So I’ve photographed a ton of weddings inside New York City’s City Hall on 141 Worth Street! I’ve had amazing couples from all over the world from places like Singapore, UK, Ireland and even some from as far as Australia to come to New York City as a destination wedding. I’ve even had some come from as close as Brooklyn- because they chose to have a small intimate ceremony inside the NYC City Clerk Chapel with either an entourage of family and friends, or with just me- as their witness! Whatever the reason, it’s exciting!! The giddy feeling of dressing up in a wedding dress and galavanting into a historical building of New York City and immortalizing your vows in the best city in the world. There’s nothing like it to describe it. Having your soul mate by your side, making promises that will last a lifetime, then getting your pictures taken all around the amazing views of New York City? Nothing. Can. Beat. It.
So if this is something you’re planning on doing, I figured it’d be nice for me to give you some tips on how to make your planning and day go smoothly!
1. Apply for your marriage license!
I know you may think this is a no-brainer- but in fact, a lot of couples don’t realize you need to apply first in order to get married at the chapel! You can apply online on the Office of the City Clerk. After you have done that, you’ll receive a Confirmation Number with more info telling you what IDs and documents you will need to bring then GO to the Office of the City Clerk to complete your application. You’ll have 21 days from the day you submitted the online application to get this done. Keep in mind that this is all BEFORE the actually wedding ceremony at the Chapel. So in total you’ll need to go to the City Clerk twice. Also, another key tip is that you cannot get married at the chapel until 24 hours AFTER you finalize all the paperwork from your first visit to the City Clerk. **This is really important if you are flying in from another country and having a destination wedding in New York City ! **
2. Invite your friends and family as early as possible!
Since City Hall elopements happen only during normal government work hours (M-F, 8am-4:30pm) - chances are your friends and family will need ample time to take off of work/class/other engagements so they can attend! Especially true if they are flying out from another country!
3. Secure A Photographer and Secure a Witness!
If you have someone in mind, reach out to them ASAP! ( You can also contact me! 😉) You will definitely want this day captured! So get someone who knows the rope of the City Hall procedures and can also take you around to some cool places afterwards to get some portraits done! If you also plan on having just you and your significant other at this intimate ceremony, make sure you find a witness! It’s not legal until you have a witness sign that paper! Most photographers can also act as a witness- so make sure they bring a legal ID. (drivers license or passport works!)
4. Best Time to go to City Hall for the Chapel Wedding
My biggest tip is to NOT go on Mondays and Fridays- especially NOT Fridays before a long weekend (those are the most crowded!) They seem to be the most packed- since either everyone’s excited from the weekend to finally get married- or they want to get married before they can spend their weekend celebrating. So avoid those days if you can! Other times that are rough is early morning (opening). A LOT of people try to avoid the “crowds” by going earlier - or some people HAVE to go early because they’re trying to have some of their friends attend- but they need to go into work right after- or sometimes even the couples (this is NYC…) have to go into work right after their ceremony/finalizing their marriage license- so there are actually quite a lot more people in the morning than the after-morning, which is between 11am-1pm slot. I always recommend my couples to meet me at 11am at City Hall because the morning rush will be over and most people “need to eat lunch”- so won’t go to Cityhall- haha!
5. Wait Time is Expected!
No matter what, there is going to be wait time. If you’ve ever been to the DMV, you can equate it to that. There are a few lines to wait on, but they generally go quickly if you are smart about what time you go. From my experience, the wait can last from 1 hour to 2 hours at the most. So always have that in mind when you’re planning your day. Get insight on where you want to do your photos after and where you want to hold your lunch or dinner intimate reception in accordance to your ceremony.
6. Plan your lunch!
Since I suggest going right at around 11am, most likely you’ll finish up the ceremony by 1pm or so, then plan to go take some photos for an hour or two. Which means, you most likely won’t eat until 3-4pm! Make sure you have a hearty breakfast so you can get through the morning or grab a snack along the way!
7. Think about transportation!
Do you have a large group or is it just you two? If you have a big group that is traveling from out of town, make sure they know where and how to get to their next destination! After a few group portraits, you’ll either need to call them some taxis, teach them how to manage the subways or call uber- getting them situated would be the best move in order for you and your photographer to go and easily start your portrait session. If it’s just you and your photographer, make sure you plan where you’ll be heading to next and how you’d like to get there!
I hope this helps out in your planning for your special day! If you have any other questions or would like to book a session through me, you can always reach out to me!
8. BONUS TIP - Bring a hard and unbendable folder to store your MARRIAGE LICENSE IN! After the ceremony, they give you your official marriage license! So make sure you have somewhere safe to store it when you leave city hall! You can also hand it to a trustworthy friend/family member so they can hang onto it until after you finish your wedding portraits!