Dotting the i’s and Crossing the t’s

New York City has become a popular “destination wedding spot” for couples from abroad.  Over the years, I have worked with brides and grooms from many countries including Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, Mexico, and Brazil, among others.  I find that among these couples there is a good bit of confusion about the potential necessity of obtaining an “extended” marriage license as opposed to the “short form” used by those from the U.S.  They City Clerk’s website is, in my estimation, is not entirely clear on the matter and it is often difficult to make contact with the staff by phone or email.  Likewise, since not all countries require the extended license (which has the so-called Apostille), many couples are perplexed about how exactly one obtains the extended license.  As I recently completed this process on behalf of a Scottish couple, I figured that my field trip downtown might serve as something of a tutorial for my readers.  So, prepare for your step-by-step guide to obtaining the extended license, required by many countries.

In general, I encourage my clients to manage this process for themselves, as it is straightforward (with a little guidance) and allows them to return home with their paper work completed and in hand.  Alternatively, if a couple cannot do this, they may sign a particular form (I provide that or there is a standard letter offered by the New York City clerk’s office) and have it notarized, stating that the officiant may complete this process in their absence.

The process begins the same for all couples, by seeking the standard marriage license.  Following the 24 hour waiting period, the license becomes valid and is signed by the couple, the officiant and witness(es) following the ceremony.  The license is to be returned within five days of the ceremony, and six to eight weeks later, the marriage certificate arrives in the mail.  The license is normally returned by mail, but the couple may do this in person.

Following the issue of the short form license, which contains the signature of New York City Clerk, the license then goes across the street to the courthouse to receive the signature of the County Clerk.  This costs an additional $3—cash only.  The third step in the process is to take a walk about six blocks (123 William Street) to the State Clerk’s office.  After filling out a short form and paying $10 (by check), the couple receives the Apostille, which features the signature of State Clerk.  That’s it!

(As a final note, I should mention that this can take place as a two stage process, with the marriage license submitted and the couple receiving the typical marriage certificate by mail.  At that point, the officiant, with the proper notarized letter, may return to the Clerk’s office, request a duplicate marriage certificate and complete the process at that point.  There is no time limitation, like the five day rule listed above, is converting the marriage certificate into the extended form).

Enjoy the slide show below that offers a guided tour through the process, which may take 1 to 3 hours, depending upon the traffic and time of the day.

About the Author

As a professional ceremony officiants I believe in the power and effectiveness of ceremony and ritual to serve basic needs, both of society and you as an individual. In close collaboration with you and your loved ones, I love to create and perform personalized ceremonies that reflect your beliefs, your philosophy of life, and your personality.

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