City Hall Marriage License Bureau | NYC Park Permits | Locations & Ceremony Size
Click HERE for our most popular post: a step-by-step guide on How to Elope in New York : how to get a marriage license, find a New York marriage officiant, organize your ceremony, and have your marriage legally registered. See a little more advice HERE,


Wonderful Wedding Pix

We had a super wedding at the Top of the Rock in December, for a fab couple from Birmingham, UK. Here's a pix from their great photographer, Steve Gerrard. You can see more pix in his wedding diary. He does great music photojournalism too.


...And another nice wedding notice in the Times. Jane and Gary were Re-married last week - to each other. It was a very moving event, held in their apartment, and a privilege to officiate at their ceremony. Enjoy reading about how they decided to get back together, as Jane talks about the stresses and the joy in marrying her "once and future husband".

A little notice in the Times...

The New York Times called last week to ask my opinion on the numbers of elopements, compared to traditional weddings. It was fun to see at least a sentence or two end up in the paper today in the Style section under Like Romeo and Juliet - with a happy ever after".

Of course they didn't use most of the interview (that's journalism) - but we also discussed the reasons for the growing trends in elopements and private weddings, which are only partly economic, and also include a growing interest in ecological & green weddings, an interest in smaller, family weddings & being married at home, and the increase in 'destination' weddings -- I noticed they did keep my comment that couples are worried about imposing larger wedding costs on their friends and families. Anyway, it was fun. The same reporter was at a lovely small house wedding on Friday, featured in the Times on Sunday.see above. It's nice to see these small informal weddings getting noticed as a trend.


Rockefeller Center Tree Weddings - crunch in a fishbowl

It's holiday time -- and lots and lots of people have asked about being married in front of the tree in Rockefeller Center. Just a note for people from out of town: It's crowded, it's crazy, it's loud, the rink is loud, there's no space, and the endless lines for the Rockettes snake up around the corner, and there's no place to stand, and probably, fuggedaboutit! (though we will be happy to marry you there if you really really want it) - but Times Square is less crowded than Rockefeller Center at this time.

Consider: Central park, Bryant park, Battery Park, Madison Park, in front of the Lincoln Center tree (ok, maybe next year after they've finished construction), or Top of the Rock, a carriage in the park, almost anywhere but THE TREE. Then go have your picture taken in front of THE TREE - if you can get close to it in the crush! Merry Christmas! Jingle jingle!


Get married at home

A few people have contacted us to say they're forgoing the big hotel or restaurant wedding, and downsizing, and decided to get married in the park, or -- at home! We, of course, think home weddings are wonderful. Our great grandmothers used to get married at home, and it's a great time to re-start this tradition. You can read our earlier post for a few hints about a home wedding. Congratulations!


Park musicians

Yes, they'll be happy to play for your wedding. Central Park has many 'resident' musicians. They are used to weddings. If you like the saxophone player or the jazz violinist or the clarinet player under the bridge, -- just approach them and offer them a fee to play for your wedding. They have to leave their spot to go play for you, so offer them a reasonable amount. $40-50 seems to be is standard, though people have also offered less -- and more. Yesterday, we had a grand wedding at the Bethesda Fountain, and we met a hammered dulcimer player named Arlen Oleron (email Arlen and guitar player Joni Paladin (email PaladinTrio)who were playing traditional tunes - they easily moved their instruments to the plaza, and played for the bride coming down the stairs, the 'recessional', the signing of the license, and a little dancing. It was grand. I'll put the full info on my website and a picture -- but I'm off to another lovely wedding in a rush -- M


You need witnesses for a City Hall wedding

Just a reminder! A couple called us last week because they went to be married at City Hall and did not have their witnesses (usually two, but at least one legally required, over 18, must have ID) and were turned away. And no, they do NOT provide witnesses for you, should you arrive without any of your own.

You need to bring your witness/es (and rings, for some weird reason) to a City Hall wedding. You cannot make a reservation or an appointment, you just wait in line in the hallway for your turn with the judge. You'll know whether you want to do this when you go through the license application process. The new accommodations at the Tweed Courthouse are quite nice - and a good solution for some couples.

Of course if you prefer a private wedding or elopement, or wish to write your own vows, or to be married at your own location (or even down the block, at City Hall Park by the fountain), or at a different time than the Courthouse is open, we'll help you. Just contact us and we'll be happy to make suggestions about a personalized or private ceremony. But however you get married -- CONGRATULATIONS!

Another Fab wedding dress

Here's a pix of a groom reading his vows in the Vale of Kasmir, in Prospect Park. It's dusk, and the birds are zooming low. The pix is by Tiffany Hagler, you can see her work here: A lovely, romantic wedding.


Recession Hotel pricing - tourist bargains

There's an arch little article in the Times today on "bargains" at NY hotels and fancy eateries. There's even this delicious sentence:
"Newer restaurants that would have remained packed for months are now easier to get into... 'I think that one reason we’re seeing this is because when money is tighter, people are less willing to take a risk — to waste money on a high beta meal' "

A "beta meal" is like a theatre preview - 'Prime reservations were open at several hot spots in recent weeks, including Matsugen, a newly opened restaurant from Jean-Georges Vongerichten'. You still can't get into the Waverly, but if you're feeling 'beta', things are looking up for fancy meals at a knock-down.

So - if you're planning a New York visit, and a bit of wedding splurge, try the sites mentioned in the Times article, and do some judicious shopping:

"Right now, two Kimpton hotels, 70 Park Avenue and the Muse, are offering 20 percent off the best available rate Fridays and Saturdays. 'Even over periods that are extremely tight, there seems to be more availability than in the past,' said Ray Vastola, president of, pointing out some very good deals should be available for the first two weeks of December, when the city is typically packed with out-of-town visitors"...The Loews Regency, on Park Avenue, is promoting a “Harvest of Benefits” package through Dec. 30 with a $50 credit for a two-night stay, $75 for three nights and $100 for four or is offering as much as 20 percent off many New York hotels, including Le Parker Meridien, the Sheraton Manhattan at Times Square and the Westin New York.

and for a little pampering -- "Spa Week, which has become a bi-annual event, with spas offering signature treatments for $50, begins tomorrow and runs through Oct. 19 (,the popular Bliss spas are offering 10 percent off a facial, massage or body treatment if you book it for a Monday through Thursday".

Shop around. Be a tourist in your own city, as well, and hunt for a few wedding bargains.


Weddings on Boats

We had a SUPER wedding last Friday - friends of the groom arranged a small launch to take us into NY Harbor with a view of the Statue of Liberty, and we performed the wedding at sunset in the tiny back of the boat. Quite memorable (if rather rocky!) A few warnings: You need permission to get close to the SofL, so a chartered boat or registered harbor cruise is a good choice. Also: you can have the CEREMONY ITSELF on a boat (including a public boat like the Staten Island Ferry or any other ferry), but you must officially SIGN THE LICENSE on terra firma, with a real street address. You must be in NY for a NY license, not New Jersey. The same goes for weddings on bridges, hot air balloons, or anything where your feet are not on a real NY intersection. Alternatively, consider holding the ceremony FIRST on the docks, perhaps, or a restaurant with a water view, and then embarking on your wedding cruise and reception. Bon Voyage!
(Note: - no weddings are permitted AT the Statue of Liberty itself, as all tours must be booked with a ranger. Choose a wedding site on terra firma with a nice view of Lady Liberty - we suggest Wagner Park.


Size guidelines for outdoor wedding locations 10 - 100 people

We have had a number of people enquire about holding LARGE family wedding (50+) in spots which are more appropriate for eloping. Please understand that most small venues CANNOT hold large groups, as they cannot see and hear, and may impede traffic.

