Brooklyn’s parks have become some of the most popular wedding venues for couples intent on marrying and celebrating safely in recent months, pandemic be damned. With City Hall ceremonies suspended, banquet halls and downtown lofts off-limits for large gatherings, the once rare sight–a wedding underway–has become commonplace.
Megan Breukelman, a wedding photographer, said she spotted five different wedding ceremonies happening within 50 feet of each other at Brooklyn Bridge Park a couple of weekends ago. “Basically, everyone took turns,” said Breukelman.
Even those who miss the actual weddings can’t help but notice the detritus left in their midst. Leftover ‘Just Married’ balloons wilt in trees, glitter decorates the grass, and birds fly around with confetti in their mouths. Couples have gone completely rogue, asking their friends to become officiants. They ditch the parks’ permit process to ‘flash mob it’— assembling suddenly in a public place to have an impromptu ceremony.
“People are generally understanding as soon as they see someone with a white dress come through. The white dress definitely yields some power,” said Breukelman.
Along with Amazon and Peleton, so-called “elopement” services are among the businesses thriving in the time of Covid.
“We’re in an interesting spot in the market where a lot of businesses are being negatively affected by the pandemic whereas we’re experiencing a clientele we have never seen before,” said Sarah Ritchie, an officiant for the company ‘SimplyEloped.’ Andrea Ramos, an officiant for the company OfficiantNYC, said she is four to five times busier than usual. It’s not unusual for a couple to call her and ask to get married the next day.
City Hall’s “Project Cupid,” a platform that allowed marriage licensing to go 100% online, has crashed several times due to high demand. Appointments for the Clerk’s office are booked through December. However, if persistent, couples have reported catching the occasional opening slot. “I just keep telling my couples to refresh. Check every day. Kind of like the unemployment,” said Ramos.
The wedding industry has even developed new packages— and vocabulary — for these weddings. There is the ‘micro wedding’ – a small ceremony with 50 guests or fewer and then you have the ‘mini-mony’ which is more intimate—friends and family only. In a survey conducted by Zola, the wedding-planning and registry company, of more than two thousand engaged couples planning their wedding during the pandemic, half were planning a mini-mony.
The flash mob wedding, a simple-seeming, somewhat spontaneous wedding, has been hastened by the circumstances of Covid, but wedding planners say the movement away from the formal weddings has been underway in recent years.
“There’s this sober-mindedness about life priorities where people are deciding to forego a full-on wedding because they want to put money toward other things,” says Sarah Ritchie, an NYC Officiant for the company Simply Eloped. With the average wedding cost in NYC being $78,464 and millennials carrying over 1 trillion in student loans, Ritchie said couples were opting out of big-scale weddings even before Covid eliminated large guest lists.
“It’s a lot of expense for one fleeting night. I don’t think people have that money socked away anymore,” said Jennifer Harmer, one of the flashmob brides who got married in Prospect Park this summer. “Covid brought away those expectations of what a wedding needs to be or has to be. It almost gives us freedom in that way.”
With a specific lakeside path in mind and no permit to call it hers, Harmer was anxious about the fishermen who often occupy this waterfront spot. “I even brought some twenty-dollar bills just in case we had to say please,” she said. Fortunately for Harmer, the bribe was unnecessary as the park goers were more than happy to clear the spot for her ceremony.
For Harmer and many other “corona brides,” the pandemic has given a collective excuse to relinquish wedding expectations altogether. Spending thousands on food and drink and a dress you’ll wear one time might not be so important during a global health crisis and record unemployment rates. The pandemic has sped up so many changes that were already underway. Consider the formal wedding one of those things.