Getting Married in New York – A Legal Guide
Most of our blog entries focus on particular legal issues within the UK Law which we deal with on a day to day basis so this blog entry is going to be slightly different, but given that the writer has just been through the process we thought it might be useful given that essentially marriage is the entry into a legal contract between two people, for us to write a blog to explain how it is logistically feasible to get married in another country. In this instance we are focusing on New York in the USA.
- The first thing you need to so is go online and submit a pre application for a marriage license. The application form can be filled in at: cityclerk.nyc.gov/html/marriage/records.shtml This can be completed up to 21 days before you are due to travel to New York. Any longer then 21 days and it will expire and you will have to do the process again. You will need such details as your details, your spouse’s details and details of both your respective parents. When you complete the form, you will be given an access code which you then take with you to the City Clerk’s Office. You do not need to do this process beforehand but it speeds up matters later on. If you have not submitted the pre application for the marriage licence then they have computers at the City Clerk’s Office which you can use at the time, my advice would be to complete it online before you travel.
- Most people have preconceptions that you get married in City Hall when you go to New York, this is not technically true as you get married in the City Clerk’s Office which is a branch of City Hall but is located in an entirely different building. The New York Marriage Bureau is located in the City Clerk’s Office at 141 Worth Street, New York, NY1 0013. On arrival at the Clerk’s Office after passing through security, you then need to go to the reception desk and indicate you wish to apply for a marriage license. There is a 35-dollar fee that has to be paid by credit card. The reception will then give you a number and refer you to the marriage bureau desks. You then wait for your number to be called where you will meet an administrative officer who will then complete some additional paperwork with you and take the 35-dollar payment. After that you will be given a marriage license which will contain the time for when you can get married. You have to wait 24 hours before you can get married, so for example if you complete the forms on 9.27am Monday 1st April the earliest date you can get married is Tuesday 2nd April at 9.27am. It specifically says the time on the form.
- After waiting 24 hours it then comes to the Big Day! You return to the City Clerks Office to get married and again after passing through security and presenting your marriage license you will then be given a number and again directed to the administrative desks at the marriage bureau. When you number is called there will be some additional paperwork to sign, note at this stage that you will need to bring your 2 witnesses with you and you must all have ID, in the US they will only accept passports so make sure you and your witnesses have these present with you. After you have completed the relevant forms you will then be given another number and you will wait to be called into the Chapel. There are only 2 Chapels in the Clerk’s Office, an East and West Chapel, when your number is called you then go and wait in the Chapel waiting rooms and you are called through. The marriage ceremony itself takes approximately 5 minutes, after which you are lawfully married!
- The next step does not need to be done on the day but it is particularly important for UK citizens that if you want your marriage to be valid in the UK you have to take this next step. When you get married you will be given a short form Marriage Certificate which is a basic Marriage Certificate. For the UK you need an Extended Marriage Certificate. Here is the process of how you go about obtaining this.
- You return to the City Clerks Office, again pass through security, again be given a ticket, after explaining you want an Extended Marriage Certificate. This time you will be referred to the records room which is a separate area in essentially the same part of the building. When your number is called out, you have to present your short form Marriage Certificate and ask for an Extended Certificate. There is a 35-dollar fee to be paid, again this must be paid by credit card. Note they do not except cash.
- When you have your Extended Certificate, it then needs to be notarized.
- The Extended Certificate then needs to be taken to the Supreme Court which is next door at 60 Centre Street, New York, NY 0007. The County Clerk notarial records department is located in the basement so after passing through security, head to the lifts which are on your immediate right-hand side as you enter the building and select the basement where you need to go to Room 141B. You take the extended certificate to the notary public desk and ask them to notarize it, they will do so and they send you to a separate queue where you pay a 3-dollar fee. This can be paid in cash.
- After the form has been notarized, it then needs to be taken to an apostille who authenticates the document. Before you do this, you need a 10-dollar money order. You cannot pay by credit card or cash. Most of these can be found from pharmacies throughout the city but I would recommend the 7/11 located at 111 Foulton Street, New York, NY 0038. You can pay this by cash or credit card, it costs 11 dollars and then they will give you a 10-dollar money order which looks essentially like a cheque. When you have obtained this you then need to go to the next block to the Department of the State Apostille at 123 Williams Street, New York, NY 0038. On arriving ,inform the reception that you need the apostille to sign the document, they will then give you a number, when your number is called out you approach the apostille desk, give them the paperwork, they then refer it to the apostille and ask you to wait until your name is called. The apostille will then prepare the relevant paperwork and call out your name whereupon they will hand you the document and that validates your Extended Marriage Certificate which means you are legally married in the UK! They bind all the documents together for you so its kept neat and tidy in one pack. You must do this otherwise you are not legally married in the UK.
I hope that guide was useful, personally I found the whole process very easy, from an administrative point of view it is incredibly hard to fault the New York system. In terms of timescales, obtaining the marriage license took approximately an hour and obtaining the extended certificate the day after the marriage, took around 2 hours including the walking time between each building. My only advice would be to try to avoid Monday and Friday, I have been informed by a number of people these are traditionally the busiest days, particularly Friday for getting married so these timescales might be extended considerably if you choose to get married or undertake any of the paperwork on these days. I hope the guide was useful, if anyone has any questions about eloping in New York, I will gladly assist, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org