The Parks Department actually has a ""Cheat Sheet" for weddings in Central Park, with sizes. Note that the sizes on this sheet seems to be different than some of the sizes they will quote - They say 10-30 for Cop Cot, though it holds 40 quite comfortably. They say 100 people for Cherry Hill, though I have heard that they may not accept this number, but steer you to the Great Hill or the Harlem Meer.

Here are my own size guidelines for popular spots, with the Central Park rules (CP in parentheses).

Brooklyn Bridge: Optimal size is 8 people. You could go up to a dozen, but that's getting crowded. The bridge is a pedestrian walkway, and cannot accommodate large groups.
Shakespeare Garden, Ladies pavilion, Wagner's Cove: (CP=20). We suggest under 12 people. The garden is quite small and has overhanging trees and a sloping floor.The ladies pavilion can hold 8-10 people inside, with a few more gathered outside. (CP=20). Avoid Saturdays in good weather, as the cheesy folk singer with the amplifier sings bad John Denver songs all day which can be overheard in the pavilion. Wagner's Cove is an intimate space, but can accommodate more people outside the rustic pavilion. The ground is rocky and slopes.
Wagner's Cove is best for about 12 (CP=20). Avoid in high August when the water is low and the mud is a bit smelly. Lovely in Spring. If you have 40 or more, go up the hill to Cherry Hill, which overlooks Wagners, and then go down to Wagners for some pics.
Viewing Platform, Prospect Park: 10 people
Top of the Rock, Rockefeller Center: 4-10 people (each must pay $20 elevator admission)
Merchant's House Museum garden: 10-20 people is best, more in the garden. Delightful.
Wagner Park, under the arch (Battery Park). About 20, don't impede pedestrians. Or book Giginos - same view.
Fulton Ferry Landing: Best for 12 - 30 people in a group, or stretch it a bit to 40 - but you may have to fight other groups.

Larger spaces, for more guests. Remember to BOOK your spot with the parks department over 20 people. Also, they may max out the number allowed, though in practice, you can fit in more people around the edges.
Cop Cot, Central Park: (59th street) Best for 20-40, max. The Parks Dept. says 25 max.
Cedar Hill, Central Park: Can hold 50, spread out.
The Obelisk: Central Park or Cherry Hill Fountain: Central Park: 20-80 people.
Bethesda Fountain: 20-40 (CP=25)(but avoid busy Saturdays in good weather because of the break dancers) Hard to hear over 40 people.
Quaker Hill, Nethermead, inProspect park, up to 100
Madison Park, Flatiron district: can hold up to 80 or more by the fountain, but 40 is better. Don't know what they enforce.
Fort Tryon Park: 20-50, can expand on the terrace to 80.
Battery Park: 10-50. Full of tourists in summer, but nice in off-season.

Note: The Vale of Kasmir in Prospect Park is being redeveloped, they have drained the ponds and turned off the fountain and it's looking very seedy and abandoned. If you like ruins at sunset, it's your place. But the mosquitoes were pretty bad last evening. 12-24 people is about max.


Private dining rooms as wedding locations

We are frequently asked for suggestions for a private wedding and a romantic dinner in a private dining room in NY.

This may be suitable for a small group - but not generally for an eloping couple. I'd recommend a ceremony in your hotel room and a private dinner in your room (with waiter service). We did this at the Hilton, and it was very lovely.

However, here are a few ideas. I don't have any connection to these places - though I've held events in some of them, but for those who have deep pockets, a small intimate wedding in a private dining room may be attractive. Of course a restaurant may require a minimum number of guests, as is the case with the Rainbow Rooms, (the private rooms UNDER the Rainbow room), Tavern on the Green, etc. When enquiring, you may not wish to mention "WEDDING" until you have discovered the base price - The term "private event" is perhaps more suitable than the loaded term "wedding", as a restaurant may assume you are planning a fancier event, (videographers, flower petals, candles, chuppah) instead of a simple quiet civil wedding.

Here are some random choices - these are simply private rooms, and may have minimum guest numbers or charges. For instance, the Ayza Lounge room can hold up to 80, but requires a deposit of 1800 and a minimum net charge of $3600. Remember, "private" may mean up to hundreds of guests - it doesn't mean intimate.

Private dinner for 2 in the wine vault at PhilipMarie in the village.
18th century dining rooms at Bayard's, Wall Street, nice atmosphere. Fireplace room for 12.
The private dining room at MOMA ($$$)
Primitivo Osteria A simple Italian in Chelsea. Not fancy. But they have a room for 15.
A not-so-simple room, the private dining room at Gramercy Tavern. Seats 22.
And another favorite high-end place, Del Posto, starts at 20 people.
Theoretically, TantiBaci in the village has a small little room in the back for romantic dinners. Many other restaurants have nooks and crannies - you probably just have to wander into a few places and look around until you find something you like. Just ASK if they have private dining.

We have listed some very nice small restaurants in the Right Column which we have used for actual weddings. Feel free to write us and ask about them.

You can also bet on well-loved NY institutions for private occasions: - Tavern on the Green, Cafe des Artistes (parlor), One if by Land, Two if by sea (not really private, but romantic). Keen's steakhouse has private rooms we have used for weddings, and so do many Irish pubs - which sometimes have surprisingly good menus. The Landmark Tavern has a back room and very nice upstairs room, and Morans in Chelsea (right by the High Line!) has a number of rooms, including a beautiful small room with a fireplace, suitable for a ceremony. They'll set up other rooms for you in different configurations. We have used many little restaurants in Brooklyn which have small back gardens and upstairs lofts. Restaurants are used to hosting birthday parties and anniversaries and meetings - a wedding is the same, really.


Union at Union: Rented Religious Sites for weddings

Here's an update to our earlier discussion of wedding chapels. If you'd like a peaceful, quasi-religious setting for your wedding, but don't have a home church, there are some non-profit places you can look at in New York.

The quadrangle, chapel, refectory and meeting rooms at Union Theological Seminary at Columbia are available for weddings. The prices are reasonable, compared to other sites, and the setting is just lovely.

You can also rent the wood-paneled/stained glass Ceremonial Hall at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, as well as other rooms, and there are lovely facilities at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, right on Prospect Park. I like the garden.

Unitarian Churches in New York City (and other cities!) also rent their spaces, and some are quite unique. I like the Community Church on E 35th (over by the Morgan Library)and you can stay in the wonderful historic Guest Rooms. I also like the All Souls chapel at 80th on the UES. Their small chapel holds 60 and the rent is around $250. More for the large church. But still cheaper than many other spaces.

You can rent Riverside Church (at least part of it), and there are small chapels for rent, from 12-135 people, plus reception spaces as well.

See other non-profit locations at the sidebar, including museums, and, which rents the Ladies Tea Room and the Top of the Times to support it's supportive housing network.

New tip: The Commissioners Room (loft) at the NYC Fire Museum , in a 1904 Firehouse in Soho. Also - Bargemusic rents! They don't say how much.


New York traffic - getting to the wedding on time

New York is a laid out on a grid. Most of the time, you will be moving directly North/South, East/West (except for the older parts of the city down by Wall Street and Greenwich village, where things still wind around upon themselves). It's important to get oriented in the city, and understand commuting times. You also need to get a sense of scale. People often ask us if they should take a taxi from the Ladies Pavilion or Strawberry Fields in Central Park to the Tavern on the Green. No, it's a simple and pleasant stroll. Central Park IS the size of Monaco - but you rarely walk the whole park. You can cross it in 10-12 minutes.

Most of the time, you will be calculating the distance up or down or East and West from the center of the city (Midtown, 42-57 street) and 5th Avenue which demarcates East and West. In many cases, it is MUCH easier and quicker to walk than to take the subway, and usually much faster to walk/subway than taking a taxi. There are many taxi jokes in NY movies, and the Die Harder movie with Bruce Willis is my favourite. They commandeer a taxi, and his partner says - "Are you crazy - how can you get across town at rush hour?" so Bruce simply drives the taxi up on the grass in Central Park and cuts through.

