Follow the Rules for Budget Nuptials in the Park
J. Dennis Robinson, March 2012
Prescott Park, Portsmouth, NH
I just got a polite email from Kayla asking if it would be possible to bring a few chairs into Portsmouth’s Prescott Park for a wedding ceremony this summer. The short answer is “yes.” But you have to read the fine print.
Nothing is that simple when it comes to weddings and public places. Prescott Park is a scenic spot on the Piscataqua River just across Marcy Street from historic Strawbery Banke Museum with views of Kittery, Maine. This was the colonial landing site for the first New Hampshire settlers who arrived from England in 1630. A century later it was one of the most active ports on the Atlantic Coast, jam-packed with wharves, ships, homes, and warehouses. About 200 years ago the city’s maritime industry fell into hard times and the area along the waterfront became a danger zone of rotting piers, dilapidated houses and bordellos. Yes, this was the city’s “red light” district and “slum” area in the early 20th century.
Two Portsmouth sisters, both unmarried schoolteachers, inherited millions from their brother and used the money to tear down the buildings and create the park you see today. In the 1980s the park blossomed to include live outdoor theater and concerts and expanded the beautiful gardens. The park was gifted to the City of Portsmouth, but it is run by a small group of trustees who make the rules. So yes, Kayla, it is possible to get married here. The Prescott sisters, Josie and Mary, would be thrilled and maybe a bit jealous. But first you have to apply to the City, pay a small fee to keep the flowers blooming, and stick to the rules.
I searched Google for “Prescott Park weddings” and the guidelines popped right up on the Portsmouth municipal Web site. Click here on the Prescott Park section of the City site for the official details. There is even a clickable map showing 10 possible wedding locations within the expansive park area. Do you prefer a shady spot, a garden, a lawn, an historic site, a fountain, or a pier? Now all you have to worry about is rain.
Marcy Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801
Official Web site:
603-431-8748 for park superintendent
Weddings of up to 75 people are possible with your prepaid fee and advance notice. No alcohol is allowed in public parks. No littering or throwing rice. Chairs may be placed only behind the brick building operated by Players Ring Theater. (Be sure to get your check in on time – no check, no wedding.)
From $100 to $500 paid in advance based on the size of your wedding party. (Fee waived for Portsmouth residents.) Your money may be refunded if weather prevents use of park.
Read More: About the Prescott Sisters
J. Dennis Robinson knows history. The author of a dozen books and a thousand articles on heritage topics, Dennis is also editor of the popular history Web site SeacoastNH.com.
As your guide, he seeks out historic coastal sites and asks the all-important question – Do you do weddings? His monthly blog is a SeacoastWeddings.com exclusive.