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NYC Elopement Guide 2024

My name is Jose Melgarejo and I am a wedding and elopement photographer serving New York City.

This all-inclusive guide is for couples planning an elopement in NYC, or a small intimate New York wedding. In this guide you’ll find the best advice on the elopement process as well as useful tips and locations that would make a beautiful backdrop for elopement photos.

This elopement guide is co-authored by one of my close colleages Liz Norment, licensed NYC wedding officiant, writer and couples storyteller.

A man and woman sharing a romantic kiss in Central Park NYC.

From Rooftop Terraces to Lakeside Scenes

Where to Elope in New York City

Having the backdrop of one of the most iconic cities in NYC means that your intimate elopement will be far from clandestine. And the relative ease of eloping in New York allows you and a small team of experts to orchestrate an intimate, memorable event with a scope that transcends the urban grid.

Elopements in New York City

Applying for a Marriage License in New York

A few important notes to help you get started with this process. First, a New York Marriage License is good for 60 days. So look into booking an appointment anytime within 60 days of your elopement, but at least 24 hours before the ceremony.

Follow the link below for a quick guide on getting a marriage license in New York City.

Ceremony and Elopement Planning

Vendors for your NYC Elopement

Think of your vendor team as location scouts and on-site wedding coordinators. We live here, we’ve done this, and we know exactly what needs to come together to make your elopement happen seamlessly. An experienced photographer with a passion for journalistic-style coverage and an officiant who creates a cinematic story for your ceremony will create a transportive and expansive vision for your intimate wedding.

Build your elopement team with some great vendors listed here.

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A Word of Gratitude

A very special thanks to Liz Norment, founder of Have Lover Will Travel for co-authoring this guide. Your words and advice create synergy and connectedness across our community.

Here are five steps you need to know to plan your elopement:

1. Set a Date for your Elopement
2. Secure your Marriage License
3. Select your Vendor Team and Choose a Location
4. Set the Tone
5. Have a Back-Up Plan

 

Set a Date for Your Elopement

NYC has a certain charm every season; the leaves changing in Central Park in the Fall, the skyline peeking through the snow in Winter, the backdrop of lively Coney Island along the coast in Summer, and the entire city that comes into bloom in Spring. Planning an elopement should depend on how each season speaks to you. Let your vendor team help you mitigate changes in weather and suggest locations while being flexible within the day’s schedule. Focus on the scene you’re seeking and we’ll follow your lead.

Eloping in NYC means you select the mood, the scene, and the setting for the next chapter you’ll add to your love story.

 

Secure Your Marriage License

A few important notes to help you get started with this process. First, a New York Marriage License is good for 60 days. So look into booking an appointment anytime within 60 days of your elopement, but at least 24 hours before the ceremony. You’ll need to first make an appointment with the City Clerk. If you want to make an appointment in the five boroughs, get started NYC Project Cupid

Note that appointments can be difficult to secure in the city, but there are a few ways around this. First, they release appointment slots on Thursday mornings at 9am. So set a reminder to sign in on an upcoming Thursday. Also, an NY State Marriage License can be acquired anywhere in the state and will be valid for a ceremony that takes place anywhere in the state. It’s much easier to get an appointment on Long Island or “Upstate” in a smaller town. It might be a good idea to choose a place, call the town clerk in that area, set an appointment and plan a day around it.

Virtual appointments are available if you don’t live in NYC. You’ll simply need to secure a virtual appointment, then download Microsoft Teams (nothing like bureaucracy keeping antiquated technology alive and well!), and be in the same location with your partner for your appointment.

If you have a virtual appointment, the marriage license will be emailed to you so you can print it out to bring to the ceremony. An in-person appointment will issue your physical license that day, which you will bring to the ceremony to be signed by your witnesses and your officiant.

The license, when filed any your officiant following your ceremony, will be processed within 4-6 weeks. The official marriage certificate will be mailed to the address you have on file once processed. This is the document you will use to legally confirm your union to change your name, update insurance, and all other needs related to your marriage.

nyc city hall elopement shoot josemelgarejo

Elopements are about building a future together with the most essential components.

