Congratulations! You have decided that you want to elope and cast away all those annoying obligations and expectations that come along with a huge wedding. If you are curious on how and where to start, you’ve come to the right place! In this post I’m going to guide you through the process, step by step, and hopefully help shake up some ideas, too.
Hello! I am Tinara and I am an Elopement and Intimate Wedding photographer located in New York State. From my experience it seems to be getting easier and easier to elope in NY, as the larger, more formal types of weddings become more of a challenge to plan and have.
“Wait what is an elopement anyway?
To elope, simply it is defined as:
It means you get to spend a day (or maybe more) with the one person you love most in the world and do what you love–together! It’s a great way to spend time together to reflect on your relationship, the journey thus far, and your future together. You can get married where and when you wish! You decide if it’s just you two, or maybe a small group of family and friends to join in and celebrate your love for one another!
“But what about weddings?” A wedding in contrast to an elopement is defined as “an event where the focus is on the performance of getting married and guest experience”.
Sounds.. Not like a celebration centered on YOU.
Elopements used to be about “running away in secret” to get married. Today, that is not the case. Now it can be referred to as a small wedding, with no guests or a few, and it doesn’t fit in the “mold” of a typical wedding ceremony.
It’s up to you to decide exactly what you want your elopement to look like, and to get started, you’ll want to consider these different types of elopements:
You want quick, easy and super simple? Many couples who feel this way opt for a courthouse or “city hall”. It is also one of the cheaper options to choose from. In NY, this option is one of the simplest ways to get married. You can file your marriage license and get all of your paperwork processed in one spot, no additional steps necessary!
This can be defined however you’d like. You can Elope anywhere in the state or in the world, making it a Destination Elopement. For the sake of this post, we are sticking to NY State. So for Adventure style you could take a visit to the Adirondacks, the Catskills, the Finger Lakes Region, etc. Want to go hiking up Whiteface to say your vows over the summit? Hell yeah, let me pack a bag! Wish to stand beneath Taughannock Falls, instead? Let’s do it! Eloping this way has become very popular – for good reason!
For when you are craving a simpler ceremony but you want it a bit more intimate, this is the way to go. It doesn’t even have to be a backyard! You could decide on selecting your favorite Airbnb, your favorite spot in the park, or the family Estate. My favorite place for these types of elopements would be the garden area of the Rome Art and Community center, near where I am from. It’s absolutely stunning and the old mansion makes an amazing backdrop!
Did you know your Elopement can be with more than just you and your future spouse? I mentioned above the different definitions of a Wedding and an Elopement. This would be considered a hybrid of the two. So as long as you know where you want the focus to be, having a small guest list for your celebration is really just as perfect as if it were only the two of you! These types of elopements are pretty laid back and would most likely have a guest list of less than 30.
Your elopement can be as short or as long as you want it to be! 15 minutes? 1 week? Something in between, like 2 days or so? Now you are seeing it! And before you ask– YES, of course you can! An example of this could be saying your vows overlooking your favorite hiking spot in the Adirondacks, and then the following day you are having a party with your friends and family. Or maybe it’s an Intimate backyard ceremony with a few witnesses, and the next day you decide to have more intimate vows in a place that is more authentically yours.
There is really never a wrong time to elope in NY State. It can take as little as two weeks to plan or as long as a few years to get it just right! No timeline is too short or too long. However, some things will still need to be taken into account when you are planning your dream ceremony.
The date and location you plan to elope depends on the type of elopement you have chosen from the list above, and in NY it goes without saying – the seasons!
For example: if you decide to Elope in the Adirondacks because you love to hike, you know not to go during muddy season because trails can be damaged from the foot traffic. Also to consider, if you are not a big fan of wintertime (it’s gorgeous, truly, but I don’t like to be cold!), you may want to consider a ceremony that is not outdoors.
Deciding to get married in a courthouse, you will need to contact the local town clerk or county office where you want to get married to check locations, availability and of course office hours.
I always suggest that the best time to Elope is on a weekday, typically mid-week. If you are deciding on a destination or local sites, they can be less crowded, Airbnbs can be cheaper for Mid-Week dates, and overall, it’s just more private. Of course, courthouse weddings will need to be scheduled in advance, no matter what.
My advice while you’re trying to decide is to discuss what you really love to do as a couple, and choose your date and location accordingly. Winter is great for snowshoeing or Cross Country Skiing. Or even going to frozen waterfalls! Springtime and summer are great for backpacking, hiking, sailing, other water sports, and other outdoor adventures. Fall, like the spring months, is cooler and ultimately perfect for hiking or other more involved activities. And the colors, oh the colors! But matter what you choose, you will want to start planning as early as you can. The sooner you plan, the better shot you have at avoiding scheduling conflicts with anyone who will be involved (witnesses, your officiant, vendors hired, location bookings, etc). I look forward to helping you plan and brainstorm ideas around your elopement!