North/South blocks in Manhattan are very short - there are 20 of them to the mile. They are mostly numbered streets - 42nd Street, etc. The numbers increase as you go north. East/West blocks are long, so 5th Avenue to 6th Avenue takes twice as long to walk as 41st to 46th street. The algorithm to find a NY address is simple, it is found in any telephone directory, and here is one Manhattan Street locator, and here is another. Use Googlemaps for walking, and for subway directions. Google now has subway directions (in beta).


Terra firma and flights of fancy

Can you be married in a hot air balloon? (I just got a phone call about this - before you all rush to Central Park to get married this week, all the appointments are booked).
Can you be married in a helicopter?
Can you be married on Liberty Island? or the Staten Island ferry?

Yes -- and no. You can have the wedding ceremony all of these places - but you must SIGN the license in a specific location ON THE GROUND. NY requires a street address for the wedding location. So get out of the balloon gondola, and go over and sign the license on a park bench, with the address 72nd Street and Central Park West -- or the closest intersection. Get out of the helicopter and sign the license at the street nearest the helipad. Get off the ferry and sign the license EITHER on the Staten Island end, or the Manhattan end. Come back from Liberty island and sign the license in Battery park (near a street intersection). You'll always have your memories of saying your vows 500 feet over Central Park - and then signing the legal bits with your wobbly feet back on the ground.


Brooklyn Bridge - Fulton State Park wedding permits now OPEN


The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy (Empire Fulton Ferry State Park, or EFFSP) have just opened their online permit application for SMALL low-impact (under 50 people max) weddings under the bridge on the new pier. Get in FAST. But remember, it's REALLY expensive. The cheapest is the Boardwalk for 90 minutes seems to be $700 for under 50 people. You can download a PDF with the price list from the link below. For smaller budgets, try the Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Fulton Ferry landing, the Promenade, etc. (Or just the bridge, for a half-dozen people).

Brooklyn Bridge Conservancy Wedding Permits

"There are three locations for ceremonies in the park: The South Lawn (big lawn in front of the Tobacco Warehouse), the North Boardwalk, and the South Boardwalk. The South Lawn can hold up to 100 people, but only a very limited set up is permitted. Both the North and South Boardwalk can hold up to 150 people and have no restrictions for the set up. The North Boardwalk is the area closer to the Manhattan Bridge, near the picnic tables, and is very spacious. The South Boardwalk is closer to the Brooklyn Bridge, located at the very end of the Park and allows for more privacy."
For all private events (picnics, weddings, photography), please contact Sam Wasko at (718) 802-0603 x14.

Remember, there are all those EVENTS scheduled all the time which are busy and noisy and will interrupt your wedding.


Changing your name: Practical Steps

If eloping is a sudden decision, and you haven't had time to think deeply about changing your surname, we suggest you do NOT change your name on the marriage license, and leave this decision to a later date, perhaps if children arrive. You may always change your name in the future, but you cannot go back and change your marriage license, if you decide that you really didn't want to be Mrs. Rutabaga-Sauerkraut, but were happier staying Ms. Turnip.

Here is the original post with a discussion of whether you should change your name, and how to do it in New York.

If you DO change your name, here are some links to change your official documents:

Social Security form (PDF)
DMV office locations in NY.
[You have to visit the DMV in person, and bring your marriage license]
Passport Office
[You have to send your marriage license and passport - so if you're traveling for your honeymoon, book the travel in your maiden name].

Also change:

Credit Cards
Bank Accounts
Lease, Mortgage
Utility Bills
Health Care
Post Office
Voter registration
Professional associations, memberships

Central Park weddings: Event Calendar

Don't forget to check the Central Park Event Calendar when planning a park wedding. On Saturday, the free Bon Jovi concert starts at 8 - 60,000 people on the Great Lawn. But they're letting them IN starting at 2pm. We're having a small wedding at 11 - and plan to be long gone.

Always watch for the marathons, the 1/2 marathons, the walks, the concerts -- the parades and holiday celebrations - it makes for delays with your taxis, crowds, and of course concert noise. It's a big park, so you can always get away and find room, but it's best to be aware of what else is happening.

UPDATE: So the park was frozen (locked down) at 4am. When we got there, the cattle gates were up from 86-59. Always be very nice to NY cops - you never know! We chatted with the men on gate duty, explained that the bride and groom's parents were coming from Tokyo, and that we had the location booked. They were very sympathetic, asked their super, who thought it was romantic, and they sneaked us in the barrier, and we had a great wedding in the Shakespeare garden - completely private. They posed with the wedding party, one of the cops asked me if I'd renew his wedding vows, and all the cops along the root shouted 'congratulations' as we left. They were also mad, because this was an unscheduled event, and they had to work double shifts. And somehow, everybody in NY loves weddings - we've had lots of cooperation through the years from strangers. Give it a try.


Planning ahead: Should you book a spot in Central Park?

Here is the Shakespeare Garden in spring.

Central Park (and other City Parks) only accept reservations within 30 days. Here is the online link to book a spot in the park. If you have enough time, here is how to decide whether to book a specific part of the park for a wedding:

1) If it is a busy Saturday - try to book your spot a month ahead. The permits are $25. Your permit will allow you to wave it at other couples (and photographers) who have chosen the same location for their event. Unlike the Conservatory Garden, which is private and has more staff, there will probably not be a ranger or park employee around to ask other people to move - but you can show your permit to anyone who is occupying the space, and take possession of it for your ceremony.

2) If you are a big group, e.g., a family group of over 20, especially if they are arriving in the park from different directions and travel, parking and transit may be a problem, consider booking. You can get there early, clean up the hamburger wrappers, and check out the environment. Note: if people are using the space, for a picnic, or reading, or resting, inform them politely that you have the area booked for a wedding at a specific time. Be nice. People will always cooperate, if you give them time to move on. Please don't be abrupt or ask them to move TOO LONG before the actual ceremony - they'll be happy to leave when it looks like something is really happening. You don't need to show your permit unless questioned.

3) For an elopement with a small group of witnesses -- especially on a non-peak time, it's sometimes better to have a couple of spots in mind, to meet at a gate, and just wander into the park with your officiant and guests, and find your perfect space. Remember, all the BIG spots are VERY POPULAR - and full of people. So Strawberry Fields, the Bethesda Fountain, Bow Bridge, the Ladies Pavilion, will more than likely have people in them. Sometimes it's better to find a spot LOOKING at Bow Bridge (from the little island over the bridge, perhaps) or somewhere above the ramble in the northern area, and be more private.

Central Park is bigger than Monaco. You can always find a spot. Prospect Park is also enormous, less populated, and has lots of lovely places.


Iowa Floods - lite posting

I am visiting family in Cedar Rapids, in the floods. Please excuse lite posting.


Impromptu Wedding Locations

Well, if it's only 4-6 of you - you can really truly set out and DECIDE where you want to be married as you go. You need the couple, the officiant, at least ONE witness (the photographer will do, or your two best friends), walking shoes and a nice day.

With Marriage License in hand, agree to meet in the general location: at one of the gates to Central Park (lower, middle or upper park, East or West side), or somewhere on the Brooklyn Promenade, at Riverside Park by Columbia, down on the Waterfront at Battery Park, or on the Hudson promenade/park, on the Red Hook waterfront, at the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge, outside the marriage bureau at 1 Centre Street (head towards City Hall park, probably), and then wander. Central Park is the most fun, but other waterfront areas are also rewarding - despite the fact that so much development has blocked off some of the grittier little beaches and secret places. City Island is mostly paved over, though Pelham Park is vast, and has secret areas. The Highline is no longer the weedy oasis of lost days, and DUMBO is just too cool for school. Highbridge park, though that's still possible - but some of it is closed off ...

