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]
The good news: You can obtain a license at any office of the city clerk in New York.
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 peranyc.com, 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! SarahMagid.com. You might also check out the caterers we have met on our recommended resources page.
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'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.
The 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.
The 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 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.
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 cityclerknyc.com/MarriageBureau/
"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."
Should you change your name?
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
Contact Information: 26 New Dock Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201 Phone:(718) 858-4708
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.
All events require a city permit ($25 permit fee)nycgovparks.org
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.
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.
We'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. 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