How to Get Married in New York City: A Complete Guide

To get married in NYC, you’ll first need a marriage license. Curious what else goes into planning a wedding in New York? Our guide covers everything you need to know, from venues to COVID-19 restrictions and more.

How to Get Married in New York City
Photo by Zola

Dreaming of exchanging your vows in New York City? This romantic and energetic metropolis offers luxurious event spaces and high-rise views, with wedding vendors for every taste and style.

Hosting an event in NYC also means you’ll have access to all the city has to offer, from world-renowned restaurants to cultural sites, trendy nightlife options, and more. There are tons of other benefits, too, like affordable public transportation that makes getting around a breeze for you and your wedding guests.

All types of love are welcome in The Big Apple: Same-sex couples will find an inclusive community when planning nuptials here. We work with tons of vendors eager to help make everyone’s dream wedding day come true.

Our guide covers how to get married in NYC, from securing your wedding license to the wedding guest guide and much more. We also discuss COVID-19 restrictions and what that means for planning your New York City wedding.

Use our jump-to links below to navigate to a specific section of interest:

Where to Get Married in NYC

new-york-city-guide You’re getting married in one of the most famous cities in the world, and there are tons of gorgeous venues you can make an entrance in. So how do you choose just one?

Our pre-screened wedding venues in NYC helps you find the ceremony and reception sight of your dreams (and budget). Our database has 118 New York City venues and counting, and you can sort by availability, price, capacity, venue type, and more. The city has spaces for every style, from glamorous hotels to trendy lofts and whimsical gardens. Here are popular venue types in New York City:

  • Museums and galleries: Perfect for the creative couple, museum and gallery weddings offer a sophisticated and curated space to exchange I Do’s. While less traditional than other venue types, museums and galleries fit perfectly with the cosmopolitan reputation New York garners. After all, wedding decor may include renowned works of art, ancient relics, or even dinosaur bones.
  • Rooftop and terraces: The city is also home to many chic terrace and rooftop venues, offering spectacular skyrise views and industrial charm. Open air and privacy are two huge benefits of this venue type, and it’s a popular choice for couples looking to modernize their wedding day.
  • Hotels: If you’re planning a large wedding with lots of out-of-town guests, hotel venues make logistical planning easier as guests can stay onsite. In the city, there are hotels for every taste — many oozing in glitz, glamour, and decadence. There are typically multiple ballrooms and event spaces throughout a hotel to choose from, giving you more flexibility for both the rehearsal dinner and day-of celebrations.
  • Garden wedding sites: The concrete jungle is surprisingly full of green spaces and gorgeous gardens where you can tie the knot. You’ll exchange vows surrounded by natural beauty and outdoor scenery — this means you’ll need less decoration to create a beautiful ambiance. Outdoor garden weddings are also more COVID-friendly than other venue types in the city, although rain and other weather can play a big factor on your wedding day.
  • Waterfront venues: Love the sea breeze? Opt for a view of the Hudson River or Harbor for your venue site. There are plenty of event halls, boathouses, restaurants, and more venue options to choose from along NYC’s waterfront.

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How to Obtain an NYC Wedding License

COVID-19 Update: All offices of the City Clerk - NYC Marriage Bureau are closed to the general public until further notice. You must obtain your marriage license online through Project Cupid and marriage ceremonies must continue to be arranged through private marriage officiants.

If you want to get legally wed in the city, you’ll first need to obtain an NYC wedding license. Luckily, this process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes online. Here’s what to know:

  • Prepare your paperwork: You’ll need proper identification (such as a driver’s license, passport, or resident card). All divorces, annulments, and dissolutions must be finalized before you submit your application — be prepared to provide a final divorce decree or a death certificate of your deceased spouse.
  • Fill out an online application: Next, it’s time to fill out your online application. You’ll need to submit personal information such as your and your spouse’s address, birthplace, social security number, and more.
  • Pay a marriage license fee: It costs $35 to get your marriage license in the state of New York, and you can pay online or by money order. Make money orders out to NYC City Clerk.
  • Review your application with the City Clerk: This step used to be done in person, but due to closures from COVID-19, you will now review your marriage application online with a member of the City Clerk.
  • Get married within the designated time frame: In New York, you’re required to wait 24 hours from when you obtain your wedding license to when you wed. You have up to 60 days to exchange I Do’s from the time you obtain your license until it expires. Activity military personnel have 180 days to wed.
  • Upload your signed marriage license: After your marriage ceremony, upload your signed marriage license on Project Cupid to make it official.

