On WeddingWire since 2013
Saying “I Do” at the Zoo provides a truly unique and unforgettable experience. Whether exchanging vows at the historic Zoo Center or sipping cocktails as sea lions look on, you and your guests will be inspired by exotic wildlife and architecture. Our spectacular indoor and outdoor venue provides the perfect setting for a one of a kind wedding, year-round.
The Bronx Zoo is truly one of the most unique wedding venues available in New York. Imagine exchanging vows in a romantic ceremony outside among the free-roaming Indian peacocks. If you prefer an indoor ceremony, celebrate your nuptials inside the historic Zoo Center. Originally named the Elephant House when constructed in 1908, it was regarded as one of the finest and most modern zoological buildings, now serving as a beautiful and dramatic background to your ceremony.
For cocktail hour, guests can sip cocktails in the Madagascar exhibit alongside lemurs, Nile crocodiles, and other curious creatures, or mingle outside with the California sea lions. Cocktail hour is followed by dinner and dancing in Schiff Family Great Hall. This spacious 4,600 square foot hall, once home to our lions, was fully renovated and is New York’s first green & LEED-certified historic landmark building. Schiff Family Great Hall helps create your fairytale wedding with its timeless architecture and character. Along with the reception space, you and your guests will have private access to our Lion’s Patio and glass-enclosed bridal suite.
This unique experience has a maximum capacity of 175-guests for a plated meal and 250-guests for a cocktail-style event. Full wedding experiences range from approximately $280-$350 per person and include; ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, open bar, and a wedding cake.
All event proceeds help support the Wildlife Conservation Society’s mission to help save wildlife and wild places around the globe.
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Above and Beyond our Expectations!
Working with the staff, especially Robyn, was very easy and easy-going but professional attitude made us feel welcomed and in good hands. Robyn made every part of the process extremely easy, even when we had to postpone our original date due to COVID.
We contracted with the Zoo for approximately 125 persons and ended up with around 135 persons, which we found there was plenty of space for in the reception hall. Everything ran smoothly the day of - all vendors were able to get to where they needed to be without issue, we had some amazing staff help shuttle us around for photos (and guests to the ceremony site) and they were able to quickly get guests into the Madagascar exhibit when it started to rain after the ceremony. The cocktail hour at the Sea Lion pool and the catering was a big hit with our guests and we also got a lot of compliments on the food. We would highly recommend the Bronx Zoo for any couples looking for a unique, guest pleasing venue.
Unique NYC Wedding Venue
When it finally came time to secure the venue (aka I actually got engaged), I coordinated and met with Robyn Hymowitz, the zoo’s event & catering specialist. Robyn is a superstar! Every communication with her was responded to quickly and thoroughly (not an easy feat because she is booked and BUSY!) And when my original event scheduled for October 2020 was postponed due to COVID, she kept me up to date on all NY State reopening information and COVID guidelines and made rescheduling my wedding for a new date in 2021 seamless.
While I grew up in NY, I now live in Seattle, and I knew that in order to coordinate a wedding for myself and my husband’s East Coast-based families from 2500 miles away, I would be restricted by time differences and distance. I did not have time to reach out to (and not hear back from - Brides, you know what I’m talking about! I want to pay you lots of money, why aren’t you returning my calls/emails?!) 8,000 different vendors for all those little things that no one realizes make up a wedding: caterers, bar staff, linens, silverware, glassware, tables and chairs, lighting, decor, flowers, etc. One of my favorite parts of the Zoo as a venue (other than the built-in ambiance) was that it was a one-stop shop. While the Zoo covers most of those things (catering, bar, linens, tables & chairs - even the cake!) - they do have an exclusive lighting vendor you must contract with (Frost Productions) for your event and a list of preferred vendors for all those other little details. This makes it much easier to plan and visualize your dream day from far away when vendors have worked on site and are familiar with the zoo’s unique layout (you are welcome to use other vendors, but they must be pre-approved first and must have appropriate certificate of insurance). For the location, service and experience, I found the price tag to be a steal. You also receive a one year zoo membership and can rest easy at night knowing that all that money you shelled out for One Perfect Day™ is going back into the zoo, supporting the Wildlife Conservation Society, and not to some boring catering hall or beach club.
