If your plan is to ask your beloved to marry you with a beautiful view in the background, then you have a lot of options on Governors Island. With stunning views of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and even New Jersey, you are not hurting for lovely locations from which to pop the question. So come along for the ride as Carly says ‘yes’ to Declan and find out how to propose on Governors Island in today’s blog post.
Carly and Declan
Let me start by giving you a bit of background on the proposal. Carly and Declan met in Central Park through friends. Carly is the yin to Declan’s yang. The proposal was not a total bombshell as Declan and Carly knew they wanted to spend their lives together, but the timing of the was a bit of a surprise.
The ‘Surprise’ Proposal on Outlook Hill
Declan is an excellent planner. He knew from the start that he wanted to propose on Governors Island, since it was a special location to the couple. To put his plan in motion, he engaged the services of his best friend, Ryan, and Carly’s best friend, Samantha. Ryan and Samantha flew in just for the occasion and provided a believable ruse of ‘let’s all meet at Governors Island for the day’ to hide the fact that Declan was planning to ask Carly to marry him that day.
Declan chose Outlook Hill – the highest point on Governors Island – as his proposal location. As always, I arrived early and Ryan and Samantha met me at the top. Although there is really no way to keep the crowds away before a surprise proposal in a public location, we lucked out and the crowds dissipated just before Carly and Declan arrived. Declan’s proposal went off without a hitch, and I am pleased to announce that I will also be photographing their wedding this September!
How to Propose on Governors Island
So here’s what you need to know if you are planning to pop the question on Governors Island.
Basic proposal tips. Let’s go over the basics of how to plan the photography for proposal. When coordinating with a photographer, make sure you fully communicate your plan ahead of time. Map out exactly what you plan to do for the proposal and also make sure you have a plan for where you want to go afterwards to take more photos.
Know when and where your photographer will be located and make sure you are on the same page, visually-speaking. Sharing a Pinterest board, web links, or images via email is the way to go. Also, don’t forget to share photos of you and your other half with your photographer so that your photographer knows who to be looking for in the case of a surprise proposal. Finally, confirm which ferry you will be arriving on and make sure you and your photographer have exchanged cell numbers in case of emergency.
Public park = no private moments. Governors Island is a public park. There is no way to have a truly private moment here. If you want to stake out a specific location ahead of time, do what Declan did and plan to use your friends or family to gently let the public know that you are saving this spot for an impending proposal. Most people will move out of the way, though do prepare yourself for gawkers.
No shade and no rain backup locations. Don’t get me wrong; there are some shady spots on Governors Island. However, most of the trees are concentrated on Colonels Row and Nolan Park. This means you have lots of bright sunlight beaming down. This also means, unfortunately, that there aren’t any rain backup locations on Governors Island. You can seek shelter if need be in Castle Williams, Liggett Terrace, or Fort Jay. Every other location on Governors Island, however, is out in the open and subject to inclement weather. Keep this in mind and plan to reschedule your proposal if rain is in the forecast.
My Favorite Proposal Locations On Governors Island
Declan chose my top spot – Outlook Hill. This is the highest spot on Governors Island, and the vantage point offers views of the NYC skyline, Statue of Liberty, and points beyond. Be prepared, however, that there is no shade up top. You will be at the mercy of the harsh rays of the sun. Also, Outlook Hill is a small area and can get crowded quickly.
If an invigorating climb to the top of Outlook Hill isn’t your cup of tea, then check out Hammock Grove. This section is basically a maze of pathways through huge bushes of flowers. We were there in July and the sidewalks were overflowing with yellow daisies. As with Outlook Hill there isn’t any overhead shade, but you can duck into the bushes to jump out of the sun. The maze of pathways leads to several hammocks for public use, but this area is pretty much always crowded.
My next recommendation for a Governors Island proposal location is the waterfront. The area nearest Castle Williams is going to offer the best view, but note that the sidewalk and fencing aren’t that pretty. I would also consider the waterfront area at the bottom of Outlook Hill. Again, the fencing here isn’t lovely, but you get a good view of the Statue of Liberty.
Finally, if you want to stay in the shade and get some interesting architecture in the background of your proposal photos, I recommend either Colonels Row or Nolan Park. Both of these areas are normally used for events so bear in mind that it can be crowded particularly on the weekend. But if you go during the week, then you may have the tree-lined sidewalks all to yourself.
When to Propose on Governors Island
Governors Island requires a ferry trip. The round trip cost of the ferry is $3 for each adult, and the ferry is free on Saturdays and Sundays before noon. Most people pick up the ferry from the terminal at 10 South Street in Manhattan, but there is also a ferry leaving from Red Hook.
As of this blog post, the last ferry leaving Governors Island is at 6:00 p.m. on weekdays and weekends. It seems like the ferry schedule is expanding all the time, so I recommend confirming your trip on the Governors Island website.
The best time to take photos is during ‘golden hour,’ or up to two hours prior to sunset. So if I were planning the ideal proposal on Governors Island, I would aim for a start time of 3:30 p.m. so that you have plenty of time for photos before taking the last ferry off the island. Bottom line, try to schedule your proposal for as late as possible especially since you want to mitigate the fact that there isn’t much shade.
What to Do After Your Governors Island Proposal
You’ve popped the question and your beloved has said, ‘yes.’ Now what? Well, you have lots of spots on Governors Island to take more photos. If you have gone with Declan’s plan of a proposal on top of Outlook Hill, I recommend you then work your way back to Soissons Landing and take photos all along the way. The highlights of this Governors Island photo tour might include a walk along the waterfront at the base of the Hills, playing on the Adirondack chairs on the Play Lawns, and dancing through the daisies in Hammock Grove followed by a smooch in the giant archway at Liggett Terrace. I would end this magical tour of Governors Island with a photo or two by Castle Williams to get some stunning photos of downtown Manhattan. Even better, enjoy a glass of champagne together at one of the many restaurants on Governors Island.
Of course you don’t have to stay on Governors Island. If you want to extend your portrait session to Manhattan, then I recommend checking out Battery Park and the SeaGlass Carousel. You can also head over to South Street Seaport for a historical view of old school New York and the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. One of my favorite engagement sessions was taken on the Pier 15 East River Esplanade Park. And if you enjoy the historical streets of downtown New York, I recommend the streets of Old Slip, Pearl Street, and Stone Street.
Governors Island is a unique location offering a day at the park with a view of the big city in the background. If you haven’t visited Governors Island in a while, then I fully recommend the ferry trip. It’s worth the commute. Enjoy the images, and I’ll have more photo adventures for you next week!
Interested in scheduling a Governors Island proposal of your own? Drop me a line, and let’s chat about your photography needs.
If you would like to see more images from my surprise proposal portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com