NYC City Hall Wedding

Getting married at City Hall is the quickest way to receive your marriage certificate (you’ll get it right after you say your I Do’s!). Once you’ve reviewed your application with the City Clerk, you can exchange vows at City Hall in a beautiful and intimate ceremony.

Due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the NYC Marriage Bureau is closed to the public. If you have your heart set on this particular ceremony site, you’ll likely have to delay your nuptials until the pandemic has ended.

Do I Need a New York Wedding License?

If you intend to get legally married in New York City, you must obtain a Marriage License from the Office of the City Clerk. Currently, all Marriage Licenses are being processed online.

Where to Get Your Marriage License

Currently, Marriage Licenses for New York are exclusively available on Project Cupid. This online system launched in May of 2019 to circumvent closures of marriage bureaus due to COVID-19.

Can I Get Married the Same Day in NYC?

Once you obtain a marriage license in New York, there is a 24 hour waiting period before your marriage ceremony can take place. You cannot get married on the same day in NYC unless you obtain a Judicial Waiver.

NYC Wedding Trends

new-york-city-guide-2 New York City is a melting pot, and so are the wedding celebrations held here. Whether you want to host a formal event full of old-world glamour or a modern minimalist ceremony and reception with industrial-chic touches, you’ll be able to create your dream wedding day within the five boroughs.

In 2021, wedding planning will require patience and gratitude due to COVID-19. There’s also a big focus on sustainability, statement florals, and unique tablescapes. Read more of our 2021 wedding trend predictions here.

Average Cost of a Wedding in NYC

Getting married in a big city is more costly than hosting a ceremony and reception in a rural area — everything from the venue to the catering will run at a higher price tag. In the city that never sleeps, this is especially true. New York City is the most expensive city in the U.S. to get married. The average wedding cost in NYC is of $78,600, well above the national average of $34,000. We calculated this average cost of a wedding with 100 guests using real-time data from our NYC vendors.

Check out a cost breakdown in the chart below:

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For weddings, the venue is typically the most expensive vendor and costs vary widely. Guestlist size, location, season, and style also play a major role in wedding cost. Since New York plays host to many timeless and lavish venues, it’s not surprising that vendors here are more expensive and competitive than other cities in the U.S.

Find Your Wedding Vendors at Zola, All Pre-Screened for You

Best Times of Year for Weddings in New York

new-york-city-guide-3 Choosing what season to host your wedding in will play a role in other big decisions you make around your day, such as your ceremony site and wedding style. Here are some considerations when choosing a wedding month in New York City.

Fall: September, October, November

If you’re dreaming of incorporating crisp, cool air and changing leaves into your wedding details then a fall wedding in NYC is for you — but you’re not alone. This is the most popular time of year for weddings in the city, so keep in mind that vendor availability will be competitive and prices will run higher.

As you get later into fall, winter weather can become an issue for outdoor venues and travel. November wedding dates are best booked earlier in the month to avoid early onslaughts of snow and ice, plus you’ll avoid the holiday rush.

Spring: March, April, May

Start your new life together during the season of rebirth. Springtime brings longer days, blooming flowers, and warmer weather to the Island of Manhattan. Traditionally, flights and accommodations are more affordable this time of year.

If you host your event in April, the cherry blossoms will be in peak bloom, providing a dreamy backdrop for wedding photos. It’s also a great time of year for garden weddings and other outdoor spaces throughout the city.

Summer: June, July, August

Summertime in the city is a great time to take the reception indoors, where AC can make humidity and heatwaves more bearable. In the dead heat of summer, temperatures can run 100+, so even an outdoor ceremony on the waterfront may feel unbearable come July or August. If you are dreaming of a bold color palette and energetic summer nights, try to book earlier into the season if possible.

Winter: December, January, February

Looking to save on costs and cut down on competition? Winter may be your best bet for a wedding in New York — although the weeks leading up to Christmas are notably costly for travel. Holiday decorations transform the city into a winter village with iconic sites such as the Rockefeller Tree, providing dreamy backdrops for photos. Your wedding guests will also have plenty of festive activities to take part in, such as trying their hands (and feet) at ice skating while hundreds of onlookers watch on. Keep in mind that indoor venues this season are a safer bet due to inclement winter weather, but are currently more restrictive due to COVID-19. new-york-city-guide-chart-2

Busiest Times in New York City

We’ll be honest: It’s hard to find a quiet weekend in the city. But you’ll still want to pay attention to the calendar when selecting your wedding dates, especially if you want to avoid sky high hotel prices and even more hustle and bustle.

