Easy, inexpensive, stress-free: These are not the words commonly associated with wedding planning. But more and more British couples are finding this holy trinity by marrying in one particular city: New York.
With its iconic panorama and famous landmarks, the Big Apple has an aesthetic appeal, coupled with easy access (direct six-hour flight) and simpler logistics; all you need to get married is the city clerk's marriage office license, which can be obtained at least 24 hours in advance.
Rebecca Balkombe, 24, married her husband Neil in New York in May last year in front of close friends and family. "We got involved in Egypt with a hot air balloon. So we don't have to do things normally!" she says. Reluctant to spend £ 50 in the UK on an invitation to a wider range of guests than they really would have liked, the idea of marrying abroad immediately appealed to him. When they decided on New York – "We never would have been and we always wanted to go" – all it took to get the job done was to research the internet. "We literally talk about New York weddings with Google, and there are so many different wedding sites out there." They found a minister and a photographer, booked a hotel in Time Square, hosted by local restaurants, and held a ceremony at Shakespeare Garden, Central Park, all without leaving home. "It was incredibly easy to arrange," says Rebecca.
Alex Bartosiak-Smith and husband John had similar experiences when they got married in Central Park 18 months ago. "It was never traditional. We wanted to do it for ourselves. It was the most important day for us, not for someone else," says John.
They invited only five guests to New York, a city they already knew and loved, for an intimate ceremony on Gapstow Bridge in the background of Plaza Plaza, followed by lunch at the Central Park Boat House and later cocktails at a rooftop bar in Peninsula.
A couple chose their rings and costumes in the UK, but everything else was organized over the phone or over the Internet. "I just called a few restaurants from home and booked them, just. It wasn't any stress," says Alex. After the couple arrived a week earlier, hair, makeup and flowers were organized in New York. So determined that they had a stress-free time that they even started flying on business-class flights.
John adds, "Every time we go on holidays, Alex does a lot of research. So the wedding was almost a holiday, but with a little extra work."
Both couples becoming husband and wife in New York fulfilled their expectations in every way. "I wouldn't change anything," says Rebecca. And because the location automatically reduced the number of guests, the total cost was nothing like the average wedding price of £ 21,000 in the UK. Rebecca and Neil spent about £ 9,000 on three people, including flights and seven nights in New York (other guests paid for themselves). With up to £ 5,000 in some UK outlets, even before you add in the cost of meals, this can explain why many couples are attracted by the benefits of New York. If you really want to keep things simple, you can even have a civil ceremony at the Manhattan Marriage Office for only $ 25.
Photographer Brian Friedman (www.bfreedweddings.com) has taken wedding photos of more than a hundred British couples who have been married in New York in the last two years and understands the attractiveness of their hometown. "I think they're as enthusiastic about New York as I would be with London or Paris. A lot of people want maybe a more intimate, special thing. They don't want to have 200 people, maybe they have some politics involved that they want to get together get smaller. There are also financial benefits. "
In creating this particular niche, Friedman sees it as his New Yorker responsibility to ensure that his British clients have a successful wedding: "When you host a local wedding, you don't help them as much as others. But these guys come from 3,000 miles away, I felt I wanted to take care of these people. "
He adds, "It's very equivalent to putting the British in the New York City landscape, and because I've grown up in New York, I think I can. I see things outside the corner. From my own eye, I see a cab or a bus or a sign that I I know they will like it. It came naturally. "
Being married across the Atlantic has certainly pleased his clients, but what about their families? "Everyone really supported us. If they couldn't come, it was acceptable because it was big money. But we knew important people would be there," says Rebecca. "When we got home, a month later, we had a party for all our friends and family to really get the best of both worlds."
By Caroline Bishop
And how best to get married in New York? You're already on your honeymoon.