But you could hire a carriage, get out and feed the horse a carrot, and pick your spot. You could rent a boat on the lake in Central Park and row yourselves to a quiet nook. You could wander over the Brooklyn Bridge until you find a corner less packed with tourists (or just wait until they pass by). You could go have dinner in a nice little restaurant (esp. with a little garden in the back) order a nice bottle of wine, stand up and .... get married.

You could ride the wonder wheel at Coney Island and say "I do" when it gets to the top and swings back and forth (not recommended, I just wanted to see if you were listening). Get OFF the Wonder Wheel and walk down towards Manhattan Beach and find a nice place by the breakers. Get on the LIRR to Long Beach and walk to the dunes. Or rent a kayak, or go ice skating or roller skating in summer -- you can't ride horses in Central Park any more -- (though the neglected Kensington Stables near Prospect Park offers an option).

Other ideas - Madison Park, by the fountain (in front of the Flatiron building). Avoid the Shake Shack. Wagner Park (by Battery Park City), beautiful view of the Statue of Liberty, also Bowling Green. City Hall park by the Fountain. The boardwalk at the Seaport, with the view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the tall ships.

You could spend the 24 hours after you obtain your license just walking about the city, a good New York tradition. Find a small cafe, find a small park -- And get married. Have fun!


Wedding Chapels in New York

It's difficult to find a reasonable 'wedding chapel' for rent in NY. Some churches will rent out their chapels for weddings for outsiders, but the fees vary enormously. Note that some churches are willing to rent chapels for a non-denominational service, but some require you are married by the church's own clergy.

Here's a little bit from the Locations section of our website:

We have conducted weddings at the Chapel at Columbia University, and at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, and in the chapel, meeting hall of Riverside Church. College and University chapels often require advance paperwork, and some are only available to alumni/students - please ask when booking.

The pretty chapel at All Souls Unitarian Church is available for a modest rental fee. The chapel is in the 'congregational/ new england' style. It is at Lexington and 79th, on the Upper East Side, and holds about 60. They say:

"To help cover operating costs during times when normal church activities are not taking place, many spaces are for rent". To enquire about the small chapel, see

The Masonic Temple at 23th and 7th has just begun to offer their themed chapels for weddings. Each floor has a different theme (Gothic, French, Tudor, American). They are quite remarkable, though they have no windows, in Masonic tradition - I found them rather creepy, actually. They'll give you a free tour.

We use the interdenominational chapel at Church House 777 UN plaza, which is suitable for 25-150 people. It's across from the United Nations. Send me an email if you wish contact info for the booking office.

It never hurts to pop into a local church, and ask if they rent their chapel. Many churches do not advertise online, and you may find a treasure, for a donation. Several people have managed to book small churches by simply asking if a donation would be acceptable. If you do discover somewhere pretty and friendly, let us know!
One idea is to look on
and on to see if churches are advertising their chapels for rentals. My favorite is the Actor's Church, the church of the transfiguration, but it is not clear whether the chapel is available for rental - churches often simply advertise their meeting rooms for events.

Also see the list on this page of Non Profit centers - not necessary chapels, but some meeting rooms which might also work for you.

Good luck location-shopping!


Weddings on the Brooklyn Bridge must be SMALL

Light posting - lots of weddings right now. (And the subway is a MESS this weekend). But someone wrote to ask if they could have a wedding for 100 people on the Brooklyn Bridge. No. The Bridge is a pedestrian path, and a bike path. You can have a SMALL group (a dozen?) stand briefly in one of the alcoves for a wedding, but you cannot use the bridge as a 'park' - it's for walking across the East River, really - and taking pictures.

Please see the discussion of Brooklyn Bridge Parks and DUMBO for other venues for mid-size groups with a view of the bridge. Cheers


Central Park in Spring - Locations for wedding ceremonies

Central Park NY Ladies Pavilion Here are some of our favorite spots for weddings in City Parks. The ladies pavilion at Hernshead is the most popular, and is therefore best for a mid-week ceremony. It is quite small, and is really best for 6-8 people. It should be booked, see our article on park permits for weddings for information on how to book a space in a City Parks. AVOID ON SATURDAYS from May-Oct, because of a very loud amplified busker on the bank below.

Central Park, The ObeliskThe Obelisk is behind the Metropolitan Museum. In the spring, it is approached through an avenue of cherry trees and is stunning. Ample parking in the Museum parking lot, so good for elderly guests. A short ways away is a nice lawn with a stone bench, also suitable for a standing wedding, and if you continue further up the path, you can reach the dancing terrace below the Belvedere castle, which slopes down to the pool, and has a view of the castle.

Central Park, Belvedere Castle The Belvedere Castle does not permit weddings inside or on the balcony, but it is possible to use the Shakespeare Garden below the castle, or to stand in the pergolas overlooking the Delacorte Shakespeare Theatre and the Turtle Pond.

There are the two little covered pergolas on the Belvedere Terrace, one overlooking the Delacorte Theatre (the castle is hidden between them). Remember that this is a tourist location, and it will be constantly busy on a warm weekend.

Central Park Shakespeare Garden Here is the Shakespeare Garden, which has a nice sundial in the middle. PLEASE NOTE that this location is only suitable for 6-10 people - the garden itself is quite small, and the ground slopes around the sundial and the tree is low. For a larger group (15-20) go up the hill to the Belvedere terrace in front of the castle - see the pergolas above.

Other overlooked spots are: The Harlem Meer, The Loch, Cop Cot by 59th street (be sure to book), parts of the Ramble overlooking the lake (under reconstruction), and several of the little rustic shelters, also two shelters over on the 5th avenue side.

Don't forget the "other" park designed by Olmsted and Vaux! The vale of Kasmir is in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Prospect Park Vale of Kasmir It is isolated and quiet and absolutely magical. (note: this lovely spot is now neglected and being re-built, good if you like ruins, though!). You can book some specified spots in Prospect Park, or just assemble with a small group under the trees, or by the lake. But avoid the beginning of May, which is the Cherry Blossom Festival in the Botanic Gardens - quite a mob!

You can also use community parks, community gardens, state parks, and a variety of public lands. See: Park Permits and locations and Getting Married in DUMBO.


What is the minimum requirement for a wedding ceremony?

We are asked this repeatedly, by couples who are eloping, or who just want to have a basic legal wedding ceremony, without any fuss. We've answered it in several places, but here is another rundown, just to be helpful.

To be legally married, you don't need the rings, the music, the bridesmaids, you need just 5 things:

1. The Statement - of the proper names of the persons who have come to be married, so we know we have the right people. ("We are gathered here for the wedding of [name] and [name]")

2. The Intention - "Are you, [name] here of your own free will, and do you intend to marry [name]. This is the "I do" that you answer individually, in front of witnesses, either 2, or 200 of them.

In the UK and a few other countries, you then say "Is there anyone present who has any reason why this couple may not lawfully be joined?" In most US States, this question is answered when you fill out your license, indicating the disposition of any prior marriages, divorces, etc. your age, and whether you are too closely related to be married. This means you do not have to repeat this question at a wedding ceremony.

3. The vow: "I [name] take you [name] to be my lawfully wedded husband/wife". You are speaking to your intended spouse, not to the minister, and not to the witnesses, as in step 2. You have turned to face each other, and this is your promise to become each other's legal partner.You may say this in your own words, and there are many variants.

4. The Signing: The officiant and the witness/es sign the license and date it (sometimes to the second, in a state where you have a waiting period). The Bride and Groom may sign as well, depending upon the license. They have already signed when they applied for the license.

