Whether you're bringing your whole crew or just eloping as a party of two, here's everything you need to know on how to have a NYC City Hall wedding.
Covid-19 update: As of March 2020, all NYC Marriage Bureaus are closed until further notice. There is no announced re-opening date. In lieu of a City Hall wedding, you can plan a NYC elopement and get married at your NYC location of choice with photography and an ordained officiant. See more information here. Alternatively, if you are postponing your wedding till next year and just want to get legally married now, consider having an online Zoom wedding — fast, easy and affordable.
How to Have a NYC City Hall Wedding
1. Get a NYC Marriage License
With the metro area City Clerks shut down due to coronavirus, you will need to obtain a marriage license either online through Project Cupid, or you can go to any open City Clerk’s Office, like in Long Island or neighboring Rockland County. Marriage license appointments are difficult to get due to their limited availability, so start the process earlier than you think — at least three months out. New appointment dates seem to be released every Thursday at 9am, so get ready to start refreshing your browser then. The City Clerk’s Twitter also has some tricks. See here for more about the Project Cupid process.
Pre-Covid, you could either do online or in person at one of the New York Marriage Bureau offices. Here’s the full step-by-step instructions on the procedure. In short, it costs $35 (credit card or money order), you both need some form of valid photo ID (like a passport or driver’s license), and you must obtain the license at least 24 hours before getting married. Licenses are valid for 60 days. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you should confirm that NYC wedding licenses are valid in your country — a quick call to your consulate should clear this up.
2. Show up at NYC City Hall and be prepared to wait
There are no reservations for NYC City Hall weddings, so you will need to show up, go through the metal detector process, flash your IDs and marriage license to the clerk, and you will receive a ticket with a number on it. Numbers will be called out and flashed on TVs attached throughout the waiting area. There are chairs or couches for you and your guests to relax in, so have a seat and keep your ears perked!
3. Have your NYC marriage license processed
When your number is called, you will be directed to a numbered podium. You, your fiance(e), and your witness will all need to go (but your other guests are fine to continue waiting on the couches). You then will need to hand over your marriage license and government-issued photo IDs (e.g. driver’s license, passport). Your witness will also need to show their ID. Then both of you and your witness will need to complete the marriage license in front of the clerk.
4. Wait to be called for your marriage ceremony
After completing your marriage license with the clerk, you need to wait for your number to be called a second time. When it is, if you’re at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau, you will hand your completed marriage license to the Clerk at Podium 5 and proceed to a smaller antechamber in the back, and wait again for your name to be called. At this point you will no longer need any IDs or documents. There are two wedding ceremony rooms; you will not get to choose which one, but they basically look almost identical.
5. Have your NYC City Hall Wedding
When it’s your turn, the Clerk will call your name and you and your guests will go into the wedding room. There will be chairs or benches along one side to put down any bags or coats, and the Clerk will be standing behind a podium. Go up to the podium, place your rings on the podium, hold hands with your beloved and try to take it all in. The City Hall ceremony is very brief — literally just a minute or two — and then you’ll be married!
NYC City Hall Wedding FAQ
What type of NYC City Hall wedding packages do you offer?
All packages include pre-ceremony consultation to answer all your questions, ceremony coverage, group and newlywed portraits, edited hi-resolution digital images delivered in an online gallery, and personal usage and printing rights. You can also add on fine art prints, custom framed fine art prints, and fully designed wedding albums a la carte.
Photography coverage is personalized to exactly what you envision — want getting ready photos? A first look and confetti exit? Lunch or dinner reception? We can definitely do that. I’m more than happy to answer any and all questions, make location suggestions, and also recommend trusted hair/makeup artists and florists if you need it.
NYC City Hall wedding packages start at $1,950 and are fully customizable to your needs. Custom-designed wedding albums and fine art prints are available a la carte.
Where is the Marriage Bureau?
The Manhattan Marriage Bureau Office is located at 141 Worth St. This is where you can apply for your license and also have the ceremony performed. Other boroughs have different locations.
Can I reserve a time at City Hall?
Unfortunately, no, it’s first-come, first-served. The Manhattan Marriage Bureau is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 3:45 PM. Typically Fridays are the busiest days, so if you’re worried about wait time, I’d recommend getting married earlier in the week, and also arriving early in the morning. Generally between 8:30-9:30am and 2:30-3:30pm have the shortest wait times; you’ll typically be in and out in under an hour. Between those times, you may be looking closer to a 60-90 minute wait, especially on Fridays. I’ve photographed NYC City Hall weddings in as little as one hour and have waited as long as 2.5 hours.
