The following article was written by my friend Smith Moorefield, who recently married in a private New Year’s ceremony, surrounded by a handful of lifelong friends. I think he provides some very helpful hints for those seeking stylish, affordable, and appropriate options for a small elopement or vow renewal.
Want to get married in New York City in a small, private ceremony set in a lush, romantic setting? Try reserving a suite in one of the city’s many grand hotels and you’ll find an easy, charming and (relatively) inexpensive way to stage a memorable ceremony for you and your guests. That’s what happened for my husband and me at the Gramercy Park Hotel. We sealed our union in front of six friends in a beautiful ceremony in a plush, luxuriously-appointed room filled with original works of art, one-of-a-kind furniture, and a romantic view of the park twelve stories below.
But that’s not how we envisioned it from the beginning. We had originally planned a simple, civil wedding ceremony at city hall. But we discovered only two weeks before the wedding that our chosen day was also a city holiday and city hall would beclosed. Rescheduling the wedding was out of the question, but we realized it would be next-to-impossible to secure a suitable alternative event space at this late date. Churches and banquet halls just didn’t fit our personalities. And since the weather was too chilly, an impromptu service in Central Park or another public location was also out of the question.
So we decided to upgrade our honeymoon suite. We had already planned on abandoning our apartment in the city to celebrate our wedding night in an extravagant hotel room since we wouldn’t be able to take a real honeymoon for a few more months. We decided to find a grand hotel suite capable of serving as both honeymoon suite and ceremony site.
So we set out with a budget of $1,000 to find a hotel suite that was grand enough and romantic enough to accommodate us, our celebrant and six friends. It also had to be romantic enough to be worthy of lifelong memories of our wedding day.
Manhattan has no shortage of grand hotels, and a variety of $1,000 suites are available on any given night. They offer a range of luxurious interior design, from the Asian ambience at the Mandarin Oriental to the French antiques at The Pierre. They also offer varied atmospheres, from the gilded opulence of the Plaza to the sleek, avant-garde character at the Standard. They also offer an array of stunning views, ranging from skyscrapers to Central Park to the Statue of Liberty. A few even have fireplaces. So, with a cornucopia of choices at hand, we began filtering hotels to find our perfect wedding spot.
Of course, checking out the rooms was no easy task. Because you can’t just walk up to the front desk and ask to peek inside their finest room, all of our research had to be done online. Most hotels have online image galleries of rooms, though even the best ones leave you with doubts about the actual size of the room and/or condition of its furniture. You can trust, though, that in the $1,000-a-night range you will not have stained rugs or water-spotted ceilings.
We started our search on the Upper East Side near our apartment. Fifth and Madison Avenues are home to many storied hotels where glamorous globetrotters have stayed over the decades. These include the Mark, the Pierre, the Sherry-Netherland and the Carlyle. Along with the Plaza and the Waldorf-Astoria, these hotels offer a traditional, festive and rarified atmosphere, with décor and ambience ranging from an English country estate to a French chateau. They are perfect for a mature, sophisticated couple whose New York dreams involve a carriage ride in Central Park and a Broadway show. The downtown hotels we researched are more suited to a younger, hipper couple. The Standard, the SoHo Grand and the Maritime Hotel offer a more minimalist, modern aesthetic paired with amazing views of city lights and vibrant nightlife scene. They were perfect for a young, high-spirited couple whose New York dreams involve a wild night out and a celebrity sighting. We were particularly interested in one of the kitschy penthouses at the Maritime Hotel. But alas, they were all booked.
As for suitability for a wedding ceremony, the more traditional uptown hotels tended to win out, offering layouts more onducive to a ceremony, with more conversational furniture arrangements and a homier atmosphere. Most suites had dining tables suitable for serving cake and champagne after saying “I Do.” And all offer complimentary glasses, china and knife for the occasion. We tended to favor rooms with more colorful fabrics and antique-style furniture. A lot of the hotels use a beige palette that didn’t feel romantic enough for a wedding to us. And outdoor space was hard to find. The rooms that did have terraces soared beyond our budget. Most penthouses had two or more bedrooms and started in the $2,500-a-night range. If you have a larger budget you should know that most hotels have their own wedding concierges who will put together the whole ceremony for you, at a price. We avoided getting this sales pitch by telling the reception clerk that we were planning a cocktail party. As for us, we settled on the Gramercy Park Hotel. Not only did it have some sentimental value to us from having stayed there in the past, it also features the décor and ambience that most reflects our personal tastes. The rooms are done in rich jewel tones, with handsome furnishings and an overall ritzy but masculine vibe. The suite’ we chose had a living room that was more than large enough to accommodate all nine of us comfortably. It even had a coatroom and a guest bathroom so no one needed to disturb our bedroom.
And we were able to easily rearrange the furniture to create a lovely space in front of the window for the ceremony. When we had said our vows and celebrated with our friends, we had the whole rest of the night and the next day to enjoy our luxurious suite. And we didn’t have to worry about cleaning anything up!
So, when we look back on our special day it will always be remembered as beautiful, magical, and very suited to us. I’m so glad city hall was closed.
Photo above and selected pictures included in slideshow courtesy of the Gramercy Park Hotel.