5. The declaration: "In front of these witnesses, this couple has declared their intention to join their lives in marriage..and we now accept them as husband and wife".

Make sure your ceremony has these basic, minimal parts, and that your officiant is properly licensed, and that they file the license on time with the state issuing agency. Here are regulations for legal ceremonies for each state

If you are having a civil ceremony and planning another ceremony later, you can just do these 5 steps, and leave the rings and blessings till a second ceremony. Just add the procession, flowergirls, readings, blessings, candles, music, etc. and you have the full Monty wedding service.

You may enjoy reading some of our sample ceremonies.


How long is a wedding ceremony?

This is a frequent question, and I answered on it Yahoo Answers yesterday, with a bit of humour, I hope! Here's the basic answer, with the timings. You can use this info for an elopement, as well as a basic barebones wedding ceremony.

(and here is another post on 'when is a ceremony TOO short')

A basic civil ceremony is 7 minutes in City Hall, 13-18 minutes with an officiant, because it's the bridesmaids, music, prayers, mass, sermon, etc. which add the extra time to a wedding. I usually tell people they can have the "2 subway stop wedding" (8 minutes, if you're between 2 stops in New York), or the "3 stop" (15 minutes) or the "bus ride" (half an hour, cross-town traffic in NY). Anything longer, and people are starting to get hungry and fidget.

A basic ceremony consists of the following parts. (A legal ceremony can be held with 5 parts, the Statement of the names of the couple, the Intention, the Vows, the Signing and the Declaration).

THE GATHERING: (seating the guests, or gathering round on the beach/under a tree, etc.)
THE PROCESSION: (Bride and Groom and officiant walk to the front, 1 minute) OR the parents and the grandparents and the groom's party and the 15 bridesmaids and the junior bride and the junior bridesmaid and the 3 cute kids with the flower petals and FINALLY the bride walk into to music - this can take 15-20 minutes).
THE FAMILY BLESSING: (this used to be "who gives this woman to be married", but now it's usually a short request for the family to bless the wedding, mention of any absent family, lighting of candles or short moment of silence for anyone who has died). In an elopement or small private wedding, we might mention family or friends who are not present. (3 minutes, optional)
THE READINGS: (can be religious or poetry, or a piece of music. This is basically a break/transition and a good time to seat late guests) (2-4 minutes, optional)
THE INTENTION: "Is it your intention to take this person as your husband/wife"? (1 minute)
A SHORT STATEMENT ON MARRIAGE or the CHARGE TO THE COUPLE: ( 1-2 minutes). This is the part where the officiant states that this is not a barbecue, picnic, or engagement, but a marriage ceremony. Often includes a short reading.
VOWS: (1-2 minutes)
RING EXCHANGE/VOWS: (1-2 minutes). The ring exchange is optional.
BLESSING, 2nd READING, UNITY CANDLE, WINE BLESSING, SAND CEREMONY, etc. ; any one of several optional ceremonies to demonstrate the newly married state of the couple (optional 2-4 minutes))
PRONOUNCEMENT/DECLARATION: "In front of us all this couple have pledged their vows...and it is with the authority vested in me, that I declare they are man and wife." (30 seconds)
KISS: (length to be determined)
PRESENTATION: "I have the honor to present to you...) 15 seconds. Lots of clapping and excitement, (15 seconds).
RECESSIONAL: (reverse order, everybody goes out, taking as long as you like, but faster than the processional)
Add the SIGNING OF THE LICENSE: which can be done before the wedding, during the wedding (4 minutes) or after.
DECLARATION: (follows the signing), in which case the PRESENTATION is shortened, and the 2nd half of the sentence -- "By the authority invested in me.. I have the honor to present.." is used at this time.
TOTAL time: 14-18 minutes.

You can see examples of short civil ceremonies on our website, of course.


How to Elope in New York, step-by-step

Central Park wedding

Here is our most popular post. This information is for New York City. Note that "A Marriage License issued in New York City can be used anywhere within New York State but may not be used outside New York State." So, you can get your license in Rochester or Long Island and use it in NYC. Also - you cannot use a marriage license from ANOTHER STATE in New York. Seems obvious, but some people still ask...

For other counties, states, and Ontario, Canada see:
Other US State Marriage Regulations
Getting Married in Ontario, Canada


1. Find partner. Propose. Rinse and repeat.
2. Decide on Date and time, start thinking about location and rain location, if outdoors.
3. Find all your IDs (passport, drivers license, birth certificate, divorce papers if relevant, etc.)
4. Decide if either of you will change your name. See Surname options
5. Buy a $35 Money Order at a drugstore - cheaper than a bank. You can now pay for your license by credit card, and you may even APPLY ONLINE for your license, up to 20 days ahead. This is a good idea, as it minimizes typos on the license (unless YOU make them).
6. Go to one of the New York Marriage Bureau offices and apply for your marriage license. It is good for 60 days, and there is a waiting period of 24 hours before you can be legally married. If you have applied online, you must still go together and confirm your identities and certify the application. See

If you are not a US citizen, make sure your home country accepts the regular New York City license, or whether you will also need to apply for an apostille (special certified stamp on your license). Just phone your consulate and ask if you need an apostille, or extended license. A majority of countries, including the UK and Commonwealth countries, simply accept a New York marriage license, so do Canadians, and many Europeans.

If you do need the apostille stamp, it is possible to return early the next business day to the Manhattan City Clerk's office after your marriage ceremony, get the license, and get the special stamp for a small charge. It's fairly painless, you can ask about the process when you apply for the license. This is ONLY possible if you have PICKED UP your license at the MANHATTAN OFFICE at 141 Worth Street, however.

7. If you have been divorced or widowed, have documents and information regarding the previous marriage and spouse. You MUST disclose all previous marriages, including those in other countries.
8. If you wish to be married at any City Hall, enquire when you apply for your license. They do not take appointments, but exactly 24 hours after they timestamp your license, you may line up at any bureau office (including the new facilities at 141 Worth street) with your witnesses and be married by the civil judge. The ceremony is simple, and they advise you the length is 2 minutes, so it's quick, except for the unpredictable wait and lining up :-)

To be married outside City Hall, or after 3:45 M-F, you must FIND A MARRIAGE OFFICIANT who is LEGALLY REGISTERED WITH CITY HALL TO CONDUCT MARRIAGES in NEW YORK CITY. The rules are a bit stricter to become a licensed officiant for NYC than in smaller cities in the state - so don't assume your officiant is registered here  Once you find one, you may ask for their registration number.  If you wish, you can call City Hall with the officiant's license number to make sure they are registered: 212-669-2778.

(Free free to contact us at if you'd like to discuss planning a wedding outside of City Hall. We'll check our schedule and send you sample weddings and information. More info at ) .

9. Choose your legal witness(es), 2 persons over age 18, or ask your Marriage Officiant to secure a witness. You need a witness for City Hall, too.
10. Buy a ring or two (not actually required by law)
11. Buy some flowers (or not - your choice, but nice :-)
12. Discuss your ceremony wishes with the officiant (if being married outside of City Hall). You can usually ask for sample ceremonies, and discuss writing your own vows, or other personal touches.
13. 24 hours+ after #6, meet your officiant, exchange your vows, exchange your rings, pledge your lives into the others keeping. Kiss.
14. Sign the license. Witnesse(s) sign the license. Officiant signs license with official date and time.
15. The officiant will congratulate you, and take back the signed license and THEY WILL FILE IT FOR YOU. It will be mailed back to you in about 4 weeks. (Though we have had to wait longer than this when they get behind).
[Note: if you need the license immediately, you can return to the Manhattan Marriage Bureau at 141 Worth the next working day with the signed license, and they will check it and issue you a marriage certificate, for a fee. This is only possible if you apply for your license in Manhattan, and it is not an advertised service. They prefer to send the license by mail.]
16. Pop the champagne, and celebrate your new union!


