How To Get Married At New York City Hall


Where to go, how to get there, and everything in between

How To Get Married At New York City Hall | A Practical Wedding

Thinking about getting married in New York City? Stop thinking about it—do it. Let’s get a few things straight right off the bat.

  • You’ll be getting married in an amazing city (duh).
  • The minimum wait time after obtaining your marriage license is only twenty-four hours, which means you can accomplish this over a long weekend.
  • Since you can do this in a long weekend, you can even make the city your honeymoon destination.

How To Get Married At New York City Hall | A Practical Wedding

Getting married in our fair city is amazingly simple and can run the gamut of just the two of you in the park, to renting out the St. Regis. But there’s one venue that is incredibly unique and actually the easiest option of all—City Hall. The potent combination of friendly government employees running an efficient marriage bureau and the singular people-watching joy of the other couples getting hitched, always makes for a memorable wedding day.

How To Get Married At New York City Hall | A Practical Wedding

In 2013 I shot seventy-five elopements, of which a majority were at the Manhattan City Clerk’s Office Marriage Bureau. Whenever I shoot a NY City Hall elopement, I get a similar range of questions from couples, so here’s a neat little guide I’ve assembled for those getting married there.

What’s the general process for getting married at City Hall?

First you’ll have to apply for a marriage license, which costs $35 (you can fill out the paperwork ahead of time online). A solid twenty-four hours after you’ve obtained your license, you can return to the marriage bureau to have the ceremony performed, which costs $25 and takes place in either the East or West Chapel within the building. There are no reservations available, you simply walk in and take a number and wait until you are called.

How To Get Married At New York City Hall | A Practical Wedding

When should we arrive to minimize the wait time?

The marriage bureau is open from 8:30 AM to 3:45 PM Monday to Friday, except for major holidays. Wait times are notoriously hard to predict and can range from in-and-out in thirty minutes to around three hours on the busiest days, but generally speaking the best time to go is as early in the morning as possible. You should definitely try to avoid the lunchtime rush from twelve to two in the afternoon; Fridays during the summer can also get fairly packed. The bureau closes at 3:45 PM, but this actually just means you have to be in the door and past the front desk by that time. As long as you’ve received a number to wait in line, they will get to you.

How To Get Married At New York City Hall | A Practical Wedding

How do we obtain a marriage license?

Both you and your partner must appear at the marriage bureau at the same time and complete the application in person (you can fill out the paperwork ahead of time online to save a few minutes). Valid photo identification is required, but you do not have to be a New York resident to apply (for international couples, you need your passport). Your marriage license will be processed while you wait and you will take it with you upon leaving the office. You must then wait twenty-four hours until the ceremony can be performed.

How To Get Married At New York City Hall | A Practical Wedding

Do we have to bring a witness? How many guests can we bring?

Only one witness is required, but you can have up to two. If you’re hiring a photographer to cover your day, they should be more than happy to act as your witness (I always am!). Otherwise, you can grab another bride or groom going through City Hall to act as your witness. Your witness(es) must be over eighteen and have valid photo identification.

I’m not aware of any strict guest limit imposed by the bureau, but the waiting area can get crowded on busy days and the chapels are not large rooms. I’ve had a group of twenty people go through with no problems; if you’re starting to get toward thirty people I would suggest considering other options.

How To Get Married At New York City Hall | A Practical Wedding

Who will marry us?

One of the marriage officiants with the marriage bureau will perform your ceremony. They have a few in rotation, of which the most well known is James Mitchell (before I knew his name, I just referred to him as “that mustache guy” and everyone knew who I meant). All of the officiants are great to work with!

How To Get Married At New York City Hall | A Practical Wedding

What transportation options are available?

The Manhattan marriage bureau is located at 141 Worth Street. The best options for arriving are either via taxi/private car or by subway. If taking the subway, the closest stops are Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall on the 4/5/6 and Chambers St on the J.

How To Get Married At New York City Hall | A Practical Wedding

Any other advice for couples getting married at City Hall?

Enjoy yourselves! Your experience at City Hall is what you make of it. Use the wait time to people watch, chat with your guests, or just to reflect on the occasion with your soon-to-be spouse. If you’re getting married in the summer, bring in a bottle of water. While there are restrooms inside, there are no water fountains.

Jon C. Lemon

Jon C. Lemon is a wedding photographer living in New York City. When not documenting awesome couples in love, he can usually be found rock climbing, cooking up a batch of homebrew beer, or exploring the world with his beautiful wife May.

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  • swarmofbees

    I have secretly dreamed of getting married at the Staten Island Borough Hall. It is right across from the ferry terminal, so you can have a (free) romantic harbor cruise to start off your honeymoon!

    • http://www.smittenchickens.com/ Sarah Hoppes

      That’s brilliant! The Staten Island ferry is one of my favorite free activities in the city!

  • Laura C

    What a great post! Makes me go hmmm…

  • H

    Guys, click on that James Mitchell link. Crying at my desk…

    • JDrives

      I want to hug him. What an absolute doll.

    • http://www.etsy.com/shop/DIYIDo Laura

      I went back and clicked the link on your recommendation, totally worth it!

    • Sarah

      Oh man.. me too!

    • Bertha

      So intense. It was not James Mitchell but the loved ones who made me cry.

    • Jacque

      He has the most awesome voice! 2 years later and I’m still stoked that he was the officiant!

  • JDrives

    I almost didn’t click the link to this post, since it doesn’t apply to me (West Coast, woot) but I’m SO GLAD I DID – for the pictures!! It’s like a mashup of WE ARE GETTING MARRIED RIGHT NOW YAY! wedding photos up in here. Love it!

  • http://twitter.com/mollyepollard Molly Pollard

    My wedding is a month away and I still dream of eloping. It’s just the extreme introvert in me I guess. I would totally do this… I love NYC!

  • http://www.smittenchickens.com/ Sarah Hoppes

    That mustache guy is my favorite! Whenever I’m with a couple who gets him, I do a little dance.

  • Fiona

    Omg omg omg. We are in the middle of planning precisely this kind of wedding! APW how do you always know?

  • Ellis

    I’m getting married in 10 days, and we picked up our marriage license on our lunch break. I recognize James Mitchell as the wonderful man who we worked with! He is really as lovely as portrayed in that article.

  • Jessica

    We’re getting married at NYC City Hall! So about the number of guests you recommend bringing with… What if you’re starting to approach 60?

    • Jess

      the rooms where the ceremony happens aren’t that big. I’m not sure that many would fit, unfortunately.

  • Gemma

    We did this almost 2 years ago and looking at these photos just makes me want to do it all again!

  • Meaghan

    Yesssss we got married at NY City Hall and it was the best (but seriously you need your passport – we had to go all the way back to Brooklyn to get ours when I forgot them…).

    Our officiant also had a beautiful speaking voice – it must be a job requirement. Highly recommended!

  • Lauren

    My partner and I just got married at City Hall last October and James was our officiant. He was SO theatrical and charismatic and he definitely added to the whole experience. In fact, when we re-tell the story to friends and family he is ALWAYS included because his “performance” was so memorable!!