Blog ~ City Hall wedding

Get Married at City Hall: NYC Elopement Photographer’s Guide

City Hall weddings are a uniquely great way to get married in NYC. If you’re looking to keep things simple, getting married at City Hall can stand on its own or be the start to crafting a beautifully intimate NYC wedding day. Over the past 8 years I’ve been through City Hall hundreds of times with couples from all over the world, and I hope this guide helps you as you plan your NYC elopement.

Bride and groom after getting married at City Hall

Where is City Hall?

While everyone refers to it as City Hall, marriage ceremonies are officiated at the City Clerk’s office located at 141 Worth St in Manhattan. There are also City Clerk’s offices in the other boroughs, with Brooklyn as the second most popular location.

Preparing for Your City Hall Wedding Ceremony

At least 24 hours before going to the City Clerk’s office to get married, you’ll need to obtain your license. See my essential guide to eloping in NYC for detailed steps on obtaining the marriage license. Basically you’ll go into the same City Clerk’s office the day before your wedding, or earlier, to complete this step.

Getting Married at City Hall

When you arrive to City Hall on your wedding day, you’ll first go through a security checkpoint. Then at the front desk you’ll show your IDs and marriage license paperwork to the clerk, who will give you a ticket with a number on it. The first time your number is called to sign the paperwork, along with your witnesses, and pay the $25 ceremony fee. Then you’ll be called up again to go in for the ceremony, which itself lasts a short few minutes. It’s important to note that you cannot personalize your vows or have any readings; everyone receives the same scripted ceremony.

Elopement couples get married at City Hall NYC

Estimating and Minimizing the Wait Time

From the time you walk in to the time you walk out, the entire process at City Hall takes an average of 60-90 minutes. Wait times can be longer in the Summer, on Friday afternoons, or around any holidays or significant dates (7/7/17, etc). Because there are no reservations, aiming for the least busy times of the day can help minimize the wait as much as possible.

The City Clerk’s office is open from 8:30a-3:45p, Monday to Friday. Generally speaking the best time to arrive is before 11a or early in the afternoon. It’s a good idea to avoid the lunch rush, plus the staff rotates out so it goes a little slower until they catch back up by early afternoon.

How to get married at City Hall NYC

Bringing Guests to City Hall

You’re free to bring guests with you to City Hall, and I’m not aware of any limit they impose. I’ve had a group of 30 people go through with no problems, but if you’re expecting more than that I would suggest making alternate plans. The waiting area can get crowded on the busier days and after a certain point the security checkpoint will take a long time to get your whole group through.

Select a Witness, or Two

Only one witness is required on your marriage license, and you can have up to two. If you are bringing guests they can serve as your witnesses, but if you won’t have any guests you can either ask your photographer or grab another couple nearby. Witnesses must be over 18 and have valid photo ID. Besides signing your license paperwork, your witnesses will also need to be in the ceremony room with you.

Who will marry us?

One of the clerks with the marriage bureau will perform your ceremony. They have a few in rotation and the most well-known is James (before I knew his name, I just referred to him as “that mustache guy” and everyone knew whom I meant). They’re all great and do their best to make a 2 minute ceremony feel as warm and personal as possible.

Embracing the Process

Enjoy yourselves! Your experience at City Hall is what you make of it. Use the wait time to watch other couples getting married, 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 a bottle of water. While there are restrooms inside, there are no water fountains.

Quick Notes on the Security Checkpoint

Everyone has to go through security, so if you’ll be arriving with a large group it can take a little time for everyone to get inside. Once inside it’s generally not a good idea to exit for any reason until we’re done with the ceremony, as you’ll have to go back through security to re-enter. Photos are no longer allowed at the front desk area by the checkpoint, so photography can only start once we’re inside with a number in our hands.

Hire a City Hall Wedding Photographer

Hiring an experienced elopement photographer for your City Hall wedding ensures you have amazing photos to remember the occasion. Contact me today about the NYC elopement you’re planning!

The City Hall Elopement of Ruth & Ricky

Simply put, I love being a City Hall wedding photographer in New York. It’s always exciting to walk out of my house, hop on the subway, and then emerge in Manhattan to start telling my couple’s wedding day story. And while getting married at City Hall might seem like the most simple of weddings, it still comes with all of the excitement of any other wedding day. Ruth & Ricky had an amazing elopement by embracing just that. As a recent graduate of West Point, Ricky was looking dapper in his Army blues while Ruth looked amazing in her flowing backless dress.

City Hall Wedding Photographer

Our day started in the gorgeous entryway of The Marmara Park Avenue in Midtown, and after a short Uber ride down to the City Clerk’s Office on Worth St we were in line to get married! It’s always great to sink back into the crowd at City Hall and document my couple waiting to be called up. Especially when it’s just the two of them waiting with each other, there’s a great sense of anticipation that builds up as the number being called gets closer and closer to theirs.

