Many people get married at the City Clerk’s office, or City Hall, as it is more commonly called.
A City Hall wedding costs $35 and lasts about 45 seconds. Back in the day you could just walk
in, take a number, and wait for your turn to get married. Post-COVID-19, City Hall no longer
accepts walk-ins. You are required to make an appointment online. You are only allowed to
bring ONE person with you. This person will act as your witness. They are not allowing crowds
of family and friends anymore. If you are lucky enough to get an appointment, here’s what you
● You show up for your appointment with the required documents (including a marriage
license), take a number, and wait.
● When your number is called, you, and your witness are brought into another room where
an appointed government official will see you. They will ask a few questions and say the
legally required phrases. No ceremony is held, and you cannot exchange personal
wedding vows or special words for each other.
● After answering: Do you come to this union on your own free will? Do you take this
person to be your spouse?—everyone signs the license.
● You take your signed marriage license to another window, where you will exchange it for
your Certificate of Marriage. Boom, you’re married!
The apostille (which translates to “certification” in French), is a procedure that makes documents
valid internationally. An apostille authenticates the officials who have the power to sign and
issue documents so that their signatures can be recognized in foreign countries. If you come from
England, Australia, New Zealand, or Ireland, you will not need an apostille. A regular marriage
certificate is enough. You can use this certificate to update the name in your passport, to declare
a dependent, or to include your new family member on your health insurance policy.
If you want your marriage to be recognized in a non-English-speaking country, you will need to
obtain an extended form of your marriage certificate (this costs an extra $35) and have it
notarized and “apostilled.” The best way to go about getting your extended certificate is to visit
the City Clerk’s office after your wedding. Either you or your spouse can go to the Clerk’s office
with the signed marriage license. Here’s what you do when you get there:
● Request a “long form” marriage certificate. You will pay an additional administrative fee
● The Clerk will explain where to go to get the document notarized, which is across the
street, at 1 Center St. They will also give you detailed instructions (they have them
printed out) of the fairly straightforward process of getting an apostille.
● After your signatures are notarized, you will be directed to a third location, where your
document will be apostilled. The buildings you need to visit are located only blocks from
each other, and it can all be done within an hour. This process, like all the others, could
go quickly: But if it’s a busy day and the place is packed, the wait could be long.
Nevertheless, I suggest that you get this done while you are in New York City.
Getting your apostille may seem like a boring, bureaucratic side trip in what is supposed to be a
fun time, but I promise you that taking a morning to get this done is so much easier than leaving
the process in the hands of a third party. There are companies that will take care of obtaining the
apostille for you, but it will take much longer, be a lot more expensive, and require a power of
attorney. I strongly recommend taking a little time (usually two hours—tops) in the days after
your wedding to finish all the paperwork so you can go back home with a marriage certificate
that is valid in your country of residence.
No matter what you decide, having a wedding officiant who cares about your special day, rather
than an impersonal civil clerk, is a far better choice. Who wants to go through a metal detector
before getting hitched?