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How to Get Married in New York: Planning a Wedding in The Empire State

Published Friday, Jun. 9th, 2023

Photo: Tallie Robinson / Unsplash

Planning a New York wedding? This short guide will help, from how to find the perfect officiant, to how to apply for and return the marriage license. 



New York offers rugged natural beauty, limitless arts and culture, a world-class metropolis, and romantic backdrops of every kind – making it a top destination for weddings. 


Applying for a marriage license in The Empire State will look different in each county, so it’s important to get a head start on the planning process to avoid unnecessary stress. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a short guide to help you begin. 


Asked to officiate a wedding in New York? 

Read How to Become a Wedding Officiant in New York

A happy pair of newlyweds lay on a floral blanket, photographed from above as they smile at each other

Photo:  One zone Studio / Unsplash


How to get married in New York in 6 Steps 


1. Get yourself a sweetheart! 


Got one? Whew! There will be a few more boxes to check, but the hardest part’s over.

2. Find a wedding officiant in New York.


A wedding officiant is the person who conducts your ceremony and signs the marriage license, making things legal.


A friend or relative can perform your wedding ceremony if they’ve been ordained or have been issued a one-day marriage officiant license. Officiants ordained with American Marriage Ministries are authorized to officiate weddings in New York. 





If you want to hire a professional, the state has many qualified independent officiants to choose from. The following people are authorized to solemnize marriage in New York, including AMM Ministers:


A clergyman or minister of any religion, or by various leaders of The Society for Ethical Culture; the current or a former governor, a mayor of a village, a county executive of a county, or a mayor, recorder, city magistrate, police justice or police magistrate of a city, and various other government officials. (Not a complete list, summarized from Domestic Relations § 11)


(Read the complete list of authorized officiants and more New York marriage laws here.)



Photo shows outdoor wedding party, hazy because of the sunlight, overexposed image, friends and family in the background, with pretty flowers on a table up close

Photo: BRUNO CERVERA / Unsplash



3. Choose a date and a venue...

New York is home to stunningly beautiful state parks, charming towns, and thriving metros like Albany, Rochester, Buffalo, Schenectady, Yonkers, Utica, Niagara Falls, New York City, and many more – making it a favorite for destination weddings. 


Whether you’re dreaming of a big to-do or a romantic elopement for two, there’s something for everyone!



Popular dates, venues, and officiants book up fast, so start early. And remember you’ll need permission (and a permit) to use a public space, such as a city park or recreational area. Permits can take weeks to process, so factor this into your timeline, too. 



New York Marriage License Quick Facts

♡ 24 Hour Waiting Period*
♡ 60 Day Expiration Period**
♡ 5 Day Return Period

*This waiting period may be waived by a judge or justice of the Supreme Court of New York State or the county judge of the county in which either applicant resides.

**60 calendar days beginning the day after it is issued. This period can be extended to 180 days for applicants who are active duty military. 

Stylized illustration shows a groom and bride on the wedding day as a wedding officiant in a robe signs an oversized marriage license with a comically large pen

Did you know? Every state has different laws governing when the marriage license is issued, can be completed, and must be returned. There are called a state's marriage license Waiting Period, Expiration Period, and Return Deadline. Learn more here. 


Castille New York, upstate, with photo of a bridge over a river with big green trees on either side

Want to get married upstate? Genesee Arch Bridge in Letchworth State Park makes a stunning backdrop... and it's a short drive to the Castile Town Clerk's Office or nearby Livingston County Clerk to purchase your marriage license!


4. The marriage license. 


Alright, time to make sure your wedding’s legal! We’ll break down each part of the marriage license process, one step at a time: 



Apply for your New York marriage license


You’ll apply for your marriage license through any town or city clerk in the state. Applicants must apply for their license together in person, or by virtual appointment using the online Project Cupid portal. You don’t need to be a New York State resident to marry there and your license is valid anywhere in the state.


Requirements to Apply: 


  • Both applicants must be at least 18 years old (no exceptions) and provide proof of age and identity
  • Both applicants must provide information and documentation about past marriages 
  • Both applicants must provide personal information including full name address, country of birth, name and country of birth of your parents, Social Security number, etc.
  • No physical exam or blood test is required


If you’re planning a wedding anywhere in New York, we recommend contacting the county clerk closest to your venue to learn more. 


Your license will be $35 if it’s issued in New York City, and $40 if it’s issued elsewhere in the state. Some offices will only accept certain forms of payment, so plan ahead! There’s no fee to register your marriage after the ceremony.

Waiting period

There is a 24 hour waiting period between the time you receive your license and when your ceremony can take place.

Using and returning a New York marriage license

A New York marriage license can be used in any county in the state, and expires 60 calendar days after it’s issued (beginning the day after issuance). The license must be returned by the officiant within 5 days of the ceremony; directions on how to return the license will be given to the couple when it's issued.



The license must be signed by each party to the marriage, one adult witness, and the marriage officiant following the ceremony, and returned to the office where the license was issued. This is usually done by mail. 


The license must be returned by the officiant within five days of the ceremony. 


Newlyweds pose on the Brooklyn bridge in their wedding dress and suit, while tourists and others walk by, it's a sunny day and the bridge is busy

Photo: Eddi Aguirre / Unsplash

What's more romantic than wedding photos on the Brooklyn Bridge?



5. Meet with your wedding officiant...

Once you’ve chosen a date, a venue, and have your marriage license details worked out, you’ll be ready to meet with your wedding officiant to plan the ceremony! 


This is when things start to come into focus. You’ll talk about the tone of your ceremony, the ‘vibe’ you want to create for your guests, and any special elements and unity rituals you want to include. You and your officiant might meet a few more times to exchange more ideas, fine-tune a script, or rehearse the ceremony leading up to the wedding day. 


AMM’s website is full of resources to help you decide what kind of ceremony you want, tips on working well with your officiant, and advice on keeping your ceremony authentic and on budget. 


Visit Articles for Couples on our American Weddings blog, or browse general articles by category or keyword. 


6. The wedding day! 

Aside from yourselves, the most important thing you’ll bring with you on the wedding day is your marriage license -- because no license means no marriage. Your officiant won’t be able to perform the wedding without having a license present (even if you have it at home), so make sure it’s with you. 


After the ceremony, you, one adult witness, and your officiant will sign the license. 



After it’s signed, the completed license must be returned to the office where it was issued by the officiant within 5 days of the ceremony. This is usually done by mail. 


Once it’s been recorded, you’re officially married! 


Photo of a newlyweds in their wedding dress and suit leaning against a building in New York, looking toward Manhattan bridge

Photo: Anton / Unsplash



Do you want to perform a wedding in New York?


Visit Weddings by State: New York


We’ve got everything you need to understand the state’s licensing and registration requirements, any ministry credentials and paperwork you might need, and helpful tips for several cities in the state, including Buffalo, Hempstead, New York, Syracuse, Tannersville, and Yonkers.




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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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