer a lovely, unencumbered view of the waterfront. It’s a peaceful spot that will come in handy if your wedding or photo shoot takes place on a crowded day in the park.
The iconic Jane’s Carousel is currently closed due to the pandemic, but it still makes for a beautiful background in any photos. You may not get to ride the pretty horses, but you can still take an epic kiss in front of them.
By the way, if you decide that none of these locations fit the bill and you want to find a spot adjacent to the park, but not within the park, you have a few options. (Of course, I write this assuming that we will one day get out of pandemic mode.) You have the DUMBO Loft or 26 Bridge if you are in the mood for a traditional indoor reception space. There is also the roof of the Empire Stores Building if an outdoor venue is more your taste.
Finally, for anyone who is curious, yes, you can get married on the Brooklyn Bridge. But if that’s your plan, then go take a walk over the bridge and then get back to me when you realize the magnitude of the tourists, commuters, and traffic. Technically, the answer is yes, but would I recommend it? No.
So there you have it: everything you have ever wanted to know about getting married in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Enjoy the photos from Lena and Dan’s ceremony, and I’ll have more happy memories for you in next week’s blog post.
Are you interested in taking the plunge and saying ‘I do’ in Brooklyn Bridge Park? Drop me a line and let’s chat about your wedding day photography needs.
If you would like to see more images from my wedding photojournalism portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWillliamsPhotographer.com