NB: You also must hire an approved wedding planner or day of coordinator (see my separate review for the outstanding Russell Pinto of Little Red Bean Productions - he’s done so many weddings at the zoo, they practically sign his paychecks!).
The best part of getting married at the zoo is all the amazing photo ops with animals in and around the animal habitats. Just be aware that, the zoo is still open to the public until roughly 5 PM and depending on the time of year you are getting married, the zoo can get VERY crowded (hi, hello, sold out crowd of parents and kids attending Boo at the Zoo - yes I am a Bride getting married today, not just a costume). Robyn and crew will take you around to certain spots on a golf cart, but if you have specific sites in mind for pictures, be ready to have to cautiously travel through groups of people who are oblivious to a large moving, honking vehicle. Certain sites can be accessed after the public leaves the zoo, but other exhibits with animals do close at that time, so do be cognizant of that as well. And of course - no wedding at the Bronx Zoo would be complete without photos in front of the iconic teal doors of Rainey Gate!
Keep the distance & crowds, along with travel time from the parking lot, in mind if you are planning a specific time for family photos on site pre-ceremony or cocktail hour. I advised our families to arrive at the zoo no later than 4:30 PM with a 4:45 photo call time, and only half of them arrived at almost 5 PM due to having to wait for a golf cart from parking lot (Thankfully we managed to just squeeze pictures in quickly before an unexpected rain cloud popped up!)
Schiff Hall - the old lion house - transforms into the most beautiful, magical reception space. I remember walking inside for the first time with Robyn and immediately visualizing where everything would go. Attached to this building is the Madagascar exhibit, which your guests will walk through after being shuttled on golf carts from the parking lot. They will delight and marvel at the lemurs while enjoying a glass of pinot noir or a local Bronx Brewery beer and then, just when they think it can’t get any cooler - BOOM! They are let out into the area near the sea lion pool for cocktail hour.
Meanwhile, you’re upstairs with your newly betrothed sipping on some champagne in the bridal suite (which you can access beginning at 2 PM) on the second floor of Schiff Hall, getting ready to join your guests. This spot is perfect for brides to do their finishing touches or put on your outfit before the reception or an onsite ceremony if you’re having one, but I would not recommend doing your hair or makeup solely here as there is no bathroom on the 2nd floor, there are no windows for good lighting & the overhead fluorescents give office vibes.
The outdoor lion patio was set up for our guests with small tables and heat lamps, but Robyn told me that many guests have chosen to utilize that outdoor space in many interesting and unique ways. It definitely gave a little bit extra ambiance to our event, acting as a sort of ancillary location for guests to gather, drink and chat - as once the music gets going inside Schiff, it can get a little hard for people to hear each other.
Last but certainly not least - the AMAZING catering and bartending crew at the zoo! (extra special shoutout to Kyle!) They were wonderful, always present asking if guests wanted snacks during cocktail hour or a refill on beverages during dinner service. They were so fun, professional and friendly - and it was a comfort to have both a relaxed but well trained staff, as sometimes catering staff can be very uptight and take away from the experience. The food itself was amazing - the different catering options for both entrees and cocktail hour were plentiful, and allergies and dietary restrictions graciously accommodated (vegan and vegetarian options can be requested when putting in your final menu counts, but can also be handled on the fly). There are also numerous add-on packages and rentals (which we didn’t utilize) to enhance your event experience, no matter what the occasion.
I’m sure that was a lot to read but again, I was just so blown away by every part and person that went into truly making this the wedding of my dreams - especially after so much sadness and despair the year prior with COVID. The Bronx Zoo is such a special place and means a lot to me, as aforementioned family members who used to take me to the zoo are no longer with us. Having my event here truly made it feel like they were there in spirit. My guests had the most incredible time (which I’m thankful for as they were hyping it up in advance of our big day - I would’ve been devastated if it didn’t meet their expectations!) and if I could do it (and afford it, lol) all over again, I’d have another wedding at the Bronx Zoo in a heartbeat!
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We love working with the Bronx Zoo. They offer well done events in a unique setting. They have great professionals running thier venue.
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