This article will help you with all the legal stuff for your magical wedding so you can be calm that you miss anything!
In addition to the splendor and excitement of Manhattan, there’s another reason couples from all
over the world choose New York City as their wedding destination: a New York Certificate of
Marriage is valid everywhere! Before you decide on the fun stuff, like your dress, venue, and
guest list, get all your documents together to ensure that your marriage bond is legal.
As we proceed, remember the difference between these terms: A Marriage License is what you
need in order to get married and the Certificate of Marriage is the document that you’ll get
back from the City Clerk confirming that you have been legally joined in marriage.
The first and ONLY thing that you need in order to be legally married is the “Marriage
Your Marriage License
In order to obtain this license, you must have a picture identification. That’s it. All you need to
be legally married is a photo ID. Here is a list of valid documents that you can use:
● A current (not expired) passport. Whether you are from the United States or another
country, a current passport qualifies as a valid picture ID. It doesn’t matter if you are
visiting the US. It doesn’t matter if your visa has expired. Or if you are here on vacation.
A valid Passport that hasn’t expired is considered a valid form of ID, and it will get you a
● A current (not expired) driver’s license.
● A government-issued picture ID. If you are from another country, or you don’t have a
current driver’s license or passport, any government-issued picture ID is acceptable.
What if you are divorced or widowed?
You will need to bring proof that your previous marriage has been legally dissolved. For this,
you must bring a copy of the divorce decree or the death certificate of your spouse. Don’t worry
if the documents are not in English. Copies of the papers are enough.
Do non-US citizens need a visa?
Visas have nothing to do with getting a marriage license, so you don’t need to bring one. As long
as your passport hasn’t expired, it can be used as a valid picture ID. Fortunately, the Marriage
Bureau and the Immigration Department have nothing to do with one another. The Marriage
Bureau only cares that you can prove your name and identity, and that you are not legally
prohibited from being married (no polygamists allowed). You won’t be reported or deported just
because you have applied for a marriage license.
Every now and then I hear people say they want to bring their birth certificate to obtain their
marriage license. In New York City you do not need a birth certificate, a blood test, or any other
documents except the ones listed above.
You don’t need to be in New York City to apply for a marriage license. You can start the process
from the comfort of your home. We recommend applying for your marriage license within 60
days of your wedding day.
Here are the steps you need to take to apply:
- Go online cityclerk.nyc.gov
- Select “marriage license” and fill out your application online.
- Once you complete your application, you will receive an email with a 5 digit confirmation
code. The system will ask you to log back in and pay their fee $35. You can pay the fee
with any credit or debit card.
- After you’ve paid the fee, you will be able to make an appointment to meet with the City
Clerk’s officer. Because of COVID-19, the City Clerk is also seeing people virtually.
You can choose to have your appointment in person (at 141 Worth Street) or via a video
conference. The City Clerk posts new appointments every Monday (for an in-person
meeting) and every Thursday at 9:00 AM EST (for a virtual meeting). You can log into
your account on a Monday or Thursday and secure your appointment for an interview.
- At the time of your appointment, you and your fiancé must bring your valid photo IDs to
City Hall (or to your virtual meeting) and, if applicable, you should also have a copy of
your divorce papers or the death certificate for a former spouse. The clerk will review
your documents, ask you to double check that all the information you provided is correct;
and then issue your license. If your meeting is virtual, you will receive your license via
email. You will be required to print out the document and bring it to your wedding
officiant on the day of your ceremony.
Meeting with the Clerk
If you scheduled an in-person appointment, here is what you can expect: The New York City
Marriage Bureau opens at 8:30 AM and closes at 3:45 PM. The signage on the door may say
business hours are until 4:00 PM, but if you arrive after 3:40 PM you probably won’t get in.
When you enter the building, you will pass through a metal detector. An information desk
receptionist will ask you for the purpose of your visit, they will check to see that you have all the
documents you need, and then give you a number. You may have to wait to meet with an officer.
Sometimes the wait might only be five minutes, sometimes longer. After you meet with the
Clerk, you will be given your marriage license and a return envelope. You must wait at least 24
hours from the time stamped on the license before you can get married. You have up to two
months to get married before the license expires.