If there’s one thing you can say about Mayor Bloomberg, it’s that he knows how to turn a buck into two. The mayor’s office led the development of a swish marriage bureau to turn New York into a marriage destination that rivals Las Vegas, and although New York has an “anti–Britney Spears law”–a statutory 24-hour waiting period–a trip across the street to the county clerk’s office can have you in front of a judge explaining your compelling reason for a waiver in no time.
It certainly seems to be working: The Manhattan office performs 70 to 80 weddings a day, even more on a Friday. On 09/09/09 it performed 224. Out of necessity, the ceremony lasts only a minute, although if you have longer vows, the city clerk’s office assured us that if you can ask beforehand you will be accommodated.
Enter the bureau and you are greeted at a welcome desk and can either present the forms you filled out online or complete them on one of 14 computers. The terminal will print out your ticket with a number for the queue. Wait for your turn on the long leather seats with your party in the narrow waiting hall until you’re called to a window to show ID and sign the forms. The waiting hall is historic-looking if not celebratory: New chandeliers are matched with original Art Deco architecture, like the ornate moldings on the ceiling and marble tables that still have the inkwells New Yorkers used to fill out their Department of Motor Vehicles forms in the ’30s.
While waiting, brides can touch up their makeup in the floor-length vanity mirrors in the bathrooms or pick up a bouquet ($14-$50), a boutonniere ($5-$10) for the groom and even a garter ($14) in the outpost of the City Store.
The marriage bureau has two chapels, each with paintings on loan from the Brooklyn Museum: Violetta by Mary K. Weatherford in the east chapel, and Apollo by Robert Natkin in the west. Both have one long seat for guests and original marriage indexes dating back to 1908–Yankees fans should take a look at a name in the open book in the East Chapel. Name: Babe Ruth. Occupation: Ball Player.
Once the wedding is over, take a snap a picture in front of the photo mural on the wall of the City Hall and enjoy marital bliss.
City Hall Marriage Bureau, 141 Worth St between Baxter and Centre St, New York (212-669-2400). Mon-Fri 8.30am-3.45pm. License $35, ceremony $25.
More of queer Melbourne? Sign up to our Queer monthly newsletter.