Elope in NYC
How to get married in New York
So you are thinking about getting married in New York City. First of all, brilliant idea! There is no better place in the world than to elope in the big apple. NYC is full of love, life, skyscrapers, yellow cabs, bagels, squirrels, parks, bridges, art, lox, architecture and honking. Lots of honking.
How to get married in New York: Once you have made the decision that New York is the place to get hitched, the next question usually is: HOW? Lucky for you, I have photographed hundreds of elopements and weddings in New York City. Couples usually ask the same questions about the wedding process. So to help all these couples, I wrote a little manual, with the hope that it will make your planning process a bit easier. Essentially, a step by step guide on how to elope in New York City.
How do we get married at City Hall?
Actually, you don’t get married at City Hall! It’s a common misconception that wedding ceremonies in Manhattan happen at City Hall. The truth is that both, obtaining your wedding license, as well as having the ceremony, take place at the “Office of the City Clerk : Marriage Bureau” which is located at 141 Worth Street in Manhattan. Opening hours are Monday through Friday from 8.30am to 3.45pm, except on major holidays. So make sure to check before you go.
Got it! So how do we get started?
First things first, all couples who intend to get married in New York must obtain a ‘Marriage License’. The fee for the license is $35, which can be paid by credit card or money order, payable to the City Clerk. This license is valid for 60 days and can be used anywhere within the state of New York. Sometimes the wait time at the City Clerk’s office can be long, so if you’d like to speed up the process you can begin filling out the application for the license online. You then have to complete the application in person at the City Clerk’s office. Make sure to bring proper identification when applying. Even though you might have to wait a bit for your license at the clerk’s office, the ‘people watching’ definitely makes up for it. Relax and enjoy the hustle and bustle of this unique place. :)
Extra bonus tip: If you were married before, you will be asked to list all prior marriages. You are required to include your previous spouse’s full name and the date the divorce decree was granted. You also have to provide the city, state, and country where the divorce was issued.
We got our marriage license. What’s next?
Well, it’s time to get hitched then! Important: You must wait a minimum of 24 hours after obtaining your marriage license before you can have your wedding. (Unless you obtain a ‘Judicial Waiver’. I would suggest, though, to wait the 24 hours because isn’t anticipation the best after all?) Once the 24 hours have passed, you can either have your ceremony at the Office of the City Clerk or you can have your wedding conducted by a registered marriage officiant. For example, ‘Jackie Reinking – New York Elopement Officiant’.
We would like to have our ceremony at the City Clerk’s Office…
Great! After your 24 hours wait, bring your marriage license, proper identification, at least one witness (I’m happy to be your witness. Just let me know ahead of time so I can bring my ID) and a little bit of time. The fee for the ceremony in the City Clerk’s Office is $25 and can be paid by credit card or money order, payable to the City Clerk. Ceremonies are held during regular business hours between 8.30am and 3.45pm. Unfortunately, no reservations or appointments can be made for the ceremony and it is nearly impossible to predict the waiting times. From my experience, you will wait between 45 minutes to 2 hours for the entire process. If you can, come early in the morning when the chances are better of a “speedy” process.
I highly recommend skipping ceremonies during the lunch hour, Valentine’s Day and all dates that are easy to remember (12.13.14 for example). The City Clerk’s office is an amazing place to just sit and watch all the different couples go by so just enjoy the show. When it is your turn, your number will be called and you will be married by one of the officiants in either the East or West Chapel of the Clerk’s Office. And if you are ‘lucky’, James Mitchell, the boss himself, will officiate your wedding. And don’t be surprised when the ceremony itself will take no more than 90 seconds. Don’t blink or you might miss it. :) After the ceremony, you will receive your ‘Certificate of Marriage’ from the wedding officiant. And then it’s time to party!
We would like to have our ceremony outside the city clerk’s office…
Even better! To tie the knot on location, find a registered marriage officiant and schedule a date, time and place where you would like to get married. With an officiant, your are not bound to any business hours. You can get hitched 24/7, 365 days a year anywhere in the city. You would like to ‘say YES, in Central Park? No problem. You want to get hitched on the ‘Top of the Rock’? Do it! How about ‘The Highline Park’? It’s your wedding. Pick a location and have fun. Once you have figured out all the details make sure to bring your marriage license, proper identification, at least one witness (Again, I’m happy to be your witness. Just let me know ahead of time so I can bring my ID) and that’s it.
After the ceremony, the officiant will have you and your witness sign the marriage license and then return the paperwork to the city clerk’s office for you. You will receive your ‘Certificate of Marriage’ in the mail within about 30 days from the wedding date.
How can we find a registered wedding officiant?
There are a couple of different ways to find your officiant. One way would be google. Another way would be some research on WeddingWire or The Knot. But, the best option by far would be to contact my beautiful and talented wife, Jackie Reinking. Jackie and I work ‘hand in hand’ and she conducts beautiful ceremonies. Rumor has it that my clients receive a bit of a discount if they book her. ;) Or even better, book us as a TEAM! In any case, you can verify whether the officiant you selected is registered with the Office of the City Clerk by calling 311.
What else should we know? Do you have any tips for us?
I would say, enjoy the process. You are in New York City! What could be better, right?
+ The closest subways to the City Clerk’s Office are the 4, 5 and 6 lines (‘Brooklyn Bridge – City Hall’ stop), the R (‘City Hall’ stop) and the 2 and 3 line (‘Park Place’ stop).
+ If you need a last minute bouquet, you can buy flowers inside the City Clerk’s office (not a good idea) or there is usually a flower stand right outside the clerk’s office (better idea). But what you should do is ask me for my florist contacts so you can be sure that you will have a beautiful bouquet on the day of your wedding (best idea).
+ Yes, there are bathrooms inside the city clerk’s office.
+ No, they do not sell water or other beverages at the clerk’s office.
+ Yes, they actually do sell, “I got married in New York” magnets, T-Shirts, mugs and other items in the lobby.
I hope this guide helps you when planning your New York City Elopement. If you have any other question or if you would like more information about my photography services, please feel free to give me a call at +1.347.200.5513 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to help and can’t wait to meet you. Elope in New York City, it’s the best thing ever. I did it myself. :)