Whether you’re a seasoned New Yorker or just visiting to take in the love of the city, NYC warmly opens its arms to any elopement story. A different world inhabits each neighborhood, offering a unique combination of culture and energy every few blocks. This amazing environment creates a customizable dream spot for small weddings. Endless options—either along the paths of Central park, down by the pier in Lower Manhattan, or tucked within the Astoria Sculpture Garden—every couple can find a way to reflect their passions, personalities, and background. For all couples looking to sneak off and elope among the buzz of New York, here is your guide to get started.
Choose a Date
Picking an appropriate wedding date allows you both the time to prepare in a calm mindset, set your desired budget, and create the ideal atmosphere for your personalized celebration. Understanding the ebb and flow of the busy city can help you get this exciting process moving.
There’s a reason you hear so much about New York in the fall. Late September through mid-November is a prime season for stunning photos and comfortable temperatures, mixing the lingering heat of the summer with the changing colors of trees and cooler breezes of autumn. Crowds are a bit calmer before the holidays, a perk for those seeking privacy. Later spring is also stunning, but waiting until the weather stabilizes will help you avoid a rogue late-winter storm.
Weather aside, NYC is packed with fun—and often free—activities in the summer and around the holidays, so small wedding parties may want to time their celebration around these added perks. Be aware that weather extremes of the summer and winter months could particularly affect travel in this train-dependent city.
Find an Officiant
One of the best perks of getting married in a city packed with traditions and diverse backgrounds, is designing a personalized ceremony. The New York City Clerk office has a more detailed breakdown on registering as a wedding officiant, but the stipulations allows friends and family members to seek out online ordination—if you would prefer to keep the ceremony as personal as possible. An experienced officiant will also shape and guide the traditions, spirituality, and structure of your vows and ceremony. They also can assist with the paperwork leading up to the day, taking the pressure off the little details that can distract from the emotion of the event.
Choose Your Favorite Vendors
NYC is the land of freelancers and trained, dynamic artists. Photographers, florists, craft artisans and chefs are in high demand, opening the door to ultimate customization, even for a small wedding or elopement. Although a major incentive of eloping is cutting out extra expenses or unnecessary items, honing in on fewer details allows greater focus and personalization of the items you do choose. For example, dresses and suits, bouquets, photos, and celebration all receive greater attention than in a large wedding. Dive into NYC’s rich vintage scene to find a century-old wedding dress, or hunt through the garment district to build or find unique accessories. And with a wide array of food available, you can plan your ceremony around where you plan to drink or dine afterwards, whether it be on a boat, a rooftop, or in the coziest of speak-easies.
Pick a spot
The enchanting and sprawling Central Park is an excellent place to begin. If your group is smaller than 20 people, there is no need to apply for a permit (though without one, you do risk encountering crowds). Right on the edge of the water, and only steps from the famous Strawberry Fields area off 72nd Street, Wagner Cove is a lovely gazebo-covered spot with the glistening lake as your photo backdrop. One of the most famous spots to exchange vows is Bow Bridge, a 90-foot stone bridge that is actually the oldest cast-iron one of its kind in America—quite a beautiful symbol for an emotionally poignant ceremony. Other famous spots include the Bethesda Fountain and the Treehouse by 67th and 5th.
For the ultimate private ceremony surrounded by floral beauty, check out the morning availability at The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens before they open at 10 a.m. Sex in the City fans should check out the private haven of Jefferson Market Garden, available for two hours with a permit if you’re seeking complete seclusion. Backed by the stunning skyline of lower Manhattan, bathe in the ultimate city setting in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Though very public, this area is the center of festivals, foodie heaven and a river-backed location.
The 5 W’s for Eloping in NYC
Since eloping is a common tradition in such a beautiful city, the NYC clerk’s office is well-informed and ready for your eloping questions. Find every detail on their website, especially to double check you have everything in order before your big day.
Who: NYC requires a registered officiant (unless you’re getting married in city hall), one witness, at of course, your fiancé.
What: You will need $35 dollars for a marriage license and $25 for the city hall ceremony (if applicable) and proper identification.
Where: The City Marriage office is located at 141 Worth Street. This is best accessed by taxi, but is also accessible by the 4, 5, 6, R, W, and J, Z. Remember to keep an eye on the train changes and leave ample traffic time.
When: Leave yourself at least 24 hours after registering for a marriage license, this is required unless you receive a judicial waiver from a judge. The office is open 8:30am-3:45pm Monday-Friday.
Why: Because NYC is amazing!
Embarking on this NYC-wedding adventure will make the city even more special, whether you live in the Big Apple or just visit when you feel the call. Either way, there are a few extra quirks to consider before the big event. If possible, arrange an emergency indoor option in the event of bad weather. Consider reserving a private room in a restaurant or bar for your after party—many locations have these details listed in their “groups” section, and are very accommodating. Also, because of the crazy traffic issues, you may want to treat yourself to a night in a nearby hotel or Air BNB. This does add to the cost of the event, but takes worlds of pressure off of the day itself.
Whatever details you choose are best for your envisioned day, know that the community of NYC—from friends to total strangers—will have your back. In New York, you are both free to be yourselves and celebrate all the little bits that make you and your relationship truly unique.