A photographer's top 10 tips for the perfect NYC City Hall elopement
Have you ever wondered what an NYC city hall elopement is *really* like? Well, today’s your lucky day because New York City photographer Sylvie Rosokoff is showing us how it’s done. Spoiler alert: it’s ridiculously adorable, and makes for some pretty great photos. Find her NYC city hall elopement tips as you peruse this laidback, colorful, ceremony at Manhattan’s Marriage Bureau.
Take time to think about why you’re eloping and what’s most important to you. Do you want to keep it tiny and explore the city with your partner once you’re married, or have a small ceremony and then celebrate later with friends and family? There’s no one way to do it!
Cakes for elopements? Yes please. Cake Hero designed this beauty.
Gorgeous hot pink blooms by East Olivia.
1. Hire a photographer who has experience shooting at city hall! It helps to have someone shooting your elopement who’s familiar with the preparation, the process, the waiting (and can explain the process to your guests while we all wait) and the best photo spots to match what you want the day to be.
Cutest shoes ever! They’re by Samantha Pleet.
2. Other vendors aren’t just for large weddings. Consider hiring an NYC florist to make you an elevated city hall bouquet (some will even deliver them to you at the marriage bureau!); a baker to make you a mini wedding cake perfectly suited to your tastes and style; hair and makeup artists to pamper you the morning of; a designer for personalized love notes and place cards for a post-city hall luncheon. Or come up with something new together, like “elopement cards” that give you a spot to record to-do items and hold keepsakes.
3. Consider staying in a hotel the night before to make the experience feel more special (even if you’re local and/or plan to take the subway to your wedding). Bonus: you can get an early wake-up call to guarantee you’ll make it there first thing in the morning, when the crowds tend to be lighter.
4. Scope it out. You’ll need to get your marriage license at least 24 hours (but no more than 60 days) before getting married at city hall. Take advantage of being there to people-watch and browse the extremely NYC-themed gift shop while you wait.
5. Pack light. There isn’t really anywhere to store stuff at the marriage bureau, and you’ll be on the move taking photos afterwards, so either ask a few guests in advance if they can hold coats, paperwork, etc., or try to fit everything into one tote or other bag you or your photographer can keep track of easily.
6. Bring your favorite people! But I recommend keeping the guest count to 20 or fewer; the waiting areas and chapels have limited space and there’s a lot of moving around as a group. If you do have a large group of guests and a professional photographer, consider asking your guests to make it an “unplugged” wedding and keep their phones out of the way, and out of your photographer’s shots.
7. Embrace the chaos. There’s no way to guarantee wait time, which of the two chapels (decorated differently) you’ll get, how many other couples will be there (and will end up in your photos) or if it’ll rain. The not knowing is a lot of the fun of getting married at city hall, so once you’ve planned out the day, try to just let it all wash over you. (And bring a clear umbrella if it rains, for photos!)
8. Leave the vows at home. The ceremony will last around one minute if you exchange rings—even shorter if you don’t—and you won’t have the opportunity to say personal vows. Think about writing love notes to each other instead and reading them in the morning, or when you get home afterwards. This is also a great photo opportunity!
9. Work with your photographer to put together an itinerary for photos after city hall. Think about spots that are meaningful to you—maybe that’s where you met for your first date, your favorite pizza place, the corner where you had your first kiss—or locations that represent what you love about New York and why you’ve chosen to get married there. Don’t be afraid of seemingly un-photogenic places, like the subway, or busy streets, or hot dog carts. Your photographer will know what looks great, so brainstorm together!
10. Throw your own after party! If it’s just the two of you, stop at a cozy restaurant to decompress over lunch or dinner afterwards, or enjoy cake and champagne in bed. If you want to celebrate with friends and family, consider renting out a bar or private dining room for the perfect mini reception.
Thanks to Sylvie Rosokoff for telling us how to elope at city hall (and for all the rad photos!)
Photography: Sylvie Rosokoff / Hotel: Gramercy Park Hotel NYC / Dress & Earrings: Happy Isles Salon / Makeup: Jane Meng / Hair Stylist (Bride): Bianca Bruno / Flowers: East Olivia / Paper Goods: Goods Gang / Cake: Cake Hero / Manicure: Christina Quercia / Shoes: Samantha Pleet