New York City Elopement Photography
New York City is one of the greatest places in the world to elope, with lots of options for places to have your ceremony and take photos after - and lots of places for champagne and world-class dinners, too.
I have been photographing New York City elopements since 2011, for couples both locally and around the world who want an intimate, luxurious experience. These include City Hall weddings, Central Park elopements, tiny ceremonies in Brooklyn, using the iconic skyline as a backdrop, and in lots of parks, hotels, and gardens around the City.
This UK-based couple eloped on a gorgeous autumn day in the West Village.
A confetti exit out of the Marriage Bureau after their wedding ceremony. Water soluble confetti won’t pollute!
NYC Elopement Packages
Usually 3 - 4 hours
Collections ranging from 1 - 6 hours
You can add a wedding album to your collection; most couples do!
Amber as your photographer.
Assistance with timelines and logistics, especially helpful if you’re eloping from abroad.
Your complete collection of edited photos at high resolution, and a full print release.
A digital download where you can view your images and order prints through me.
Free worldwide shipping on your elopement album if you chose to get one.
A witness if you need one… and a hug if you need one!
What counts as an elopement?
This is such a fun question. Back in our grandparents day, “eloping” meant running off to get married, usually last-minute, and often with quite a bit of disapproval from parents (and maybe a baby on the way. Scandal!)
Now they can be planned just like a wedding, sometimes a year or more in advance, with thoughtful details like professional florals, hair and makeup, a vintage cab as your transportation, or a fully curated sit down dinner for ten.
As defined my my studio, an elopement is an intimate wedding that has anywhere from zero to “a small handful” of guests. Usually they take place during the week, but I do occasionally take them on Saturdays or Sundays.
Central Park at sunrise is one of the best times for wedding photos. You have it all to yourself.
Washington Square Park is a great backdrop for winter elopement photos.
What is elopement photography?
A “Marlow elopement” is photographed like a larger wedding - because it is still a wedding! Usually, this means I start photography at your hotel or apartment towards the end of hair and makeup, and we include the traditional mix of candids, portraits of the couple and family, and editorial shots, like photos of your rings, shoes, and flowers. (I offer mini session elopements that start at one hour, too. In this case, I’ll usually meet you right where you’re getting married.)
You can book me up to a year or more in advance, but don’t worry if it does end up being more spontaneous. A few times a year, I get an email that says, “We’re getting married Thursday, can you be there?” and if I’m free, I’m in!
This is New York City, after all. Magic can happen in a very small amount of time.
How do you get a marriage license in NYC?
Get a marriage license at the marriage bureau, wait at least 24 hours, and then head back there and get married. You’ll need at least one one witness. That can be me (I don’t charge for this.)
You’ll need to head to the City Clerk’s Office, which is open 8:30 - 3:45 Monday - Friday, except on federal holidays.
Pro tip: Tuesdays are the best day to go, as they tend to be less crowded, unless it’s a small, silly American holiday (like Groundhog Day or Valentines Day) or the date is doing something fun and quirky that a lot of people will want as an anniversary: I predict Tuesday, 22 February 2022 will be be a madhouse!
You’ll get a number, and then you’ll wait. Make sure you have plenty of time. I recommend at least 90 minutes, as you aren’t able to make an appointment. Each of you will need to present a form of government issued ID (passports are a good bet), and pay a fee for your license, which is $35.
When you receive your license, it will be dated and notated with the exact time you received it. From that point, you’ll need to wait exactly 24 hours before your ceremony, unless you receive a judicial waiver. It will be good for sixty days.
This London-based couple eloped with their families at the Ladies Pavilion in Central Park.
Saying “I do” at City Hall in Manhattan is a super fast, low fuss ceremony.
How do you get married at City Hall in Manhattan?
After following the process above, head back to City Hall for your ceremony at least 24 hours later. You’ll receive a new number, and wait to be called to one of the smaller windows, where you will fill out paperwork, pay $25 for your ceremony, and have your witness or witnesses fill our their name, address, and sign. (You can have at least one, and up to two witnesses, and they both need to be at least 18 with a valid ID.)
After this, you’ll wait a bit more, then be called to desk number 5. This is the big orange desk in the middle of the smaller booths. From there, you’ll be ushered behind that desk into a smaller waiting area with one of two chapels.
