How to Plan a Small Wedding in NYC
If the task of planning a 200+ guest wedding sounds overwhelming, it might be time to think about how to plan a small wedding in NYC. Whether you have five guests or 50, here’s how to plan a small wedding in NYC:
How do I get my marriage license?
Whether you’re planing on having an NYC elopement or a small wedding, you’ll still need to get your marriage license from the Manhattan Marriage Bureau. You can start the process online, but will need to pick up the license in person at least 24 hours in advance.
Do you recommend we get married at NYC City Hall or elope in the city?
City Hall is always an economical option to get married, and I have a soft spot in my heart for a classic courthouse elopement. However, though you can theoretically bring as many people as you’d like, I typically recommend capping City Hall weddings at around 15-20 guests maximum. The Marriage Bureau is often teeming with other soon-to-be-weds and their guests, particularly on busy times like Fridays. Moreover, City Hall weddings are definitely all about efficiency; the ceremony lasts around one minute, there’s no option to say personal vows to each other, and the bride can’t be walked down the aisle. For these reasons, if you’re planning on having a lot of guests, or if you want the luxury of some traditional wedding rituals, I’d recommend going with an elopement.
I think we’ll just elope with immediate family and then find a restaurant for a nice dinner or lunch. Where should we get married?
I love me a good elopement! As a bonus, these are even easier to pull off than a small wedding — check out my guide to planning an NYC elopement, which has a bunch of FAQ on the process.
The great news about elopements is that you can get married pretty much anywhere in NYC, as long as you have a registered NYC officiant to marry you (don’t worry, my elopement packages include both photography and officiant services, so that’s one less thing you have to figure out). I’ve photographed elopements in a lot of common places, like Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge, but also less common spots, like outdoor hotel terraces and even the couple’s living room. It all depends on your vision.
Some ceremony location ideas (note that you may need to get permits for some of these places if your group is over 20):
- My top 5 spots for small Central Park elopements
- Brooklyn Bridge Park
- New York Public Library front steps
- Prospect Park in Brooklyn (the Peristyle is very cool)
Now, for good post-elopement lunch or dinner spots, here’s a few I’d recommend:
- Loring Place ($$$): Upscale-casual place serving seriously good seasonal, local American cuisine. If having a good meal is a priority, definitely check this one out. They have a cute private room for a cozy group (around 15 people), or a basement level to rent out for up to 50.
- Nomad Hotel ($$$): This place has several private rooms you can rent out, but the canopied rooftop is particularly on-point, especially for a summer soiree.
- Bobo ($$): Delightfully quaint spot with delicious French fare in Greenwich Village.
- Crown Shy ($$$): Upscale and minimal, and oh-so-delicious. The food is 1,000% worth the splurge.
- Joe’s Pizza (in Manhattan) ($) or Juliana’s (in Brooklyn) ($): Forget the schmancy table linens — just throw a cake topper on the pepperoni pie and call it day! After all the stress you’ve gone through, you deserve a satisfyingly drippy, cheesy slice.
How can I plan a small wedding in NYC fast? Where can we find a wedding venue for 50?
The great thing about NYC is that there is no shortage of gorgeous places to get married. If you’ve managed to get your guest list under the recommended 50 people, here’s a few of my favorite venues for small NYC weddings:
- MyMoon ($$): A great indoor-outdoor, all-inclusive option in Williamsburg with Spanish-style cuisine and a whimsical industrial vibe.
- Frankie’s 457 ($$): A Carroll Gardens restaurant that screams “outdoor garden party” and does family-style Italian right.
- Celestine ($$$): A beautiful spot in DUMBO that’s right on the water, with views of the Manhattan Bridge and skyline. If you wanted a picture-perfect New York setting for your outdoor ceremony, this is the place.
- Bottino ($$): Sleek, minimal, and modern, this Italian restaurant in Chelsea also has a small garden available for ceremonies during warmer months.
- Maison May ($$): Clinton Hill backyard party-meets-French-American-chic.
- The Love Shack ($): Totally BYO-everything, but if you’re into DIY and want quirky-weird-awesomely-different, look no further than this gem of a venue in Bushwick, which also doubles as an Airbnb for the newlyweds to spend the night.
I need more help! Where can I find a cake? A bouquet? Someone to do my hair and makeup?
I got you! Check out this guide to getting married in NYC, which lists some recommended vendors, favorite portrait locations, and everything else you need to know.