Confession: I was a Broadway bride! Getting married in Times Square (photos)

What’s it like to twirl across Times Square in a wedding dress and veil, holding a bouquet of red roses?

It’s a surreal experience, to say the least.

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“Congrats!”

“Is this a fashion shoot?”

“There’s still time to back out!”

Those were just a few of the reactions I received from passersby as I spun in the arms of  my highly-embarrassed fiancé, Jake, under the neon billboards of midtown Manhattan.

Our wedding photographer, Ting Yi– who conveyed authority despite standing about five feet tall– managed to commandeer a section of Times Square for our wedding party. Under her direction, we engaged in a series of wedding poses that ranged from traditional to giggle-inducing: groom carries bride, bride triumphantly hoists bouquet above her head, bride kisses bouquet, and bride tries to ignore the half-million tourists gawking at her ivory gown and bright red shoes.

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As a New Yorker, I usually avoid Times Square (and its tourist hordes) like the plague. But getting married in a Broadway theater next to Times Square turned out to be the perfect wedding venue for a couple with the quintessential New York City romance. We met and lived together for years in this bustling metropolis, and Times Square embodies the city’s unique energy: frantic, random, flashy, gritty and exciting, all at the same time.

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Becoming a Broadway Bride

Jake and I exchanged vows on a balmy June day two years ago in the Hudson Theater on 44th Street and Broadway.

We had returned from our year-long, round-the-world trip the prior summer and had ample free time (spent writing freelance articles, going to the gym and trimming hedges at my parent’s house in Long Island) that we quickly dedicated to planning a wedding.

After looking at various venues in New York and Philadelphia, we heard about the Hudson Theater and were captivated by the idea of getting married on a Broadway stage. Neither of us had a theater background, but the venue meshed with the ‘vintage Hollywood glamor’ theme that I had in mind.

Sammi, a hair and makeup artist based in Flushing, Queens, understood the look I wanted and took it to the next level. She created an intricate 1940s hairstyle that stayed in place perfectly the entire evening and drew raves from many wedding guests.

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My bridesmaids and I gathered in a suite at the Millennium Broadway hotel (which owns the Hudson Theater) to prep for the ceremony. We knew Sammi and her assistant were serious about their work when they donned face masks for the session and laid out an impressive array of Mac cosmetics, styling tools and even a hand razor. They quickly transformed three modern women who don’t wear much makeup into a glamorous trio that would put the Andrews sisters to shame!

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Being a budget-savvy bride– and having recently returned from 12 months of overseas haggling as a backpacker– I embarked on several DIY projects to cut unnecessary costs. I made my own fascinator (hair clip) using a silk flower from Michael’s craft store and a diamond button from Mood Fabrics, and purchased a raw stretch of netting which Sammi effortlessly fashioned with bobby pins into a birdcage veil. In a twist of good fortune, planning a wedding at the depths of the economic recession meant I was able to secure deals on the venue and vendor services.

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Sammi’s makeup job was so thorough that when one of my bridesmaids went home and fell asleep with her makeup on, she awoke the next morning with it perfectly intact (false eyelashes included)! The makeup was ideal for a ceremony conducted on a stage; needless to say, I was not going for a natural look.

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The final touch was a bridal bouquet of black magic roses with calla lilies, crafted by Williamsburg-based florist Kimberly of Red Rose and Lavender. She embraced our theme and found lush, velvety flowers that matched the vintage Hollywood feel.

Taking the stage

After finishing hair and makeup and shooting photos in Times Square, it was time to take the stage for the wedding ceremony.

Guests entering the Hudson Theater were greeted by mock Playbill posters showing Jake and I striking a pose straight out of I Love Lucy. I had the good fortune of knowing a photographer/graphic designer (my sister Lauren) who conducted the photo shoot and designed the poster pro bono. Once the image was set, we printed it out at Adorama in Chelsea. Having the custom Playbill– which we also used on our programs– helped me get in the Broadway mindset for my walk down the aisle.

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My makeup was still firmly in place after spending about an hour shooting photos outside in 85-degree heat; my attempt to cake on layers of additional pressed powder to my face (to eliminate any doubts) was squashed by a sensible bridesmaid.

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The ornate theater was transformed into a ceremony venue with a center aisle and flower-covered stage. I was nervous as I walked past our intimate group of 100 guests, clutching my father’s arm and trying to navigate the steps without ripping my dress. (I was largely successful, although my platform heels did get stuck in the tulle lining of my gown on the final steps to the stage, causing me to pause for a few seconds to regroup).

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Thankfully, my nerves were tempered by the strong stage lighting that blocked out the audience. However, I later realized that our every move was being scrutinized by wedding guests; a friend sitting in a middle row asked me why Jake was wearing his $5 plastic watch (a memento from our time in Vietnam) and a relative noted that the buttons on the back of my dress meshed seamlessly with my spine.

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While we were catching up with guests at the cocktail reception, the staff transformed the theater into a party hall with banquet tables and a projection of the Manhattan skyline. The first dance was a bit nerve-wracking but it was a relief to know this would be our final solo act on stage. Afterwards, we could relax and enjoy the evening!

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Bucking a trend, we didn’t rehearse a choreographed dance but swayed back and forth to the strains of Green Eyes by Coldplay. Our friend Martha (aka DJ Something Blue) deftly spun a mix of of ’80s classics, current pop hits and local favorites like New York, New York.

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The wedding went by quickly, but the memories come flooding back every time I walk through Manhattan’s Theatre Row. If you are looking for a classic New York City wedding venue, you can’t beat Times Square!

The Details

Neither Jake or I received any compensation or discounts from wedding vendors or the venue for writing this post. (In fact, our wedding happened before we started Downtown Traveler). However, we were very satisfied with our wedding vendors and are happy to share their details with other brides.

Ceremony and Reception
The Hudson Theater
Millennium Broadway Hotel New York
145 West 44th Street
New York, USA 10036-4012
T: 1 (212) 768-4400
www.millenniumhotelnyc.com

Photographer
Ting Yi McCluskey
www.tingyistudio.com
In partnership with Fede Photography
www.fedephotography.com

Hair & Makeup
Sammi Mok
www.sammimok.com

Florist
Kimberly Sevilla
Rose Red & Lavender
www.roseredandlavender.com

Broadway Playbill Poster
Shot and designed by Lauren Koch
Pic and Pixel Photography
www.picandpixel.com

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About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded DowntownTraveler.com after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.