Brooklyn Bridge Park is one of the busiest parks in New York City. Second only to Central Park in popularity, it has also become a trendy spot in which to declare your undying love. But where should you go in the park to pop the question? To assist any such lost paramours, today’s blog post will tell you how to propose in Brooklyn Bridge Park. From the rules of the park to the best places to drop to one knee, I’ve got all the details to set you up for success when you ask, ‘Will you marry me?’
Meet Lauren and Danny
Let’s start things off by meeting this week’s couple, Lauren and Danny. These two met through mutual friends several years ago. Danny had been planning the perfect proposal, and wanted a spot that was personal to the couple and large enough to allow both of their families to join them for photos afterwards. Brooklyn Bridge Park perfectly fit the bill. Lauren and Danny had visited the park together on several occasions, and specifically were fans of the waterfront right between Jane’s Carousel and the Brooklyn Bridge. His vision was to have the Brooklyn Bridge in the background during his proposal.
And that is exactly what happened. After a few minutes of walking back and forth, Danny and Lauren stopped to admire the view of the bridge. While the park was crowded as expected for a Saturday in July, a window of opportunity opened and Danny seized the moment. He expertly dropped to one knee and whipped out the ring. Lauren’s reaction was precious. She said ‘yes’ – mission accomplished.
How to Propose in Brooklyn Bridge Park – The Basics
Planning a surprise proposal is a little like planning an invasion. You have to have a plan in place before you pop the question. In addition to the ring (optional, of course), you need to think about setting up the location and who will assist in this project. If you are simply dropping to one knee as Danny did with Lauren, then no set up is required. But if you plan on having a sign or more extensive props present, then someone needs to be on location before you arrive to reserve your spot, prep the scene, and more importantly, take away the sign so that you are free to take photos following the proposal.
In terms of planning a surprise proposal with your photographer, here are my basic rules of the road:
- Know what everyone looks like. Send photos of yourself and your beloved to your photographer, and conversely know what your photographer looks like. Even better, let your photographer know what you both will be wearing on the day of the proposal.
- Agree on a very specific proposal location and time. Say this with me: make a plan and stick to it. DO NOT change the location of your proposal. I just had a client change the location of the proposal on the day of the proposal. He did not tell me until I had already arrived at the earlier, agreed upon location. It all turned out well, but not cool.
- Don’t be early. I always arrive at least thirty minutes early for any surprise proposal, but I once had a client get to the proposal location an astounding forty-five minutes ahead of me. We almost missed each other. Again, not cool.
- Have a game plan for after the proposal, including where you want to go for photos and who will be meeting you.
Speaking of the after-proposal game plan, will family be meeting you in the park? In the case of Lauren and Danny, family from both sides were going to join us after the proposal as a surprise for Lauren. We planned it so that Lauren and Danny had one hour of family-free photo time immediately following the proposal. We then met up with everyone for group photos, plus a glass or two of bubbly. Danny had made reservations for everyone at Cecconi’s, conveniently located across from Jane’s Carousel. Bottom line, if you will be meeting people afterwards, then make sure that you have enough alone time for photos so that you can concentrate on one another and not have the distraction of friends and family around.
How to Propose in Brooklyn Bridge Park – Park Rules
So, with the basics out of the way, let’s discuss the rules of Brooklyn Bridge Park. The park does not require a photo permit, but there is one rule to keep in mind:
Decorations like chalk, confetti, powders, glitter, balloons, flower petals (real or fake), or any other similar substance cannot be used in the Park.
So in short, you should not display anything that will fly away or leave a mark on the park. My personal pet peeve is fake rose petals strewn about at proposal sites. Unless you are going to pick up every single petal, then you have simply thrown petal-shaped pollution everywhere. The park is for everyone, so please be considerate.
Other rules you should follow include do not bring furniture into the park. This means no tables, chairs, or love seats. I have seen large arches brought into the park, but I have a feeling these are not allowed. Finally, the park prohibits alcoholic beverages, so keep your bubbly celebrations on the down low.
And in case you are wondering, Brooklyn Bridge Park does have guards who will enforce the house rules. I had a proposal in Brooklyn Bridge Park in December for which two park guards came by in a golf cart. The set up for this proposal involved a blanket, champagne bottles, and lots of faux tea light candles. The guards were kind enough to let us proceed with everything in place because we promised to pick everything up after the proposal. You have been warned.
How to Propose in Brooklyn Bridge Park – Pier 1 Locations
Brooklyn Bridge Park can be thought of as two separate parks. There is Pier 1 and all of the park to the left of Brooklyn Bridge as you are looking towards the Manhattan skyline, and then there is the park to the right of Brooklyn Bridge along Water Street. This part of the park includes Jane’s Carousel and the bricked-in garden by St. Ann’s Warehouse. Here are the pros and cons of each location:
I have found Pier 1 to be much less popular than the park in front of Water Street. As such, Pier 1 offers more privacy for a proposal. You also have forested areas surrounding the Bridge View and Harbor View Lawns in case you truly want to be in the woods for your proposal. The only issue with gaining more privacy is that you simultaneously lose the sea of tourists in which to ‘hide’ your photographer. Once you round the corner and ‘chance’ upon your proposal spot, the game is up.
