Journal, Lifestyle

A Weekend in the Life of New York City’s Elite

Three girls in formal ballgowns in New York City's Central Park. Two blondes in black full-length dresses and a brunette with an updo and a coral-coloured dress. Models: Deni Verklan, Victoria Potter, Sarah Potter. Photo by Emily Potter courtesy of Diana Potter. A Weekend in the Life of Manhattan's Elite, The Full-Time Tourist, 2016 ©

New York City has always held a place close to my heart since my first visit last August for my birthday. So naturally, when my boyfriend mentioned that his two L.A. friends had never been to the Big Apple, we were quick to book our flights and AirBnB. Not long after we had booked our stay in NYC, I was invited to my friend Sarah’s sister, Amanda’s graduation from Columbia Law. I wasn’t going to say no to celebrating such a huge accomplishment, so exactly two weeks after I returned from Brooklyn, I was in a car heading back over the U.S.-Canada border to Manhattan.

To say that the two trips I took this past May were starkly different would be an understatement. My first trip was mostly centred on Brooklyn, vegan and gluten-free eats, and museums. The second was so extravagant; it was like stepping onto a welcome mat to the Upper East Side. Luckily, we were able to by-pass the expensive flights and accommodations with an early morning road trip and the kindness of Amanda’s boyfriend’s parents, who had bought an apartment in Midtown East and were renovating about to start renovations.

At 3:30 a.m. we were up and packed the trunk of my friend Sarah’s boyfriend, Rob’s car with ball gowns, evening wear, heels, clothes and blow-up mattresses, and by 4:15 a.m., we- Sarah, Rob, her cousin Victoria, and I- were on our way to New York City.

Cars and taxis lined up at a stop light in Manhattan, New York City (NYC). Photo by Deni Verklan. The Full-Time Tourist, 2016 ©

A Weekend in the Life of New York City’s Elite

The importance of Ivy League law schools in the States is an idea I can somewhat grasp through movies like Legally Blonde, Accepted or the totally real Any College Movie Ever. So hearing Sarah’s mom, Diana, talk about Amanda’s commencement ceremony the day before was eye opening. The Secretary General of the United Nations spoke at the ceremony, which apparently was the reason behind the two military helicopters we saw on our drive into Manhattan earlier that day. Diana also mentioned that there were snipers around the ceremony- and that you could tell that they weren’t just there for decoration.

The convocation, which is what the four of us drove down for, was less eventful. The only mishap was that Diana, her husband Jason and Amanda’s carsick 2-year-old brother were taken uptown instead of across town by their cab driver, resulting in them being over an hour and half late. (As opposed to the 20-minute cab ride Sarah’s two younger sisters and 5-year-old brother took. I should mention that Sarah has a large family to make this less confusing- her older sister Amanda (26) is the graduate, two younger sisters (13, 11) and two little brothers (5, 2).) Luckily, Diana had everyone arrive early to take photos with Amanda in her cap and gown, so they weren’t late for the ceremony itself.

As the convocation was the main event of the day, the evening was low-key in anticipation of the grandeur of the next day’s photo shoot in Central Park.

Three girls in formal ballgowns in New York City's Central Park. Two blondes in black full-length dresses and a brunette with an updo and a coral-coloured dress. Models: Deni Verklan, Victoria Potter, Sarah Potter. Photo by Emily Potter courtesy of Diana Potter. A Weekend in the Life of Manhattan's Elite, The Full-Time Tourist, 2016 ©

PHOTO by Emily Potter (@emilyrpotter). Curtesy of Diana Potter.

After a morning of exploring the Stephen A. Schwartzman library (a.k.a. The New York Public Library in every NY movie) and Grand Central Terminal, we slipped into our ball gowns and added 10 pounds of jewelry, make-up and hairspray before running out the door to the Plaza Hotel, where the four of us were meeting Sarah’s family.

Unbeknownst to us, according to Manhattan rules, ball gowns make for interesting transportation experiences. Apparently a group of three women in ball gowns and a man in a tuxedo urgently waving down every cab passing by means that you almost have to jump in front of a moving taxi to nab a cab. (Trademark pending on that rhyme.)

It also means that when we finally joined Sarah’s family at the Plaza, a rick-shaw became the transportation option of choice when the photographer called to let us know he had arrived at the location and not at the hotel. According to Mohammed, who appeared to run the rick-shaw stand we rented from, arranging four rick shaws for a group of 11 people in formal wear are running late to a photo shoot in Central Park- including two unwilling toddlers in tuxedos- was one he’ll never forget. And it probably was memorable to anyone dodging the crazy formal people in rick shaws flying through Central Park.

For the next two and a half hours, the photographer had us take posed and candid photos, and those not in the photos were being captured in more candid photos by anyone with Diana’s camera. Once we finished photos in the park, we went back to the Plaza Hotel for dinner, where we took more photos with the remainder of our group of 30 people on the front steps of the hotel.

Two blonde women in black formal dresses standing under a chandelier in the Plaza Hotel in New York City (Manhattan, NYC). Photo by Diana Potter. Models: Deni Verklan and Amanda Potter. A Weekend in the Life of Manhattan's Elite, The Full-Time Tourist, 2016 ©

Surprisingly, I was able to eat at the Plaza in between never-ending rounds of champagne and strong drinks. And it was delicious! The first course was asparagus soup, followed by an equally delicious arugula and beet salad and a yummy pasta dish for the entree. After dinner, Amanda’s family gave their speeches to her and we wrapped up the champagne-and-chandelier-filled night with a toast to the graduate.

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Girl with curled medium-length bob, silver necklace, sheer black shawl and simple black Ralph Lauren formal dress / ball gown. Model: Deni Verklan. Photo by Deni Verklan for A Weekend in the Life of NYC's Elite, The Full-Time Tourist, 2016 ©

Have you ever had a formal weekend in NYC? What were you celebrating?

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Special thanks to Jason & Diana for the amazing celebration in NYC, and to Steve & Lynn for their incredible hospitality that weekend. Thank you to Sarah & Rob for driving at obscenely early hours, and to Victoria for being the best bunk mate/air mattress queen. 

And of course, a massive congratulations to Amanda for graduating from Columbia Law! I’ll be cheering you on in your long study-days preparing for the bar exam!