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Click HERE for our most popular post: a step-by-step guide on How to Elope in New York : how to get a marriage license, find a New York marriage officiant, organize your ceremony, and have your marriage legally registered. See a little more advice HERE,


Central Park, lake wedding

Two handsome grooms, indeed.  Central Park Wedding by Eileen.  Photos by Beowulf weddings.

Ladies Pavilion - lovely couple from Sweden!

Ceremony by Eileen Regan, photography by Michael Skoglund

Aren't they entirely lovely?

Should you dress casually for an elopement?

That's totally up to you! But it would be a GOOD IDEA to take your sunglasses off for the ceremony - it's only 10 minutes out of your entire life, after all. It might be nice to look into your partner's eyes for that split second of commitment.

Eloping vs 'the big wedding' ? What type of ceremony to choose?

This is a personal decision, of course - and the decision should be unanimous between the couple.

In ancient times, people got 'married' by the bride moving to the husband's house (or, of course, in some cultures, the reverse). Gifts were exchanged, cattle and clothing and bread and food. The community understood that this was a family unit.

Later, a civil or religious officiant would legalize/ solemnize/ bless the marriage, by conducting some sort of rite. In the middle ages, a traveling priest might come by the village and marry everyone in the spring, and baptize all the new babies, all at the same time.

In Celtic areas, the couple might be handfasted for a year and a day, and then decide to become legally married at the end of that time. The traditions of the Jewish ketubah, or the Quaker marriage certificate and other ceremonies which involve the guests and parents signing a ceremonial document are related the traditions of how the community views the moral and legal obligations of the couple toward each other.

In Jewish tradition, a couple usually signs the ketubah before the ceremony. The ketubah is written in Aramaic, and the bride and groom write their Hebrew names in the blanks in the marriage contract, then the rabbi signs the contract. Modern Ketubahs may have English decorations, and many are unique works of art. Some have spaces for the family and witnesses to sign at the reception.

In Quaker tradition, the bride and groom sign a large, beautiful Marriage Certificate, which is then also signed by all the family and guests. This involves the community, and makes the marriage binding to each of its witnesses as well as to the couple. The certificate is usually framed and placed in the home.

The LEGAL part of a marriage ceremony does not require the community to be there - or the parents, or the friends. A witness will do - but that witness is 'representing' the community, and civil society. When couples choose to be legally married in an 'elopement', they often have a wedding ceremony or a wedding blessing or a family party later. Sometimes this is for practical reasons, such as visas running out, or travel, or scattered family members, so a couple will have two ceremonies on different continents - one legal, one ceremonial. Sometimes this is done on the same day in a second marriage, such as the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla, which was a civil ceremony followed by a service of blessing.

A couple may have a private wedding for personal reasons, with a marriage announcement at a later date. And some couples pledge their troth to each other in a commitment ceremony, without a legal component, just an ethical one. Some have handfasting (or betrothal) ceremonies which they consider binding. A vow renewal is an example of a wedding ceremony without a legal ceremony, as well.

If you are having two ceremonies, a legal, private wedding and a future wedding blessing with a larger group of friends or family, you can save your rings for the second ceremony, perhaps, and have a Wedding Blessing and a Blessing of Rings for your second ceremony. Your family might also like to participate in the second Wedding Blessing, offering readings or blessings or a candle-lighting or other appropriate rituals.

Some cultural traditions also have several separate ceremonies on several days. Some of these ceremonies are vestiges of earlier village rituals, where the bride or groom makes a journey to the house of the new relatives, and offers food or gifts (such as the Tea Ceremony, in some Asian cultures, and the large Wedding Banquet with the required special courses.) The modern wedding showers and rehearsal dinners are vestiges of these earlier rituals.

Our grandparents were often married at home, or went off to the registry office to be married in a bigger city, and returned home for the wedding reception, with pot luck food and the parlor decorated. Our modern elaborate weddings are not as old a tradition as they sometimes seem.

This is YOUR decision. You can combine the legal and the ceremonial events, or hold them separately,and at separate times, or hold only one part - the legal wedding or the wedding ceremony. Your officiant will always be happy to discuss these variations with you, and help you through the planning for each.

Big Wedding or Eloping: Printable Version


The tall bride. Questions people ask...

Should you wear heels? Should you stoop? Are these questions important? We learned recently that 1 in 700 marriages have a taller bride. So - enjoy the uniqueness! And as the mom of a tall bride, I didn't see the relevance of this question until a couple actually asked me. Your height will be the same for your whole life - so I'm not sure what difference it makes at your wedding!

Tall women are wonderful. If you are tall, be tall. The question about heels is either a simple question (how does it go with the dress? Are you more comfortable up or down - it's going to be a long night..) OR a very complicated question (is SOMEONE uncomfortable about a size differential? Does size matter? Is it anyone's business but YOURS?)