Everyone is allowed to come in with you! Once you close the door behind you, the ceremony begins. This is a private ceremony, and lasts about 90 seconds. No typo! You’re in, you’re married, you’re out, and it’s a beautiful blur.
What elopement options are there outside of City Hall?
You do NOT have to get married at the Marriage Bureau after getting your license there - you can get married just about anywhere in the City! The benefit to this is that you’re able to have a custom, personal ceremony that is a little bit longer.
As for options… the limit does not exist. There are so many creative, interesting, beautiful, quirky, raw, breathtaking places to have an elopement in New York, and part of having me photograph your elopement is that I’ll help you dream of a location that’s perfect for your personalities as a couple.
Central Park weddings are always popular, but there are other parks, too, like Brooklyn Bridge Park, Washington Square Park (one of my faves, and where my husband and I got engaged) the rooftop of your hotel, or on the Brooklyn Bridge (although I only recommend having your actual ceremony there early in the morning).
You’ll have to hire an officiant (sometimes called a celebrant), which is a person who can perform your ceremony and legally marry you. I have a great list of them to recommend.
This fun-loving couple got married at Bethesda Terrace and Fountain in Central Park.
What is a better elopement plan? City Hall, or eloping in Central Park / our hotel / elsewhere?
This comes down to personal preference. I wrote a blog post called NYC Elopements at City Hall vs. Everywhere Else: A pros and cons list to help you decide.
Getting married under the vintage wisteria in Central Park’s Conservatory Garden was worth the permit for this couple.
Do we need a permit to get married in a certain spot?
Sometimes… but probably not.
There are a small number of places in the City where you’ll need a permit. There’s a section of Central Park, right at the top, called the Conservatory Garden. It is stunning, and requires a very expensive permit to have your ceremony there, and a moderately expensive permit to have photos taken there. The park workers are friendly, but firm about checking for them.
Grand Central Terminal wedding ceremonies require a permit, but I’ve never had a couple be approached to see it. The Parks Department will issue you a permit for the Ladies Pavilion to have your ceremony for about $25, but this is only to guarantee you the space - it’s usually empty, and if it’s not, whoever is sitting in there will cheerfully clear out of there so you can get married.
You always need a permit if you have any public gathering in NYC over 20 people.
Outside of this, no. If it’s just us, or us and a few family members, and your elopement is in a public park, there’s no need. You’re responsible for getting permits yourself, and while I don’t have all the answers, I’ve been photographing elopements for so long, I can usually point you in the right direction off the top of my head.
Are there any special considerations, steps, or permits for same-sex couples?
Same-sex weddings are treated exactly like all other weddings in the eyes of the law here, and there’s no extra paperwork.
There’s one consideration: if we have two brides who both want getting ready coverage and are not getting ready together, we should allow a bit of extra time.
All my contracts are gender-neutral, I respect gender expressions and pronouns, and so does everyone working for me. Nothing but love.
Married by Marley performs the ceremony of two gorgeous brides in an elopement in Brooklyn.
Can you help me find other vendors?
Yes! If you need a florist to create bouquets or boutonnières, professional hair and makeup (or just a great blowout), a limo or vintage taxi cab to drive you around in style, a posh hotel room to get ready in, or even a planner to pull it all together stress free, I got you.
You may also choose to hire an officiant to marry you instead of having a City Hall ceremony. Everyone on my list are folks I’ve worked with in the past (usually several times before) and, of course, all of them are LGBTQ friendly.
FLWR created this wild spring bridal bouquet.
What tips to do have for eloping couples?
Wear comfortable shoes.
This is a walking town. You can bring your stilettos in a tote bag.
Your day will be so much better - taking photos is hungry work! That said, we can totally stop for snacks.
It takes longer than you think.
New Yorkers don’t measure distances in miles or kilometers, we measure them in time between two points. That’s because traffic can be mind bogglingly horrific, and a 40 block ride in a taxi can take over an hour.
Elopements in Grand Central Terminal can be stunning - just avoid rush hour.
Regarding horse-drawn carriages in Central Park
Due to the less-than-stellar conditions the horses are kept in, and the fact busy Manhattan streets and horses don’t mix, I (along with many other New Yorkers) believe they should be banned. Until they are, I decline taking photos of couples in or by these carriages; supporting this practice with my art is something I can’t do.
You should jump in a pedicab instead. The guys who drive them are fun, and the seats are tiny and perfect for snuggling.