NY Local Series is a new feature of the blog, hopefully with a new topic each week. As so many of my couples are eloping from out of town, I often find myself fielding all sorts of questions from how to elope, how to get to City Hall, or where is the best place to elope in NYC, to questions about best restaurants or places to stay. So I’m hoping to answer some of these questions for you in this series. As I’m working towards seven years in the city, I’ve got some local New York knowledge I’d love to share!
(I also have updated an FAQ page, for any other questions you might have! )
So without further ado, my first NY Local installment is on elopements and how to get married in New York:
How to Elope in NYC
So you’ve made the decision to elope in New York City? Awesome! I’ve lived in the city since 2008 (with a brief stint in Vermont for a year) and I have to say, it’s an amazing place. One of the best parts? Literally anyone can get married here, and all you need is 24 hours, $35, a witness, and you’re set to go! But how exactly does it work? After photographing well over 100 elopements and helping many international couples navigate the process, I’m here to help.
NYC Elopement Part 1: The Marriage License.
The piece of paper you need to make everything legal. Your paperwork can be obtained at any City Clerk’s office. They have one in each of the 5 boroughs, but most people end up at the Manhattan office which can be found at 141 Worth Street. The closest subway is the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station on the 4/5/6 line. (Keep in mind this isn’t actually City Hall, which is located down the street)
You’ll need to obtain your license 24 hours before you hope to get married.* You can fill out your paperwork in advance online by clicking HERE, but you’ll still need to go together with your partner in person to pick it up 24 hours in advance. The City Clerk’s office is open 8:30am – 3:45 pm Monday-Friday. Be sure to check if there are any holidays around your desired date as they will be closed on those days. Remember to bring your photo id or passport. The fee for the marriage license is $35, payable by credit card or money order.
*It IS possible to apply for a judicial waiver to get married within 24 hours, however this involves lots of waiting, is dependent on the judge working, and makes for a very long day. I recommend getting to the Clerk’s office at least a day or two early if possible.
NYC Elopement Part 2: The Ceremony
This is the fun part! You actually get married, hurray! There are two options for this, a City Hall Ceremony, or outside City Hall.
NYC City Hall Ceremony:
If you’re looking for a no frills wedding, something simple and budget friendly a City Hall wedding might be for you. As a City Hall Wedding Photographer, I’d have to say it’s also some of the best people watching in town. I’ve detailed the process below as well is an on my NYC City Hall Wedding Guidebook page.
How long does an NYC City Hall Wedding it take?
It’s very hard to predict, my fastest record is 15 minutes and the slowest has been just over two hours. Usually, it’s around 45 minutes to an hour. I find that the best times to get married are mid-week, early morning or late afternoon. Lunch hours and summer Fridays tend to be busiest.
How do you elope at NYC City Hall?
Arrive at the City Clerk (141 Worth Street if you’re in Manhattan) and check in. The first clerk will check your ID’s (passports if you’re international), make sure you have a witness over 18 with ID (you can have up to two witnesses if you like, and I’m always happy to be a witness), and provide you with a number on a ticket. Don’t lose the ticket, it’s your key to your ceremony!
After a brief (or not so brief pending the day) wait you’ll be called to one of the desks to sign the license with your witness. You’ll also be asked to pay the $25 ceremony fee. Be sure to have a credit card, they don’t take cash.
Once your license is signed, you’ll be told to wait for Station 5. Once they call your number again, you’ll be sent to this station to actually wait to be married. (Yes, there is a lot of waiting at City Hall.) Once inside, they’ll call you by name to one of the two chapels, private rooms where the ceremony is held. The rooms are decent sized, if you have a small group of friends they will fit, but anything over 10 or 15 people will get pretty crowded.
Then you get hitched!
Is the wedding ceremony at NYC City Hall long?
The ceremony is short and sweet. You can exchange rings if you like, but otherwise it’s about a minute and a half in length and you’re all set! Officially married!
Who will marry us?
There are a number of officiants that rotate. James Mitchell, or the “mustache guy” is perhaps the most well known, however they are all great.
We want to have a Non City Hall Ceremony for our New York Elopement. Where should we get married?
While City Hall weddings are wonderful, sometimes it’s nice to have something a bit more personal. The fantastic thing about New York City is that you can get married literally anywhere you can think of. I’ve photographed elopements in Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Coney Island, a small community garden, the Staten Island Ferry, Grand Central, one couple even got married while doing a high falls action stunt! The sky is the limit and there are SO many creative locales to exchange vows. If you’d like suggestions, I’m always happy to help. I also have a Guide To NYC Neighborhoods for Wedding Photos and a Central Park Wedding Guide on my site!
The process for a non City Hall wedding starts the same as with a City Hall wedding. You’ll get your marriage license 24 hours in advance at 141 Worth Street, but then just bring it along with you on your wedding day. You can get married at any time of day, though I always recommend sunrise or sunset for the best light.
The only extra thing you need is an officiant. I regularly work with a number of great officiants, so I’m happy to make recommendations. Many of them are quite affordable, and the return you get with amazing photos is well worth it.
Wherever you chose to get married, it’s sure to be an adventure and I’d be thrilled if you’d like to have me along. If you’d like more information on elopement photography, feel free to drop me a note via my contact page or check out my Guide to NYC Elopements, I’m always happy to help!