NYC City Hall Weddings: A Comprehensive Guide to Planning Your Special Day

Kali McCarthy
13 min readApr 18, 2024
Photo by Aditya Chinchure

Getting married is a significant milestone in life, and for many couples, the charm of a City Hall wedding in New York City offers a perfect blend of romance and simplicity. While the steps leading up to saying “I do” at one of the most iconic municipal buildings in the world can seem daunting, they are wonderfully straightforward with the right guidance. This article is designed to demystify the process and provide you with a comprehensive look into planning your City Hall wedding in NYC.

City Hall weddings appeal not just for their efficiency and cost-effectiveness but also for the unique urban charm that only New York City can provide. From the steps of obtaining a marriage license to selecting the right day for your ceremony, each detail plays a crucial role in crafting your big day. Furthermore, given the picturesque settings of NYC’s landscapes, knowing how to capture these moments is paramount.

Photography, an essential element of any wedding, becomes particularly poignant in such a historic and visually compelling setting. Whether you’re a New York native or planning a destination wedding in the heart of the Big Apple, understanding the ins and outs of City Hall weddings and how to beautifully document your day can make all the difference. This guide, penned from a journalistic perspective, draws on insights from industry professionals and seasoned planners to give you a detailed walkthrough of what to expect, how to prepare, and how to ensure your NYC City Hall wedding is as picturesque as it is memorable.

By the end of this guide, not only will you be equipped with practical advice on planning your ceremony but also inspired by the romantic possibilities that a City Hall wedding can offer. Whether you’re considering an intimate gathering or just want a simple, elegant affair, this article will provide the knowledge and tips to navigate your special day with ease and flair. Let’s dive into the essentials of planning your perfect NYC City Hall wedding.

Table of Contents

· 1. Understanding NYC City Hall Weddings
· 2. NYC City Hall Wedding Photography Options
· 3. Planning Your Photo Session
· 4. Making the Most of Your NYC City Hall Wedding
· 5. FAQs About NYC City Hall Weddings
· Conclusion
· Reference List
· About the Author

A couple going through security before their wedding

1. Understanding NYC City Hall Weddings

City Hall weddings in New York City offer a blend of history, simplicity, and elegance, making them a coveted choice for couples looking to tie the knot. The process is streamlined to ensure that your special day is both beautiful and stress-free. Here’s everything you need to know about getting married at one of the most famous municipal buildings in the world.

1.1. The Basics of Getting Married at City Hall

Getting married in New York City at City Hall, specifically at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau, involves a few critical steps that are designed to be straightforward but require careful attention to detail.

  • Obtaining a Marriage License: Before you can marry at City Hall, you must first obtain a marriage license from the New York City Clerk’s office. This can be done at any of the five borough offices. The license costs $35 and is valid for 60 days (except for active military personnel, for whom the validity extends to 180 days). It’s important to note that there is a mandatory 24-hour waiting period between obtaining the license and when you can actually get married.
  • Scheduling Your Ceremony: After obtaining your license, you will need to schedule a ceremony. Ceremonies at the City Clerk’s office can be booked through Project Cupid, an online system set up by the city. Appointments can be made up to 20 days in advance and are released on a rolling basis every Thursday morning. It’s advisable to book as early as possible since slots fill up quickly.

1.2. Choosing Your Date and Time

Choosing the right date and time for your City Hall wedding can significantly impact the smoothness of your day.

  • Best Days and Times: While you can schedule a wedding on any weekday, Tuesdays and Thursdays are typically less crowded compared to Mondays and Fridays. Morning slots are also preferable as they tend to be quieter and allow for a smoother ceremony without the rush.
  • Seasonal Considerations: Consider the season in which you plan to marry. Spring and fall are peak wedding seasons in NYC due to the mild weather, so booking might be more competitive during these times. Winter, especially January and February, might offer more flexibility in scheduling and a quicker process.

Each of these steps represents an essential part of planning your City Hall wedding in NYC. From obtaining your marriage license to picking the perfect day, each detail contributes to the tapestry of your wedding day, ensuring that it unfolds as smoothly and memorably as possible.

Photo by Natilyn Photography

2. NYC City Hall Wedding Photography Options

The choice of a photographer for your NYC City Hall wedding is pivotal in capturing the essence of your special day in one of the world’s most iconic locations. Understanding the various photography packages and additional services available can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your vision and budget.

2.1. Photography Packages

Photography packages for City Hall weddings typically vary by coverage and can be tailored to meet different needs and preferences. Here’s a breakdown of common types of packages offered by photographers specializing in City Hall weddings:

  • Ceremony Only Package: This is the most basic option, focusing solely on the ceremony. It includes coverage of the marriage ceremony at the City Clerk’s office, capturing the key moments as you exchange vows and rings. This package is ideal for couples who want a simple documentation of their legal ceremony without additional portraits.
  • Standard Package: Expanding on the Ceremony Only option, this package includes photos taken before and after the ceremony within the City Hall building. It often covers the signing of the marriage certificate, candid moments, and a brief couple’s session around the iconic architectural features of the building.
  • Extended Coverage Package: For couples who want to capture more of their special day, this package includes all elements of the Standard Package along with additional shooting time around key landmarks near City Hall, such as the Brooklyn Bridge or the nearby City Hall Park. This option is perfect for those who want a more comprehensive photographic record of their wedding day.

