What It’s Really Like to Get Married at City Hall

By Alexandra Macon

We’ve always had a soft spot for smaller civil ceremonies, and since COVID-19, a lot of engaged couples are looking to courthouse, park, and at-home weddings. But even before the pandemic, there’s been a strong case for a city hall “I do.” When deciding where to tie the knot in 2011, Patricia Garcia and her husband knew that they wanted to do something small and simple in New York—she’s sharing with us the process and what the day looked like.

“We both loved the city so much and wanted something that was no muss, no fuss” she explains. “Also, what’s more romantic than a city hall ceremony?” We’re sure Emily Ratajkowski and Carrie Bradshaw would agree.

After securing a marriage license a week earlier—“I think it’s hilarious that the city clerk’s office forces you to sit on that license for 24 hours before getting hitched, just in case you change your mind”—the couple took a Friday off from work and penciled in their wedding for noon. Of course, today, depending on whether the city hall closest to you is open or not, the waiting times may differ for licenses.

On the big day, the two got ready at home and had a photographer friend come over and take photos when they were all dressed up and ready to go. Patricia wore a Maggie Marilyn mini dress and Monvieve veil and held a bouquet by Popup Florist.

They all jumped in a yellow cab and headed downtown, where friends and family were already waiting for them. Once on site, the couple was surrounded by other New Yorkers ready to get hitched. “It was so interesting to see all the different kinds of people there,” she says. “There were women in big, white ballgowns; there were couples casually dressed in jeans. There were young couples, older couples, same sex couples. It really was such a reflection of New York’s population.”

After signing in with one of the clerks, they took a number and waited patiently for about 45 minutes until it was their turn to get married. “While that might sound terribly unromantic, counting down until it was our time to head into the ceremony room was actually one of the most entertaining parts of the day,” Patricia adds. “There’s a big screen with the next number displayed on a wall and every time it got nearer to ours, our little wedding party would cheer and hype us up.”

When it was finally their turn, the couple and their loved ones headed inside one of the two ceremony rooms, where a New York City judge awaited. “Overall, the whole thing took about five minutes,” she says. “But it was still so exciting! I remember holding my husband’s hand so tightly and smiling like a crazy person the whole time.” Once they were pronounced husband and wife, the couple took the traditional photo in front of the city hall backdrop—“a must!”—and later celebrated with a big, boozy lunch in SoHo. “It was such a special day because it was exactly what we wanted to do,” Patricia says. “Sweet, simple, and unforgettable.”