New York City
If your dream elopement involves heading right to the center of the action, NYC is your spot (it ain’t called the city that never sleeps for nothin’). Tucked between the looming skyscrapers and inside dimly lit theaters, bright museums, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, there really is a little something for everyone—which makes it a seamless destination for couples who share a variety of interests. You might explore the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art one day, hit up drag brunch the next morning, and then play a round of mini-golf on a pier overlooking the Hudson that afternoon, all within a couple of miles of one another. And there’s something about the hustle and bustle, the constant hum of energy, that makes your experience feel somehow utterly distinct, making every fleeting, intimate moment doubly romantic.
Best Time of Year to Visit
April - June & September - October
Spring and fall capture the city at its most magnificent. Not only do you avoid the particular breed of nightmare that is a slushy NYC sidewalk, but you also avoid the sweltering summer heat. That’s not to say that a December elopement couldn’t be magical (the twinkling Rockefeller tree makes a stunning backdrop) or that a July 4th excursion to Coney Island in all its Americana glory wouldn’t be a day to remember. But by heading in the spring or fall months and skipping the middle of winter or summer, you get better odds of avoiding hordes of tourists and interns, and again, particularly inclement weather. (Since walking around is its own awesome activity in NYC, the latter can play a bigger role in your experience than you might imagine.)
Pro Tip: Holiday weekends can actually be a good time to visit the city, since many of its inhabitants use the extra day off as an excuse to escape the hustle and bustle. Even if the number of folks visiting is higher then, too, you can at least take comfort in the exodus of the locals.
Leandra Creative Co. Photography is based in New York City and traveling worldwide to capture the legacies of couples in love. Leandra Creative Co. is proudly LGBTQIA+ friendly.
“I believe timeless and extraordinary photographs look and FEEL different when they are created by someone who takes the time to become more than just your photographer.
I’m a big fan of getting lost in antique shops, sunrise yoga, pasta in every form, freshly made beds and photographing incredible humans in love, just like you.
Love, empathy, and a good sense of humor—for me, these are the fundamentals of life and business. I seek to make a genuine connection with you two, learn your story and understand your elopement dreams. This allows me to capture your love through the lens of someone that honors and adores you. I thrive on human-to-human connection with my clients and my dream is that you get to create the wedding day experience you’ve always imagined, with authentic photographs that let you relive the best day of your lives together.” – Le
In the morning, before the Brooklyn Botanic Garden opens its doors to the public, you can host a small ceremony in one of its four striking spaces: the Water Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, or Fragrance Garden, each with its own distinct scenery and vibe. The price tag is cheap—$600—but this also covers the cost of portrait photography, so it’s a pretty solid deal. Ceremonies are held every day of the week, but note that the start and end times are rigid (9 AM to 10 AM, only) and there’s no indoor option, so plan to be wed, rain or shine.
If you dream of wedding photos with the city skyline as your backdrop, you’ll need to leave Manhattan, of course, to get them. An incredible option just on the other side of the East River is Brooklyn Bridge Park, an 85-acre waterfront oasis stretching more than a mile. Host your ceremony at golden hour to watch the setting sun transform the city’s skyscrapers into stunning silhouettes. Or, if you’re here during the daytime in a warmer month, take a stroll through the park’s many piers to spot swaths of colorful wildflowers in bloom.
Ah, the Park, as New York City residents have so fondly nicknamed it. To them, it needs no further distinction. A broad patch of green (2.5 miles long and 0.5 miles wide) in the heart of a concrete jungle, it serves as both a nature-filled salvation for locals and a top destination for visitors, thanks to its many scenic trails, meadows, and lakes. Tranquil spots for a ceremony secluded from the Park’s main thoroughfares include Cop Cot, a dark-wood structure shaded by a canopy of trees, and Wagner Cover, another smaller wooden shelter on the edge of a lake.
Civil ceremonies in Manhattan actually happen at the Office of the City Clerk (which is a 10-minute walk from City Hall itself). This is the same place where you should first obtain your marriage license at least 24 hours beforehand (see Marriage Laws below). After the waiting period, simply return with the necessary materials and one witness (it can be your photographer), and you’ll be married in one of two non-religious chapels toward the back of the building. If you go the City Hall route, it’s in your best interest to avoid Fridays—especially before holiday weekends—and any dates that are particularly easy to remember, as many other folks will have the same idea, meaning long lines. Afterward, pose for a picture by the massive bronze doors at the exit of the City Clerk’s office and then take a stroll over to City Hall itself for some shots on its stately steps (pictured above).
It’s a beach, it’s an amusement park, it’s a boardwalk with hot food and cold beer—and it’s as all-American as it gets. Thanks to the boardwalk’s brightly colored facades and rides, Coney Island also provides an ideal setting for tying the knot, so long as you’re not concerned about a little sand in your shoes or wind in your hair. While you’re there, take a stroll through Coney Art Walls, an outdoor museum of mind-bogglingly good street art (that doubles as an awesome background for quirky portraits), and don’t leave without splitting a mustard-dripping hot dog from Nathan’s Famous.
Though it’s home to the Metro-North Railroad and a bustling subway station below, Grand Central is much more than a mere transit hub—it’s an icon of Beaux-Arts architecture and a portal to old New York, with its striking blue celestial ceiling (its past is riddled with secrets) and four-sided opal clocktower anchoring the main concourse. Given its several levels, twists, turns, and obscured corridors, there are an infinite number of striking photo ops here—and no matter when your ceremony takes place, you’ll be sure to spark some applause from charmed passersby.
Outfitted with benches for people-watching, chaises for sun-bathing, public art displays, and food stands—and adjacent to both the Whitney Museum of Art and the new Shops at Hudson Yards—the High Line is a 1.45 mile stretch of greenery that sits a few stories above the shops and restaurants of the Meatpacking District. A former freight line once destined for demolition, the park, which opened in 2014, is free and open to the public. That “free” part extends to ceremonies—there’s no need for a permit or rental fee as long as you don’t exceed 20 guests (which you won’t, because, eloping). There are nine spots available for a small ceremony, such as the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Overlook or the Planting Terrace, as well as on-site bathrooms for getting ready.
The open-air roof deck on the 70th floor of Rockefeller Center offers sweeping, unparalleled views of city skyscrapers and Central Park—perfect for breathtaking photos. The elevator ride zooms you up in less than a minute and drops you off first at the Radiance Wall (a Swarovski creation of blown glass and crystal), from where you’ll walk through the interactive Breezeway and onto the viewing areas. Though the lower levels are bounded by glass, the top floor is totally glass-free, so it’s best to wait until you’re all the way up for the maximum effect.
Applying for a marriage license in New York City is thankfully pretty straightforward. You can start your application online and then the two of you must go together, with proper ID, to the Office of the City Clerk to complete it (the fee is $35). It’ll be processed while you wait, you’ll take it with you when you leave, and then you’re required to wait 24 hours before your ceremony can be performed. To review the full list of questions on the application and details on related items (such as your official name change), visit the City Clerk website.