So, you want a New York City Hall wedding, but you don’t know where to begin. Trust me, you’re not alone! People chose to visit the marriage bureau at City Hall for a variety of reasons; whether it be eloping while visiting from another city, or simply obtaining your marriage license before your official wedding. However, planning your trip to Downtown Manhattan may not be the most straightforward- the information available on the Marriage Bureau’s website is somewhat limited. And even then, there are other things to consider; such as transportation, witnesses, and pre and post ceremony portrait locations.
We shoot an average of 20 City Hall weddings in New York a year, in addition to our regular ‘big’ weddings, surprise proposals and elopements. From our years of experience with the Marriage Bureau and with our clients, we’ve put together 6 tips to getting married at New York City Hall, below.
Before making your way to City Hall, you need to apply for a marriage license. You can file the application for a marriage license (costs $35) online and ahead of time here. However, the application MUST be completed in person at the City Hall, with both partners present and valid identification. You do not need to be a New York resident, but international couples must bring their passport as local identification is not accepted. The marriage license is only valid for 60 days- so you should plan to revisit the bureau for the wedding ceremony before the marriage license expires. The ceremony at the marriage bureau can only be performed 24 hours after the application for the license has been submitted. Additionally, the ceremony fee costs $25. No cash, but credit card and money orders are accepted.
The marriage bureau is open from 8:30 AM to 3:45 PM Monday to Friday. If you are planning to get married over a long weekend or holiday, be sure to check the bureau’s website for closure on major holidays.
There are no reservations available at the bureau, couples take a number upon payment of the ceremony fee and wait for their turn to be called. The busiest time of day tends to be between noon the afternoon hours, with Fridays being the most popular weekday. Depending on the date and time of day, this unexpected wait time may be difficult when it comes to photographer coverage. In our experience, the wait time could be anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Thus, if you hire a photographer for 3 hours of coverage, it is nonsensical for 2 of those hours of coverage to be spent waiting for your name to be called. When booking the City Hall package with Cinder & Co., we make this situation clear, and instead suggest that you update your photographer with your expected wait time as soon as you arrive to the bureau. Having a photographer based in downtown Manhattan allows for maximum flexibility on a day that should be as stress free as possible!
Here’s where we come in! Not only do we recommend hiring a photographer for coverage of your day, but we are adamant in suggesting that clients select a photographer that not only has creative ability, but also is familiar with the area and process of the marriage bureau. The right photographer(s) may be crucial in helping your day go smoothly, guiding you through the bureau process and suggesting the best location and poses for photos. Looking back on your day, you should remember feeling happy and confident in your vendors. Photographer responsibilities may include: posing, location scouting, family member herding, group/family picture organization and answering any city hall procedure questions with a personable and positive attitude.
If interested in learning more about our city hall coverage options, please reach us here.
There are two chapels (East Chapel and West Chapel) where the ceremony may be performed. The bureau does not allow “special requests” as to which Chapel you can be married in, rather it is whichever Chapel your number is called into.
New York City Hall does not limit the amount of people you can bring to attend the ceremony, but we would strongly suggest to keep the guest count under 20 people. Doing so will make the whole process of City Hall smoother, and your photographer will have a better chance at capturing fleeting, genuine moments without having to compete with relatives’ smart phones. Additionally, at least one witness is required to be present at the ceremony. Anyone may do (us photographers are more than happy to take on this role!), as long as the witness is over 18 and has valid photo identification. Ceremonies usually last 10-15 minutes per couple, and the officiant will not make time for vows to be exchanged, although they usually give couples a small grace period for post-ceremony photos inside the Chapel.
The Manhattan Marriage bBureau is located at 141 Worth Street. The best options for arriving are either via taxi/private car or by subway. If taking the subway, the closest stops are Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall on the 4/5/6 and Chambers St on the J. However, we would recommend private car or car service (taxi, Uber, Lyft) to allow for the most flexibility for your day. If coming from another borough, be sure to check traffic details on the day of!
Don’t forget about the afterparty! One of the many perks of getting married in New York is the endless possibilities for celebration. Grab a cab to take pictures in the iconic Central Park, hold a celebratory brunch (a la Sex and the City style), or book out an entire restaurant for your reception- feel free to ask us for any suggestions!
NYC Fresh & Modern Photography Studio
Cinder and Co. is available to photograph maternity, newborn and engagement sessions throughout NYC. Our boutique photography studio is conveniently located in downtown Manhattan. We love to offer natural light photography on-location and incorporate the city’s backdrops. Our sessions are relaxed and enjoyable, so we can capture those perfect moments of genuine emotions.
Please don’t hesitate to reach us anytime by email to schedule your portrait session.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Need some outfit inspiration? Check out Refinery29’s ongoing page concerning City Hall Style: http://www.refinery29.com/city-hall-wedding-style
Vogue also wrote an article about the experience of getting married at New York City Hall should you be on the hunt for additional reading!