This is rather like premarital counseling. If it MATTERS to one of you, do you know how to talk about it? Who decides? Is there any perceived or real unease? These are questions only the two of you can answer - not wedding planners, mothers, girlfriends or buddies. You'll have to ask each other many other harder questions in your life -- about kids, mortgages, birth and death and dirty laundry. Solve this one with understanding, grace and humor - and all will be well.


36 Hours: Central Park, weddings and hourly adventures.

36 Hours: Central Park, New York -

We've had several weddings in Central Park this week - in various locations, including  the Shakespeare Garden, at Hernshead on the rocks (tho they are doing some renovations) and over at the Dene. We have also held weddings at endless other sites in the park, from the Alice statue, to the zoo, the obelisk, the Minton terrace, the Dairy, the Conservatory Garden (must book, $), the ramble, the Boat House, in a rowboat, at the Castle, and in front of various beloved statues and fountains.

This is a rather nice article on how the park changes through the day, and how you might arrange an entire day in the park, with a wedding, some music, some food, and some sightseeing. The article mentions all the sights linked on the map, below. 

"Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, Central Park’s more than 840 acres are dappled with sculptures, monuments and fountains that tell of the nation’s explorers, artists and heroes, both real and imaginary: Columbus, Beethoven, Duke Ellington, John Lennon, Alice in Wonderland. The park is also home to tennis and handball courts, croquet greens, a carousel, a castle, a marionette theater, a zoo and more than a dozen playgrounds. It is crisscrossed by horse-drawn carriages and
ringed by astronomically priced apartments, luxury hotels and world-class museums. Yet despite its being a kind of three-ring circus,there are quiet trails and hidden nooks, museums and bars within and
around the park where one can find a more tranquil, timeless Manhattan".

1. Conservatory Garden, Central Park.
2. Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue; Neue Galerie, 1048 Fifth Avenue, Metropolitan Museum of Art Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar, 1000 Fifth Avenue;
3. The Rose Club, The Plaza, Fifth Avenue at Central Park South; Robert, 2 Columbus Circle; Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle,
4. The Ramble, Central Park.
5. North Woods, Central Park.
6. Nougatine, Trump Hotel Central Park, 1 Central Park West;
7. American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street; Rose Center for Earth and Space, 81st Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue,
8. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, 10 Columbus Circle;
9. Tavern on the Green, Central Park West and 67th Street;
10. Loeb Boathouse, Central Park; enter at East 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue;
11. Central Park Zoo, between East 63rd and 66th Streets;


Should you change your name at marriage?

Think carefully about this question.The important points are:

1) Neither bride nor groom is required to change their surname to get married. (You may remain Jane Pepsi and John Cola). You may keep your original name for professional reasons, family reasons, or because that's who you are.

2) Either bride or groom or both MAY change their surname. (You may both become Mr and Mrs Pepsi-Cola, or Pepsico, or ColaPepsi, or many other variants. John Cola might become John Pepsi.
You might choose to become Mr and Mrs. Dr.Pepper. You might use your former last name as a middle name, aka Hilary Rodham Clinton: Jane Pepsi Cola). But note that only CLINTON or COLA will be the OFFICIAL last name, unless you hyphenate.

3) You do not have to decide to change your name at the time of the wedding. You may change your name(s) any time afterwards - for instance, if you have children.

4) You cannot go BACK and change your actual marriage license if you change your mind at a later date about a new surname: you will have to go through a legal process to make any changes in the future. (Mrs. Pepsi-Cola may not have her marriage license altered to change her name back to Jane Pepsi. But she may make a court petition to change her name back to Jane Pepsi. The marriage license will remain Pepsi-Cola, asthat's what she decided the day she applied for the license).

5) Once you change your legal names, you'll need to change: social security, drivers license, passport, voter registration, (IRS - address change only), vehicle title/ registration, workplace, financial institutions, insurance, medical, utilities, credit cards etc. There are a number of online kits that have forms and detailed instructions on where to send each form (or if you need to make a personal appearance) as well as what additional documentation you'll need.

Therefore, when in doubt, do nothing.
Here is general information, and the regulations vary state by state.

Changing your Name: Printable version


Spring in Central Park

The sun came out!  And so did the lovely and wonderful couple, and we hiked up through the Ramble in Central Park - and had a wonderful informal wedding with the City behind us.


Goth wedding? Why not?

I wrote about Vampire-themed weddings (in a less than enthusiastic way) below. But we DID recently have a small Goth wedding - in a cemetery, at dusk, in the mausoleum, surrounded by flowers and evenings birds. The bride carried purple and black flowers, and the invitation said "black casual - because that's all we have". The couple were sweet and poetic, and the bride's JOB is working at a funeral planning company (of course it is!). She said that they like wandering around the cemetery thinking of the lives of the people there, and they believe death is a part of life.

Very Victorian (but not steampunk) and very delightful.

