My "Field Trip" to City Hall...

Ceremony & Vows, NY, NJ and CT, Real Weddings, Wedding Style & Decor

Photo: Tom Corbett for BRIDES Magazine

Every wedding is different. In 2003, my cousin Jackson tied the knot at Excalibur in Vegas; the ceremony was presided over by a duly appointed justice of the peace dressed up as...Merlin. Contrasted with such ludicrousness is the surprising sublimity of my "field trip" to New York's City Hall yesterday for the wedding of a friend.

It's been ungodly hot in the Big Apple of late, so you'd expect New York's civil servants and citizens alike to be on edge as my friend and the bride meandered through the bureaucracy of the City Clerk's Office, but actually no. The bride and groom—plus a dozen relatives and close friends—glided effortlessly from station to station to fill out the necessary paperwork and sign their marriage license. But for the fact that our little group was gussied up for the occasion (and sweating our various "you know what"'s off), it might have been difficult to discern that this was in fact a wedding and not, say, your typical sojourn to the DMV.

There's more!

Then we waited outside two wedding "chapels"'—basically a room with a podium and a couch—in a queue along with several other brides and grooms and their respective entourages. Some, like us, dressed to the nines, others dressed to the ones in shorts and tee's. When our "number" was finally called ("Now serving C834!") we were met by a tiny JP, an older woman with short, gray hair and a thick New Yawk accent. She explained to the groom that the license certificate didn't get stamped in the right place by the right bureaucrat. Once that was cleared up, off we went into the chapel itself. Behind a glass case I saw a large open book displaying New York couples' marriage registries going all the way back to the 1940s.

The officiant had the witnesses stand behind the podium to snap photos as the couple exchanged vows. The groom gave the bride a "temporary ring" as I quipped out loud a line from Lord of the Rings, "One ring to rule them all" (there's one in every group, man!). A long kiss followed, to the applause of all.

Actual marriage ceremony runtime: 90 seconds. Next, we enjoyed a group lunch—hosted by the groom's parents—at Pongsri Thai Restaurant on nearby Bayard Street. And then back to the office I went.

Interesting side note: Leaving City Hall for the couple's "first lunch," the father of the groom and the solitary security guard manning the front door were chatting about this Sunday, July 21, the first day same-sex couples can legally marry in the state of New York. The day promises to be epic; apparently couples need to put their names into a lottery to actually say "I do" on this historic occasion. Our JP down at City Hall may have to trim down her spiel to 60 seconds. Personally, I hope she shows up in a Merlin costume.—Eric Althoff, Copy Editor

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