I have photographed a lot of elopements. New York City is an incredible place to get married and elopements are one of my favorite things to photograph. Most of my elopement couples have been together for years and years, and are so excited to finally be making things official. A lot of them travel from very far away to get married here. (I’ve had clients from Australia, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Florida, Michigan, Virginia… and a few locals too.) I have definitely learned a lot and have come up with a few ideas for making your New York City elopement as easy and stress free as possible… whether you’re getting married at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau or in an intimate ceremony in Central Park.
- Don’t forget to get your marriage license! You need to have your marriage license at least twenty-four hours before your wedding, but I recommend getting it at least two days in advance, so you’re not under a time crunch. From late spring to early fall, the Manhattan Marriage Bureau can be crazy busy. Go early (they are open from Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 3:45pm), but if you can’t get there first thing, at least avoid the lunch time rush. It’s usually most crowded in my experience from 11:30am to 1:30pm. (If you can only go during those hours, just be prepared to wait and bring a snack.) You can fill out your application online before you go: HERE. (Same sex couples can start getting married once the new law takes effect after July 24th!) The Manhattan Marriage Bureau is located at: 141 Worth Street.
- Don’t forget your witness! You must have at least one witness to your wedding who is over the age of 18 whether you’re getting married at the Marriage Bureau or somewhere else. Your witness must have a photo ID with them. I am always happy to act as a witness for any of my couples who need it – just let me know in advance so I remember to bring my ID!
- If you’re looking for a ceremony that is short and sweet without any frills, then getting married at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau might be just right for you. The ceremony is about three minutes long – in and out and married, just like that! I’ve found the officiants at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau to be incredibly cheerful and sweet – definitely friendlier than the DMV. But again, from late spring to fall, they are extra busy, so go early. I have had couples who have had to wait two hours before.
- If you’re looking for a ceremony that is a little more personal and in a more scenic location than the Manhattan Marriage Bureau, I recommend hiring an officiant and picking out a spot in one of New York City’s beautiful parks. I have worked with some great officiants in the past, and I am happy to recommend someone for you! They can help you write a ceremony that is meaningful to you and your partner, and can include any of your friends and family in the ceremony who might be in attendance.
- If we are planning on taking photos after the ceremony in a variety of New York City locations, you may want to hire a car and driver for the afternoon. If you or your partner (or both of you) are planning on wearing a big dress and/or heels, navigating the subway or walking across town can be kind of difficult. I don’t want you to opt out of getting the photos you want because you don’t want to walk another step. If you feel confident you can navigate the subway in your wedding day finery, that’s great! Just remember to bring a pair of flats to slip on when we’re walking from place to place, so you don’t have to wear your heels all day.
- Don’t forget breakfast! And stay hydrated. Getting married takes a lot of energy. You’ll be feeling all kinds of intense emotions, you may be walking all over the city… it will be a lot easier if you’ve had something to eat and plenty of water.
- Finally… just remember that however you get married – big wedding or small – you should do what’s right for you and your partner. If having a huge wedding doesn’t feel like you, then don’t feel like you have to do it. When you get engaged, a lot of people are going to tell you a lot of things… “You have to have your make up done.” “You have to have flowers.” “You have to have to invite Cousin Mary who you haven’t seen in 10 years.” You don’t have to do any of those things. Figure out what’s important to you and your partner and do or have those things, and don’t worry about anything else. The wedding day is just one day… what really matters is every single day after that. That’s a marriage.
Hopefully you found this helpful if you are planning an elopement in New York City! Did I leave something out? Do you have a question? Just let me know!
Getting married is a really big deal. Don’t ever think that your wedding is any less special just because it’s you and your partner at City Hall. There’s no wrong way to get married.