Woohoo! You’ve planned your elopement to be just when and where you want it to happen. Your next step is to obtain your marriage license. In New York, you can obtain your license anywhere in the state, as long as it’s happening in New York. In order to apply for a marriage license, you need to visit your city or town clerk, and you must apply IN PERSON. This is according to the NYS government website. No substitutions allowed.
According to NYS, you must wait 24 hours before you can get married after receiving the license, and it is valid for 60 days. You will need original documents, such as those with a raised seal, like your Birth Certificate, a photo ID with a birthdate on it, such as a Drivers License or a Non- Driver ID. The cost for a marriage license is universal across NY state, only $40, and has to be cash only (as of 2022). This fee is all inclusive, so you don’t have to pay anything to receive your certificate. If you decide to be married in NYC, the fee structures may be different, so be sure to check out the website for more information.
Although this information is universal across the state, be sure to verify all information with your local clerk’s office.
Once the details above have been set, it comes time to secure who will perform your wedding.
The officiant you decide to work with will also depend on the type of ceremony you are choosing to have. There are plenty of types of people who can perform your wedding and officiate. For example: government officials like mayors, judges, and appointed officials. Members of clergy or ministers ordained by the church are also authorized to perform elopements in NY. You can even ask a friend or family member to officiate, and ask another to sign as a witness. To be qualified to officiate in NY, they will need to fill out a form online and become an ordained minister, just be sure you also check with your local government offices to see if they will need to provide any paperwork.
In all fairness, as your elopement photographer, I could even technically serve as a witness, in order to save space in the day to make your elopement as intimate as possible.
Just because you decide to Elope doesn’t mean you have to skip out on the good stuff! Still want a bridal gown? Florals? Looking to have a small “reception” for the two of you afterwards? And of course, you can’t forget the photographer! Now obviously, all of these options are completely optional, but as an elopement photographer can I please just take a minute to really stress the importance of having the photographs to remember your special moment!?
Getting married is an important life event, whether you decide to get married with 250 of your family and friends, or just with your officiant and a single witness. Your children, should you choose to have them, and the rest of your family would probably be very excited to see at least photos from your wedding day, so it really is quite important to have those moments captured by a professional photographer!
Some things to consider when choosing vendors:
You can make your elopement day as simple or as all-out as you desire!
Many couples decide they will have an intimate wedding with a few close family and friends, complete with a cake, florals, decor, and dancing. Some decide they will get adventurous and elope with just the two of them on the top of a mountain. Or, you decided to elope to the Catskills, and return the following day and have dinner and cake with your close family and friends, creating a fantastic 2 day extravaganza! No matter what you choose, don’t forget Your elopement vision and Why you chose to elope in the first place. Stay focused on what matters most to You!
Hooray, it’s official! You got your officiant, witness, and of course your photographer; you selected the perfect date and location – you’re finished!
Now comes the fun part, getting married!
NY does not have any requirements for what an elopement ceremony looks like, you can choose to have quick and simple vows or a very detailed ceremony. The only requirement is having the officiant and at the very least one witness willing to sign your marriage license, proving they were present for your ceremony. Be sure to discuss with the officiant you have chosen about how you want your elopement day to look. It’s up to you how you want it to go, it’s your day!
Of course, once it's completed, you need to Submit your Marriage License in the town or city clerk's office where you purchased it. In some cases your officiant can submit this for you, but be sure to find out when planning this detail. Otherwise, you will want to submit it as soon as possible and mail it to the address given. If New York State does not receive your license they cannot legally acknowledge your marriage.
You should receive your marriage certificate in a few weeks, a maximum of 45 days. If you do not receive it within that time frame, contact your clerk’s office to be sure they received your marriage license!
Honestly, NY has a very simple way to elope in the state, unlike most other states where the requirements can be much more strict.
**Make sure to contact your local clerk's office to be sure this information is correct and specific to you!**
What I hope you gather from this post is that you can elope the way YOU want to. There are no limits. Working with me as your Elopement Photographer, I am more than just the person who will take your photos. We’re going to be the best of friends and I will help guide you to eloping in any part of New York State, from location decisions, to advice on telling friends and family, styling, and choosing vendors nearby – I am here for YOU!
I am so glad you took the time to learn more about eloping in NY state, and feel free to book a Free consultation with me to discuss the details of your elopement!
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Copyright Lovely Studio Co. 2023| Tinara Kohlbrenner
Specializing in Adventurous Engagements, Intimate Weddings & Elopements in NY State and Beyond. Whether you want to travel to a dream location, or somewhere a bit more familiar, when you hire me, you will never have to worry about photography on your special day!
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