Should you elope or have a big wedding - or both?

[Cross-posted from, due to popularity of this question]

In ancient times, people got 'married' by the bride moving to the husband's house (or, of course, in some cultures, the reverse). Gifts were exchanged, cattle and clothing and bread and food. The community understood that this was a family unit.

Later, a civil or religious officiant would legalize/ solemnize/ bless the marriage, by conducting some sort of rite. In the middle ages, a traveling priest might come by the village and marry everyone in the spring, and baptize all the new babies, all at the same time.

In Celtic areas, the couple might be handfasted for a year and a day, and then decide to become legally married at the end of that time. The traditions of the Jewish ketubah, or the Quaker marriage certificate and other ceremonies which involve the guests and parents signing a ceremonial document are related the traditions of how the community views the moral and legal obligations of the couple toward each other.

In Jewish tradition, a couple usually signs the ketubah before the ceremony. The ketubah is written in Aramaic, and the bride and groom write their Hebrew names in the blanks in the marriage contract, then the rabbi signs the contract. Modern Ketubahs may have English decorations, and many are unique works of art. Some have spaces for the family and witnesses to sign at the reception.

In Quaker tradition, the bride and groom sign a large, beautiful Marriage Certificate, which is then also signed by all the family and guests. This involves the community, and makes the marriage binding to each of its witnesses as well as to the couple. The certificate is usually framed and placed in the home.

The LEGAL part of a marriage ceremony does not require the community to be there - or the parents, or the friends. A witness will do - but that witness is 'representing' the community, and civil society. When couples choose to be legally married in an 'elopement', they often have a wedding ceremony or a wedding blessing or a family party later. Sometimes this is for practical reasons, such as visas running out, or travel, or scattered family members, so a couple will have two ceremonies on different continents - one legal, one ceremonial. Sometimes this is done on the same day in a second marriage, such as the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla, which was a civil ceremony followed by a service of blessing.

A couple may have a private wedding for personal reasons, with a marriage announcement at a later date. And some couples pledge their troth to each other in a commitment ceremony, without a legal component, just an ethical one. Some have handfasting (or betrothal) ceremonies which they consider binding. A vow renewal is an example of a wedding ceremony without a legal ceremony, as well.

If you are having two ceremonies, a legal, private wedding and a future wedding blessing with a larger group of friends or family, you can save your rings for the second ceremony, perhaps, and have a Wedding Blessing and a Blessing of Rings for your second ceremony. Your family might also like to participate in the second Wedding Blessing, offering readings or blessings or a candle-lighting or other appropriate rituals.

Some cultural traditions also have several separate ceremonies on several days. Some of these ceremonies are vestiges of earlier village rituals, where the bride or groom makes a journey to the house of the new relatives, and offers food or gifts (such as the Tea Ceremony, in some Asian cultures, and the large Wedding Banquet with the required special courses.) The modern wedding showers and rehearsal dinners are vestiges of these earlier rituals.

Our grandparents were often married at home, or went off to the registry office to be married in a bigger city, and returned home for the wedding reception. Our modern elaborate weddings are not as old a tradition as they sometimes seem.

This is YOUR decision. You can combine the legal and the ceremonial events, or hold them separately,and at separate times, or hold only one part - the legal wedding or the wedding ceremony. Your officiant will always be happy to discuss these variations with you, and help you through the planning for each.


Marriage License - New York

The good news: You can obtain a license at any office of the city clerk in New York.

The important stuff: You need to get your license 24 hours in advance of a legal wedding. The license will be stamped to the MINUTE, and you cannot be legally married until 24 hours have expired. Also, the offices close at 3:45 on Friday.

ADVICE: plan your arrival so you have at least one day to get the license, and decide on the location. Here is the link to the city clerk's office, and the marriage license borough, with phone numbers and addresses. There is an office in each borough, and you may use any of them.

The fee is $35US for the license, payable by money order or Credit Card.
You may now apply online for your license, up to 20 days in advance, but you must still go together in person, stand in line, and wait while they print it up for you.

You will need 2 forms of ID, with picture and address, and a passport is acceptable. If either of you has been married previously, you need to bring official documents listing the decrees of settlement. You will be asked about any previous marriages, and asked to indicate how the marriage was dissolved (divorce, against whom, death, etc.), and the location of the former spouse.

You will also be asked to prove who you are, where you live, and asked for the birthplace of your parents.

It may take a deal of time at the Manhattan office, which is extremely crowded, and especially so on Fridays. So going early in the day is recommended. You will need at least one witness over 18 for the ceremony, but not to apply for the license. For elopements, many officiants have a photographer or an assistant who will serve as your legal witness.
[Brooklyn is quicker, and easier, and only 2 subway stops away. We like the Brooklyn office. But if you want to take your license BACK to the office on the next working day after the wedding to get your license immediately, instead of waiting for it to come in the mail, you must ONLY apply at the Manhattan office on 141 Worth Street]


Catering an elopement ceremony

Wedding picnic You have to eat - so why not include a wedding picnic at your elopement ceremony? In the spring and summer, you can bring a picnic to your wedding in Central Park, or the Brooklyn Promenade, or Coney Island (beware the sand in the sandwiches when the wind is up, though - you might prefer to eat at Nathan's Hot Dogs, or wander toward Manhattan Beach and eat at one of the Russian cafes on the beach, like Tatiana's). A split of champagne and some edible flowers for the cheesecake and you're all set.

New York is a city of delis and speciality takeouts. Almost any restaurant will make you a special lunch to go. You could order a bento box, thai, blintzes and caviare, crab and guava empanadas, all from around Central Park. You could get rustic sandwiches on an artisanal baguette from Le Pain Quotidienne, on 5th avenue, but they might be a little too rustic and messy. There are upscale takeout stores around the park, Payard's French patisserie on the East side, the famous Zabar's and Eli's Bread at 80th and 3rd. Zabars is famous for fancy gift baskets - including their imported lox, of course. You can also assemble a lucious lunch at Fairways, Zabar's neighbor.

There are many other takeout delicatessans who specialize in upscale catered lunches, and who have artisanal chocolatiers and patisseries - including Dean and Deluca there's one at 85th and Madison on the East side of Central Park. ReallyCoolFoods on 3rd/63rd is a new gourmet store that specializes in fresh-cooked and ready-to-cook meals, and they have prepared foods to go.

I have heard of the picnic catering by, as they prepare picnic baskets for people going to concerts at Bryant Park (42nd street), Central Park, etc. Here is their ad: "Available for two, four, and six people, the baskets include a mezze sampler of roasted whipped eggplant, hummus, tomato and onion salad, and house-made lavash chips; a choice of chicken or lamb brochette served with a sumac-parsley medley of mixed pickled vegetables; and Pera's signature, house-made condiment pistachio baklava. Pera picnic baskets are $21 per person plus tax and include napkins and flatware".

If you are staying closer to Chelsea, the Venezuelan cafe, Tisserie (down at Union Square) has a counter of very elegant teeny pastries and some nice brioche sandwiches. Very crowded, but if you are patient, they put things in a very elegant takeout bag. Vegetarians and vegans could order a catered takeout from Blossom. My husband, a chef, used to cater picnic weddings with teeny handmade petits-fours and crab-stuffed gougeres. Yum. (Sorry - he's building pretty furniture these days).

Richard also made my daughter's wedding cake - chocolate ganache, 8 layers! Here's an organic baker in Brooklyn who makes her own cakes, looks much like ours! You might also check out the caterers we have met on our recommended resources page.