Elopements in New York / New York City Court Weddings

Quick Tips for Marriage Licenses in New York

1

Apply for a New York Marriage License

To schedule your marriage ceremony in New York, it's important to first obtain a marriage license from the state. The scheduler links can be found below for your convenience. Keep in mind that non-US citizens may require an extended marriage certificate.
2

Set a Date for Your Elopement

Once 24 hours have passed, but no more than 60 days have gone by since obtaining your marriage license, you may proceed to set date for your elopement ceremony. Remember to also schedule your photographs, both before and after the ceremony.
3

Collect your marriage license for the ceremony

If you are planning your ceremony at City Hall, it's important to remember to bring government IDs, your marriage license, and at least one witness. The ceremony typically lasts around 30 minutes. If you are a non-US citizen, be sure to apply for an extended marriage certificate.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Wedding

Setting the tone for your elopement is wildly important.

Choosing to elope is an intimate and personal experience, so the tone of the event should come naturally from the core of your relationship.

Select Your Vendor Team and Choose a Location

Think of your vendor team as location scouts and on-site wedding coordinators. We live here, we’ve done this, and we know exactly what needs to come together to make your elopement happen seamlessly. An experienced photographer with a passion for journalistic-style coverage and an officiant who creates a cinematic story for your ceremony will create a transportive and expansive vision for your intimate wedding.

What vision do you have in mind for your NYC elopement? Imagine a photo montage where this dynamic city is your stage. A ceremony in Central Park and a walk down 5th Avenue followed by views of the river from the Highline and shared slices of pizza at Artichoke. A rooftop ceremony in Dumbo followed by a ride on Jane’s Carousel, a romantic scene within The Max Family Garden, and that cobblestone street that frames the Empire State Building just right. Save photos you’ve seen that you want to emulate and trust your photographer to create a plan for the day.

For the ceremony, let your officiant bring your love story into the scene while adding a transportive element, painting pictures of the moments and milestones, travel and adventures, that have led your journey to this day. Elopements allow your ceremony to be the focal point of your day, so a non-traditional, custom script written by a professional writer will let your love story become one that is told at your intimate wedding, and then told and retold for generations to come.

And let your photographer and officiant work together to narrate and capture every moment, emotion, and the backdrop of NYC through the scope of your intimate celebration.

 

Set the Tone

If creating a theme feels intimidating, let’s break it down. How do you describe yourselves as a couple? What are some things you like to do together? What are some memorable trips you’ve taken together, and in particular, what moment or scene stands out?

Choosing to elope is an intimate and personal experience, so the tone of the event should come naturally from the core of your relationship. Are you adventurous and outgoing? Do you prefer romantic nights at home spent connecting? Are you a power couple that is enticed by the glamour of a city lifestyle? Do you prioritize family and building a home? Are you often having more fun than everyone in the room, sharing inside jokes and entire conversations with just a look? All of these components are evocative of a theme that can be conveyed by your officiant, captured by your photographer, and will play out like a movie within the elopement location you choose.

 

Have a Back-Up Plan

Yes, as your vendor team, we know of all of the spots in Central Park that have coverage in case of rain, like Cop Cot or the Ladies Pavilion. Yes, we’ll promise you a “flexible” schedule for the day that allows us to dodge potential showers while capturing those moments with ideal light. Yes, we have those pretty, clear umbrellas and will bring them after checking the forecast. Yes, we’re connected with micro-venues all over the city to secure, just in case. Yes, we’ve asked construction workers and groundskeepers to please pause for a 15-minute ceremony, and they somehow always listen. We’ve cleared crowds, we’ve secured permits, and we’ll continue to take care of the unpredictable. Your backup plan is your duo of experienced vendors who will anticipate any situation that may arise. Just trust that we’ve got you covered, no matter what.

New York City Elopement Locations

Elopement Locations | NYC

Ladies Pavilion

The Ladies Pavilion in Central Park is the perfect spot for a romantic elopement ceremony. With its charming Victorian design and picturesque location overlooking the serene waters of the lake, this pavilion exudes an air of timeless elegance and intimacy. The soft sound of the water lapping at the shore and the gentle rustling of the leaves in the trees create an atmosphere that is serene and romantic and ideal for exchanging heartfelt vows. The greenery surrounding the pavilion provides a beautiful backdrop for photography before and after the elopement.

Elopement Locations | NYC

Cop Cot

Cop Cot in Central Park is a stunning location for your elopement ceremony– imagine panoramic views of the city and a peaceful ambiance. Perched atop a small hill, the wooden pavilion provides an clear view of the iconic New York City skyline, an iconic backdrop for couples who want to tie the knot amidst the city’s charm. The serene surroundings and tranquil atmosphere of the pavilion provide a sense of privacy and intimacy that is perfect for a more tucked away elopement ceremony. The rustic charm of the pavilion adds to the romance and creates a cozy and inviting atmosphere, perfect for a heartfelt exchange of vows. The stunning views and natural beauty of Cop Cot make it an great location for couples who want to a balance of city and nature.

