Start working on your “Dearly beloved…” speeches.
Beginning this month, New York state has made it possible for anyone 18 years or older to perform a marriage ceremony with a new type of officiant license good for only one day — and you don’t even have to be a state resident to get it.
THE CITY spoke with a soon-to-be-wed New Yorker going through the process and to the City Clerk’s office, and collected as much publicly available information on the license as is available. We will update this guide with more information as needed.
Before you can preside over an exchange of rings, here’s what you need to know about officiating a wedding in New York:
What are the requirements?
First, you’ll need to find a couple that wants you to marry them.
Unlike a traditional marriage officiant license, which requires you to be a member of the clergy — certain online churches count — or government official, the single-day version necessitates that you put the betrothed pair’s names on the form.
Make sure the couple has their marriage license in hand before you apply. If not, your application may be rejected.
Apart from that, there are very few explicit restrictions other than not being a minor. The application even declares that you “need not be a resident of the town or city to which they apply or a resident of New York State.”
While the license is valid for weddings performed anywhere in the state, the Manhattan City Clerk office is the only one in the five boroughs so far that processes the one-day applications.
If you live outside the city, you must apply for your one-day officiant application at whatever clerk’s office processed the couple’s marriage license.
That doesn’t mean that you have to show up in person to get the license — and in fact, unscheduled walk-ins are not accepted. You either have to submit the application via the regular mail or by appointment at the Marriage Bureau on Worth Street in Lower Manhattan.
How quick is the process?
The two options — which both have a considerable amount of lag time baked in — have frustrated Lower East Sider Michelle Kuppersmith, who is trying to quickly plan a small wedding and wanted to have a friend be her officiant.
Kuppersmith’s friend is out of town, though, and she’s not sure how long the mail option will take.
“I can’t necessarily have him go down to the clerk’s office with me between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on a weekday,” she told THE CITY. “If he is unavailable, then we’re gonna go in person with somebody else — somebody who doesn’t work during the week.”
Kuppersmith said she tried to get an answer about how long the mail-in application option would take, but a staffer at the clerk’s office didn’t know.
“Let’s say your sister lives in California and you want her to be your officiant … Either you need to make sure you have an in-person appointment the week of, or have the person do the mail-in. But they can’t guarantee how long that will take,” she said.
Deputy City Clerk Alisa Fuenta at the Manhattan office said the staff there usually processes the applications they receive in the mail within a day, but can’t control the speed of the mail.
Those who come in person, with an appointment, will get their officiant license that day.
However, Fuenta said that workers at the City Clerk’s office have been scanning and emailing newly issued officiant licenses to applicants, so be sure to include your email address on your application if you want it more quickly. After the papers are scanned and emailed, the hard copies are sent by mail.
“We don’t want to have anybody’s wedding held up,” Fuentes said. “We’re definitely going to try to be as flexible as we can to make sure that they have whatever documents they need, and make sure that they’re authorized to marry this couple.”
For the couple to be wed, getting a marriage license can also be done either virtually or in person, but they should start the process as early as possible. Booking a virtual or in-person appointment with the office has been known to take some time depending on demand, though wait times have dropped considerably since the pandemic lockdown days.
Then the couple has to wait 24 hours after getting the marriage license before they can actually tie the knot. Those licenses are good for 60 days — or 180 days for active military personnel.
There is a way to skip the 24-hour waiting period by getting a waiver from a judge, which is a separate process done through the New York Supreme Court and granted only in special circumstances.
Great. The engaged couple has their marriage license in hand. What are the next steps?
- Fill out this application for the One-Day Marriage Officiant License from the Marriage License Bureau at the Manhattan Office of the City Clerk. Make sure it’s notarized if you submit it by mail! If you submit the application in person, you do not need it notarized.
- It requires a $25 fee. If you submit by mail, the $25 fee must be made by money order. If you do an in-person appointment, the $25 fee can be made by money order or credit card.
- The application requires photocopies of proper identification, which are defined here.
- Submit the application, $25 and the photocopies by mail or at an in-person appointment at the Manhattan City Clerk office.
Office of the City Clerk
141 Worth Street
New York, New York 10013
Attention: One-Day Marriage Officiants Clerk
Appointments must be made through the City Clerk’s online scheduling tool here. Remember: Make an appointment only at the Manhattan City Clerk office, not in the other four boroughs. And, again, that office does not take walk-in appointments.
Hallelujah! I got my one-day officiant license. What happens on the big day?
Got that speech ready?
Most couples will expect you to say something! And at some point each of the people involved should be asked to say “I do” or the equivalent. When you receive your officiant license, the City Clerk includes information and language ideas about how to legally perform the solemnization of the marriage.
“We give them a welcome packet with instructions and samples of what the ceremony could look like, but every ceremony is different,” Fuentes said.
The City Clerk does note on its website that a “One-Day Marriage Officiant’s obligation is not limited to presiding over the Marriage Ceremony.”
In addition to performing the ceremony, the officiant must sign and make sure the couple and witnesses sign in the correct places on the marriage license.
Then, within five days of the wedding, the officiant must return the complete marriage license — with their officiant license attached — to whichever City Clerk issued the marriage license.
The officiant’s license expires at the completion of the marriage solemnization or when the couple’s license expires.
THE CITY will update this guide with more information as needed. What else should New Yorkers know about the one-day officiant license? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.