A nearly Christmas Eve wedding at the Little Red Lighthouse

Today I have a rather different wedding for you, as it’s a nearly Christmas Eve wedding set completely around the location and the actual vows than the big ceremony, fuss and details……….PLUS it’s the wedding of a wedding photographer, the rather wonderful photographer Belinda McCarthy   ………so no pressure there to create the perfect wedding!

Belinda emailed me her wedding story and even though it isn’t heavy in details and all the other stuff, I just adore it. It really does show you that anyone can have the wedding they want, no pressure from anyone else, it really is about you the couple, no one else! It is so important that you stay true to what you want!………..and that’s exactly what Belinda and Paul did!

Here’s their story!

New York Wedding

For a wedding photographer, planning your own wedding is something of a busman’s holiday – not to mention the difficult decision of who you get to photograph it. That’s why, when I announced last year that I was getting married, there were plenty of jokes bandied about along the lines of ‘ha, I bet you’ll photograph it yourself’. Well, I have to say, it did cross my mind, but the technicalities of such a thing are somewhat difficult to get past.

So, whilst we originally gave some thought to getting married in the area I’m based in and undertake a lot of my wedding photography in, Somerset, we decided to do something completely different. Partly to reflect our own personalities and wishes, and partly to do something that we’d never forget. That’s when the plan to get married on Christmas Eve in New York was formulated.

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Like any bridal couple, we ached and agonised over location. Luckily for us, getting married in New York is much easier than you might imagine, for the officiant is licensed, not the location; so technically, you can get married anywhere you like. However, you can imagine how that opens up a bewildering amount of possibilities; almost too much choice, in fact. We thought of the obvious places – Central Park, Empire State Building, Grand Central Station. Nothing quite fitted; it was either too busy, not quite right, just something which didn’t fit. And then we happened across a wedding officiant website for ‘guerilla weddings’ – just you two, the officiant and the photographer, in a bold choice of location. And that’s where we spied our wedding venue.

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Perhaps it was something to do with the fact that the officiant website said ‘we’ve never done a wedding here before’ that made us want to choose it even more – but as soon as we laid eyes on the picture, we knew that The Little Red Lighthouse was the place for us. Nestled right under the yawning George Washington Bridge, on the banks of the Hudson River, The Little Red Lighthouse – or Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse as it’s also known – is the only building of its kind in Manhattan. It’s dwarved by its surroundings, yet manages to hold its own, dramatically, in such a unique setting. Furthermore, its chequered history spawned a classic children’s book – The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge – which only adds to its charm.

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So it was decided – Christmas Eve, at the Little Red Lighthouse, which had already captured our hearts and minds. Maybe we were a bit crazy. After all, in winter, you couldn’t even go inside the lighthouse, which meant a freezing cold ceremony on the banks of a huge icy river. Well, we could dress up warm, couldn’t we? I think our wedding officiant thought we were perfect English eccentrics, but they agreed to go along with it.

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As often happens, things don’t always go to plan. That peculiarly British condition – grinding to a halt when it snows – meant that the night before we were due to fly, our plans were changed for us. We couldn’t get another flight for another week, which meant that our dreams of marrying on Christmas Eve were gone. But after the initial disappointment, we soldiered on, re-arranged everything, hoped that our new flights would be ok. They were. However, flying into the aftermath of an even bigger snowstorm at JFK meant that we were stranded on the tarmac for another eight hours before we could get off the plane. But it’s OK. We got there… eventually.

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We’d made it. We collected our marriage license from City Hall, caught up on sleep, put on our boots and coats and found ourselves trudging through the snow to the Little Red Lighthouse. Unlike most places in Manhattan, you can’t drive there, or get the subway; it’s just too remote. You have to walk for three quarters of an hour. But, it was worth it when we got there and came face to face with the lighthouse we’d chosen to watch over us as we got married. It was everything we wanted; it was perfect.

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However, there were still a few things that could go wrong – and they did. Our wedding officiant and photographer were an hour late, due to a particularly unhelpful New York taxi driver; so we spent a chilly hour jiggling on the spot, beating our arms up and down, trying to keep warm. It’s ok. They’ll be here. And finally, they were.

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So back to the original question; who does a wedding photographer from Somerset get to photograph her own wedding in Manhattan? In my case, it was Liam Madden, from Queens. This wasn’t going to be a glamorous affair; we kept boots, coats and hats on throughout. It was more about the entire event, for me, not pictures of my undeniably windswept, straggly hair and red cheeks. It was about what we’d achieved, why we were here. And Liam did the job perfectly.

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So if you’re thinking of getting married, no matter where you’re doing it, how many people are in attendance, make sure you record it. Images aren’t just a physical reminder, they’re a springboard to your inner memories, your kaleidoscope of mental pictures which you’ll never want to lose. It doesn’t matter if your wedding is Manhattan, Somerset, or Staines. Keep those memories sharp and true.

New York Wedding


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Supplier Shout Outs
One of the lovely things about  getting married in NYC was that the wedding Officiant, although we’d never met, had been in touch with us for a good while beforehand and got to know us from a distance, and as such wrote us a very personal, unique wedding ceremony. This absolutely made all the difference to us as we wrote our own vows, there were no limitations on what could and couldn’t be said, and it felt absolutely about ‘us’.

I did my own hair and makeup (I’m sure you can tell ;) ) although I did look slightly more groomed before standing around in the bitter wind for two hours! Taking the hat off was a BIG mistake! I was actually wearing a smart day dress under the coat, although it’s impossible to tell

Wedding Officiant:  ‘Guerilla Weddings’
Photographer: Liam Madden
We stayed at: Affinia Shelburne, Murray Hill, Manhattan
Wedding Breakfast at: Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar, Manhattan


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    Belinda McCarthy

    Thank you so much for featuring my rather unconventional, scruffy-haired wedding! Suffice to say I tried to look a little more elegant when we went out for our wedding breakfast later that day (tried, please note!)

    New York is a fantastic place to get married if you’re looking for a destination wedding. If anyone is considering it and would like any suggestions or tips, please feel welcome to drop me a line as I’d be happy to help!

    Laura {Babb Photo}

    So lovely to see a wedding that’s just about the couple and a striking back drop. I wish the law in this country would hurry up and change to allow for amazing weddings like this.

    helen franks

    Just read Belinda wedding, so brilliant, thinking might do that for our wedding.


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