How To Get Married in New York City

A guided tour with JC Lemon Photography

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Getting married in New York City isn’t like getting married in the rest of the country. New York, despite its limitless food, drink, entertainment and artistic talent, is just not set up to make event-throwing easy. There are so many options for everything, and sometimes it can feel like you’re on an endless pursuit of a needle in a haystack. And that’s not even getting started on how damn expensive the whole town is. But when APWers get married in New York City, they do it up right, and it’s so worth it.

If you’re in the beginning stages of planning your own New York wedding (and are maybe starting to freak out about it a little bit) you can lower your worry, because I have a secret weapon: APW wedding photographers like JC Lemon Photography. Here’s why: wedding photographers go to a lot of weddings. And they spend a lot of time scouring the city for the best shooting locations. So most of the questions you have in the early stages of planning (like venue-searching), photographers totally have the inside scoop on all that.

There are plenty of reasons to hire Jon of JC Lemon Photography, aside from his New York know-how. Like his flawless portfolio to start, or how he can make getting married New York (whether it’s by way of city hall or otherwise) look exactly as magical as it feels. So if finding a wedding photographer is next on your list, you should just go straight to JC Lemon Photography’s site, spend however many hours getting lost in Jon’s portfolio, and we’ll just wait here until you’re done. Back? Great, here are Jon’s best tips on how to get married in New York City. —Maddie

Getting married is a momentous occasion. Getting married in New York City is an occasion the size of that gorilla that scaled the Empire State Building. NYC is an amazing city and choosing it as the location of your wedding is both an exhilarating and overwhelming decision. Whether you’re a local celebrating in your own neighborhood or a visitor making the city the backdrop for your special day, the experience is almost infinitely customizable to what type of couple you are and what type of event you’d like to host.

Over the past few years I’ve shot more than a hundred elopements and weddings in NYC, and documented all sorts of affairs from large weddings at Jazz at Lincoln Center to intimate restaurant weddings in Brooklyn. In my last article, I described the process of how to get married at New York City Hall. But New York is so much more than just City Hall, so this article covers marriage everywhere else in the city, from getting married in Central Park to booking that favorite local restaurant that hasn’t even hosted a wedding before.

The larger the event you’re planning, the more it will become like planning a standard wedding anywhere in the US, so we’ll mostly be covering the questions that come about from planning an intimate wedding in alternative spaces. Sure, you could have your ceremony at a church uptown, but maybe you never thought about performing your ceremony under the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

WHAT’S THE GENERAL PROCESS FOR GETTING MARRIED IN NEW YORK CITY?

The general procedures for getting married in NYC are the same as anywhere else in the US. You’ll need to get a marriage license and find an officiant to perform your ceremony. Your marriage officiant must be eligible to perform ceremonies under New York State law and also be registered with the Office of the City Clerk before the wedding. You can learn more about officiant registration on the City Clerk’s website here.

WE WANT TO PERFORM THE CEREMONY OUTDOORS IN A PUBLIC SPACE. WILL WE NEED A PERMIT?

New York City is incredibly gracious in terms of where you can perform a wedding ceremony in public. Almost all public spaces (anything which is not private property) are perfectly legal to hold a ceremony in, but a permit might be required in some cases. There’s generally three categories public spaces fall into, and their permitting rules differ; most will depend on the number of people that will be involved or if you’re looking to reserve a specific area.

NEW YORK CITY PARK: Some parks in New York City, such as Central Park, Madison Square Park, and Prospect Park, are property of the city and run by the Department of Parks & Recreation (and are sometimes also managed by a separate group such as a conservancy or alliance). For these parks a permit is only needed if you’ll have more than twenty people or if you’d like to reserve a specific area within the park. These permits cost $25 and need to be submitted in advance. You can see more specific information here.

NEW YORK STATE PARK: A few parks in the city are actually run by the state and generally have more strict permitting rules, although they vary park to park. These parks include Gantry Plaza State Park, East River State Park, and Hudson River Park, among others. Most will at least require a photography permit, and some will require an event permit for the ceremony itself. A good starting point to find all of this information is here.

