This is a never-ending quest: Finding a place to combine a simple wedding, and a meal. In summer, you can look for ubiquitous outdoor gardens in the backyards of restaurants. Winter may be more cramped. Look on Citysearch.com, chowhound, menupages.com and other websites for restaurants with "private dining" or meeting rooms, or private rooms. These are frequently mentioned in magazine articles and websites each year, such as: nymag.com, and private party rooms, savorynewyork.com.
Just call a restaurant, ask if they have any private rooms or private areas (alcoves with curtains are frequent). If you are willing to have an afternoon wedding (2-4) you may be able to get a private room "between service", at a good price. Then order drinks and some eats. Make sure you tell them you are having a 'small civil wedding ceremony', no fuss, 15 minutes, everybody standing, no rice, no mike, no flower petals, no chuppah, etc. Most places will tell you right away whether this will work.
In no order, here are some places we have used: Moran's in Chelsea, Keens Chop House near Macy's, La Lanterna in the village, Bette Midler's New Leaf Cafe in Fort Tryon Park (at the Cloisters), One if By Land, Two if by Sea, Aaron Burr's townhouse in Greenwich village, City Hall Restaurant in Tribeca, Bayards in Wall Street, and lots of small restaurants in the East Village, in Brooklyn, Queens, etc.
Ideas for informal wedding locations in case of rain:
Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) - less busy in the rain, and there is a small glassed-in viewing area you can use. This only works for small elopements, however.
Any restaurant with a 'view', in the rain -- there won't be enough business so they probably won't care. Perhaps Beekman Towers - the art deco restaurant by the UN..
Grand Central Station - just find a corner! Avoid rush hour.
The viewing arch at Bowling Green, you'll be covered, with a good view of the Statue of Liberty.
The balcony overlooking Central Park at the Time Warner Center (I've never tried this, but in a pinch, it would make a great 'private' spot, as long as the bored security guards didn't mind).
The Little stage at the back of the Tourist Bureau in Times Square - it's not used for anything else, the building lobby is attractive, and I'm sure the staff would find it fun.
In a carriage, in Central Park, with the hood up. Be creative!
If you ask a concierge to find you flowers, you will, of course, need to pay dearly. Either go to a Korean deli (on every corner!) or go down to the Flower Market in Chelsea - W24-27 street between 6-7th avenue. Either ask them to make up a bouquet, or buy some flowers, get some nice ribbon at Jack's Discount on 32/6th avenue, and make your own posy. If you buy nice wedding flowers, you can donate them afterwards:
Give them to Flowerpower, a charitable organization that donates blooms from weddings, funerals, and corporate events. With the help of a nominal donation from you or your company, the flowers are reassembled into bouquets for patients in hospices, nursing homes, and hospitals. see flowerpowernyc.org
[Emergency flowers: when the florist forgot the bride's bouquet, we just lifted flowers from the table decorations. Remember: men's suits don't always have a buttonhole. Bring pins]
This weekend we married a couple at City Hall Restaurant. We also marry people in City Hall Park. It's rather a joke, for people who do not want to actually be MARRIED at City Hall.
Many couples who go to New York City Hall to get their licenses often decide not to return for the marriage ceremony. The lovely fountain in City Hall Park makes a very nice setting. We married a couple in the Granite Room at City Hall restaurant at 131 Duane Street. (Yes, THAT Duane street, in Tribeca) - by Chambers street. We have married people in the Bar at City Hall restaurant, and in the dining room, as well. Write for details, or contact Robert Palermo, event planner, at cityhallnewyork.com, 212-227-7777.
Mary is a Chaplain, and registered marriage officiant in New York (city and state). certified by the Humanist Society in Washington DC (est. in 1939. She has married over 300 couples in New York City, and many weddings were romantic 'elopements' - couples who decided to have a small wedding ceremony with family or friends, or just by themselves. Mary specializes in civil, non-denominational weddings that are simple and meaningful. I also represent other civil chaplains, who all conduct simple, non-religious weddings in the same manner and style. Our main wedding website is Weddingsofnewyork.com. This blog is a complement, where we can answer questions, and update our other information.
International weddings: New York is the the crossroads of the world: many couples who choose a New York City wedding are international, so some weddings are in translation or may include cross-cultural elements. New York allows couples from any country to be legally married at any location - not just City Hall or a chapel or church or mosque or synagogue - so we often conduct ceremonies in Central Park, or on the Brooklyn Bridge, or Coney Island, in small restaurants, art galleries, hotel rooms, or other unusual venues which provide a unique, romantic setting.
Elopements: Eloping is simply the term used for a private wedding, where a couple has a small, intimate wedding, often in a destination different from their usual home address. Sometimes a close friend or family member serves as a witness, and then the couple has an 'at home' or wedding celebration at a later date. (Technically, you can 'elope' at home - we can come to your home or apartment and marry you in a quiet civil ceremony, and you can then zip away to an exotic destination, or simply go out to dinner, in your newly married state. That's a 'home honeymoon').
Planning a wedding? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll answer your questions, or see weddingsofnewyork.com
It's easy to write your own wedding ceremony. We usually use a basic form, and then adapt it to each couple. Here is a link to a 'bare bones' ceremony, as an example.
But you can mix and match, and write your own vows, your own poetry, your own statements. Here are some other ceremony design ideas:
**Weddingsofnewyork ceremony worksheet
**UUOttawa - how to write a wedding ceremony