Grab the tissues, ladies!  Isn’t this photo so romantic?

Flickr Photo by Stacle
Flickr Photo by Stacle

I hope you had your waterproof mascara on.

There’s nothing more classic about an NYC elopement than historic City Hall…

Flickr Photo by Kate
Flickr Photo by Kate


…except you’re not actually getting married at City Hall.

You’re getting married at the Office of the City Clerk – Marriage Bureau located at 141 Worth Street, a few blocks up.  Sorry.

Potentially crummy wedding photos at the city clerk’s office are just one factor you will want to avoid on your wedding day.  I want you to be informed about what you’re getting yourself into so I’ve compiled crucial information about what you need to know to make the most out of your “City Hall” and Central Park wedding ceremonies.

At the bare minimum, to get married in NYC you will need:

  • A license from the city clerk’s office ($35)
  • One witness over the age of 18 present at the ceremony to sign the license
  • A ceremony conducted at the city clerk’s office ($25) or by a registered marriage officiant

But here’s what you may not know if you choose to get married at the city clerk’s office:

Little-Known Factors about Getting Married at the City Clerk’s Office

  • The marriage license must be secured 24 hours before you marry
  • No one can secure the marriage license on your behalf. You and your partner must go in person to any city clerk’s office in the 5 boroughs and show proper identification
  • The NYC ceremony is literally 30-45 seconds long. There will be no time to hold each other’s hands and make googly eyes at each other
  • You have to wait on line
  • The clerk will not move the ceremony elsewhere
  • You must obtain the marriage license in the state in which you plan to marry. The marriage license is not a Metrocard.  There is no “cross-honoring” among NY/NJ/CT
  • Good news: there is no residency requirement. Anyone from anywhere can get married here with proper identification (passport)

Now you know.  Still want to get married here?

If something a little less chop shop is what you have in mind, Central Park is the next obvious location for a NYC elopement.  Getting married here could be exactly what you’re looking for.

You could just show up at your favorite spot in the park and wing it.  But here’s why that probably won’t be a good idea:

Little-Known Factors about Getting Married in Central Park

  • At any public park or space in NYC, if you invite 20 or more individuals, you have to secure a $25 from the NYC Park’s Department here. That requires entering a date and time, possibly an alternative, and waiting for someone at the office to get back to you.  Don’t be surprised if they say, “we don’t have that space available for the next six months.”  Central Park is very popular for weddings
  • Even if your party is less than 20 people, it’s still a good idea to secure a permit. Central Park is a popular location and it will almost always be crowded.  The permit signifies your right to use the space for the allotted time but it does not provide you with security guards to ask people to leave because…
  • The public must always have access to the park
  • New Yorkers are not shy to ask a bride for a photo, stop and stare, take videos or walk right through a ceremony, so don’t underestimate the value of an early morning wedding
  • Central Park has the following restrictions for your wedding:
    • No set-up (chairs, tables, tents)
    • Chuppahs may be carried in and out of the park with prior permission
    • No amplified sound. So a ukulele is okay but leave your speakers/boom box/DJ at home
    • No vehicles or pedicabs
    • No alcohol
    • No flowers, balloons or decorations
    • No banners or signs attached to any Park property or trees
    • No staking into the ground

All of the above applies to the public spaces in Central Park.  That means: Cop Cot, Ladies Pavilion, Wagner Cove, Shakespeare’s Garden, etc.  For a more complete list of Central Park locations within this category and the maximum number of people allowed to occupy the space, click here.

The Conservatory Garden is considered a private space and weddings here must be planned through the Central Park Conservancy.  The NYC Park’s Department permit application can’t be used here.  You must use this one instead.  Here’s what you need to know:

  • The conservatory garden permit fee is $400. There is a $200 cancellation fee unless you reschedule your wedding within one year from the original date.  For wedding photography, there is an additional fee of $100
  • No wedding reception allowed in the garden
  • The public still has access to the garden and can only be requested to stay clear of the immediate wedding/photography session by staff and security – not by your guests
  • Pretty much all of the same restrictions listed above for Central Park’s public spaces also apply to the Conservatory Garden, but this private space is even stricter. Click here for the complete list.

By no means am I trying to dissuade you from any of the above locations.  On the contrary, I’m hoping that, armed with the information above, you can proceed with your office of the city clerk or Central Park wedding plans without disappointment.

If you’re game, and your wedding party is as small as four people, I’ll let you know some great offbeat locations to have a NYC elopement in my next post in the series.


You aren’t getting married at City Hall, you’re getting married at the office of the city clerk.  Getting married in Central Park is complicated.  There’s a difference between getting married at the Central Park Conservatory Garden – a private space, versus anywhere else in the park.  Know before you go.

Think the police won’t disband you in a public space if you take your chances without a permit?  Ask me about the time I organized a soccer game for my co-workers.


This post is part of the ADNY Intimate Wedding Inspirations series.  You can read the first post here.

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