Elopement Locations | NYC

Four Freedoms Park

Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island is an untapped location for an elopement ceremony. The park has incredible views of the Manhattan skyline and the East River. The park’s design, featuring a long narrow plaza and a monumental staircase leading to a grand open space, creates a picturesque setting if you are looking for privacy and intimacy. The park’s location on Roosevelt Island, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, provides a sense of tranquility and seclusion, making it a perfect spot for couples seeking an escape from Manhattan’s energy. It’s immediate connection to the water allows for a beautiful backdrop for photos and adds to the overall ambiance of the ceremony.

Elopement Locations | NYC

Billings Mansion

Billings Mansion, located in Manhattan’s Upper East Side in Fort Tryon Park, could be perfect for your elopement. The location is within the heart of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, nestled within the beautiful Fort Tryon Park. The mansion’s picturesque archway is a breathtaking sight, making it a popular spot for couples to capture their special moments through photography. The archway, in particular, is a focal point that draws visitors in and provides an excellent backdrop for wedding photos, as the natural light filters through the archway, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Elopement Locations | NYC

Gary’s Loft

Gary’s Loft is a unique and versatile venue located in the heart of New York City’s Fashion District, and it is an ideal location for an unforgettable elopement. This elegant and modern space boasts an industrial-chic aesthetic, featuring brick walls, exposed beams, and large windows that flood the venue with natural light.

One of the highlights of Gary’s Loft is the stunning rooftop, which offers breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline. The rooftop is a perfect setting for a romantic elopement ceremony or an intimate reception, with its charming ambiance and picturesque backdrop and loft’s open floor plan allows for a customizable and stylish layout.

Elopement Locations | NYC

Prospect Park Boathouse Dock

The Boathouse dock at Prospect Park boasts a charming waterfront setting, complete with a stunning lake and picturesque views of the park’s lush greenery. The venue’s classic architecture features a grand staircase, large windows, and an outdoor terrace, all of which provide the perfect backdrop for your elopement ceremony or reception. Because you are in the middle of Prospect Park, there ar ea variety of photo opportunities in the area. The boathouse’s classic atmosphere, combined with the park’s natural beauty, creates a truly magical setting for an intimate elopement.

NYC Elopement in Four Freedoms Park in Roosevelt Island New York

Featured Vendors for your NYC Elopement

NYC Wedding Officiant | Liz Norment

Have Lover Will Travel

Whether you’re seeking a unique and personalized wedding ceremony, or a tailor-made travel itinerary for your dream honeymoon, Have Lover, Will Travel offers a seamless and unforgettable experience for couples who want to celebrate their love in style. Liz Norment is a writer and traveler at heart and is a licensed New York State wedding officiant.

NYC Wedding Dress | Justin Alexander

Justin Alexander

Beautiful, classic and elegant wedding dresses and gowns are the specialty of New York based Justin Alexander. Originally based in Brooklyn, New York, the designer is known for its vintage inspiration paired with progressive details. With a focus on sustainability and ethical production practices, Justin Alexander strives to make a positive impact on the fashion industry and the world at large. Justin Alexander has won design awards worldwide and is renowned for their intricacy in modern meets classic design.

NYC Wedding Attire | Bindle and Keep

Bindle and Keep

Bindle and Keep is a bespoke suiting company based in New York City. Founded in 2011, the company specializes in creating made-to-measure suits for all body types and gender identities. They are a company with an established approach that is inclusive and welcoming, ensuring that every client feels comfortable and confident throughout the fitting process.

NYC Florist | Ahna Hughes

Dear Bayard

Ahna and her team at Dearbayard are highly regarded in the wedding industry for their outstanding creativity and attention to detail when it comes to floral arrangements. They design and create stunning natural pieces as well as more imaginative and whimsical designs, which have become a reference for florists in the region.

Wedding Dress by Justin Alexander in Central Park NYC

About the dress.

This dress comes courtesy of Justin Alexander, a dress design studio in New York City specializing in modern and timeless with a sustainable approach to fashion.

Taking the next step

You’ve read the guide and you’re ready to take the next step in planning.

Let’s talk about photography.