I love being an NYC City Hall wedding photographer because all you really need to get married is each other. To me, there is nothing more romantic than a no-fuss, simply sweet, NYC elopement amongst the hustle and bustle of the greatest city in the world. Choosing to elope and go with a wedding at Manhattan’s City Clerk can simplify things a LOT. However, there is still a little bit of wedding planning to do!
Have you been considering having an NYC city hall elopement?
Having a wedding at Manhattan’s Marriage Bureau (114 Worth St.) is the perfect choice if you are wanting something low key but still incredibly special + intimate. While the ceremony itself is short, sweet, and simple, there are so many ways to make this experience unique to you two. Although it is an NYC city hall wedding, the ceremony actually takes place at the NYC City Clerk. This is the city’s designated marriage bureau.
If you’re reading this, you may already know that you’re getting married at NYC City Hall. Now it’s just a matter of making your NYC elopement happen! As a New York City wedding photographer, I love helping engaged couples through the process of getting married at city hall. You can contact me here to inquire about my availability for your own NYC city hall wedding.
I want you to maximize your time with me during your wedding, so this is a guide on all things NYC city hall weddings.
1. Get Your Marriage License
First, you’ll need to make an appointment at the Clerk to get your license in person or virtually. You can do this through Project Cupid. Make sure you have proper identification when applying. You must also bring proper identification to your ceremony. After you acquire your license to wed, you can get married up to 24 hours later. You also cannot get your marriage license any earlier than 60 days prior to your wedding date (it is a bit longer for military personnel). After 60 days your marriage license will expire.
Side note: if you apply for your license in person, this is a great opportunity to visit the building beforehand and know where you are going. Aside from this, you may be interested in seeing the buildings around there where we may take photos.
2. Make Your Ceremony Appointment
They require an appointment and do not allow walk-ins at the City Clerk. You can make your ceremony appointment through Project Cupid, the same website where you make your license appointment.
This process can be very competitive so it is advisable to be online to grab your desired spot ASAP. Ceremony appointments at NYC’s city hall become available to schedule about 3 weeks out.
When selecting your time, communicate with your photographer to decide which time will be the best for photos! Your photographer should understand the best times of day to photograph and the ins-and-outs of a wedding at NYC’s marriage bureau. Sometimes we have to take the appointments that are available, but we always want to aim for the appointment at the best time of day in terms of light! Regardless, an experienced wedding photographer should be able to guide you on this.
As an experienced NYC elopement photographer, my preference for wedding ceremonies at city hall is the first appointment(s) of the day. This way, we can get in line at around 7:15 (have a friend stand in line for you after checking in). While they hold your spot, we can walk around outside and take photos at the most ideal time of day in New York City. At this point in the day, the streets do not have so many crowds. Additionally, the soft early morning light right after sunrise is incredibly flattering for photos.
3. Hire an NYC CITY HALL WEDDING Photographer
As an NYC City Hall wedding photographer, I MIGHT be a liiiiiittle biased, but I really believe the start of your lives together should have proper documentation – no question! You’ll want something to look back on, of course. Your wedding photos will be one of the only tangible items you’ll have to remember your city hall wedding by. Aside from that, though, you’ll want to share with loved ones who aren’t there in person! The nature of city hall weddings is that it’s usually just the couple plus a few guests, if any.
As a NYC wedding photographer myself, I would love to photograph your wedding at city hall. You can inquire about my availability on my contact page linked here.
4. Consider the Season and Dress for the Weather
The seasons can vary greatly in NYC! Weather wise, spring and fall are most ideal. If it is raining or snowing, a couple of those clear umbrellas can be a great way to keep dry. These are great for photographs too. If it is freezing, bring a nice coat that photographs well. The colors in your photos will vary throughout the seasons as well. In winter they may be more gray tones and monochromatic while in the spring/summer the colors will be more lively. Fall is my personal favorite when the foliage in Central Park is transforming!
5. Have a Florist Make You a Bouquet / Boutonière
They actually sell bouquets at city hall, but they aren’t anything super fancy. Florals are such an amazing touch, and really elevate how your wedding gallery comes out overall. To me, this is a such a small but important detail that can take things from good to AMAZING.
6. Make Your NYC City Hall Wedding Special and Memorable
Just because it’s a courthouse wedding or “elopement” does not mean it won’t be as special as a large wedding! As someone who witnesses wedding of all kinds, I can tell you some of the most special and meaningful weddings I witness are city hall weddings. When you cut out all of the clutter and stress, the focus tends to be on the one thing that really matters about a wedding of any size – the couple and their marriage. There are a ton of ways to still have some of the traditions of a large wedding at a smaller scale.
NYC City Hall Wedding Ideas:
- Make it into a staycation and rent a nice hotel! Some favorites: Soho Grand, The Beekman, and The Bowery
- Plan a dinner party after – just the two of you or bring your family and friends for a celebration! Some favorites: Bobo, Palma, Celestine (Find more of the best small NYC wedding venues here).
- Go to a bar / dance hall for your first dance – or dance in the street (I’ll play the music on my phone, hehe).
- Bring some champagne to pop for a fun photo opp
- Confetti poppers are another fun photo opp for elopements
- Order a fun cake for you two to cut and enjoy
- Have a fun getaway car through Film Cars
- Make it enjoyable for you – we can do your favorite activities as a couple or visit your favorite date spots. The possibilities are really endless.
- Write notes to each other to read the day of the wedding. Since you can’t read vows to each other at the city hall ceremony, this is something special you can do in lieu of vows.
- Bring vows to read elsewhere. While you can’t read vows in the ceremony, we can always arrange to do this at another location.