Here are key events held annually that bring more foot traffic to the Big Apple:

  • The New York Fashion Week (September and February)
  • St. Patrick's Day Parade (March 17)
  • Tribeca Film Festival (April)
  • NYC Pride (June)
  • Museum Mile Festival (June)
  • U.S. Open (August through September)
  • New York City Marathon (November)
  • Thanksgiving-New Year Holiday Season (November through December)

NYC Weddings and COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic is an ever-evolving situation impacting weddings around the world. New York State has imposed various restrictions on wedding activities to help slow the spread of the virus. Indoor dining services, for example, are currently prohibited for all gatherings, including weddings. There’s also a maximum guest limit for all ceremonies of 50 people or less, and indoor ceremony venues must be at 50% occupancy.

If your perfect day can be created within current restrictions, you can start planning right away. A longer engagement may work better for couples envisioning a bigger celebration or indoor dining options.

Real NYC Weddings

Ready for some real wedding inspiration? Check out these Zola couple celebrations from in and around NYC.

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Greenery-filled Loft Wedding

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Modern Fall Elopement

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Classic Glam Celebration

Looking for more real wedding inspiration? Head over to Zola's Real Weddings gallery.

Best Spots for Wedding Photos in NYC

NYC has plenty of dreamy urban landscapes and awe-inspiring architecture to capture in your wedding photos. Here are some notable spots for wedding photographs in and around the city:

LGBTQIA Marriages in New York

new-york-city-guide-4 Gay marriages in New York City are special celebrations. The metropolis is home to one of the world’s largest LGBTQIA populations in the world and many landmarks of gay history, such as The Stonewall Inn and The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.

The state has recognized same-sex marriage equality since 2011 when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Marriage Equality Act. This law provides same-sex couples the same rights, responsibilities, and benefits under State and local law enjoyed by opposite-sex couples.

How to Find Local Vendors

Now that you’ve decided on New York City as your wedding location, it’s time to check other important wedding to-dos off your list. Choosing a wedding date and venue are essential next steps so you can start reaching out to other wedding-planning professionals. Vendors in the city are in high demand so the earlier you start planning, the better.

Here’s a list of local vendors you’ll need to plan your perfect day. You can sort each category by price, venue style, wedding theme, and more:

In addition to vendor decisions, there’s also the guest experience to consider when planning a wedding in the city. Our section below features helpful information for travelers and a list of can’t-miss attractions. Link it on your wedding website so guests have easy access to all the information they need.

NYC Wedding Guest Guide

If you’ve been invited to a wedding in New York City, there’s a lot to do before you arrive. To get the most out of your trip, carefully plan out logistical details ahead of time so you can have more time to celebrate with loved ones and explore the city that never sleeps.

We’ve got you covered with tips on how to get here, where to stay, and what to do.

How to Get to New York City

new-york-city-guide-5 New York City welcomed 65.2 million visitors in 2019. With so many travelers coming in and out of the city, there are a ton of ways to get here and the best option depends on where you’re traveling from.

  1. Getting here by plane: There are four main NYC-airports to fly into. Upon arrival, travelers can take advantage of the area’s public transportation to get into the city or surrounding areas or call a taxi or ride-share service.
  1. Getting here by train: Train rides tend to run cheaper than airline tickets and can be a relaxing way to travel into the city. If you live in a surrounding state, this could be a great option, and there are even cross-country train options if you’re open to longer travel times.
  1. Getting here by bus: Taking a bus to the city can be one of the most affordable ways to travel, and there are a number of active bus stations for dropoff. Popular and convenient bus lines include Megabus, Greyhound, Concord, and BoltBus.
  2. Getting here by car: Thinking of driving? While parking can be tough and expensive in the city, apps like SpotHero are helping make it easier to locate available spots.
  3. Traveling around the city: Once you’re in the city, you can get to anywhere on the island via the subway. The city is also very walkable, and there’s a taxi on every corner if your feet get tired.

Best Neighborhoods for Out-of-Town Guests

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Now that you’ve figured out how to get here, it’s time to book a place to stay. Many areas of the city are walkable and the subway makes traveling to sites easy, so there are plenty of different neighborhood options to get the most out of your trip.

New York City is home to five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. Manhattan is the best for sightseeing since most of the city’s attractions are here. Other boroughs tend to offer cheaper stay options but with a longer commute factored in.

Here are our top recommendations for neighborhoods in New York City:

Midtown: If you book a hotel in Midtown, you’ll be within walking distance to Times Square, Rockefeller Center, the MoMa museum, and more. This is a great option if you’re looking for a true tourist experience in New York City, full of bright lights and other travelers.