Another con for this side of the park is that the classic photo opportunities within the park – such as Jane’s Carousel, the beach between the carousel and Main Street Park, and the ever-popular view of the Manhattan Bridge down Washington Street – are all located on the other side of the park. It’s about a five-to-ten-minute walk between the two areas. I always recommend to propose in the place you plan to take photos. The proposal itself can take up to thirty minutes (if you factor in wait time), so you don’t have that much time for your portrait session. But if your main concern is the Manhattan skyline and privacy, then Pier 1 is the best spot for your proposal.
On the upside, this section of Brooklyn Bridge Park has by far the best view of the Statue of Liberty. It also has easy access to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade in case you want to take photos here following your proposal.
For my money, here are the best spots on Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 for a proposal:
Waterfront, midway between the ferry docks and the Harbor View Lawn. Anywhere along the waterfront offers a spectacular view of the New York City skyline. Remember that you will be right out in the open. Also, I advise walking a bit past the New York Skyline Lookout to avoid any crowds.
Granite Prospect steps. I have shot a few weddings here. You can propose on the steps or have a much more private moment at the very top of the terrace. In either case, you get a wide view of Manhattan in the background.
Waterfront corner by the Harbor View Lawn. For some reason, most people don’t make it out this far in the park. As such, it is usually fairly quiet, and this edge of the park offers your best view of the Statue of Liberty.
Old Pier 1. This is one of my favorite spots because you get a great shot of the Statue of Liberty in the background. I also think the decaying piers in the water offer a nice artistic touch.
How to Propose in Brooklyn Bridge Park – Water Street Locations
Now let’s discuss proposal locations along Water Street:
Brooklyn Bridge view beside St. Ann’s Warehouse. This is my favorite pick for a proposal location in Brooklyn Bridge Park. In case you haven’t visited the park recently, they just created a new patch of park called the Emily Warren Roebling Plaza. All the construction in the area is now gone, and you have a fantastic, close-up view of Brooklyn Bridge. Best of all, this area is also normally free of crowds, even on a busy day. So, if you want the iconic bridge in the background, this is the spot where I recommend you drop to one knee.
Max Family Garden beside St. Ann’s Warehouse. Any photo shoot in Brooklyn Bridge Park is not complete without a photo in this quiet garden. I love taking photos here, and the space does normally offer a respite from the chaos of the park. However, this is a very popular spot for photos and it is a small area. If you are going to be proposing here, you can be assured there will be a separate photo shoot going on at the other end of the garden.
Jane’s Carousel. This is the center of action for this side of the park. I love taking photos in front of this whimsical spot, but plan on kids (and parents) running amok on all sides of the carousel. The best, and quietest side of the carousel for a proposal is the east side of the structure closest to Pebble Beach.
Pebble Beach. Lately, this small stretch of ‘beach’ has become so crowded that you can’t take photos here, let alone propose. There is no privacy, especially since there are literally stadium seats carved into the side of the beach closest to Main Street Park. If you can time it well, this area is good for a few quick photos, but I would avoid it for a proposal.
Main Street Park. This is where the throngs of tourists normally enter the park after taking a prerequisite Instagram shot of the Manhattan Bridge on Washington Street. The walkways by Pebble Beach are always super crowded, but the big hill in Main Street Park is overlooked. Furthermore, the stone steps at the entrance to Main Street Park leading up to the hill are normally free of crowds. There are also some nooks and crannies in the trees on the hill if you want a modicum of privacy. I will say, however, that the wide vista of Jane’s Carousel and the NYC skyline is unmatched within the park. Because you are shooting on a hill over the tops of the tourists below, this is a great spot for group photos.
How to Propose in Brooklyn Bridge Park – Final Tips
A few final tips to help your proposal go off without a hitch:
- Brooklyn Bridge Park is blessed with lots of public restrooms. In case you need to make an outfit change, you can find restrooms here:
- On Furman Street, at the back of the Pierhouse
- Inside the Empire Stores shopping mall (walk down the corridor to the left)
- Inside the park administration building located at the corner of Washington and Plymouth Streets
- Always plan on wind along the waterfront. This means things will be blowing, so have a good grip on the ring.
- You are going to be doing a fair bit of walking from one side of the park to the other, so wear comfortable shoes.
- If it is possible, try to cajole your other half to have a manicure in time for the proposal. For all you men out there, I’ll be photographing your hands too, so get yourself an appointment as well.
- My recommendations for top-notch dining locations in the area include Cecconi’s, The River Café (see wedding photos from the venue here), Celestine, and The Osprey.
- If you are making a weekend of it, One Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is a great hotel. The suites with a view of the river are beautiful. You can take a look at photos Max and John’s suite here.
So ends my final blog post of 2022. I look forward to taking you all on many more photo adventures next year. Until then, happy new year to you all!
Are you planning a surprise proposal? Drop me a line and let’s discuss your photography needs.
If you would like to view more images from my proposal and engagement portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com