GENERAL PUBLIC SPACE: For general public spaces like Times Square, you generally won’t need a special permit unless you have more than twenty people and are planning an extensive ceremony. A quick Google search of the place name and “wedding permit” is a good place to start.

WE WANT TO HOST A RECEPTION AFTER OUR OUTDOOR CEREMONY. WHAT ARE OUR OPTIONS?

One unique thing about NYC is that when you’re looking to host an event here, there aren’t a lot of dedicated event spaces for smaller parties (I’m talking less than a hundred people). But what might seem like a downside is actually a HUGE upside. The plethora of restaurants and bars the city has to choose from has now become your list for event spaces! From the romantic eateries in the West Village to the esteemed tables of Michelin Star restaurants (and even to the darkest corners of the local dive bar), your options for hosting a reception might be far more numerous than you realize.

If you’re looking to host something on the formal side of the spectrum, almost all “fancy” restaurants will have at least a section of the restaurant that you can reserve for such affairs, if not the entire restaurant. Some might be more flexible than others in terms of times you can book out private events, but all will have someone in house to speak with to discover your options.

If you’re looking to host something less formal, such as a happy hour reception at your neighborhood skee ball bar where you met, you may have to take over the whole establishment. Discovering your options at these types of places may tap into the same skillset as buying a rug in Marrakesh, but sometimes booking that perfect venue is worth the extra digging.

WE WANT TO HAVE OUR ENTIRE WEDDING (CEREMONY AND RECEPTION) IN A VENUE. HOW DO WE FIND THE PERFECT ONE FOR US?

Unless you’re hosting a small affair (less than forty people) with a quick elopement-style ceremony, you’ll have to narrow your search a little to find a venue to fits your needs. While some restaurants might work for small events, you’ll most likely need to start looking at alternatives.

There are warehouses, lofts, hotels, museums, and even a farm to choose from! In fact, there are far too many to name here, but head over to the New York Magazine locations directory for an extremely comprehensive listing of venues throughout the city.

WHERE SHOULD WE TAKE PORTRAITS?

I almost didn’t include this question because it seems silly at first. In NYC, there really aren’t any bad places to take portraits. Some might include some logistical concerns, but you can pretty much go anywhere in the city and show off any side of it, and it will look amazing. But therein lies the problem! If everywhere is good, where exactly should we go??

Most people will gravitate towards the big locations—Central Park, Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central, Empire State Building—and for good reason, they scream NYC. While it’s great to hit the major landmarks, I encourage you to think differently, trust your photographer, and let a little bit of the real city become a part of your portraits. A good strategy is to pick a neighborhood that has one or two key landmarks you might like to visit, and then to randomly explore around those landmarks for random things that are interesting.

WHAT TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE?

Just like any other city, NYC has numerous private car offerings to choose from if you’re looking to hire a ride from the ceremony to the reception, or even to shuttle your guests around. But if you’re looking to do something a little different, NYC has some amazing options for something truly unique.

Yellow cabs are distinctly New York and are so plentiful (most of the time) that they’re an easy win. You can also utilize the amazing public transit the city has and provide guests with a guide on how to migrate from the ceremony to the reception via subway.

Something that really can’t be done anywhere else is to take a ride in a Checker Taxicab. There’s a company in NYC that specializes in renting these, plus other vintage cars, out and they are awesome to work with. Head over to FilmCars to learn more.

ANY OTHER ADVICE FOR COUPLES GETTING MARRIED IN NYC?

One of the most interesting, diverse, and unique cities in the world is at your fingertips if you choose to get married here, so hit the books and plan something truly amazing.

JC Lemon Photography specializes in New York City weddings and elopements. Pricing for elopements is $1,500 and includes three hours of coverage, and online gallery, plus reprint rights for your photos. Big weddings (aka non-elopements) are priced at ,000 for full day coverage with second photographer, an online gallery, USB drive of your photos, reprint rights, and album pre-design with Jon.

APW READERS GET 10% OFF WHEN YOU BOOK JC LEMON PHOTOGRAPHY, ANY TIME OF THE YEAR, FOR ANY SIZE WEDDING. CLICK HERE TO GET IN TOUCH WITH JON NOW!

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