The Marmara Park Avenue is a great place to stay on your wedding dayThe entryway to The Marmara in midtown made the perfect spot to grab a few quick portraits of the bride & groomI love capturing the wedding couple exiting their car upon arriving at City Hall!The bride & groom waiting at City Hall for their marriage ceremonyGroom looking sharp in his Army blues as he leads his bride into City HallThe wedding couple signing their paperwork at City HallJust before going into their wedding ceremony at the Marriage BureauA vignette of carried items to this West Point City Hall weddingThe groom slipping the ring on his bride's handThe bride trying to slide the ring onto her groom's handCity Hall wedding photographerArmy groom and bride exiting City Hall in Manhattan immediately after their wedding ceremony

It was all smiles out the door as we hopped across the way to get some portraits amongst the classic architecture of the Civic Center area of downtown Manhattan. For the shortest of wedding days, this is a great area to explore as it has some really great spots within a short walking distance of the City Clerk’s Office.

Wedding couple on the Law & Order stepsPhotographing in downtown Manhattan provides some great backdrops for wedding portraitsA dramatic portrait of an Army groom and his bride in ManhattanThe classic architecture of the Civic Center makes for classic wedding portraitsThe wedding rings along with a lucky penny

Ruth & Ricky, thank you so much for having me along for such a beautiful and intimate wedding day. Are you planning a wedding at New York’s City Hall? I’d love to document your wedding day!

The Best Elopement Vendors

Getting ready hotel – The Marmara

NYC elopement photographer – JC Lemon Photography

The City Hall Elopement of Mary & Joreal

These City Hall wedding photos from Mary & Joreal’s elopement are a prime example of what an amazing wedding day with no guests can look like. Mary and Joreal came all the way up from Atlanta to have an NYC elopement, letting the established process at City Hall provide for easy logistics and the backdrop of the NYC skyline play 3rd wheel in their gorgeous wedding photos.

City Hall Wedding Photos

From the moment they walked into the Marriage Bureau, I knew that Mary and Joreal were going to have amazing City Hall wedding photos. I love that anticipation that builds up before the couple gets called in for the ceremony, and then to see it all bubble over throughout the vows, ring exchange, and then walking outside as a married couple. And these guys held nothing back. Sometimes one of the more challenging parts of wedding photography can be to anticipate these peaks of emotion, but hanging out with Mary and Joreal felt like we were all in a line dance. All in sync.

During this part of the day, I’m mostly operating as a photojournalist so I just let Mary and Joreal be with themselves as I floated around and got what I needed. The ceremony itself is very brief at City Hall, maybe 2 minutes total haha. I might look like a calm and collected photographer in those chapels, but it’s a mad dash to get everything in that short of a time. All while trying to remain as invisible as possible! Luckily the officiants at the Marriage Bureau are all amazing and provide for smooth sailing every time. I love that Mary & Joreal grabbed a selfie with their wedding officiant!

Outside of the City Clerk's Office, aka City Hall

Walking into City Hall for their elopement

Bride and groom waiting to get married at City Hall

Excited for her City Hall wedding ceremony to start

One of the many great officiants at NYC City Hall

The ring exchange is just as emotional at an elopement

These City Hall wedding photos show how to still have an awesome elopement without any guests

Being pronounced married at the Marriage Bureau

Such a sweet kiss after their City Hall wedding ceremony

A warm embrace directly after their NYC Marriage Bureau wedding ceremony

The bride & groom grab a selfie with their officiant

Sneakerheads have weddings too!

I love this photo above of Mary & Joreal walking towards the exit after their City Hall wedding. And this is also when Mary changed over to her special wedding day kicks to match Joreal. A sneakerhead match made in heaven! Outside we hailed a cab and hopped over the Brooklyn Bridge for portraits in DUMBO (Directly Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass – the more you know!), one of the most requested neighborhoods for portraits. With its skyline views, cobblestone streets, industrial buildings, and the mix of grit and shine, it’s easy to see why people love having it play a part in their wedding day photos. Plus, it’s only a 5-minute cab ride over from City Hall!

A quick taxi ride over to Brooklyn after their City Hall wedding

Bride getting out of the cab in Brooklyn, such great laughter

The wedding couple basking in the morning sun with the NYC skyline in the background

Wedding portraits in DUMBO are always amazing, such great views of the skyline and Brooklyn Bridge

Snapping the wedding day

Such a colorful corner of DUMBO Brooklyn for wedding photos

A beautiful bride and dashing groom in Brooklyn

DUMBO has such wonderful architecture for wedding photos, including views of the Manhattan Bridge

Jane's Carousel makes a great backdrop for wedding photos, including lifestyle ring photos!

A calm, quiet portrait of the bride and groom in front of graffiti

The wedding photos in DUMBO Brooklyn included this awesome graffiti wall

Mary and Joreal thank you so much for having me along to document your fun and sweet day. Y’all were so amazing to spend time with!

NYC Elopement Vendors

Elopement photographer – JC Lemon Photography