What it is NOW like to get married at NYC City Hall
The rules for getting hitched down at City Hall have changed drastically post-Covid. After we went through the Zoom nuptial era, the Office of the City Clerk is finally accepting couples for in-house elopements. But it is not the same place, and there are definitely new regulations. In today’s blog post, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to get married at City Hall. I hope your paperwork is in order.
How to Elope in NYC – The Basics
So let’s start with the basics. If you want to elope in any NYC borough, you need to go to that specific borough’s Office of the City Clerk Marriage Bureau and request a marriage license. Once granted the license – within 24 hours – you will then return to the City Clerk’s office to have a marriage ceremony. You will then be officially married. Sounds simple, no?
How to Elope in NYC – New Rules
But of course, it is not that simple. Here are the steps for how to get married at City Hall with feedback from my recent visit.
You must make an appointment first. New York City used to be one rung below Las Vegas when it came to getting hitched. You could simply roll up to the City Clerk’s Office, fill out some paperwork, and after a 24-hour wait period, you could get married. This is no longer the case. Now you have to make an online appointment to both obtain your marriage license and schedule your ceremony. The Office of the City Clerk’s site – called Project Cupid – is an easy website to navigate, but it is one more hoop to jump through. As such, make sure you get your appointment as soon as you can. Slots for popular appointments on Friday afternoon fill up quickly.
- Project Cupid – the official website of the Office of the City Clerk NYC Marriage Bureau
Obtain your license. Before you say ‘I do,’ you have to obtain a marriage license. You can do so either in person or virtually. For both processes, you will simply need to go to the Project Cupid website and fill in your information. The cost for the license is $35, payable by credit card or money order. The license is valid for 60 days should you choose to go elsewhere to have an officiant declare you married.
Choose your borough. Yes, you can have your ceremony take place in any borough. You can also head to Long Island if you simply don’t want to deal with city traffic. A marriage license in any borough or in any city in New York state is valid in the state of New York. Here are the details of each respective borough’s marriage bureau:
- Manhattan Marriage Bureau – 141 Worth Street, Manhattan – M-F 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. – 212.669.8090
- Brooklyn Marriage Bureau – 210 Joralemon Street, #205, Brooklyn – M-F 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. – 718.802.4107
- Queens Marriage Bureau – Queens Borough Hall, 12055 Queens Blvd., #7, Kew Gardens – M-F 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. – 718.286.2847
- Bronx Marriage Bureau – Bronx Supreme Court, 851 Grand Concourse, Bronx – M-F 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. – 718.618.3300
- Staten Island Marriage Bureau – 10 Richmond Terrace, #311, Staten Island – M-F 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. – 718.816.2290
Your guest count is now limited to three people. This is the biggest change which I feel saps the joy out of the elopement process. The new rules state that only the couple plus three extra people can enter the City Clerk’s office for the marriage ceremony. Bear in mind that if your photographer is going to be one of these chosen attendees, then you can only have two witnesses join you. Like everyone else, you will have to leave the rest of your bridal party outside on the sidewalk.
Have your paperwork ready at the door. There is now a (very friendly) guard posted outside the Office of the City Clerk’s door checking paperwork. They are looking to make sure you have your license and your ceremony appointment time. Your entire party has to enter the office together. Other people cannot join you (since only the couple has the paperwork), and if a member of your party leaves, then they will miss the ceremony.
Photos are more limited. Everyone who works at the Office of the City Clerk is very friendly, but they are also very business-oriented. Or I should say, more business-oriented than they used to be. Case in point, no photos are allowed between the metal detector and the waiting area. You used to be able to document the entire process, but not now. During my past visit I did sneak a shot, because it’s not every day you see a bride going through a metal detector.
The waiting area is cramped as always. We were there on a Friday at 3:00 p.m. This is by far the busiest time to say your vows at the City Clerk’s office. It was basically standing room only at least for a portion of our waiting time. Keep this in mind if you have guests with mobility challenges.
No overhead monitors showing the numbers called. For some reason, the overhead monitors that show which number is being called were not working. Instead, you have to look all the way down to the end of the aisle to see if your number has been called. Very annoying.
It seems to take less time than before. I remember waiting at least an hour (plus!) for Friday City Hall weddings. This go round, however, the whole process took about 45 minutes. That’s impressive.
The Little Wedding Garden is still quite sad. There is an official ‘Little Wedding Garden’ park on Worth Street opposite the Manhattan Marriage Bureau. It has been going downhill since before Covid, and things have not gotten that much better. Let’s just say it needs a little gardening help. For that matter, I will note that the interior of the City Clerk’s Office is in a sad state of disrepair. From couches held together with duct tape to stains on the walls, I am in hopes that the office and garden get a ‘glow up’ soon.
You have lots of photo location options. The area surrounding the Manhattan Marriage Bureau has always had a robust number of unsightly fences, construction cones, and sprawling scaffolding. If you are getting married in Manhattan, you can find great places to take photos in and around the City Clerk’s Office. The best spots include the Manhattan Municipal Building, Surrogate’s Court, and Tweed Courthouse. But honestly, your best bet is to do what Rafeena and Nigel did and head to more photogenic ports of call such as the South Street Seaport (check out photos here and here).
Meet Rafeena and Nigel
Accompanying this article are photos from Rafeena and Nigel’s City Hall wedding. These two met adorably at work. Rafeena was working in a medical office and Nigel was a patient. For every appointment, he made a point of chatting with the lovely Rafeena. Upon his last appointment, he seized the moment and asked Rafeena out on a date. Eleven years later, he asked her to marry him at home on Valentine’s Day. The couple are planning to have a much larger celebration in July.
So it may sound like I am incredibly negative on the idea of tying the knot down at City Hall. I’m not. A City Hall wedding is an iconic New York institution in my book. It’s just that some of my best weddings have been down at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau and I remember what a happy place it used to be. That joy seems to be gone, but I am optimistic that it can return. I think it will just take a bit longer for us to get back to ‘normal,’ whatever that means.
If you would like to see photos from some of my previous City Hall weddings, then check out these delightful unions:
As always, enjoy the images and I will have more photo adventures for you next week!
Are you thinking about saying ‘I do’ down at City Hall? Drop me a line and let’s talk about your photography needs.
If you would like to see more images from my wedding photojournalism portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com