7. Embrace the NYC Wedding Energy
It is likely things could go unexpectedly in a city like NYC. My best advice is to embrace the chaos and enjoy your day. The Clerk’s office may be behind. More than likely, there will be passersby in the background of your photos. We’ll turn your subway ride into a photo opp if needed. Have your first dance in the street or one of the many parks. That’s just New York! Embrace it, prepare for a little bit of chaos, and expect the unexpected. This is the charm of an NYC elopement!
8. Arrive Early
Despite the appointments, the city clerk has a tendency of getting a little behind. Some days are busier than others. Naturally, Friday is a very popular day and can attract more crowds. So it is a good idea to arrive early. My recommendation is 30-45 minutes before your scheduled ceremony appointment.
To avoid the wait times, it is best to get one of the first ceremony appointments of the day.
NYC City Hall Wedding FAQs
WHERE SHOULD WE TAKE PHOTOS AFTER OUR NYC CITY HALL CEREMONY?
The great thing about eloping at the courthouse is that you can really make this experience into whatever you want it to be! That is really the beauty in planning a city hall wedding. As of now (3/4/2023) the actual City Clerk’s Marriage Bureau is covered by a classically ugly NYC sidewalk shed. However, there are still many nearby locations to take photos!
The municipal buildings surrounding the Marriage Bureau are gorgeous for that classic “courthouse” look. You may recognize many of these. It is a short walk to the Brooklyn Bridge as well, which can be full of crowds, tourists and locals alike. Of course, right on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge is DUMBO, another iconic background for photos in NYC. SOHO is also about a 15 minute walk from the city clerk and always great for photo opps. We can also explore your persona; favorite spots in the city, head up to central park, walk around your neighborhood, grab a drink at your favorite bar, eat some street pizza, etc. The opportunities are endless! I have another post on the best spots for photos in NYC.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS OF GETTING MARRIED AT NYC CITY HALL?
Upon entering the building on Worth St., you’ll get in line to go through security. Here you’ll present ID’s and walk through the metal detectors. Next, you’ll pull a number. After pulling your number, they will ask you to wait in the lobby on those famous green couches. After your number is called, you will head to the counter to sign your paperwork. Now, more waiting! Once they call your name again, it is time for your ceremony, which will be less than 5 minutes. You’ll exchange rings, recite your declarations of intent, and then be pronounced married! Afterwards, the celebration is up to you!
CAN WE EXCHANGE RINGS AND VOWS AT OUR NYC CITY HALL WEDDING?
Rings, yes! Personal wedding vows, no. The ceremony is very short and sweet. If you would like to exchange personally written vows, we can always arrange to do this privately at another location.
Can I bring my friends and family to our nyc city hall wedding?
Yes! As of February 14, 2023, the Manhattan City Clerk has on their website that you may bring up to three adult guests. Additionally, they allow a “limited number” of children. Everyone must wear masks, and everyone must show ID upon entrance to the building. You must have at least one witness.
Can you be our witness?
Of course! I am always happy to be your witness. I am often the only person to witness the wedding ceremonies I photograph. It is an honor and a privilege for me!!
How much does it cost to have A NYC City Hall wedding?
The marriage license is $35 and the marriage certificate is $25.
WHAT SHOULD WE WEAR TO GET MARRIED AT CITY HALL?
This is New York City, anything goes! But seriously, there isn’t really a dress code for the ceremony. Most couples who choose to hire me as their photographer choose to dress up in the traditional wedding attire – white dresses + suits. However, this experience should feel authentic to you. If you want to wear a pink dress to your wedding, you should DO IT! You can wear a tshirt or a ball gown. The choice is yours.
Check out my other post on bridal shops in NYC.
I will add that it is important to remember that we are in New York City after all. Understand and prepare for the possibility that your white shoes will get dirty, and your dress will likely, too! It is all good – approach this experience with an easygoing attitude!
HOW MUCH TIME SHOULD WE PLAN FOR OUR CITY HALL WEDDING IN NYC?
This could vary greatly depending on the day. Fridays are the busiest. My suggestion is to allot about 3 hours for the entire experience. You could be waiting for a couple of hours inside the courthouse, but it could also be as quick as 30 minutes!
Can we have our ceremony somewhere other than the NYC city clerk’s office?
Yes! The beautiful thing about an elopement style wedding is that it can be whatever you want it to be! First, you’ll need to acquire your marriage license just like you would for a city hall wedding. Then you’ll need to get an officiant. This can be a professional officiant or even a family member or friend who gets ordained to marry you. Remember, if you have a family member/friend marrying you, they must be ordained in New York City, not just the state of New York.
Can we get married at city hall on a Saturday?
No, NYC city hall closes on weekends and legal holidays.
Do you know of any florists who can make a bouquet for my NYC City Hall wedding?
Of course! There are several NYC florists who I can recommend that do great work!
Do you know of any HMUA’s who I can work with for my NYC City Hall wedding?
Yes! There are several NYC HMUAs I can recommend.
ADVICE FROM PREVIOUS BRIDES WHO GOT MARRIED AT CITY HALL
Did you run into any difficulties during the process of getting married at city hall?
“Everything was super easy except for finding the City Clerk building the first time. We spent 30 minutes walking up and down all those buildings in the rain looking for the right one! We nearly missed our marriage license appointment, but showed up just a couple minutes before and made it.”
What was the ceremony experience like?
“Super simple and very straight forward. The officiant let us stay a few minutes after the ceremony to take pictures and videos, which was nice. We were also allowed to take a video of the whole ceremony no extra charge so that was awesome. There are two rooms that they use for the ceremonies, and both look like they were decorated to look like a 2000s kindergarten room. Haha!”