Everything You Need to Know about Boston Public Garden Weddings and Wedding Portraits
Last updated: September 2019
Boston is a beautiful location for weddings— with sprawling gardens and cityscapes, swan boats, parks, and winding rivers. There’s no shortage of picture-worthy moments when it comes to the Walking City.
The Boston Public Garden, a national historic landmark in downtown Boston, is highly popular as an outdoor wedding venue. In the spring, it offers colorful scenery and even more colorful locals. It’s charming, picturesque, and for those of us who grew up reading “Make Way for Ducklings,” intensely nostalgic.
However, there are several things to consider before planning the wedding of your dreams in a public park, specifically a Boston Public Garden Wedding. Reservations require permits, scheduling, and restrictions that you may not have realized.
I’ve written down the most important tips for you to keep in mind when considering a Boston Public Garden Wedding, as well as some additional resources that should help your arrangements go smoothly.
BUT WAIT! WHAT IF I ONLY WANT MY PORTRAITS THERE, NOT MY ENTIRE WEDDING?
All of the points below still apply, especially the one about paying an filing for a permit! Keep reading!
Wedding season is (unsurprisingly) busy for the Boston Public Garden, so it’s important to reserve your spot well ahead of time!
Weddings can be scheduled between April 1st and December 1st, and can be booked up to one year in advance. Once you reach a week out from the date, you will no longer be able to book your Boston Public Garden Wedding.
Log onto this website and create an account. You’ll be able to pick from 6 or 7 different areas of the park— which also means there can be up to 6 or 7 events happening at the same time. If you can’t book in a certain area for your Boston Public Garden Wedding, it means that someone has already reserved that area for their own event.
Permits for securing a wedding venue are free! For more information on requesting a permit, see this guide, or call the permitting division at 617-635-4505 with any questions.
CONSIDER THE COSTS
Although there’s no cost for the permit to reserve your special spot in the Public Garden, there is a fee for professional wedding photography and videography. This applies to whether you’re having your wedding ceremony there, or are headed there simply for your wedding family photos, bridal party photos, or couple photos.
You’ll have to submit a Special Event Permit Application through the same website and make out a check to the City of Boston at least 10 days prior to the wedding.
The fee for Non-Boston residents is $100; for residents in the city of Boston, the cost is $50. Once again, the permitting division (617-635-4505) can provide any assistance you need in securing a permit for your wedding photographer.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
“Popular” and “public” go hand-in-hand with “packed.” Expect there to be crowds during wedding season, especially if it’s a Friday or Saturday!
There could be several other events happening at the same time as your wedding, not to mention tourists, students, and families enjoying their day at the Boston Public Gardens while you have your photo session. This provides its own set of challenges for photographers and couples alike.
And that’s not all— if you’re familiar with Boston, you know how unpredictable the weather can be. Make sure you have a backup plan for rainy weather! (Or umbrellas and galoshes if your guests are the outdoorsy type.)
Weddings can take place Monday through Friday between 3:00PM and 5:30PM, or weekends between 11:00AM and 5:30PM.
KNOW THE RULES
If you’re planning a short, cost-efficient, intimate wedding, a Boston Public Garden Wedding may be a perfect fit for you. Weddings have 1 hour maximum duration, with a 50 person maximum capacity.
You won’t be able to have tents, tables, chairs, decorations, or balloons. This is a public space, after all, and the Boston Parks Department wants to keep it as pristine as possible. In addition to being a national landmark, it’s also the first public botanical garden in America.
Music and amplified sound are not allowed, presumably for the benefit of the other park-goers.
No food or drinks are allowed, but the Public Garden is close to a whole host of restaurants, if you’re looking for a bite to eat after the ceremony.
Parking, as always in Boston, is an adventure. Scout the area ahead of time to find garages like the Boston Common Garage (by Charles Street) and metered street parking nearby. There’s also plenty of public transportation, if your guests are local or staying in the area.
See the Park FAQ for details.
If you’re looking to book a wedding in Boston Common, similar fees and restrictions apply. I was informed the park does not typically hold ceremonies in the Common; however, if you have your heart set on it, I’d advise calling the permit department to check if there’s any other important information you should be aware of before booking.