Thursday, April 19, 2012

Expat stories: Claire from Central Park Wedding

This week, I am happy to publish my first expat interview – I have wanted to do this since the beginning of this blog. Claire is a British expat who moved to NYC in January 2011, following her boyfriend who had a job offer.  She got married in Central Park and guess what… she now runs her own business specialized in weddings in this beautiful landmark of Manhattan. I really admire her entrepreneurship!
 
I always enjoy hearing about expats or NYC lovers experiences, so don’t hesitate to contact me for an interview or if you wish to submit a blog post; I would love to hear about your story!

 
Claire, you’ve been in the City for more than a year now… What do you think about New York?
Americans think New York is an unfriendly place. I suggest they take a trip to London, to put things in perspective. There, you might be lying in a gutter, clutching your chest and gasping for air and people might still give you a (polite) kick as they step over you. 
 
I made numerous friends more quickly in New York than anywhere else I have lived.  We found a flat on the Upper East Side and I furnished it with Craigslist, I went to a Brooklyn woman's apartment to try out her sofa, it was nice, but too expensive but she was pretty great, and has become one of my closest New York friends. 

Claire and her husband getting married
in Central Park
For a few months, you had a lot of free time; what are your favorite things to do here?
I love the choice of art galleries in the city.  I took a visiting friend to the New Museum, where we enjoyed a fabulously creative and interactive installation of a large perspex slide that takes the visitor down through three floors of the gallery.  Goodness knows how they will fill the floors in once it's gone.  

I also loved the Frick collection, where they curators have done their best to place Mr Frick's pieces in exactly the same places around his house as he had put them.  He had positioned Holbein's 500-year-old painting of Sir Thomas More facing Thomas Cromwell.  An excellent joke for history nerds such as myself.  

My favorite museum in the city is the awesome Met.  I have spent around 12 hours in there, and still don't feel confident that I have seen everything.  There are so many sections in so many themes, and all so tastefully done.  Yes, my main impression of America's flagship museum is good taste and subtlety.  Proof that the Americans can do it, flying the face of their less-then-complimentary stereotypes.
 
What was your first job in the City?
I first volunteered as a Greensward Guide at Central Park.  I got several hours of training, then was let loose to direct tourists and locals around the park, usually to toilets, exits and Strawberry Fields.  I fell in love with the park, who wouldn't?  I love the constant barrage of stimulation in Manhattan but it's a relief to get away from it occasionally, and this is what Central Park is for.  That little bit of calm in the midst of all that activity.  So, when my man and I decided to get married, Central Park seemed the obvious choice. 
 
So you got married in New York…
Yes. I had a friend who had married in Shakespeare Garden a while back, and she put me in touch with our officiant.  We met with her by the sailboat lake in Central Park, and she helped us to write our vows.  She did most of the talking in our ceremony.  A friend who worked in the arts in New York had a photographer friend, and he had a wedding photographer friend, who I met with and liked her work, and as luck would have it, her partner was a videographer and we really needed one of those to make a film for our parents!  

That's how things get done in New York City.  It isn't a big city like the ones I know in England, it's a group of villages, or communities, and the people in them are genuinely interested in each other.
 
How did you become an entrepreneur?
I wasn't working, but I was in this unique position: redundancy money allowing me to relax a little, living in the fabulous city of New York, working as a guide in Central Park, and building up an in-depth knowledge of the history and geography of the park, and I had just made these connections for the perfect Central Park wedding, and I had learnt all the legalities necessary to get married there.  


Foreigners like myself don't have the luxury of time in the park to find their perfect spot, or the connections in the city to find reliable people to be involved.  So, I decided to start a business and make a website to promote it. 
 
And I guess it worked well?

Yes! And as it turns out it's not just foreigners, I have clients from the UK and Australia so far, but also some out-of-state Americans, and New York couples, who don't have the time to do the research I did.
 
I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity, and it couldn't have happened anywhere but New York City.
 
You can visit Claire's Wedding in Central Park website at www.wedincentralpark.com and contact her at info@wedincentralpark.com.

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