Donna Marie

PHOTO CO.

How to Elope in New York State

How to Elope in New York State

If you’re wanting to elope in New York, but you’re not quite sure where to start, let me lend you a hand! Knowing how to elope is crucial when you’ve decided eloping is for you. Each state is different, so make sure to conduct due diligence and research the required steps.

I photograph and help plan elopements for couples across New York state, and I can tell you that it’s a pretty easy thing in this state. Elopements are definitely on the rise across the US, especially so since the incursion of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Getting Started: What Vibe?

Elopements are not these clandestine, run off in the middle of the night in secret endeavors anymore. Elopements have evolved into a celebration that focuses solely on the couple exchanging vows, or the couple with a handful of really close friends or family (less than 5-10). It’s not the traditional wedding that we’ve seen, photographed, and known for decades past.

Elopements break that traditional wedding mold, and you get to decide exactly how.

Because elopements are significantly more free from constraints of traditional expectations, they take a number of different “forms”, if you will. Deciding on what general vibe, aesthetic, or location for your elopement will be step one.

Courthouse or City Hall Elopement.

If you’re a couple who are looking to seal the deal quickly, easily, and most cost effectively, this option may be for you. New York makes this pretty easy to do, just make sure you have all the right documentation (such as both your IDs) the clerk will need for the appropriate paperwork. The clerk will be able to be your “officiant”, or depending on the Courthouse/City Hall, there will be someone on site. Ez, pz.

Adventurous Elopement.

Trailblazing up to a mountain summit has become increasingly popular over the last few years, with good reason. By opting for this kind of elopement you essentially spend an entire day with your future spouse doing something you love together. But don’t be fooled, you don’t have to hike a mountain to have an adventurous elopement. The possibilities are endless. You could go boating, fishing, camping, and heck even roller skating if that’s your schtick.

Intimate Wedding Elopement.

Of all the elopement forms, this one resembles a traditional wedding with one large difference: guests are kept to a minimum. These are usually more laidback in nature versus a full scale wedding, meaning a strict timeline may not be a thing, or the dinner can be a pot-luck.

Backyard Elopement.

If you like the quickness of the Courthouse/City Hall elopement, but the setting of the office building just isn’t your vibe, a Backyard Elopement may catch your fancy. This way you’re given a little more privacy, and intimacy as you exchange vows with the love of your life. Backyard doesn’t always literally mean your backyard. Consider exchanging your vows on a property that you or your family owns, or in a place that is significant/special to you both for a little added intimate touch.

Decide When + Where

Once you’ve got the general vibe/idea of your elopement down, the next thing to consider will be when and where you want to elope. Both the where and when will depend on the type of elopement you have chosen. For example, if you opt for an adventurous elopement in the Adirondacks here in upstate New York, you can choose an easy hike like Mount Jo in Lake Placid, or challenge yourself with something a little more difficult.

Alternatively, if you opt for a Courthouse elopement, you will want to reach out to your local county clerk to inquire about the process and make an appointment if necessary. In both scenarios, you should start planning your elopement as early as possible. This is for several reasons: it will help you avoid scheduling nightmares with everyone you want involved (e.g., officiant, photographer, witnesses, etc.)

Get A Marriage License

Yes. New York state requires you to get a marriage license in person (the both of you have to be there together when applying) before eloping. AND you have to wait at least 24 hours after getting the license before you can legally marry. Also note that the license is only valid for 60 days. When people ask about how to elope, this is primarily where they have questions.

Also, don’t apply for a license too early on in your planning process or it will no longer be valid on your chosen date. Obtaining a license in New York will cost you about $40 (which you pay at the time of application), and the fee includes the marriage certificate you get once the elopement has taken place and all necessary parties have signed.

Find an Officiant + A Witness

After deciding on where, when, and what vibe you want your elopement to have, you’re gonna need an officiant and a witness. Your officiant can be someone you hire specifically for the day on Fiver for all it matters, as long as they are a NYS registered officiant (Note: a friend can easily be ordained online, but if they are not on the NYS registry they cannot officiate. Make sure to read into what it takes to get on to the New York state registry! ). Some New York government officials are able to solemnize marriages, as are members of the clergy or ministers who are officially ordained by a church. If you’re having a photographer for your elopement day, they can absolutely act and sign as your witness.

Find an Elopement Photographer

Heyyyy. How you doin’? I happen to know this one pretty awesome photographer. And she knows all the steps in how to elope in NY. JS.

No, but for real, while this step isn’t absolutely necessary, you will never catch me saying don’t hire one. If you’re planning this amazing elopement for you and your future spouse, why not have a photographer tag along to capture some memories to decorate the walls of your home? Getting married is pretty important, your family, friends, and socials will love the images. You’ll love the images. Trust me.

There is no shortage of elopement photographers in New York, so your options are aplenty. I just ask that you do your research and put in the work to find a photographer who is perfect for you. Check out my Blog post: You NEED to Vibe with Your Wedding Photographer for more on this.

Plan Your Elopement Day Timeline

Your elopement can be as simple or as bougie as you’d like! Ah, the freedom of elopements!

If your primary reason for eloping is budget-related, make sure to honor the boundaries you set for yourself. If your goal is to have a stress free day, don’t try to plan every hour of the day just bracket out what you’d like to do through general planning (e.g., I want to exchange vows during sunset on a mountain and then do portraits. The hike will take 1 hour each way, so I need at least 3-4 hours for this.)

Get Married!!

It’s time! You’ve got all the wanted (and needed) vendors, witness(es), and officiant. You’ve got the date and location. You’ve got the license. You’re ready. IT’S TIME TO DO THE THING!

Submit Your Marriage License

After your elopement is said and done, do not forget to mail in your completed marriage license to the city/town clerk where you applied for it. Some officiants may do this for you, but always double check if that’s a service that they offer. If you fail to mail it in, New York has no way of knowing you are truly married, and thus you will not be legally married. Once you’ve sent it in, New York is pretty quick on the draw when it comes to mailing back your marriage certificate: expect it in 2-4 weeks.

YOU DID IT!

Brava! Congratulations! New York really does make it easy to elope, just make sure to contact your local city or town clerk to be sure all of this information is applicable to you in your county (NYC is a little different when it comes to their application process and fees, so def check with them if you plan on eloping in the city!). Remember that once you know how to elope, planning an elopement becomes that much easier.

Want to see a couple elopements I’ve documented? I’ve gotchu.
Amanda + Jackie, Clayton NY Elopement
Shannon + Bryan, Cape Cod Elopement

"The moment I spoke to donna I knew we'd made the right choice by reaching out—she was instantly so invested in capturing our lovestory and couldn't be more pleasant to work with."

Claire + Justin