Chelsea & Greenwich Village: If you’re interested in a more authentic city experience, head to the curvy neighborhoods of Chelsea or Greenwich Village on the west side of the island. You’ll find great local restaurants and hangouts, beautiful city streets, parks buzzing with live musicians, and boutique hotel options here. You’re also just a short subway ride away from notable sights in the South end of the island.

SoHo & Lower East Side: These young and funky districts are the perfect place for travelers looking for nightlife options during their stay. There are tons of bars, restaurants, and independent stores in both neighborhoods. Stop by the Orchard Street Sunday Market to haggle with locals as you peruse unique finds. You’ll also be close to Chinatown and Lower Manhattan.

Upper East Side: Further north, you’ll find the luxurious neighborhood of the Upper East Side. Here, you’ll find quieter streets, boutique shopping, and plenty of museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, making it a great stay option for couples and families.

Brooklyn: Across the Brooklyn Bridge you’ll find cheaper hotel fares and an eclectic flair. Brooklyn is great for creatives and travelers on a budget, and despite not being located on the island of Manhattan, it’s only 3 subway stops away from all that New York has to offer, plus it has its own bar and restaurant districts to explore.

10 Fun Things to Do in NYC

new-york-city-guide-7 If you’re in town for a wedding, you’ll want to take advantage of any free time to get out and explore the concrete jungle — bonus points if you can book an extra day or two to spend sightseeing. Here are 10 of the top attractions to see:

  1. Walk the High Line: Take a stroll through this gorgeous public greenway during your trip. The High Line is a park built on a historic, elevated rail line and is home to gardens, public art displays, free performances, and more.
  2. Cruise to the Statue of Liberty: Take in sights of Lady Liberty from The New York Harbor on a relaxing yacht cruise. You’ll get within 100 feet of The Statue of Liberty on this short one-hour excursion.
  3. View masterpieces at the MoMA: Ever heard of a little painting called Starry Night? The Metropolitan Museum of Art is home to this and other world-famous art pieces by artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Warhol and more.
  4. Go to a Yankees Game: If baseball is in season, head on over to Yankees Stadium to catch a ball game. You can ride the subway to the stadium to enjoy an afternoon or evening of great food and sports. If you’re interested in learning about the team’s history, stop by The Yankee Stadium Museum onsite.
  5. Visit the Friends’ apartment in Greenwich Village: Still watching Friends reruns? Head to Greenwich Village to see the iconic tan building on Bedford Street. This entire neighborhood is fun for exploring, and also a popular area for celebrity sightings.
  6. Grab lunch at Chelsea Market: If you’re hungry, head over to the Meatpacking district for a bite at this iconic market. The culinary destination is considered one of the top foodie marketplaces in the world today. You’ll find food and beverage options for every taste, so it’s great for group dining.
  7. Go to the Top of the Rock: For the best skyline views in the city, head to the observation deck at Rockefeller Center. You’ll get 360-degree views of the city from 70 stories up for as low as $32. We recommend a trip during sunset for the dreamiest views.
  8. Catch a Broadway Show: If you want to get a taste of New York theatre, catch a Broadway show while you’re in town. There are performances throughout the day, and while tickets are notoriously pricey, there are some ways to score a cheaper entrance. Don’t have time for a show? Stop at Ellen’s Stardust Diner to be serenaded by the up-and-coming Broadway stars on the waitstaff.
  9. Bike the Brooklyn Bridge: If you have a few hours to spare, head on over to Brooklyn via the Brooklyn Bridge. This architectural feat offers great views and a 40-minute walk to one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods. It can get busy so if you’re trying to avoid crowds, head over to the Williamsburg Bridge for similar views.
  10. Stroll through Central Park: No visit to New York City is complete without a stop in Central Park. The park covers 843 acres, and there’s a lot to see and do while you’re there such as The Central Park Zoo, Strawberry Fields memorial, and the Loeb Boathouse. It takes 6 to 10 hours to walk the entire park, so if you want to enjoy all the sights on a speedier timeline, look into bike and carriage tours.

Now that you and your guests have everything you need to plan the perfect New York wedding weekend, it’s time to get to work. Zola is here to help every step of the way, with more Expert Advice, plus free tools to simplify and streamline every step of the process.

If you’re planning your New York City wedding from afar, check out our ultimate destination wedding checklist for more tips.

Sources: NYCGo | Trip Advisor

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Find Your Wedding Vendors at Zola, All Pre-Screened for You