How to Have a City Hall Wedding

By Serena Solomon on May 12, 2014 6:55am 

Slideshow
 We've got everything you need to know about getting hitched downtown.
City Hall Weddings
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NEW YORK CITY — The "less is more" rule can be true for weddings, especially with a growing number of couples tying the knot at the Manhattan City Clerk's office.

In 2013, more than 23,000 couples were wed inside one of two chapels within the clerk's office at 141 Worth St., up from 19,000 in 2011.

Some make the most of the casual matrimonial setting, with wedding gowns, a photographer and a planned celebration to follow. Others come in their regular garb, as if it were any other day.

Whatever a couple's desired level of sophistication, here is a guide on how to get hitched at City Hall:

Marriage License

The couple must get a marriage license together using proper identification at least 24 hours ahead of the big day, but no more than 60 days prior. The fee is $35 and the license can be obtained from any of the City Clerk's offices throughout the five boroughs. Ceremonies are performed at all City Clerk's Offices around the city, but about half of the weddings in 2013 were performed in Manhattan.

Wedding Ceremony

The $25 ceremonies in the City Clerk's offices in Manhattan are done on a first-come, first-served basis between 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. The couple must appear with their identification and at least one witness. This can be anyone from a friend or relative to your wedding photographer, but they must have the required identification.

The process is informal, with couples grabbing a number at the front desk and waiting alongside others for their turn to be called. After doing final paperwork with City Clerk staff, a couple and their guests head into one of two chapels for the ceremony, which takes only two minutes. 

In 2009, $12 million was spent renovating Manhattan's Marriage Bureau in the City Clerk's office. This included adding a painted backdrop of City Hall for photo posing, a store hawking basic items needed for a wedding and two chapels that can accommodate as many as 30 guests.

Photography

While a handful of photographers gather outside the City Clerk's office in Manhattan each day snagging jobs, they can also be booked in advance.

 A couple approaches a counter manned by City Clerk office staff to go over final paperwork before tying the knot in the chapel.
A couple approaches a counter manned by City Clerk office staff to go over final paperwork before tying the knot in the chapel.
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Katie Jane Goulah

Katie Jane Goulah, a photographer who specializes in intimate elopements, said most of her clients choose a City Hall wedding in New York City.

"I like to get the scene and get a wide shot with other couples in the background," she said, adding that small details, like the couple holding up their waiting number, can really give a City Hall stamp to the shots of the nuptials.

Often couples will book Goulah for a few hours on either side of the ceremony for portraits around the city.

"I have so much more freedom to be creative because I [am] not dealing with a super strict timeline," she said. "There just isn't that time crunch that comes with a big wedding."

The nearby cobblestone streets of TriBeCa or the gritty patina of Chinatown and the Lower East Side can provide a backdrop to suit any couple, Goulah said. The regal architecture of the surrounding Civic Center, such as the New York City Supreme Court's columns and staircase, can also create a striking background to photos.

A 10-minute walk away is the Brooklyn Bridge, another photo site popular with City Hall couples, according to Goulah.

The Afterparty

Some couples keep their City Hall wedding casual with hot dogs, cocktails and champagne or just a coffee to celebrate. Others step it up a notch with a dinner just for themselves or for their guests, too.

An eight-minute walk from the City Clerk's office in Manhattan is City Hall Restaurant and its landmarked New York City building at 131 Duane St. City Hall opens for lunch at noon  Monday to Friday so it can accommodate an early wedding ceremony's celebration. 


Around the corner in Chinatown is the Peking Duck House at 28 Mott St., which can seat larger groups. A banquet meal starts at $340 for 10 people and diners can bring their own wine. Peking Duck House is open from 11:30 a.m.

After using Brooklyn Bridge as a backdrop for wedding photos, it's only a 30-minute walk away to DUMBO for a post-matrimonial dinner. The River Café provides a view of the city along with modern American cuisine. The waterfront restaurant is not open for lunch, but drinks are served from 5 p.m., with dinner service beginning at 5:30 p.m.

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