As much as we love a lavish blowout, there's something very chic and modern about having a City Hall wedding, followed by an intimate celebration. Need evidence? It's how the ultimate New York girl, Carrie Bradshaw, decided to wed her longtime love. For brides who are looking to follow her lead, we've compiled a stylish how-to guide on how to have the perfect New York City Hall wedding.
1. Get your marriage license first, and then go back for the ceremony.
N.Y.C. requires that couples must wait 24 hours after they obtain their marriage license before getting married. No appointments are accepted so marriage ceremonies are performed on a first-come-first-served basis during regular business hours (Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. in Manhattan). The fee to obtain the marriage license is $35 and the fee for the marriage ceremony is $25.
2. Bring a friend or two, but not too many.
The marriage ceremony at City Hall requires the presence of at least one witness who is over 18 years of age. "However, don't bring a huge crowd with you," says wedding planner Ashley Douglass. "There will already be other people at City Hall and having too many people in your party can quickly feel overwhelming."
3. Be strategic about what day you go.
Thursdays and Fridays tend to be busier days at the Marriage Bureau so avoid those peak times (and lines) — and go as early as possible. "Also avoid the days right before a holiday weekend. Many people will try to get married right before a holiday in order to have a mini-honeymoon over the long weekend," says Douglass.
4. Hire a photographer you love.
Bring a professional photographer who already has experience shooting at City Hall. "Hiring a professional to capture these special moments is essential," says planner Tracy Taylor Ward.
5. Don't scrimp on flowers.
Carry a bouquet that you love and have your groom wear a coordinating boutonniere," says Ward. Additionally, if you're inviting a friend or two to be bridesmaids, make sure that they carry bouquets.
6. Take portraits at iconic N.Y.C. locations.
One of the best parts of getting married in New York is that you have the city as your backdrop. After your ceremony, make sure you schedule time for portraits. "From the steps of historical museums to the beautiful Conservatory Gardens at the north end of Central Park, there are so many wonderful options to choose from all over the city," says Ward.
Photo: Chris Knight
7. Plan a reception for your friends and family.
Whether you're thinking of hosting a post-ceremony brunch à la Bradshaw, or an intimate dinner party at a later time, invite your family and friends for a celebratory meal. One of the easiest ways to do this is to host your reception at a restaurant.
"Restaurants are, generally speaking, easier to book for events than traditional wedding venues," says Marie Lyons, Director of Events at Noho Hospitality Group. "For dinner parties, usually booking three to six months in advance is adequate. If you're booking a lunch — for example, if you get married at 11 a.m. on a weekday — then it's usually even easier to get a reservation."
Be sure to send a proper invitation to those you are inviting to the reception. "Use the wording 'wedding reception' to indicate that the invitation is for the party, not the actual ceremony," advises Douglass.
8. Consider the balance between food and ambiance.
"The great thing about hosting a reception at a restaurant is that you can really make the food your centerpiece," says Lyons. "Pick a restaurant that serves food you really love. If the cake and desserts are very important to you, then look for a restaurant that has a notable pastry program."
Equally as important, consider the ambiance and mood of the room that you're booking. "I am a huge fan of the private dining rooms that are part of Andrew Carmellini's restaurants — Locanda Verde, The Dutch, and Lafayette (where the photos above were taken). Across the board their spaces are very well designed yet unpretentious, while providing great service, creative food, and all around exceptional ambiance," says Ward. "I also gravitate towards sophisticated yet cozy wine cellars, such as Il Buco and Del Posto, or contemporary upscale private dining rooms, like Restaurant Daniel, Eleven Madison Park and The Four Seasons Restaurant."
9. Know if you need to hire a florist or coordinator.
"Private dining spaces are usually already beautifully decorated and there's no need for rentals as the restaurant provides everything from furniture to linens to the wait staff," explains Lyons. "However, if you want additional décor — such as specific centerpieces — then you will need to hire a florist. Work with the restaurant to see if there are any required vendors you need to work though."