Blog ~ NYC elopement photographer
When talking to couples that are planning an NYC wedding, one of the main topics of conversation is where to go for portraits. With DUMBO being the most popular neighborhood for the past few years, most couples are specifically asking, “What are the best wedding photo locations DUMBO has?” Even though that might be the hotspot right now, the more broad question is always at play — where should we go for wedding photos in the city?
In that spirit I’m going to start highlighting some neighborhoods throughout New York City that are great options for exploring on your wedding day. Because I am a location-based wedding photographer, the city is our studio and we can literally go anywhere and create amazing wedding photos. Each neighborhood lends its own character into the look and feel of the photos, so choosing the right location for the type of wedding photos you want is definitely something to consider.
Why you should go to DUMBO for wedding photos.
The skyline views alone are worth the trip over, but step away from the waterfront and you’ll find a striking neighborhood with cobblestone streets and converted industrial warehouse buildings. I love any neighborhood that offers a lot of options because it means that we can create lots of variety within a short walking distance. With a little bit of everything, DUMBO has a long list of photo spots worth checking out.
This waterfront Brooklyn neighborhood is nestled between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges (hence the name, Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). It includes the north end of Brooklyn Bridge Park, along with Jane’s Carousel, the most photographed block on Instagram, and a former industrial neighborhood peppered with boutique shops and converted lofts.
What are the best wedding photo locations DUMBO offers?
There are lots of great nooks and crannies to explore in DUMBO, but there are three key areas that I try to visit with every wedding couple.
Fulton Ferry Landing
While technically not part of DUMBO (but it’s *right* there!), this ferry landing holds the iconic skyline view of the area. It looks straight across to downtown Manhattan, while the span of the Brooklyn Bridge soars past you to the north. Ferries come and go along with tourists who snap photos, but it’s never too hard to capture some photos where it’s just the wedding couple with no one else around. A must visit!
Jane’s Carousel and converted warehouses
If you love the waterfront but don’t want all of your photos to have skyline views, these are two great areas to explore for some variety. Jane’s Carousel is a restored, fully functional carousel. You don’t even have to ride it to take advantage of it for photos, but why wouldn’t you ride a carousel? The two converted warehouses on the waterfront are actually old tobacco storehouses. They finally received some love and care and have been recently reopened, including an elevated public space and a ground-level garden.
BQE Wall, Rust Wall, and other spots off the beaten path
The first one might be well known, but this one is actually all about the nooks and crannies! DUMBO is a great neighborhood for exploring random blocks, so let your feet you lead you somewhere exciting. The BQE Wall is a colorful piece of graffiti along the wall supporting the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (from the 2013 DUMBO Walls project). The “Rust Wall” is just the side of a random building I found a few years ago while exploring back in the neighborhood.
A few DUMBO weddings to dive into
The City Hall elopement of Mary & Joreal was such a great intimate wedding! After their City Hall ceremony, we hopped across the Brooklyn Bridge and explored DUMBO for their wedding portraits. The loop we made covered most of the best wedding photo locations DUMBO has!
This Frankies 457 wedding day started at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, at the south end of DUMBO. After a first look, I explored DUMBO with Katherine & Quin for some fun wedding photos.
What neighborhood should I feature next?
New York is such a wonderful city to explore, especially on your wedding day. Do you have a favorite neighborhood you’d like featured next? Let me know!
The City Hall wedding of Callie & Dan was so simple and elegant. The fanciest thing about it might have been Callie’s floral crown! I love that New York can host such simple yet fulfilling wedding days for couples from around the world. In fact, if I had known about having an NYC City Hall wedding when I got married, that’s probably what we would have done.
This City Hall wedding kept it simple and elegant
This elopement couple’s intimate wedding day followed the tried-and-true recipe for success — keep it simple and include those that matter most to you. The best way to keep your NYC elopement ceremony simple? Go to City Hall. (If you haven’t yet, check out our recently updated 2018 guide to getting married at City Hall.)
Other paperwork might be boring to fill out, but the small moments that happen while you and your witness fill out the marriage license paperwork are always worth documenting. I love the laughs and smiles that overtook Callie, Dan, and her sister as they completed everything!
While it is a brief ceremony, the emotions fly during those two minutes. With a group of guests along for the ride, there are always hugs that immediately follow the ceremony and I love it when I can capture all of these happening around me. It’s always such a mad dash to get these because they’re trying to (nicely) get you to leave the room so that they can do the next ceremony, haha!
