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How to get married in New York as a foreigner
How to plan your elopement and which forms you need for a legal wedding as a foreigner?
Tina and Chris did! The couple from Germany visited New York for the very first time in 2016 and got engaged in Central Park. A few months later, they made new plans… for their sweet little winter elopement in New York.
Sounds like fun but you just don’t know where to start with planning?
It’s easier than you think!
7 easy steps on how to elope in NYC
1) Where do marriages take place?
Civil marriages are held at City Hall in the “Office of the City Clerk : Marriage Bureau” at 141 Worth Street in Manhattan, New York, NY 10013. The office is open from Monday to Friday from 8.30am-3.45pm – except on major US holidays – please make sure to check the offical website if the office is open on your desired date.
2) Get your Marriage License
Next, you’ll need to obtain your New York State Marriage License. This is a walk-in and show up in person process filling out papers and requires a valid passport or other from of proper identification. The Marriage License is valid for 60 days anywhere in New York State and costs 35 $ (paid directly to the City Clerk via credit card or money order). Before you can enter the office, expect an airport-like security check. The queue and wait time in the Marriage Burreau CAN (but doesn’t have to) be long, escpecially around holidays, noon or popular dates. The good news: You can speed up this registration process by filling out the online form for the Marriage License already at home (Yay!). Regardless, to complete the application process, you MUST physically appear in the City Clerk’s office in person together with your spouse both at the same time. Your Marriage License will be processed while you wait. If you are flying in from another country, this can be done the day before or better a few days earlier leading up to your marriage date.
3) Wait 24 Hours (easy, right?)
Almost there! After obtaining your Marriage License, there is a waiting period of 24 hours before you officially can tie the knot (If for any reason you absolutely HAVE to get married sooner, you can request a Judicial Waiver by a judge). But come on! Waiting time in Manhattan isn’t really waiting time – you can spend it with sightseeing, relaxing, pampering yourselves and sweet anticipation before your big day comes along. Hello excitement!
4) Chose your ceremony location
After 24 hours have passed – no minute sooner – you can officially exchange your vows. The ceremony takes place either directly at City Hall where you obtained your Marriage License OR anywhere out- or indoors through a registered wedding officiant. With the second option, you are free to choose your very personal dream location and specific time for an intimate wedding experience: maybe a rooftop elopement with skyscrapers as your backdrop? A Central Park wedding with saying your vows during sunset? Getting married at Highline Park? The places to get married in New York are endless and you can make your ceremony as personal, unique and special as possible. To find and contact/book a wedding officiant, check out the Wedding Wire’s list of professional New York wedding officiants. Make sure you already have organized your wedding officiant way in advance and that he or she is registered and licensed with the Office of the City Clerk. For the shere sake of how many options there are, let’s proceed with a wedding at City Hall.
5) The Ceremony
If you decide to get married at City Hall – don’t forget to bring your freshly obtained Marriage License, a witness (the photographer with an ID counts as well, if it’s just the two of you) and both of your passports or IDs. The fee for the wedding ceremony is 25 $ and again paid directly at the City Clerk. First, you are going to have to draw a number – then wait and pay for the ceremony, then wait again for your second call. Now we’re getting close! During this time, you’ll encounter A LOT of other wedding couples, their families and wedding photographers, and I promise it won’t ever get boring. People from all over the world, cultures, ages, genders and aspects of life are getting married there – the atmosphere is a pretty unique hotchpotch of diversity – and you’ll be part of it! After your number gets called a second time, it’s almost time to say I DO. In the waiting area just outside the two chapels, you are going to be on your tippy toes until one of the two clerks calls your names. The ceremony inside the chapel is short and sweet – after two minutes, you are officially married by the laws of the State of New York and will receive your “Certificate of Marriage” – congratulations! *throwing confetti*
Will the marriage be legal in my home country?
Where would be the fun in all of this if the marriage wouldn’t be considered legal in your home country? In order to officially register your marriage at the civil registry office of your hometown, you need to request an Apostille (Certificate of Authenticitation) – a document used in a foreign country that is proven to be authentic. This is the proof that you really got legally married in New York.
Sounds awfully complicated? It’s not! Here’s how to do it:
6) Get an Extended Certificate
After the ceremony you’ll receive your “Certificate of Marriage” at the City Hall Marriage Bureau. With this certificate you can request a Marriage Record For Foreign Use via an “Extended Certificate”. The fee is 35$ and can be paid at the City Clerk. This doesn’t have to have to happen on the exact same day of your marriage. I’d suggest you go and enjoy the fact that you just got married and have fun! Do all the amazing things you have planned for you wedding day and come back for the paper work on one of the following days.
Fill out the “Extended Certificate” form and walk right across the street to the “New York City County Clerk” at New York County Supreme Court, 60 Centre Street, New York, NY 10007. The County Clerk will verify your Extended Certificate for Foreign Use for 3$.
7) Obtain the Apostille
Next, fill out and print this paperwork for the Certificate of Authentication Request (Apostille).
Have a money order of 10$ ready (a money order can be obtained in any US post office) and no other form of payment is allowed. Drop the verified “Extended Certificate” together with the 10$ money order and the Apostille/Certificate of Authentication Request here: New York Department of State Division of Licensing Services, 123 William Street, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10038. This office is open from 9:00am-3:30pm.
Stay there and wait to pick up your Apostille on the same day – é voila! Technically, you can also obtain your Marriage Record by mail. In order to do that, call the main office at +1 212-669-8090.
Getting married in NYC – as easy as!