Jan 12, 2013, 9:45 AM
My wife and I are from the UK and recently got married in New York City, so we thought we'd put together a little guide that other couples might find useful.
Why get married in NYC?
We got asked this question a lot! Simple answer: we'd just bought our first house and we couldn't afford a big traditional wedding. Getting married in NYC is a lot cheaper, and on reflection it was absolutely perfect - our wedding day was relaxed, exciting and fabulous from start to finish. Even with hindsight, we wouldn't do it any other way - NYC was the perfect destination for us.
There are a few options for getting married in NYC, as you can hire an officiant and get married at pretty much any location. As it was just the two of us, we opted to keep it simple and get married at the City Clerk's Office (141 Worth Street).
Whichever way you choose to do it, you need to apply for a Marriage License (more info here: http://www.cityclerk.nyc.gov/html/marriage/license.shtml). The Marriage License costs $35 and you can pay the fee by credit card or money order, but not cash, so bear that in mind. Once you have your marriage license, you have to wait 24 hours before you can tie the knot. If you get your license at 9:00am on a Thursday, it will actually say that you're eligible to get married from 9:01am on Friday, the following day.
To help speed up the application, remember to apply online before you get to the City Clerks Office using this link: https:/…cityclerkformsonline
The online application only needs a few details (full names, place of birth, parent's names etc) and took us less than five minutes. When you've completed the application, you'll be given a confirmation number to print out and take with you. From what we could tell, anyone who hadn't already filled in the online application was asked to fill it in using the available computers in the City Clerks Office reception. Also note that applications submitted online expire after 21 days, so don't do it too early!
Here's how our timing worked out:
December 15 - submitted our online application
December 27 - arrived at City Clerks Office to complete application and get license
December 28 - returned to City Clerks Office to be married
What happens on the day.
We got our marriage license on a Thursday, and the City Clerks Office was reasonably quiet - there were quite a few couples, but we were in and out of the building in about 30 minutes. We expected the same when we returned on the Friday, but boy were we wrong, it was really busy! We had to queue to see the guy on reception, when we got to him he checked through our documents (jokingly asking if we were sure we wanted to get married!) and then gave us a ticket for us to wait for our number to be called.
It can be a bit of a wait on a busy day (almost an hour in our experience, though that was the last Friday of the year) so it's worth having a bottle of water or something to drink with you, and note that there are restrooms in the lobby.
When our number was called, we went to a desk where the lady re-checked all our documentation and details (you need ID we you, we had our passports) and produced our marriage certificate. At this point you also pay the $25 fee for the marriage ceremony. Double-check all your details are right at this point, as it's the last stage before you get married - you can fix mistakes afterwards, but doing so will cost extra!
We were given another ticket and had to wait another 20 minutes or so to be called to the chapel. There are two, east and west, with a small seating area in side. We were called into the west chapel and the ceremony was done in two minutes flat. You do need a witness, our photographer was ours, but it seems as though it would be very easy to find a witness while you're there. Just remember that your witness will also need valid identification.
And that's it, you're given your signed and sealed marriage certificate and you're good to go!
'Short' or 'Extended' Marriage Certificate
There are two types of Marriage Certificate you can get, the Short is the basic, and the Extended includes a bit of extra information that is often required by foreign jurisdictions. We were told that as UK residents we'd need the Extended certificate in order for it to be valid in the UK.
You can apply for the Extended certificate on the same day you get married, but it does require a few steps and trips to different buildings. We wanted to enjoy our wedding day after the ceremony so decided to come back and get the Extended certificate a few days later - you can do it anytime after you're married.
To get the Extended certficate:
1. Go back to the City Clerks Office with your Short certificate and identification, fill out a yellow Extended certificate request form and take it to the Records Room. Here you pay another $35 and an Extended certificate is given to you.
2. You then need to go over the road to the County Clerk Office (located in the Supreme Court Building, 60 Centre Street) to have the certificate signed at the Notary Public Desk at a charge of $3. This building has a security check and metal detectors, so it's best not to go with cameras and so on.
3. Once the Extended certificate is signed, you need to take it to the New York State Department of State (123 Williams Street, between Fulton and John) to get an Apostille that authenticates the document. This costs $10, but note that the New York State Department of State no longer accepts cash or credit card - it has to be money order! If you don't have one with you, you can go over the road to the Duane Reade pharmacy and buy a $10 money order at a cost of $11.
Once all that's done, your certificate is ready to be accepted in the UK. It doesn't take long to get it all done, but going between locations is a bit of a chore and you probably won't want to do it on the day.
What to Wear
In case you're wondering (like we were) what to wear, it's worth knowing that there's loads of variety at the City Clerks Office. Some couples were in casual clothes (jeans etc), some were smart, others were eccentric and quite a few were formal. We opted for the latter, with the bride in a traditional white dress and the groom in a grey tail suit. We felt very comfortable and enjoyed the attention. If you intend to go to other sites, take a comfortable pair of shoes - my bride took her sneakers in a bag and got changed halfway through the day.