Wedding in the Park - locations and permits

You can be married at any city park in New York, usually by applying for a simple event permit. If the wedding is small (couple, officiant and witnesses) you may simply assemble, and hold the ceremony. However, you will always need a permit for State Parks and private Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and the jurisdiction is not always clear. See this post on Getting Married in DUMBO, for a discussion of how park permits are confusing.]

Central Park has many locations - and many people! There are many favorite locations in Central Park. including the Shakespeare Garden, the Bethseda Fountain (noisy in summer with breakdancers), Bow Bridge. Cherry Hill fountain, Hernshead, the Obelisk or the pavilion at the top of the Belvedere Castle.

Brooklyn Park Brooklyn's Prospect Park offers quieter options, including some 'hidden' locations, where you will be relatively private. Here is the Brooklyn Prospect Park vale wedding Vale of Kasmir, Prospect Park. (note - this location is being renovated, and is a bit ragged now).

Though "any event with more than twenty people requires a permit from Parks", you may also reserve a location even if you have less than 20 people. The permit fee is $25. It may take approximately 21 to 30 days to process a permit application for a special event, though you can now apply online and it may be faster to get a response. Permits are also required for 'formal' photo shoots (not family photos). You can download a permit from the NYC parks website

Please note: if you have a LARGE wedding (over 40 people) your spots will be limited. Here is a "cheat sheet" from the parks department on the numbers permitted at locations in Central Park.

Prospect Park weddingThe Picnic House and the Boat House in Prospect Park are covered locations, suitable for medium-sized weddings (50-175) and may be rented. But you can find a spot on the other side of the Boat House and hold a small ceremony without a permit.

Prospect Park JapaneseThe Brooklyn Botanic Garden, next to Prospect Park, is more expensive, and offers both reserved spaces, and bookable covered venues such as the Palm House. We have married several couples in the Japanese Pavilion, at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. This should be reserved well in advance, and the wedding must be performed before the park opens to the public at 10am.

The small park at Jefferson Market Greenwich village, used to be available for a donation for upkeep. Though after "Sex and the City" they have raised the fee quite a bit. Other small city gardens may be reserved, as well as the rooftop terraces of hotels, restaurant gardens.

Central Park Conservatory Central Park Conservatory Garden is a private garden in the northern end of Central Park, open to the public, but available for weddings for a fee (like the Brooklyn Botanic Garden).It must be reserved in advance due to popularity. There are many locations in the garden, and you will be assigned a section and a time period. The garden is also available for photographs as well as ceremonies.

The New York Botanical Garden (the "Bronx Botanical Garden") is another gorgeous location offers outdoor spaces, and indoor reception spaces such as the Garden Terrace Room and the Snuff Mill, suitable for medium to large weddings.

Other nice parks we have used for weddings are Fort Tryon Park in Northern Manhattan, by the Cloisters, Riverside Park, City Hall Park (by the fountain), Battery Park, Madison Park (Flatiron) and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Also parks in Fort Greene, Queens, and Brooklyn, such as Red Hook Piers and garden.

You can also work out an arrangement with many Community Gardens. We have used the Community Garden 6 and B/ in the East Village for lovely weddings.

Be sure to have a "wet weather option" - or buy some $10 paper umbrellas in Chinatown!

Here is another article on "Green Wedding Ceremony" location ideas.


Changing your surname at marriage - legal choices in New York

New York marriage license signing
Think carefully before you go and apply for your marriage license. Both bride and groom will be asked if you are going to change your surname at your wedding. If you are NOT SURE, leave this section blank, because you can change your name/s later (if you have children, for example). The important rule is: Whether you decide to use or not use this option at the time of your marriage license application, you still have the right to adopt a different name through usage at some future date. However, your marriage records cannot be changed to record a surname you decide to use after your marriage.Here is another post with a few more points: Wedding Article: Changing your Name?

Here are your choices in New York, taken from the

"What are my surname options? A. Every person has the right to adopt any name by which he or she wishes to be known simply by using that name consistently and without intent to defraud. A person's last name (surname) does not automatically change upon marriage, and neither party to the marriage is required to change his or her last name. The bride and groom need not take the same last name.

One or both parties to a marriage may elect to change the surname by which he or she wishes to be known after the marriage by entering the new name in the appropriate space provided on the marriage application. The new name must consist of one of the following options:

* the surname of the other spouse; (e.g., John Doe marries Mary Smith. Couple can choose the new surname of Doe or Smith)
* any former surname of either spouse; (e.g., John Doe marries Mary Smith. Mary Smith was born Mary Brown and when she previously married Leroy Smith she adopted his name. She subsequently divorced Leroy Smith but she kept his last name. Couple can choose the new surname of Brown since it is the former surname of Mary)
* a name combining into a single surname all or a segment of the premarriage surname or any former surname of each spouse; (e.g., John Doe marries Mary Brown. Couple can choose the new surname of Down ("Do" from "Doe" and "wn" from "Brown") or Doebrown and so on.)
* a combination name separated by a hyphen, provided that each part of such combination surname is the premarriage surname, or any former surname, of each of the spouses. (e.g., John Doe marries Mary Smith. Couple can choose the new surname of Doe-Smith, Smith-Doe or Doe-Brown (since Brown is Mary former surname.)

The use of this option will provide a record of your change of name. The marriage certificate, containing the new name, if any, is proof that the use of the new name, or the retention of the former name, is lawful. The local Social Security Administration office should be contacted so that its records and your social security identification card reflect the name change. There is no charge for this service.

Whether you decide to use or not use this option at the time of your marriage license application, you still have the right to adopt a different name through usage at some future date. However, your marriage records cannot be changed to record a surname you decide to use after your marriage."

See also:
Should you change your name?


A park wedding in DUMBO (Brooklyn Bridge)

There are 3 parks in DUMBO by the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Empire-Fulton Ferry is a State Park, the DUMBO one is a city Park (Brooklyn Bridge) and the Fulton Ferry Landing is a municipal site .

1) Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park
Empire Fulton
Contact Information: 26 New Dock Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201 Phone:(718) 858-4708

Brooklyn Bridge wedding The Empire Fulton State park is the big one under the bridge, which also has the boardwalk. There is the a $30 fee to apply for a permit, and then a new sliding scale. It is VERY expensive, and the prices have risen again. There are now minimum hours of rental, and the price seems to be a $1200 minimum for the Boardwalk (which used to be about $70). Here are the links for a simple site permit and also for the tobacco warehouse, etc.

Empire Fulton State Park and
Empire State Park Fees

2) The Brooklyn Bridge Park on Water Street keeps renaming itself, and it seems to still be $25, but almost impossible to book, now, as everyone is DUMBO is holding events there.

Brooklyn Bridge Park is often referred to as the "Main Street Lot" because it used to be a parking lot! The city now manages this park area and playground.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

All events require a city permit ($25 permit fee)
Contact the Brooklyn office of special events at: 718-965-6993

3) The Fulton Ferry Landing is not really bookable. You can assemble and perform the wedding there, as long as you have a small party.
Fulton Ferry Landing
Be warned, it is thronged with Brides and their photographers and videographers - you should be able to find at least 5 in this picture.
The water taxi is also quite loud, so you need to time the event.