How long will the ceremony last?
Ceremonies are quite brief in that they only last for a minute or two, but you are welcome to linger in the room afterwards for photos and congratulations with your loved ones.
Can we bring friends and family?
Absolutely! The wedding chapel (more like a conference room) can hold 15 or so people comfortably, and even more if people stagger.
It’s just the two of us. Can you, our photographer, act as our witness?
Yes, I’m happy to do so!
Can we get married at City Hall and then take photos around the city?
Absolutely. Almost all of my couples want photos at different locations around the city, and I’m happy to make recommendations after we chat and I can get a sense of what aesthetic you’re envisioning.
Can we get married somewhere other than City Hall if we elope?
Of course! I’ve photographed elopements at picturesque places around the city — all you need is a licensed officiant to perform the ceremony. I offer both full-service New York elopement packages with officiant and photographer, or just elopement photography — see more info on my NYC elopement packages.
Are same-sex weddings legal in NYC?
Yes! New York has been legally wedding same-sex couples since 2011 when the Marriage Equality Act was passed. See here for more information on having a same-sex civil ceremony in New York City. I am more than happy to photograph any kind of couple getting married.
Can you recommend a hair/makeup artist or florist? Do you have suggestions of where to have a small reception afterward?
Yes! Whether you want just a simple bouquet and boutonniere, need a makeup artist to show up at your hotel at 6am, I can recommend talented local vendors I’ve worked with before. I’m also more than happy to make recommendations for places to have a reception after your ceremony, whether you want to grab a glass of celebratory champagne or book a private room.
What’s the City Hall wedding process like?
Here’s a step-by-step photo tour of how to get married at City Hall NYC.
Should we get married at Manhattan or Brooklyn City Hall?
Good question! There’s pros and cons for each location. I’ve written a guide to choosing between Manhattan and Brooklyn City Hall (complete with photos!) which might help you decide.
“Hands down, Jocelyn was fantastic from start to finish. Not only was she professional, responsive, enthusiastic and engaged from our very first communication, she was also great help to us in navigating the City Hall process and logistics. Pretty sure that's not part of a typical wedding photographer job description, but it's just one example of how Jocelyn routinely goes above and beyond the call of duty. I also have to give her tons of credit for being totally game to photograph in the pouring rain on our wedding day. Jocelyn went right along with it every step of the way with a wonderful attitude -- and we all ended up having a complete blast. I thoroughly appreciate Jocelyn's attention to detail, how she captures the beautiful emotions, the happiness of the day. She a phenomenal story-teller behind the lens and I just love how she told our story.”
Laura & Shi
“We planned our City Hall wedding in about a month and I wanted a photographer who knew their way around City Hall. Thankfully, through some wonderful miracle, Jocelyn was available. Cue to the crazy of our wedding, where we ended up having a bunch of family tagging along last minute. Jocelyn never missed a beat. All of our photos show the spontaneous moments while we joked around. There is tons of laughing, smiling, and beautiful moments that I'll always have to look back on. During the **very** short ceremony, Jocelyn knew exactly where/when to take the photographs and how to get the best angles. After the ceremony, we went to DUMBO. Jocelyn made it so relaxed and fun. I am so happy with the photos Jocelyn took. They are simply so beautiful and amazing quality. She is a clear professional who knows what she's doing. Seriously! Hire her for your weddings! She is amazing!!"
Mary & Mike
“My husband and I live in California and came to NYC for our city hall wedding. Needless to say, we were concerned about finding a great photographer online and coordinating from across the country. But Jocelyn could not have made it easier. We were impressed with the images we saw on her website, and from our first Skype call, it was clear that she knew exactly what we were looking for -- and she delivered. She knew exactly where to go to capture the tiny moments that really told the story of our special day.”
Ashley & Chris
“Having Jocelyn as our wedding photographer was the best idea we had after deciding to get married! She captured every single moment and emotion from that day. I happen to be a very anxious person, so naturally planning even an elopement was tough for me, but she reassured us along the way and helped me tremendously with things most wedding photographers probably know nothing about. She was so sweet, pleasant and unbelievably creative. We've received so many compliments on the quality of photos and the way she documented our day for us. She truly exceeded our expectations and helped make this special day last a lifetime through beautiful photos!”
Samantha & Vincent