Here are the poems we used:

Ancient Chinese poem, translation #1:
Take a lump of clay, wet it, pat it,
And make an image of me, and an image of you.
Then smash them, crash them, and add a little water.
Break them and remake them into an image of you
And an image of me.
Then in my clay, there's a little of you.
And in your clay, there's a little of me.
And nothing ever shall us sever;
Living, we'll sleep in the same quilt,
And dead, we'll be buried together.

From Adam Bede by George Eliot,

What greater thing is there for two human souls
than to feel that they are joined for life,
to strengthen each other in all labor,
to rest on each other in all sorrow,
to minister to each other in all pain
to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories
at the moment of the last parting?

And here's a little style for a wedding in the park ...
(this couple was married by Eileen)

Aren't they great?

The pix is by Kasia Grabek.


Should you elope or have 'the big wedding' ?

We often talk to brides who have 'downsized' and opted for a family wedding, instead of a 'corporate' sized event. For a variety of reasons (cost, travel, family situation, timing, or just unhappiness with the whirlwind of planning a giant wedding) they have decided to pass on the country club, penthouse, loft or wedding palace, and have cut their guest list down to immediate family and close friends (usually 20-80 people, depending upon second cousins).

This brings up a dilemma: should the couple elope? Should they have a small wedding in a chapel or restaurant? How do you find a space for two dozen people, when restaurants have a minimum of 50? What about the dress, the cake, the ceremony -- the presents?

The first decision is whether to elope or to hold a small family wedding. If you want to get away and have a private wedding, it's best to just make arrangements and go for it. If you start including close family members and friends, you've turned the corner to a private wedding. Either way, you can still arrange for a reception back home at a later date, or a second "Wedding Blessing", where the legally married couple can have a ring blessing, a spiritual blessing, a vow renewal, or any combination of rituals you wish, followed by a reception and 'welcome home'. This is becoming a common new/old trend, and we have seen the 'wedding blessing' parties evolve into real celebrations, sometimes a year later than the legal wedding. See our other post on this topic.

But if the point is to involve your parents, or young cousins, or elderly relatives, and you are willing to have a family ceremony, why not 'recreate' the weddings of your grandparents, and be married at home, in the parlour (aka livingroom), or in the backyard, or in a friend's home or someone else's big backyard (or the community park in the bandshell, or the park's recreation center, or even a national park, if it's close by) - and have fun decorating with dollar store tulle and paper lanterns and homemade flower arrangements and candles in jam jars and and pictures of you both as kids on a table with a guestbook, etc.. You could even have a theme (Fiesta, Victorian, Gaslight, Greate Gatsby, MusicMan, Tropical Island) to coordinate dresses and decorations and music.

Find a sympathetic Marriage Officiant who can design a family-friendly ceremony which is dignified but incorporates the family in some way, whether offering readings, or speaking about the couple or the circumstances. Gather the 'parlour' chairs and have most people stand up for the ceremony but seat the elderly in a few rows in the front. The bride (and the groom) can come down the stairs, enter from the bedroom, or drive up in an old fashioned car. After the ceremony (or if coming back from the park - even walking together -- finish with at "at home" reception of potluck dishes or a catered meal with some big centerpieces (a carving station) and lots of vegetarian options. Ask people to bring desserts or cupcakes like a church social, and build a communal cupcake tree. Set up a taverna or speakeasy bar (hire a bartender from the local community college hospitality program and get the proper liquor permit).  Live music would be the most fun, with IPOD backup for later in the night.  Be sure to invite the neighbours.

Unlike the giant corporate weddings, everyone will be able to talk, and mingle, and have a good time, and everyone will remember it -- and so will you.


an outdoor wedding can be a little messy. Most of the time...

We had a park wedding today, in a lovely setting in Central Park, New York City. It had just rained, and the ground was damp, and a few stray twigs were cluttering up the lawn. There were ducks, and birds, and a few squirrels, and kids running around. It was a lovely summer day.

The bride arrived, with her dress clutched up to her chin. For an outdoor park wedding, she wore a heavy satin gown, back laced, with a 5 foot train. We stopped to tie up the bustle, and the train still swept the ground (like a puddle train) at least 2 feet behind. The dress was. going. to. get. dampish. It was clear that the wind was blowing a bit -- disarranging her hair. Everyone fretted and tried to dry off the grass (!). The service was lovely, and eventually she appeared to forget about the wet ground - though an opportunistic bug got under her veil - causing a stage 3 meltdown.

Advice: It's OUTSIDE. There will be WEATHER. There will be DIRT. Maybe pigeon poop. Probably a few bugs. The wind will blow, your shoes will get spattered, your heels will sink into the ground, and your hair will fly away if not laquered. Strange buskers playing instruments and people on roller skates and all sorts of people will pass by and wave at you.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE and you are OUTSIDE.

 Outdoor weddings are full of sand and wind and twigs and butterflies (or bees). Go with the flow and you'll be happy. Otherwise - find a nice hotel, book a suite! you'll be alone!   -- and you'll keep your train and your wedding shoes clean. Happy Outdoors!