[Wedding] Leeander & Ben – New York City Hall Wedding

Many married people will tell you that if they ever had the chance to do it again (with the same person, of course), they would make the guest list smaller and manageable. When guest lists start going into the hundreds, it can be become daunting for most couples. It’s for this reason many of my couples go the other route, and elope in one of the most romantic cities in the world (or so they tell me), New York City. To demonstrate exactly how small the guest lists are for my New York City Hall weddings, I single-handedly become the photographer, witness, limo driver, wedding coordinator and (sometimes) caterer with a spritz of tour-guide extraordinaire in between. When I step back for a few moments, I can see why clients come from all over the world to elope in the Big Apple.

Bride's shoes for a New York City Hall Wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Everything You Need Is Already Here

Hotels, florists, and even a morning glass of beer. Anything that one would need for their wedding day is already right here in the city, whatever you want, whenever you want (not to mention yours truly!). You could literally throw a stone in the air while standing on any crosswalk in NYC, and you’ll find whatever you need within 1-2 blocks away. And even more importantly, the city is filled with all kinds of awesome locations for wedding portraits. Want something urban? Easy-peasy. Something outdoorsy? Done! Something historic with cobblestones and “Old” New York? Piece of cake! Compare this to say…Ridgefield Park, NJ (which is where my wife and I “officially” got hitched), where the new park was built on top of an old landfill, the neighborhood florist moonlights as a dry-cleaner, and the limo service only provides service to one of the nearby airports. There *is* a Holiday Inn nearby, but we unfortunately have a severe allergic reaction to 20-year-old, never-been-washed, paisley bedsheet covers :).

Groom gets ready in his NYC hotel before his New York City Hall Wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

These two lovebirds on the other hand, had a much finer selections of hotels to choose from. They started their day at the modern-chic Smyth Hotel in TriBeCa, about 5-6 blocks from City Hall. Even though we were nearby, ain’t no way we’re walking 5-6 blocks in those heels :). This is where I come in as the limo driver :). But first, we had to get them out of the hotel. While Leeander was getting herself dolled up with the awesome help of Sissi Chan, Ben went downstairs to the bar and helped himself to a pint…or three :).
Rings and passport by the hotel window ont he morning of Leeander and Ben's New York City Hall Wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Bride gets ready in her NYC hotel before her New York City Hall Wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

I would’ve joined him downstairs, but Sissi works pretty fast :).

Bride gets her hair done before her New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Bride puts on her earrings before her New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

If Done Correctly, It’s No Different From A Traditional Weekend Extravaganza

Most weddings, regardless of culture or guest list size, follow a certain format for that day. (1) You get ready. (2) You get married. (3) You take some pictures. (4) You celebrate. I suppose the reason why I’m constantly doing city hall weddings year-round is because of our simple belief that in the end, it’s still a wedding day – no matter how you slice it.  Big or small, we’re going to treat every wedding the same way, which is probably also why Google gives me so much love from around the world :). While elopements are a little bit different from your traditional weddings in terms of complexity, Ben had contacted me earlier about surprising Leeander with a “first-dance” later that day. If we were going to go all out anyway, I figured there was no harm in having them do a first look….on the streets of City Hall! 

First look between bride and groom before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

First look between bride and groom before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

First look between bride and groom before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

It’s Not Vegas

If there are any words I could use to describe what it’s like to get married at NYC’s City Hall, it’s definitely not Vegas. While you could occasionally see a famous face (Matt Damon and Alec Baldwin also tied the knot here), it’s hardly that Hollywood-glamorous. If anything, I would describe it as being most similar to your local Department of Motor Vehicles…with a few nice couches, and a couple of chandeliers for good measure. The ceremony lasts literally 2 minutes (and if you have your own vows, then maybe 3 minutes), and you’ll be out the door and betrothed in the time it takes for me to get from Jersey to meet my couples for morning prep (that’s 30-60 minutes, for inquiring minds). It’s hardly cheesy with some Elvis impersonator officiating a wedding. If anything, it’s a bit more utilitarian and boring like your typical visit to the motor vehicles…unless of course you got yourself the right photographer :). Bride and groom prepare their paperwork for New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Bride and groom walk along the main hall before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Bride and groom wait on the bench in the main hall before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Bride and groom's flowers and ticket number before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.
Bride laughs before her New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Bride and groom wait on the bench in the main hall before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.
Bride and groom wait in the main hall before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Bride and groom prepare their documents before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Bride and groom prepare their documents before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Ring exchange during a New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Groom exchanges vows during a New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. First kiss during a New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

There’s A Pretty Cool NYC City Hall Wedding Photographer Who Also Knows All The Cool Spots!

So when Leeander and Ben found me all the way from the UK, they had one simple request. While they loved the urban setting of NYC, they also want something that wasn’t so Manhattan-y for their portrait session. That should be easy, I thought to myself. I’ll just take them to Brooklyn! While Brooklyn Bridge Park doesn’t necessarily qualify for “off-the-beaten-path” as far as wedding portrait locations go, I also realized that most out-of-towners don’t go into Brooklyn. Additionally, the only way to get Manhattan’s skyline is either going to Brooklyn or Jersey. Between a $16 roundtrip toll to NJ, and a nonexistent one to Brooklyn, this was also an easy decision to make :). Bride and groom pose for portraits in Brooklyn after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.Bride and groom pose for portraits in Brooklyn Bridge park after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.Bride and groom pose for portraits in Brooklyn Bridge Park after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Ben contacted me about two weeks before their arrival and asked if I knew of any places where he could share a “first-dance” with his future bride. The only requirement was that it had to be quiet enough for them to hear their song playing on his iPhone. This wracked my brain for about two weeks, because despite my extensive rolodex of awesome places, most were either expensive rental spaces or very public spaces (with tons of pedestrians and tourists). There was “one” place I could think of, but there was a 90% probability we would get kicked out: The Audubon Center in Prospect Park. Bride and groom share their first dance in the Audubon Center in Prospect Park after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

We lasted about 10 seconds before we were spotted, but not before I was able to snap this keeper :).

Bride and groom share their first dance in the Audubon Center in Prospect Park after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

“You can’t take pictures inside…” they told us. “…but you’re welcome to snap away outside.” Duly noted!

Bride and groom pose for portraits at the Audubon Center in Prospect Park after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.Bride and groom pose for portraits at the Audubon Center in Prospect Park after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Leeander and Ben, thank you so much for entrusting your day with us and I promise you that traffic isn’t really as bad as what we experienced that day! Despite this, I wish you two nothing but love and laughter and I hope that you enjoyed these images as much as we enjoyed capturing them. We will be looking forward to meeting you guys again in five years with your mini Cakebreads! According to my Facebook feed it’s Friday, which means I’ve got to do my stretches for a weekend filled with camera-clicking. All said and done, there will be about 22 hours of me running around…and I’m going to love every single minute of it. Only 8 more weeks left in the wedding season! Happy Friday ya’ll, Ben & Karis    

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