2.2. Additional Services

Beyond standard packages, photographers may offer a range of additional services to enhance your wedding photography experience:

  • Videography: Some photographers offer videography services, providing a dynamic and cinematic recording of your wedding day. This can be a captivating way to relive your special moments and share them with friends and family who may not have been able to attend.
  • Custom Requests: If you have specific ideas or needs, such as visiting multiple locations, including family portraits, or capturing a themed photo shoot, many photographers are happy to customize their services to accommodate your unique requests.
  • Photo Editing and Albums: Post-wedding photo editing and album creation are also commonly offered. These services ensure that your wedding photos are beautifully edited to professional standards and artfully compiled in wedding albums or digital formats.

Choosing the right photography package and additional services requires considering what aspects of your wedding day you most want to capture and preserve. Whether it’s the intimacy of the ceremony itself or the grandeur of the surrounding NYC landmarks, there’s a photography option to match every couple’s desire.

3. Planning Your Photo Session

Your wedding photos are more than just a keepsake; they’re a vivid chronicle of your special day. Planning the photo session for your NYC City Hall wedding involves considering several key moments: before, during, and after the ceremony. Each of these moments offers unique opportunities to capture the emotions and details of your day.

3.1. Before the Ceremony

The moments leading up to the ceremony are filled with anticipation and excitement, making them ideal for capturing candid photos.

  • Getting Ready Photos: Consider starting your photo session with “getting ready” shots. These can include dressing, makeup, and quiet moments with your partner or family. These shots often convey the emotional depth and personal story of your day.
  • First Look Photographs: If you’re planning to see each other before the ceremony, a ‘first look’ photo shoot can capture the intimacy and joy of that first private moment together. It’s a modern twist that can add a truly special element to your wedding photo collection.

3.2. During the Ceremony

The ceremony itself is the heart of your wedding day, and there are key moments that you’ll want to ensure your photographer captures.

  • Key Moments: From the exchange of vows and rings to the first kiss as a married couple, these pivotal moments are must-haves in your wedding album.
  • Candid Shots: Beyond the key events, candid shots of the couple, as well as the guests’ reactions, add depth to the story of your day. These images capture the genuine emotions and interactions that make your wedding unique.

3.3. After the Ceremony

After the formalities, it’s time to relax and celebrate, and your photo session should reflect that joy.

  • Iconic Locations: New York City offers an array of stunning backdrops for your post-ceremony photos. From the steps of City Hall to nearby landmarks like Brooklyn Bridge and City Hall Park, discuss with your photographer about including these iconic settings in your session.
  • Transportation and Time Management: Planning how to get from one location to another for photos is crucial. Consider the logistics of transportation and allocate enough time to travel between locations to ensure a smooth and stress-free photo session.
  • Group and Family Photos: After the ceremony is a great time to capture group photos with family and friends. Plan ahead with your photographer to ensure everyone you want included is ready and available for these shots.

By carefully planning each phase of your photo session, you ensure that your wedding photography will capture the full narrative of your day, from the quiet anticipation of the morning to the joyous celebration after the ceremony. This thoughtful approach not only enhances the visual documentation of your wedding but also helps in creating a more relaxed and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Photo by Thorn Yang

4. Making the Most of Your NYC City Hall Wedding

A City Hall wedding in NYC doesn’t just offer convenience and a beautiful backdrop; it also provides an opportunity to create a day that’s as unique as your love story. From what to wear to adding personal touches, here’s how to make your City Hall wedding a reflection of your personalities and love for each other.

4.1. What to Wear

Choosing what to wear on your wedding day at City Hall should reflect your personal style and the formality of the occasion.

  • Dress Appropriately for the Setting: While City Hall is more casual than a traditional wedding venue, many couples opt for a smart-casual or cocktail attire. Think of elegant dresses, suits, or a combination that feels special but not overdone.
  • Comfort is Key: You’ll likely spend a part of the day on foot, navigating between City Hall and photo locations. Choose comfortable shoes, or bring a change of footwear for longer walks. Remember, comfort doesn’t mean sacrificing style; there are many stylish yet comfortable options available.
  • Accessorize Thoughtfully: Accessories can add a personal touch to your wedding attire. Whether it’s a family heirloom, a vibrant tie, or a bouquet of your favorite flowers, small details can make your outfit feel more “you.”

4.2. Incorporating Personal Touches

Personalizing your City Hall wedding can make it feel just as grand as a large ceremony.

  • Vows and Readings: Even in the brief ceremony at City Hall, there’s room to exchange personal vows or include a favorite quote or reading that resonates with your relationship.
  • Special Mementos: Bringing along special items, like a photo of a loved one who can’t be there or a piece of jewelry that holds sentimental value, can make the day feel more connected to your personal history.
  • Decorative Elements: While decoration options at City Hall are limited, small items like a custom-made sign or matching facemasks can add a fun twist to your ceremony photos.
  • Music and Entertainment: If you’re planning to extend the celebration outside of City Hall, consider your favorite music or even a small performance by a street musician as you take photos around NYC.

