Today’s addition to our exhibitor interview series is with Claire from Wed in Central Park. Claire has been planning weddings in Central Park since 2012, many of them small weddings by traditional standards. She is co-hosting the Tiny Weddings Fair on 30th Sept at the Wycombe Swan (along with Carly from Epic Elopement). Claire loves to help couples have the small wedding or elopement that suits them, which is why she and Carly began this fair. Come along to the Tiny Weddings Fair to meet Claire and chat about getting married in New York – it might be cheaper and easier than you think to get married in this incredible city with something for everyone.
Please give a brief overview of your business… (what you sell / do / provide, who you are, how long you’ve been doing it etc)
I’m Claire, and I help people to get wed in Central Park! I got married there in 2011, when I was living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. After having done all the research and finding some great people to do it, it occurred to me to help other people from abroad to do the same. I’ve planned around 250 other weddings since then. They range from elopements with just the couple present, to up to around fifty guests. Most of my weddings have between 5 and 15 guests.
My job is to guide couples through the planning process. I help them to choose where exactly in Central Park they want the ceremony, I write the ceremony for them, and I then book talented and reliable people who have the enthusiasm and joy to make it happen. I can book the officiant, photographer, flowers, video, music, hair and makeup, and so on. As we go through the process we make a plan of the day to make sure that everything goes smoothly and we all know what to expect and who should be where and when. At the end of the process the couples should feel relaxed and confident that the day will go just how they want it to.
What do you love about tiny weddings?
I had one myself – it was just us, our two friends and our dog. Couples having a smaller wedding can choose the traditions and rituals that they like and throw out the things they don’t like. Nothing is done because it’s expected, and only because it is wanted. The words in our ceremonies tend to be from the heart and are often quite moving, I wonder if it would be that way if it were taking place in front of a large group of people. I like that couples can be selective about where to spend their money – either on a fantastic trip to New York, perhaps with loved ones, as my couples do, or to splurge on an amazing and memorable celebration in some other wonderful place.
How do you think the couples are different when working with a large wedding versus a tiny wedding?
It’s hard for me to say because I don’t do large, traditional weddings at all. What I have noticed in the years I’ve been planning smaller weddings and elopements, is that there’s not just one type of person who chooses it, and there are many reasons for doing it. Many of my couples are quiet, introverted types who don’t want to be the centre of attention for a day with a lot of people who they don’t know very well, but that’s not true of everyone. Lots of my clients are thrilled at the idea of something much bigger than a traditional wedding in many ways – a week away in New York with a dozen of their nearest and dearest, and the fabulous sights they will see and the celebrations they will have together, and what memories that will create.
What are the main differences in the way you do business when dealing with a tiny wedding?
I have attended several large, traditional weddings near to home. I have had great fun at these events as a guest, but each wedding flows through the same standard arrangements, almost as if completing a checklist. They each stand out in my memory for the friends I saw marry their soul mate but otherwise they can be quite similar.
We see lots of vastly different weddings in Central Park. There are elopements, with just the couple with the photographer as their witness, or we have small ones with just a handful of guests, or quite big ones with maybe fifty or sixty people. I have planned ones which are very low budget, and ones which are huge and lavish affairs with much celebration in fancy New York establishments. I do gay weddings and straight weddings. Some brides carry flowers, some keep their hands empty. I do short and sweet ceremonies, ceremonies where couples write long lists of promises for each other, I do traditional ceremonies, I do ceremonies where a guest sings or reads a poem, ceremonies with a surprise for one or both of the couple. I do dressed-up super-fancy weddings, I do weddings where the couple both wear jeans. I have planned weddings for very young couples, some who have been together less than a year, for couples who have recently had children together, and those who have older children together, and for those who have been married before. Each one is unique, and that is one thing I really love about my job. What they all have in common is that they take place in this spectacularly beautiful, iconic and historical public park in the centre of one of the world’s finest and craziest cities.
Give an example of a tiny wedding you have worked on and what you did for the couple?
There are so many to choose from! I write each ceremony with the couples, so every one has been unique. We can incorporate as much or as little from a culture or religion as couples would like. We have performed a couple of ceremonies in two languages (Spanish and English), so that all the guests can understand. We have dropped in some phrases or sayings in foreign languages to otherwise English language ceremonies, such as Gaelic and Hebrew. We have had various acoustic musicians play at weddings – a cello, violin, bagpipes, guitar, or saxophone – and the couples have made a vast range of request of pieces they can play. We have done hand-fasting ceremonies and a glass unity ceremony. We have had couples say a quick “I do” and other couples write their own lengthy vows full of meaningful promises or private jokes. We have readings the couples have chosen, which can be done by the officiant or by a guest. We had a Kiwi bride marry an English bride (New York was in the middle for their families) and the Kiwi side of the family sung a waiata (Maori folk song) as they were pronounced married.
Do you feel there has been an increase in tiny weddings in the past few years or have you always worked with a lot of small wedding parties?
I am at the age now when everyone I know is either married or very single so I’m not sure! I have always planned small weddings. I often ask the couples afterwards what they think about the popularity of the sort of wedding they have chosen. They tell me that they have seen an increase in small, intimate weddings where the couple has really brought the focus inwards to themselves as a couple and to their closest friends and family. I keep reading a statistic that one in four British weddings is a destination wedding.
If you could work on a tiny wedding anywhere in the world, any theme, any couple; where or what or whom would it be?
Before I met my husband, I was on holiday in one of the National Parks in California, and met a couple who told me that they had married in that park, on a mountain top, overlooking a forest. It blew my mind; in England we have such strict rule on where people can get married, it never occurred to me to do it somewhere like that. So, that wouldn’t be a bad place to plan a wedding, although there you couldn’t hop out of a yellow cab and walk a few minutes to your ceremony. I lived in Las Vegas for a few years and I saw newly married couples out celebrating very frequently, and what a place that is to celebrate in! I loved the desert surrounding the city, so wedding photos there would be spectacular, but it would be a nuisance to get out there, and the red dust would ruin any white gown!
So, I think I’ll stick with Central Park; a world-famous, magnificent, lovely oasis of green and calm in the centre of one of the world’s most vibrant cities, that truly has something for everyone. I love my job and I wouldn’t want to change it at all.
If you are interested in hearing more about getting married in Central Park, or any other outdoor location in New York, then come along to the Wycombe Swan on 30th Sept to meet Claire and chat about how easy it is for Brits to have a legally binding wedding in New York. Go and check out Claire’s website or blog for lots more information on getting married in Central Park. Follow our Facebook page or the Wed in Central Park Facebook page for helpful and inspiring articles and information, and show your interest in our Facebook event to see updates. Follow us on Instagram for lovely photos and inspiration of small weddings, and Wed in Central Park on Instagram for photos of happy couples in New York. Come along and chat with us or Wed in Central Park on Twitter and see our pins , or Claire’s pins on Pinterest. Most importantly, buy yourself a ticket in advance.