Locations for elopement ceremonies

Central Park weddingWe'll write more about this anon -- but here are some quick ideas: parks, bridges, the seashore (even Coney Island in winter), in a horse carriage in Central Park. Inside: your apartment! Clear a space by a window, add some flowers, cherry blossoms, etc. Brooklyn Apartment wedding Pick up something from the florists down on 26th and 7th. We have married many people in their apartments - and also in their hotel suites. Order dinner in your hotel room to follow. Ask the concierge if there is an empty room, meeting room, or penthouse. A good time is to use the penthouse room between checkout and the new tenant. (11 am to 2pm). Ask if there is a party room, rooftop seasonal room, or any other space you can use for 4 people for 1/2 hour. Tip well! Also, many restaurants will let you use private rooms or an alcove between lunch and dinner service. Stress that this is a quiet civil wedding, no confetti, no fuss, you'll just need a place to stand quietly for 1/2 an hour -- and you'll buy wine or some food to celebrate. See our website for some places we have used... For a small party (12-30) we can recommend the Library Hotel at Madison and 41st, available for weddings in the afternoon, the Kitano Hotel, and any restaurant with private rooms. Irish pubs often have private rooms and are accommodating in the afternoon. We have used Moran's in Chelsea, or Keens Chop House near Macy's, for instance.

You can also use your apartment, your hotel, your friend's home. Here is a post on getting married at home - or see this post from our other general blog: wedding locations


Multicultural mega-weddings, why you should elope

Go see this post on our other blog - or just go see this MASSIVE multicultural wedding for 1000 people where the bride had to change clothes 4 times. Yes, we'll do that type of wedding for you (well, we do the Western part, it usually happens about 4 pm at the 2nd change of clothes). But really, it's often for the parents, not for the couple. Or that's what I've been told by the long-suffering brides who get up at 4 am for the first dressing and hair do. If it means an exotic honeymoon where you can get away from being on display for two sets of extended family for several days, it might be a tradeoff. But every bride I have met who has to do this lived on ibuprofen for weeks. Elope already. Then have some welcome home parties.


Wet weather wedding accessories

A little rain on a wedding day is very good luck. In Sweden, a thunderstorm is even better luck, because the sound scares away the trolls. Swedish couples stamp on the ground if the weather is sunny, to create a little wedding luck by imitating thunder.

But if the weather is cloudy and misty and it looks like sprinkles for your outdoor elopement, go to Chinatown. I like Pearl River Trading, in Soho, just on the edge of Canal Street. Go to the basement and get some $10 waterproofed paper Chinese umbrellas. You can get different colors for bridesmaids, moms, etc. They look lovely, and can be kept as keepsakes, and are much more festive than big black umbrellas or sport umbrellas. They're also good for sunny weddings.


Wedding Photographers

Wedding Photography is a highly competitive (and professional) business in New York. Wedding photographers are very booked, and generally do not have free nights or weekends. It's also a rather difficult job. We have listed some of the photographers we have met at weddings on our website,, under Resources (scroll down the page).If they are booked (or perhaps too expensive for a small elopement), try Many student photographers advertise on craigslist to build portfolios. Some journalism or art majors also do weekend freelance. Be careful, of course, and correspond fully with photographers, and ask to see some portfolios.

Negotiate whether you will get a disk or online portfolio, or whether you will have to buy each individual picture from a selection. Sometimes photographer will quote a set rate for a number of pictures, sometimes for a set rate for time (2 hours, some pictures at your hotel, some at the wedding). Many photographers will meet you at your hotel, follow you walking along the street, etc., then photograph the wedding in Central Park, or wherever you hold the ceremony, and finish up with some just married photos. That sequence will probably take about an hour, but tack on additional time if you're doing 'before' shots in your hotel or home, and some 'wandering around New York" shots afterwards. Some will give you the results on a disk or on their website.


Pamper yourself - green spa party

File this under 'silly'. You have to venture out to BAYRIDGE in BROOKLYN (waaayyyy out in Brooklyn) but you can have a wedding spa party at a Green Spa (they advertise as the first 'green' spa in New York). For about $400 you can have tea, as well, (perhaps in their "spirituality loft") with a program that includes:
"Chai Root Body Wrap, Dry Brush Exfoliation, Tea Soy Soak, One Hour Honey Butter Massage, Exfoliating Steam & Swiss Shower, With Green Tea Eye Treatment. Tea Time includes: Sandwiches, Scones, Muffins, Desert, & Unlimited Tea." Personally, I'd prefer a YAK BUTTER massage, but somehow I think there would be surcharge I couldn't afford. If you want to spend that much money, you might enjoy the Cornelia Day Resort, which is NOT on Cornelia Street, but on 5th avenue at 52nd, with a rooftop patio between St. Pat's and the MOMA. You can get very relaxed before your wedding in Central Park.


Private Clubs as wedding locations

Check with your various memberships, alumni organizations, and other work or career affiliates. You may have access to private facilities in New York which can host a small wedding. NYU affiliates may use the Torch Club in Soho, which is a lovely place for a wedding. Some quirky associations which may not seem obvious as first make great wedding spots. The Salmagundi Art Club on 5th Avenue was used for a wedding last year, and the drinks reception was in the gallery. A perfect spot, and very 'old new york'. Enquire delicately.
It's not a club, but Scandinavia House has meeting rooms and a small library on Park Avenue which overlooks the street. Very modern, of course. It appeals to my Danish roots. And catering can be arranged - lovely meatballs and aquavit!
The Gay and Lesbian Center in Greenwich village is housed in a lovely brownstone. Their meeting booking rates are VERY reasonable.


Quirky venues for indoor weddings

If you have a small group of friends/family, it's sometimes hard to find a comfortable spot for an indoor wedding or wedding reception. Almost ANY restaurant will consider hosting a small wedding or reception, but you might also try pubs, meeting spaces, and any other spots that seem interesting. Here are some we've tried, and some we've heard recommended.

The Bowery Poetry Club rents their event space in the back.

Greenwich village Minetta TavernThe Minetta Tavern, (left) my favorite Italian restaurant/bar in Greenwich village, with the funky street scene paintings on the walls. Certain to set up a small wedding space and a nice dinner for you.


Wet weather Weddings: Restaurants with private rooms

japanese umbrella
This is a never-ending quest: Finding a place to combine a simple wedding, and a meal. In summer, you can look for ubiquitous outdoor gardens in the backyards of restaurants. Winter may be more cramped. Look on, chowhound, and other websites for restaurants with "private dining" or meeting rooms, or private rooms. These are frequently mentioned in magazine articles and websites each year, such as:, and private party rooms,

Just call a restaurant, ask if they have any private rooms or private areas (alcoves with curtains are frequent). If you are willing to have an afternoon wedding (2-4) you may be able to get a private room "between service", at a good price. Then order drinks and some eats. Make sure you tell them you are having a 'small civil wedding ceremony', no fuss, 15 minutes, everybody standing, no rice, no mike, no flower petals, no chuppah, etc. Most places will tell you right away whether this will work.
In no order, here are some places we have used: Moran's in Chelsea, Keens Chop House near Macy's, La Lanterna in the village, Bette Midler's New Leaf Cafe in Fort Tryon Park (at the Cloisters), One if By Land, Two if by Sea, Aaron Burr's townhouse in Greenwich village, City Hall Restaurant in Tribeca, Bayards in Wall Street, and lots of small restaurants in the East Village, in Brooklyn, Queens, etc.

Ideas for informal wedding locations in case of rain:

Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) - less busy in the rain, and there is a small glassed-in viewing area you can use. This only works for small elopements, however.
Any restaurant with a 'view', in the rain -- there won't be enough business so they probably won't care. Perhaps Beekman Towers - the art deco restaurant by the UN..
Grand Central Station - just find a corner! Avoid rush hour.
The viewing arch at Bowling Green, you'll be covered, with a good view of the Statue of Liberty.
The balcony overlooking Central Park at the Time Warner Center (I've never tried this, but in a pinch, it would make a great 'private' spot, as long as the bored security guards didn't mind).
The Little stage at the back of the Tourist Bureau in Times Square - it's not used for anything else, the building lobby is attractive, and I'm sure the staff would find it fun.
In a carriage, in Central Park, with the hood up. Be creative!