Jersey City is that place across the river from Downtown Manhattan and up the street from trendy Hoboken. Evolving over the years and growing in popularity, it is now the home to amazing restaurants, incredible shopping and all different types of artists. Full of one-way streets and plenty of pedestrians, the city can be difficult to navigate if you aren’t familiar with the area.
For couples looking to host their wedding in this bustling town, it’s important to create a weekend that includes hidden hotspots that only the locals know about, instead of just relying on a quick internet search and praying for 5 star reviews. To really give readers an insider’s look into this popular destination, I spoke with my friend Elizabeth who not only works at a sought-after venue in J.C., but has lived there for enough years to guide any tourist in the right direction!
To begin with, there are plenty of ways to get to Jersey City including train, car and yes, even by ferry. When designing your wedding weekend, make sure to include all of these possibilities in your Save the Date, as well as on your wedding website and invitations. If your guests are flying in, be sure to send them to Newark Airport in Jersey, even though the common thought/mistake is to use one of the NY airports. They’ll be able to land and either rent a car or take a train into Jersey City. This place is so easy to access that even guests coming from states away will have no problem making it to their destination.
What to Do in Jersey City
With a Saturday wedding planned, it’s best to make sure your wedding party and immediate family get into town by Thursday. This way, you can hold your rehearsal that day as well as have a welcome dinner for those guests. Setting up a room block in Jersey City is beyond easy as there are countless hotels to choose from, many of which have spectacular views. Depending on how large your guest count is and how many people will need hotel rooms, it’s important to consider the vibe you’re trying to create for the entire weekend.
If you’re the couple looking to keep the hotel lounges just for your wedding party and immediate family, there is no shortage of amazing places to eat and drink with your guests. The trick is to find the ones off the beaten path and stay away from the tourist traps. As everyone arrives in Jersey City on Friday, set up an activity so that your guests can get to know each other before the big day. If you and your fiance have a love for science and want to share that with your guests, then look no further than Liberty Science Center which also boasts the nation’s largest IMAX theatre. With no shortage of both permanent and traveling exhibits, tell your guests that the dress code is casual and comfortable as they will absolutely want to check out the famous “Touch Tunnel” while they are there. LSC also has amazing views of the city and if you want to host a small lunch get together, you can do just that in their observation deck room.
If your crowd is more history and less science, Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty are the obvious choices. Gather your group to take a ferry ride together in the early afternoon over to Ellis Island for one of their tours. It’s hard not to get swept up in the romantic thoughts of couples from the old world coming over together to start their new lives together here in America.
For the couple wanting to truly get their guests immersed in Jersey City, a trip to Grove Street needs to be on the itinerary. Whether you choose to all meet at a central location such as your hotel block or at one of the many restaurants in the area, everything can be reached on foot! If your group is coming in on a Thursday between May and December, the early evening hours include a market area with over 25 vendors selling homemade household items, fresh market ingredients and more. It’s a great place to walk around and enjoy before heading off to dinner!
Where to Eat
From some of the best steak in the world to Italian food that even true Italians will rave about, Jersey City is home to an incredible array of restaurants. For a Friday night out with your guests, plan to gather at the hotel and take a shuttle together to avoid anyone getting lost. Plus, on a shuttle, there’s no need to worry about drinking and driving issues and everyone can simply relax and have a great time.
Edwards Steakhouse is perfect for your group on Saturday night, especially if you want to show off to your friends and family from Texas who are always bragging about their amazing steak restaurants. The menu at Edwards includes filet mignon sliders to share, and they also make their own sea salted potato chips. Something difficult to find at most restaurants is a private room, and Edwards not only has one, but it seats up to 40 people!
If your group is large and full of people that want to try everything on the menu, then consider Raval. This restaurant offers traditional tapas fare with small plate options as well as regular sized entrée options. Plus, there is plenty to look at including custom lighting and plenty of vintage décor, which is a hot trend in weddings now and will be for years to come.
Of course, if you’re looking to show your guests that Jersey City is more than just tall buildings and a waterfront, bring them to Laicos. You’ll absolutely want to get a shuttle to this place as your guests will wonder if they made a wrong turn somewhere. Set in somewhat of a residential area, this Italian restaurant is extremely personal and the menu is full of Italian staples that your guests will love. This is truly off the beaten path and as far from a chain restaurant as you can get...They even have homemade Italian salad dressing!
