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
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.
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.
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.
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!