This article is part of a series for ministers on performing marriage ceremonies in the United States and elsewhere. In this article, we focus on New York State, as well as New York City, which has its own specific set of rules and regulations.
We often hear from ministers and officiants that are concerned about the complexities of performing marriage ceremonies in New York. While it may seem complex on the surface, it’s actually fairly simple and straightforward — as long as you follow the rules.
Basically, you must be legally ordained before performing a wedding ceremony in New York. If you are currently ordained and in good standing with the church, you are ready to perform the ceremony this very moment. (If you aren’t currently ordained, you may request New York-based ordination by clicking here now.)
With one major exception, you are not required to register with any agency in New York before performing ceremonies in the state, but always keep in mind that you must present your credentials to any legal authority upon their request — which can include the town clerk, county clerk, or any representative of the state — as well as the bridal couple.
That one major exception on registering relates to whether the ceremony is taking place in any of the five boroughs of New York City — Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx. Regardless of where the marriage license is being issued in the state, if the wedding ceremony itself is taking place anywhere in New York City (not just Manhattan, not just Brooklyn) then, as the officiant, you must register with the Marriage Bureau at 141 Worth Street in Manhattan.
Is there a way around this requirement? No, there isn’t. But the wonderful folks at the city’s Marriage Bureau actually try to make it as simple and painless as possible for you. But keep in mind that you should not wait until the last minute to get registered with them!
If you plan to perform ceremonies specifically in New York City, the church will provide you with the documents and forms required by the Marriage Bureau. If you intend to become ordained, you may request the New York City endorsement as part of the process. If you are currently ordained, but want to receive the New York City endorsement from the church, you may request it from us by clicking here.
The Marriage Bureau has a very nice website with very detailed information about their processes and procedures. We recommend that you take at least a few minutes to carefully read through their instructions.
More good news: as long as you are actively ordained, you can begin the registration process online on the Marriage Bureau’s website. Here’s a link to the Bureau’s online minister registration application.
What happens next? As noted on the Marriage Bureau’s website: “Once you have completed the form using the correct option … you must visit the Manhattan office to complete your registration if you are a resident of the City of New York. If you reside outside of the City of New York you may mail the signed and notarized application, a photocopy of your proper identification and your fee of $15 by credit card or money order payable to the City Clerk.”
So easy! Now get out there and perform that ceremony!
Interested in becoming ordained to perform ceremonies in New York? Click here now for more information.
But wait — you knew there’d be other variables to consider…
What if you don’t live in New York?
No problem — New York does not restrict non-resident ministers from serving in the state. The state recognizes active ministers in good standing from other jurisdictions, both inside and outside the United States, but please make sure that your ordination documents are up-to-date. (Not sure? Please contact us with your license number and where in the state the wedding is taking place. There’s a handy email form at the end of this article.)
Is there a way around the requirement to register with the Marriage Bureau in New York City before performing wedding ceremonies? No. But the Marriage Bureau staff does everything possible to make the process simple and painless.
Confused about what rules apply, and where? Here are a few sample scenarios:
Example 1: The bridal couple, both residents of New York City, obtained their marriage license in Manhattan, but they are getting married on her parents’ estate in Southampton, which is in Suffolk County at the far end of Long Island. As their Officiant, do you have to register with the Marriage Bureau? No, because the ceremony itself is not taking place in any of the five boroughs.
Example 2: Let’s say that our bride and groom are getting married at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Staten Island, although they live in Buffalo and obtained their marriage license at the Erie County courthouse near their home. In serving as the ceremonial minister for their wedding, are you required to register with the Marriage Bureau in Manhattan? Yes, because the ceremony is taking place in Staten Island, which is one of the boroughs of New York City.
Example 3: The bridal couple lives in White Plains (Westchester County), obtained their marriage license at their city clerk’s office, and will be getting married at the nearby Ritz-Carlton Westchester. You are legally ordained by the church and your status is active, but you aren’t registered to perform marriage ceremonies in New York City. Are you permitted to perform this marriage ceremony? Yes, because the ceremony is not taking place in any of the five boroughs of New York City.
Here are a few links that might be of interest to you:
- You’ll find information on getting married in New York State, presented by New York Department of Health.
- In addition to providing excellent information for ministers, clergy members and religious leaders, the Marriage Bureau’s website also has detailed instructions for anyone planning to get married anywhere in New York City.
- New York Code (Article 3), the section of New York State law pertaining specifically to marriage.
- Here’s a fascinating article from the New York Times (“Fake Flowers, Real Tears: In Manhattan, a Happy Union of Matrimony and Bureaucracy”) about how the Manhattan Marriage Bureau operates.
Oh, and of course, here’s the link to First Nation’s ordination information page for New York.
Any other questions or concerns? Please contact us now with your specific situation: