Elope to New York City

If you are thinking about eloping to New York City, then this is the place to be! I've been an NYC elopement photographer for 5 year now and I've got all the goods on the best locations and plans for an amazing, fun and very New York intimate wedding. Whether you are looking to tie the knot at Manhattan's City Hall or would prefer to hire your own officiant and marry in Central Park or anywhere else in the city, there are no shortage of great photo locations and I'd be happy to assist you in planning the perfect elopement to suit your style and budget.

 
A couple waiting to be married at Manhattan City Hall's Marriage Bureau.

A couple waiting to be married at Manhattan City Hall's Marriage Bureau.

First Step: You need a License!

To get married in New York City anywhere you need to get a license at the Marriage Bureau at least 24 hours before you plan to marry. This is very important, so check the bureau's website for holiday closings and plan travel accordingly to make sure you have time to get the license. If you plan to marry there, they do have a waiver option for same day weddings, but it is only offered at 11am and 3pm and you need to have a good reason, like you are leaving town the next day, in order to get one. I've done with with a few clients so I know how it works and am happy to offer tips in planning is this is needed, but I recommend just arriving at least the day before with enough time to get the license.

City Clerk Office Marriage Bureau

Manhattan Office
Marriage Bureau Hours: 8:30 am to 3:45 pm, Monday through Friday
Lobbying Bureau Hours: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday Through Friday
(Walk-in hours until 3:45pm)
141 Worth Street
New York, NY 10013

TIPS:

Fill out the license application online in advance to save time.

A couple marry at the Dene Shelter in Central Park with Judie Guild officiating.

A couple marry at the Dene Shelter in Central Park with Judie Guild officiating.

location: Elope in Central Park

Aside from weddings at City Hall, the other most popular location for elopements in New York City would be Central Park. To marry in the park all you need is an officiant. You can get a permit for some locations if you desire or if you have more than 20 people anywhere, but there are many locations that don't require a permit.

Some of the most popular locations requiring a permit are the Ladies Pavilion, The Cop Cot, Wagner Cove, The Dene Shelter and Shakespeare's Garden. Permits are $25 and can be bought via the park's website with 20-30 days notice. You can have acoustic but no amplified music with that permit.

For inclement weather, the Bethesda Terrace is a great location and I also like the Ladies Pavilion since it is also covered just in case. I have to say, no matter the weather or time of year, Central Park is a beautiful location for an elopement. I do suggest the morning for less crowds, hands downs a bit easier shooting in the most popular spots but I can STILL make great photos even on busy days it just might take a bit longer. All part of the fun. 

The Conservancy Garden is another option for a Central Park Wedding. Ceremonies there cost $500, including the photography fee. Is a nice option for the Spring when the flowers are in bloom, but I'm not sure the cost justifies it otherwise. However, it is more private and more quiet than the other locations but it is also far from the most popular areas of the park I tend to shoot in.

Apply for a special event permit for a Central Park Wedding

See photos from Central Park weddings

Following their wedding on Governor's Island, a couple has their portrait taken by the Statue of Liberty on a rainy day.

Following their wedding on Governor's Island, a couple has their portrait taken by the Statue of Liberty on a rainy day.

location: Elope unique nyc

If a City Hall wedding or a Central Park wedding just aren't your thing, there are many other locations you can consider for your wedding. Some are free, others you will need to pay for, but there is really something for everyone here.

Here are some ideas of locations for NYC elopements: Grand Central Station (can get a permit), Times-Square, Brooklyn Bridge Park/Dumbo, Brooklyn Promenade, Governor's Island, Top of the Rock, a hotel suite or terrace, for example, The Library Hotel, The Sanctuary Hotel, and The Pod Hotel.

Also, restaurants often have party rooms or garden that can be used for a small ceremony prior to the meal. I know One if by Land, Two if By Sea, Little Owl Venue, and HOME in the West Village (which has some great photo locations too), and Milk and Roses in Greenpoint do this. I'm sure there are many that can do this.

There is also All Souls Church on the Upper East Side which has a small chapel not far from Central Park.

A couple waiting in the vestibule to be married at Manhattan City Hall's Marriage Bureau.

A couple waiting in the vestibule to be married at Manhattan City Hall's Marriage Bureau.

location: Elope at NYC City Hall

Perhaps the easiest option for getting married in NYC is City Hall. Yes there can be a wait of typically an hour, but it is inexpensive and can also be quite entertaining. Here's the typical process:

1. Get marriage license. Wait 24 hours.

2.Arrive at Marriage Bureau, pass through security. (Leave weapons at home, unless a police officer of course.)

3. Present yourselves and your witness with identification and your license to the clerk. If I am your witness, I will show mine. A ticket will be issued with a number.

4. The number will be called to fill out the final paper work. The witness signs, you both sign and you pay the fee. Then we wait again. Maybe take photos by the cheezy old City Hall backdrop of just around the waiting area. Lots of options actually.

5. Eventually we are called to station 5 and present the license to the clerk and are told to wait in the vestibule. There are two chapels or rooms. On Fridays or busy days there are two officiants working. Most days there is only one so they tend to gather a group, process the paperwork and then marry couples in quick succession.

6. You are called by name into the room for the ceremony! Yay!

7. The very quick, less than 2 min ceremony, is performed. You may exchange rings. You can't say vows or do any special ceremony things. If you desire that, hire an officiant and marry in the park or another location. The room will hold about 20 people and there is some seating if you have some older guests. But the waiting areas can get crowded so keep that in mind on busy days. The building is handicapped accessible via a side entrance.

8. Congrats! You are now married and walk out with your marriage certificate! If you need an extended license (Seems my UK clients usually do) we can do that then if we have time or you can return and take care of it or by mail.

Often we will take some photos on the steps outside City Hall if family and friends are present, and you can also do a grand exit with bubbles etc if you wish. After the ceremony or even before if it makes sense logistically, we often take photos in the area near City Hall which can include a vintage subway station, City Hall fountain, Brooklyn Bridge and the Police Plaza area. Or, we often take photos in DUMBO on the Brooklyn side where there are fantastic view's of Lower Manhattan. Of course, we can really go where ever you want! Just let me know what you love about New York and want to include in the photos and we can work out a plan.

See photos from City Hall weddings

TIPS:

Earlier the less people usually.

Fridays are busiest, the Mondays. But you never know. Avoid popular dates if you don't like crowds.

 

A wedding couple in the West Village following their elopement at NYC City Hall.

A wedding couple in the West Village following their elopement at NYC City Hall.