Hopping just across the street from City Hall provides the perfect spot for some group photos. I loved these last few with Callie, her mom, grandmother, and sisters. Don’t they all look so amazing?! Then it was time to hop in a cab and get some portraits by the waterfront with views overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. With just a quick detour as the guests made their way to the reception, we were able to capture all of the amazing portraits Callie & Dan wanted. Then we got them back to the restaurant to join up with their guests for lunch!
Charlie Bird Elopement Reception
This bi-level West Village restaurant has a hidden gem — a private room in which to host an elopement reception! Callie & Dan’s intimate party of twelve fit perfectly, and with a few simple floral details and customized menus the room popped to life. If you’re looking for a great space to host a small elopement reception, I definitely recommend checking them out!
Callie & Dan, thank you so much for including me in your City Hall wedding day. It was a pleasure to document your story!
The Best NYC Elopement Vendors
Wedding venue – City Hall
Elopement reception restaurant – Charlie Bird
NYC elopement photographer – JC Lemon Photography
Plan to get married at City Hall if you’re looking to have a simple NYC elopement ceremony where the logistics are handled for you. The Manhattan Marriage Bureau at the City Clerk’s Office, located at 141 Worth St, is what everyone is really referring to when they say “City Hall,” and it’s a pleasant government office where couples from all over the world come to get married. The process is simple, the people-watching is amazing, and you’ll be married in about an hour!
Over the past 7 years I’ve been in and out of City Hall hundreds of times as an elopement photographer. Getting married at City Hall does have a few pitfalls to be aware of, but is otherwise a great option for your wedding ceremony if you’re looking to keep things simple. And after walking out of the doors as a married couple, you can still sit down to an amazing elopement reception at a local restaurant or head to a classy bar for an after party with your guests!
How to Get Married at City Hall
At least 24 hours before going to City Hall to get married, you’ll need to obtain your marriage license. See our essential guide to eloping in NYC for detailed steps on obtaining the paperwork. Basically you’ll go into the same office the day before, or earlier, to complete this step.
What’s the general process to get married at City Hall?
When you arrive you’ll go through a security checkpoint, show your IDs and license paperwork to the clerk, and receive a number. Your number will be called up once to sign the paperwork (including your witnesses) and pay the $25 ceremony fee, and then you’ll be called up again to go in for the ceremony. It’s important to note that you cannot customize your ceremony at all; everyone gets the same standard vows and the ceremony itself lasts a brief 2 minutes.
How long does it all take?
From the time you walk in to the time you walk out, the entire process takes an average of one hour and 15 minutes. Wait times can be longer in the Summer, on Friday afternoons, or around any holidays or significant dates (7/7/17, etc). On the best days we can be in-and-out in 45 minutes.
When should we arrive to minimize the wait time?
Because there are no reservations to get married at City Hall, aiming for the least busy times can help minimize the wait as much as possible. The marriage bureau is open from 8:30a-3:45p Monday to Friday. Generally speaking the best times to go are before 11a or around mid-afternoon. There’s definitely a lunch time rush, plus the staff rotates out so it goes a little slower until they catch up by mid-afternoon. The bureau closes at 3:45p, but this 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 many guests can we bring?
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 ceremony spaces are not large rooms. I’ve had a group of 20 people go through with no problems; if you’re expecting closer to 30 guests I would suggest making alternate plans.
Do we have to bring a witness?
Only one witness is required, but you can have up to two. If you are bringing guests, one or two of them can serve as your witnesses. If you won’t have any guests you have two options — ask your photographer or grab another couple nearby. Your witness(es) 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 officiants with the marriage bureau will perform your ceremony. They have a few in rotation and 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). They’re all great and do their best to make a 2 minute ceremony feel as warm and personal as possible.
Any other advice for couples looking to get 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 a bottle of water. While there are restrooms inside, there are no water fountains.
A quick note about the security checkpoint
A security checkpoint was installed last year and this has changed a few things.
- Photos are no longer allowed at the front desk area by the checkpoint. I can start photography inside once we’re past the front desk with a number in our hands.
- 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.
- It’s no longer practical to hop outside for some portraits if the wait is taking a long time. Once we’re inside it’s best not to leave until we’re done.