Your NYC City Hall wedding can be as rich in detail and personal significance as any large wedding with the right planning. By focusing on what truly matters to you as a couple, you can create a memorable, intimate celebration that you’ll cherish forever. These personal touches not only enhance the ceremony but also ensure your wedding photos are uniquely yours, filled with the essence of your special day.

5. FAQs About NYC City Hall Weddings

When planning a City Hall wedding in New York City, couples often have numerous questions about the process, legal requirements, and what to expect on the day. This section addresses some of the most frequently asked questions, providing clear, practical answers to help ensure your wedding day is as seamless as possible.

5.1. Legal and Logistical Questions

Understanding the legal and logistical aspects of your City Hall wedding is crucial for a smooth experience.

  • How do I obtain a marriage license? You must apply for a marriage license at any of the five borough offices of the NYC City Clerk. The license costs $35 and comes with a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before you can use it. The license is valid for 60 days, extending to 180 days for active military personnel.
  • Can we choose our ceremony location within City Hall? Ceremonies are conducted in specific rooms designated by the City Hall staff. While you can’t choose the exact room, all are designed to provide a dignified and beautiful setting for your wedding.
  • What identification do we need to bring on the day? Both parties must bring valid photo identification such as a passport or driver’s license. You’ll also need to bring your marriage license issued by the New York City Clerk.
  • Are there any restrictions on guests? Yes, due to space and security reasons, City Hall allows a limited number of guests. Typically, this includes four adult guests, though small children may not count toward this limit.

5.2. Tips from the Pros

Seasoned wedding professionals often have insider tips that can make your City Hall wedding particularly special.

  • What’s the best time to schedule our wedding to avoid long waits? Scheduling your wedding early in the day or mid-week can reduce waiting times significantly. Tuesdays and Thursdays are usually less busy than Mondays and Fridays.
  • How can we make our City Hall wedding more personal? Consider personal vows, special readings, or incorporating meaningful music as you wait for your ceremony slot. These elements can personalize even the quickest ceremony.
  • Any suggestions for post-wedding activities in the area? Celebrate your newlywed status with photos at nearby landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, or enjoy a special meal at one of the many exquisite restaurants in lower Manhattan.
  • What should we do if we want more elaborate photographs? Discuss with your photographer about taking additional portraits in picturesque locations around the city post-ceremony. This can extend the celebration and capture a broader range of memories.

This FAQ section aims to alleviate common concerns and enhance your understanding of what to expect, allowing you to focus more on enjoying your special day rather than worrying about the details. By addressing these questions upfront, you’re set to embrace all the joy and excitement that a NYC City Hall wedding has to offer.

Photo by Marius Muresan


This comprehensive guide has walked you through every essential aspect of planning your NYC City Hall wedding, from the initial steps of obtaining your marriage license to capturing every moment with the perfect photography package. With detailed advice on what to wear, how to personalize your ceremony, and the best ways to document this significant day, you now have all the tools at your disposal to plan a wedding that feels both intimate and splendidly memorable.

City Hall weddings in New York City embody a unique blend of simplicity and elegance, offering a backdrop rich in history and bustling with the vibrancy of city life. Whether it’s just the two of you or a small gathering of loved ones, the charm of NYC provides a stunning setting for your vows. Remember, the key to a seamless wedding day is in the details — from choosing the right time and date to selecting a photographer who understands your vision.

As you move forward with your wedding plans, keep this guide handy. Refer back to the FAQs when you need reassurance, and revisit the tips from professionals to refine your day to perfection. With this information, you’re well-equipped to navigate the logistics and enjoy a celebration that’s as stress-free as it is beautiful. Your NYC City Hall wedding is not just a day to remember — it’s the start of a lifetime of memories.

By equipping yourself with this knowledge, you can focus on what truly matters: celebrating your love and commitment in one of the most iconic cities in the world. This isn’t just another wedding guide; it’s the blueprint for your unique love story to unfold in the heart of New York City.

Reference List

For detailed information and official guidelines on marriage licenses and City Hall weddings in New York City, refer to the following .gov resources:

  1. NYC City Clerk’s Office — This is the official site for obtaining marriage licenses in New York City and offers comprehensive information on the requirements, fees, and processes involved in getting married at City Hall. NYC City Clerk’s Office
  2. Project Cupid — Official site for scheduling your City Hall wedding ceremony, where you can book your appointment and manage your ceremony details online. Project Cupid

About the Author

This article was crafted by Kali McCarthy, a seasoned New York City-based photographer with a keen eye for capturing the essence of significant moments. Specializing in wedding photography, Kali combines a deep understanding of storytelling with a unique artistic touch to each photograph. Passionate about creating lasting memories, Kali’s work is characterized by its vivid emotion and impeccable attention to detail. For more insights and to explore a portfolio of City Hall weddings and beyond, visit Kali Artistry’s NYC City Hall Wedding Photography page.



Kali McCarthy

I'm Kali, a photographer with a journalism background. I capture and write about life's unseen stories, blending visuals with words to tell richer tales.