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Miss Bunting elopes in New York

Miss Bunting elopes in New York

So Miss Bunting has been on a little hiatus of late – just a small matter of a MARRIAGE! Yes, that’s right – while on holiday in the US last month, my husband and I decided to elope while in NYC. So yes, you could say Miss Bunting is now Mrs Bunting – but that whole name-changing saga is a post for another time….

While eloping is not for everyone, it really was for us. We both have wonderful families – I am especially close with my brothers and parents, so its not to say there wasn’t a little disappointment (mainly at missing out), but for us, eloping was very much the formality. What we’re looking forward to now is a party with our nearest and dearest! For anyone thinking about eloping in New York, I’ve compiled a little cheat sheet on the ‘how to’ side of things. More details about our actual elopement to be shared with you all soon!


Eloping in New York City is surprisingly simple – which explains why so many people from so many different countries to do it! My experience is relevant only to Australian citizens getting married in New York state – always, always do your own research as processes and laws are forever changing. Plus, not only do all the different American states have different rules, different countries have different rules about the validity of marriage in foreign countries – so be sure to check yours will be legal in yours!

  1. The first step is to obtain a Marriage License. This is in effect, the piece of paper that approves you to be married. You can start the process online back home, by filling out the form to apply for a marriage license. Once you have filled out the form, you have 20 days to go into the City Clerks office to complete the process, otherwise you need to resubmit the form. It’s no dramas if you need to do this, and you can just do this at the City Clerk’s office. We did it online just before we left, meaning we were in the system and were only required to line up at the City Clerk’s office to finish off the application by showing our proof of identity (our Australian passport) and sign the forms.
  2. Once you have applied, submitted and are successful in obtaining your marriage license, you are able to get married anywhere in New York state for the next 60 days. HOWEVER, you have to wait exactly 24 hours before you can do this. Did I say EXACTLY? Make sure you check things like public holidays – lets just say Columbus Day nearly threw a Columbus sized spanner in the works for us! Also beware, lines and wait times are notorious to predict – so if you go down at 11am thinking you can get married at midday the next day – you might be in for a rude shock if you end up having to wait 4 hours to get your license approved. This is a problem if you have photographers, hairdressers or anything booked. Leave yourself a few days grace. Also, you need $35 – they take card, thankfully.
  3. 24 hours later (exactly, in case I wasn’t clear), you can be married. Which involves going back down to the City Clerk’s office, getting your number, waiting in one line to be seen by an office who will then check your paperwork , approve it’s been 24 hours, and re-check your proof of id. You will also need a witness. If you have no-one, you can even ask your photographer – or anyone that has an accepted form of i.d.  and is willing to watch you get married. Heck, it could be your hotel bellboy if he has i.d. Then you get another number that puts you in the queue to be married in one of the 4 chapels.
  4. Eventually you will be ferried into a holding area of sorts until the chapel becomes free – you can even have an audience of family and friends – the chapels look like they fit 10-15 comfortably, but any bigger than this, I would consider a different location. (Hire a chaplain and go to Central Park!) Remember, your license allows you to get married anywhere in New York State.
  5. Guess what – you just got married. You can read your own vows or simply follow their lead – they’ll have a brief chat with you prior and ask things like if you’ve got wedding rings to exchange (err, not yet) and so on. For the record, we loved our ceremony. Just the 2 of you there in a complete bubble committing to each other for the rest of you days – it was an incredible, honest, moving, and very teary experience. Waterproof mascara highly recommended. Once you are done, pop over to an officer again to get your second certificate of marriage registration and have it certified and stamped by the City Clerk.
  6. But wait – YOU’RE NOT DONE YET. And so begins the next leg, which is a little like an Amazing Race challenge. To make sure all your paperwork is rubber-stamped as official with an apostille (you’ll need this especially if you plan on changing your name, as you will need to take this form in to change your name by deed poll – more on this later), you need a few spare hours, some snacks, a magazine, patience, endurance – oh, and a money order for $10.00. Yep.
  7. Choose to do this process the next day, as you essentially need to go over the road to the US District Court (500 Pearl St), go to the basement, stand in one line where they stamp your paper and give it to a lady standing RIGHT NEXT TO HER then go stand in another line, and then give that lady $3 cash (no cards!) and then you FINALLY have to go to one more office, the Department of State to get all these docs put together and stamped with an Apostille. Two things – they won’t tell you at the District Court, but you will need a $10 Money Order. They don’t take card or cash, so find a Western Union along the way – you really need to plan this journey out. It costs about $3 to get a money order by the way – it’s all ludicrous, but stick at it, you are nearly there. Secondly, you may wait a little while at the Department of State – and they have no wi-fi. By this point you will be looking at your new husband wondering if this was in fact the best idea, but then BINGO, your name is called, you collect your certificate and you my friends, have won survival of the fittest. YOU ARE MARRIED, it’s legitimate and then all you need to do is figure out if it’s all legal back in Australia!
  8. The good news is, it is. After countless hours sifting through nonsensical jargon on many government departmental websites (okay, at least one hour), essentially, your overseas marriage is valid in Australia if: it was valid in the country you got married in; and, under the same set of circumstances, the marriage would be valid if it had taken place in Australia (ie, you’re not 16 year old cousins.) If you’re not 16 year old cousins, this is great news. BUT, if you plan on changing your name, most government departments (ie Foreign Affairs to get your passport changed) won’t actually accept your survival-of-the-fittest set of rubber stamped Marriage Certificates. What they will do, however, is accept a Change of Name Application, and this is where you’ll need the survival-of-the-fittest set of rubber stamped Marriage Certificates. And at a hefty $218, this is where I leave you my dear friends – I am part-way through this application. Once my name is legally changed, from then I can get my passport updated with my new details and a new drivers license which will then enable me to get all the utilities and what not changed. So do your research and be prepared before you go – if you do all this, you will have the most amazing experience you won’t regret. One final piece of advice? Book a photographer – it’s the one way you’ll be able to share your experience, so invest in this. We chose the incredibly talented Samm Blake who snapped on of our fave pics of the day shown here. xx Mrs Bunting