A little guide for eloping in New York City
The Clerk's Office
The Clerk's Office / marriage bureau is open from 8:30 AM to 3:45 PM Monday to Friday, except for major holidays. So if you enter by 3:45pm and get a ticket, they will marry you that day. In order to make use of the late afternoon late (particularly in the summer, when the sun sets at 8-9pm), I prefer to enter the marriage bureau at around 3pm. From experience, the shortest time has been a 15 minutes and the longest was about 2 hours (only because it was a good luck day in the Chinese calendar). I find average time is about a 30-45 minute wait.. so as a rough guide, allow about 1.5 hours for the time at the marriage bureau.
Can you be our witness?
Yes of course, more than happy to sign your wedding license! Just let me know in advance if you would like me to do this so I remember to bring my ID with me :)
If you have decided to elope in NYC, you do not actually have to get married at the Clerk's Office. You can hire an officiant and get married in any spot that takes your fancy. I have photographed along the East River, Central Park and in private homes and restaurants. This is actually the most time efficient way to get married as the officiant will arrive at the exact time planned, the ceremony takes approximately 5- 10 minutes and you are on your way. So if a sunset wedding with the city in the background sounds more appealing.. go for it!
The officiants I have worked with in the past and highly recommend :
Beth Lamont - weddingyourwaynewyork.com
Weddings by Bettina - weddingsbybettina.com
Sarah Smart of Officiant NYC - officiantnyc.com
Where do we meet you / start the shoot?
I can either meet you at your accommodation (within Manhattan or Brooklyn) and travel with you to the Clerks Office or ceremony location.. or we can just meet on the steps of the Clerks Office. If we meet at your accommodation, (as a complimentary (free) option) - I am happy to arrive 30 minutes prior to your planned departure time so we can meet and travel to the ceremony location together.
(If you have not booked accommodation yet... one recommendation I will throw at you is to go the Airbnb route than the traditional hotel. Hotel rooms can often be small and dark, whereas renting an entire apartment for you to get ready in makes for a more relaxed experience and there will be more choices in terms of rooms to photograph in and private homes generally have so much more character than hotel rooms. But if it just makes more sense for you to be at a hotel, thats totally cool :)
The portrait shoot part of the coverage goes for approximately two hours and the most ideal time to start shooting is approximately 2 hours before sunset (to make most of the golden hour / late afternoon light). If you are getting married at the Clerk's Office and we do the portrait section afterwards, the portraits will generally go between 4:30pm - 6:30pm so if you are booking any events later that evening, 7pm onwards is a good idea.
If you are marrying outside - I recommend making use of the most ideal afternoon light / golden hour and plan for your ceremony around this. The main thing to decide is if you want to do the portraits before or after the ceremony.
If you are happy to do all the portraits before ceremony, we will start the portraits about 2.5 hours before sunset. If you would like to do the portrait shoot after the ceremony, plan to have the ceremony start about 2.5 hours before sunset. But we can discuss this more depth and make a plan based on your exact details of the day.
You can check what time the sun will set here.
One to two locations is best, any more than that and we could waste too much time traveling between locations - we do not want to lose 30 minutes in a car during the best light.
When thinking about what locations you would like to be photographed in, I always love shooting people that is in a place that has some sort of meaning to them - I think it adds more depth to the photographs. But most people eloping in NYC do not live here, so you might not have a special spot that springs to mind...so just let me know the types of places you are drawn to - urban versus nature (feel free to make a little mood board on pinterest and share it with me) and I can help make suggestions or know the areas to go based on what you like. I walk all over NYC and have seen many great spots I would love to shoot at, so I have a wealth of knowledge of locations that will work well for the time of day and year season we are shooting in.
Some of my favorite areas in NYC are :
West Village / Greenwich - old buildings with tree lined streets, a mix of residential and shopping areas. This area appears a lot in movies and TV shows as its beautiful, classic New York with well kept streets and buildings.
Chinatown - once away from the main touristy area of Chinatown, there are few quiet streets that have a lot of character and its basically next door to the Clerks Office.
Lower East Side / East Village - a favorite area to shoot in Manhattan as it has a bit of everything, from grungy street scenes to residential streets with stoops and lovely parks.
Central Park - I love shooting in Central Park. The bottom area of the park can be super touristy but once you head north, it gets a lot more quiet and know a few secret spots that feels like you are not in the middle of the city. I have always wanted to shoot a couple in the little boats in the lake in Central Park... :)
DUMBO, Brooklyn (this is area that appears most often in my elopement photographs. It is only a short car ride from the Clerk's Office and has a huge variety of locations within the same area. It has the two bridges (the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan bridge), many old buildings that are very quiet compared to Manhattan and its on the East River, so its the perfect spot to get the Manhattan skyline.
Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn - its an upmarket neighborhood which beautiful old brownstones. It has a completely different vibe that north Brooklyn (Williamsburg & Bushwick), so if you want residential streets without the industrial wasteland feel, this is the place to go :)
Bushwick, Brooklyn - it's a grungy / industrial area with some great street art. It does not have any classical architecture but more of a industrial wasteland vibe..which is fun to shoot in if you want something super different :)
Greenpoint / Williamsburg, Brooklyn - my neighborhood so I know it extremely well and all its backstreets. It has a mix of industrial and residential, along the river, so it can be a great place to shoot for a variety of backgrounds. There is a ferry that runs from Greenpoint / Williamsburg to DUMBO and the Financial district (where the Clerks Office is), so always an option to jump on the ferry to get between two locations.
If you would like to go to more than 1 location - a great way of getting around is booking the Checker cab - www.thecheckercab.com or hiring black car service for the time we are shooting.
Rather then relying on taxi's / ubers - having a private car ready & waiting to take you to the next spot and means you have a place to leave your belongings while we are out shooting. It's obviously a expensive option but could be extremely beneficial during the winter, a place to stay warm between locations and store jackets and other belongings. A lot of time can be wasted on the day, waiting for an uber to come etc, so if you are on a deadline to get to an evening event, this can really be worth the money and make for a very relaxing afternoon too. You could even pack a picnic basket to snack on while we are traveling between locations or we can even plan to stop for you guys to have a picnic in one of the parks :)
What to wear?
You want to look and feel your best so you feel comfortable and yourself in front of the camera. Do you need to wear a white dress/suit? No if you dont want to! Some couples elope in very casual clothes, some smart casual and wear whatever color their favorite dress is. A lot of couples do prefer the traditional white dress and suit, but just know its not essential.. wear whatever feels right for you.
Shooting in NYC always presents a unique set of challenges with the biggest problem being footwear. We will be doing a lot of walking throughout the shoot, so please wear shoes you can walk comfortably in for 2 hours. I really recommend finding a comfortable pair of shoes that look good and you can walk in.. and then base the rest of your outfit around that :) If you bring a spare pair of shoes and change them every time we move locations... this can put a halt on a lot of in the moment shots, turning the shoot into more staged production if you have to change your shoes every time we move. But this option is better then not being able to walk in super high and/or uncomfortable shoes. So if you think you may have trouble getting around in your shoes, do pack a pair of flats :)
Please know that NYC is a dirty place and your outfits (a long dress in particular) is going to get a bit dirty. One of the hardest parts of my day is trying to convince the bride she should drop her dress and let it touch the ground. (This is a big reason why i enjoy documenting elopements so much is that bride's are not as concerned about their dress getting dirty!) Please know that it is a prerequisite of letting your dress touch the ground in order to make amazing photographs! You need to be able to walk comfortably in your dress and if you have a train, let it be on the ground in order to create natural and relaxed photographs. It is so hard to make beautiful pictures if the bride is anxious about getting the dress dirty. Obviously I do my best to not get it dirty but at the end of the day, I think having a great collection of photographs that shows off your dress outweighs letting your dress touch the ground at all..you generally only wear the dress once, so you may as well get your monies worth from it ;)
What to bring?
Please do not bring much with you during the shoot as you do not want to putting down a bag every time we want to take photographs, worrying if the bag will get stolen . But mostly for the fact that it breaks up the flow of shooting if you have to constantly put your bag down. I lot of my favorite photos are taken when we are moving between locations, a lot of the spontaneous shots happen then and if you have to put your bag down constantly.. this will obviously kill the spontaneity.
You are welcome to put a few small things in my backpack, like your keys, phone and a bottle of water, but anything else will start weighing my bag down.
Please remember to bring a bottle of water as you will get thirsty through the shoot, particularly in summer!) Best idea is to bring a small tote bag with essential items and I can easily fit this into my backpack :)
Can we include our pet?
Yes! I love shooting couples with their pets. I would either recommend shooting with your pet at home, we could do a few shots inside your apartment and/or in your neighborhood, before bringing them home and we head out for the second half of the shoot. Otherwise I can meet up with you at the first location, shoot with your pet for the first portion, then you have someone come collect your beloved and we carry on with the rest of the shoot.
What happens if it's raining on the day?
If the weather forecast shows that its going to be absolute horrible weather on the day of your elopement, we can always reschedule to the next day if my schedule permits. But often you will have hair / make up / florist / restaurant booked that will make that not possible to move date.. so in that incase, we just need to go for it. We may want to start an hour early to give us a little extra time between rain showers etc, so if we know its going to rain that day, we can make any last minute changes the day before if needed. But if it rains on the day, we can hang out in a bar / coffee shop until the rain stops, ran out and shoot until as long as we can and then repeat. I have found this method has worked well in the past and obviously getting hold of a few big umbrellas is essential. If your wedding date is a risky time of year in terms of rain.. I highly recommend booking private transport for the duration of our shoot, that way we can get in & out of the cab and minimize the impact of the raindrops :)
Should we have flowers?
That is completely up to you! Some of my couples have a bouquet and some do not. If you do want to get a bouquet, I highly recommend these lovely florists :
Entriken Flowers - entrikenstudio.com
Ariel Dearie - arieldearieflowers.com
Sachi Rose - sachirose.com
2h Flowers - 2hflowers.com
Hair & Makeup
Plan to have your hair & makeup complete at least an hour before we plan to meet. As hair & makeup often runs late, you do not want to feel any unnecessary stress on the day.
I highly recommend contacting :
Hair & Make up - Laura Burns - lauraburns.me
Makeup - Kavita Kaul - kavitakaul.com
Hair - Andrea Donoghue - andreadonoghue.com
Going into the shoot relaxed
A problem I run into every now and then is when a couple is running late and the shoot starts off with the couple feeling super stressed. It can make it hard to feel relaxed and loving in the photos, if you have been stressed out moments prior. Plan to have your hair & make up complete well before you plan to leave... and always allow extra time for traffic. I recommend plan to arrive early and head to a local bar if you like to relax with a drink. This means you will be completely ready prior to the shoot time, allowing you both to relax and unwind and be in a great headspace prior to the shoot starting ;)
Also, please do not start the shoot feeling hungry, your energy levels will plummet in the middle of the shoot if you are hungry.. and hungry people do not take the best photographs! :)
The most important thing to remember about prepping for the day is that we are attempting to photograph you, so be yourself. You will probably feel a little awkward when the camera first comes out, it's natural to feel that way. The best way to overcome it is just divert your attention to your partner. Goof off, be silly, cuddle, laugh, play.. have some fun and you will soon relax :)