For the big day (the wedding day I mean), one of my favorite spots is Maritime Parc, which is located right on the water and will offer your guests a 360 degree wrap around deck with amazing views. This venue is not only perfect for those from the area, but for those that have never seen the Manhattan skyline and depending on the time of year can view it both in daylight and at night completely illuminated. As someone who grew up in Jersey, I can vouch that the view never gets old! It’s a spectacular site and the venue sits almost at the end of the road and up against the dock where many couples can embrace the nautical feel and take pictures near some incredible boats.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of Maritime Parc is its food. Many couples that meet with me want a venue with amazing food, but fall in love with the venue without even knowing what the food tastes like. Of course, while a tasting cannot take place until a couple puts a deposit down for the wedding date, Maritime Parc also has a restaurant on site that couples can try out before writing out a check! Since they have a scratch kitchen, customization is no problem, which is great for both picky guests and those with allergies. Because at the end of the day, the venue and view can be beautiful, but if the food isn’t up to par, that’s all the guests will remember.
Maritime Parc offers a farm to table fresh approach to its delectable cuisine as their Executive Chef Owner, Christopher Siversen uses many local NJ farms for the freshest of ingredients. This is perfect for those couples (and there are many) in love with the farm to table trend. They also offer a wide variety of fare for the cultural adventurer. When discussing the latest and greatest menu items with my friend Elizabeth, she listed their cocktail stations which include: an Asian Station to Korean Barbecue and a Tuscan table…and those are just a few! With the “food truck” trend becoming bigger and bigger (but not always easy to execute), Maritime Parc has the answer with new enhancement options such as the donut and milk & cookie dipper, and the seafood aficionado!
Where to Celebrate
Jersey City is covered in various venues, and it isn’t until you get on a cobblestone, 25 miles per hour (though I have never broken 15) road and drive almost to the end before you stumble upon Maritime Parc. Flanked by water and amazing boats on one side and the beautiful Liberty State Park on the other, the photo opportunities are endless! As for the wedding day festivities, depending on guest count, many couples choose to host their ceremony, cocktail hour and reception all on premises. Maritime Parc also has the ability to offer a tented wedding for that rustic marina couple that want to get up close and personal with the views.
Of course, for couples hosting their ceremony elsewhere, and returning to Maritime for their reception, there are two separate floors, and cocktail hour and the reception never have to be in the same room. The open floor plan allows for creativity with table placement, and couples have the choice to keep the view of downtown Manhattan, or they can close the shades and use whatever lighting they choose. In fact, Maritime Parc offers pinspot lighting, an upgrade many venues not only don’t include but don’t even have. Always going the extra mile, the walls are touched up with paint after every event so that no scuff or scratch marks will be present for the next wedding.
Even though Maritime Parc offers valet parking, it’s not always the easiest place to find, especially for those coming from out of town. The cobblestone road could easily leave guests wondering if they were still in Jersey City, and I’ve frequently heard stories of those that drove to the wedding having a “where is this place” moment as they went down the long road. I also recommend getting shuttles to take the guests from the hotel block to the reception and then back again at the end of the night. At the hotel, no matter where the block is, the after party can continue with those that are still going strong. Of course, many of the bars and restaurants I listed earlier have their closing time listed as “close”…and with something so open ended, it’s pretty easy to find a place downtown to continue the party.
The next day, when all of the guests are still raving about the food, have a plan set up and take a trip over to Newark where Maritime’s Chef-owner has opened up “BURG”. As part of the revitalization of the area, BURG is located in Military Park and features specialty burgers such as The Korean, The Cowboy and The Chicken and the Greek Lamb. Also on the menu, other post-wedding hangover perfect food items like fried pickles and disco fries.
Of course, Sunday brunch is a staple in Jersey City’s neighboring town, Hoboken, and there are endless options to choose from. The Brass Rail will give your guests what brunch is truly about: endless mimosas, bloody mary's, beers and sangria! Another great choice is The Stewed Cow where you can also enjoy both mimosas and “man”-mosas, as well as oatmeal and a basket of muffins as something to nibble on while you wait for your order. If your group is small and ready to drive to Hoboken (the land of no parking), then Malibu Diner is a great option because not only do they offer parking, but it is free. Lastly, for the large group that hangs around the day after, plan something over at Mickie Squared which has the space for everyone along with a great Irish Coffee menu.
Jersey City can be overwhelming and a lot to handle. For many outsiders the name might not scream “destination wedding”, but when you put together a weekend to showcase the best places not found by tourists, everyone will be talking about your wedding for years to come. With extreme variety, there truly is something for everyone, and any couple can customize their wedding in Jersey City. Just be sure to make a map as part of your invitation suite, complete with location information and transportation