December Holiday Elopement in NYC

Elopement Guides

A holiday elopement in NYC isn't complete without a trip to see the Rockette's or the lights in Midtown Manhattan.

December is always a magical time for a holiday elopement in NYC.

Beginning just after Thanksgiving, typically with the Rockefeller Center Tree lighting (usually the Tuesday or Wednesday after Thanksgiving), the season continues until just past New Year’s Eve.

If you are thinking of eloping to New York City during the Christmas or New Years holiday season, then this is the guide for you!

When does the holiday season begin in NYC?

The holiday season in NYC really gets underway the week after Thanksgiving, which is November 23rd in 2023. However, some decorations and markets may open before Thanksgiving week. I highly recommend visiting between this time and the week before Christmas for lower crowds. (Let’s say December 1-15th) However, weekends will be crowded during this time and therefore I recommend eloping on a weekday for best results.

The week before Christmas and just before New Years are the busiest. If you want photos near iconic holiday spots during this time, I recommend going early in the morning, like 8-9am or just skipping it during your session. I’d rather spend the time in a location where I can have space to work and take the best possible photos of you. However, if this is when you want to marry, then we will make it work.

New Years Eve elopements offer a special challenge as many streets are blocked off in the midtown area around Times-Square. Accessing all other areas is not a problem with proper planning. 

How can we get married in NYC?

To marry in New York City, you need to get a marriage license at least 24 hours before from one of the city’s Marriage Bureaus. (Or another clerk’s office in NY state) Click here for more info. If traveling by air for a wedding during this time of year, I suggest making sure you have ample time to get the license should there be any weather related travel disruptions. For example, plan to arrive at least 2-3 days before you wish to marry. And don’t forget about the 24 hour waiting period.

Where are the best December holiday elopement locations in NYC?

This Christmas tree near Grand Central Terminal is an excellent addition to a holiday Elopement in NYC.
This tree was the perfect backdrop for this couple’s family portraits at Grand Central Terminal. It is on the pedestrian plaza at Vanderbilt Street.

Since the weather is on average mild, outdoor weddings are still possible. Central Park is beautiful anytime of the year but there are not many decorations. (outside of Tavern on the Green) I do suggest having a back-up plan as rain, snow and even very cold temperatures are possible.

Hotel suites and private dining rooms are a good back-up location for a fee, but Grand Central Station works just fine for a no cost option. Check out my post on intimate wedding locations for more suggestions. 

The Manhattan Marriage Bureau is an option however you can’t make an appointment until 3 weeks before and as of now (January 2023) you can only have one witness. You can have other guests wait outside. I can photograph the ceremony for you OR meet you after/before for a wedding photos only session.

Most couples want to include some festive decorations in their photos during this time of the year. The most popular spots like the Rockefeller Center tree are very crowded so I only suggest adding this to our itinerary in the morning. There are other trees we can include later in the day in less busy locations. (Like one I found at Grand Central, Washington Square Park) Up and down 5th and 6th Avenue there are also decorations, festival windows and your own hotel may have a nice display. However, it can be difficult to take photos in these areas unless we go early. 

What wedding vendors do you suggest?

You’ll either need a registered NYC officiant or a ceremony appointment at City Hall.

I always suggest professional hair and make-up and encourage you to book early during the time. Many stylists are busy during this season or are taking time off.

Flowers are always a good idea and can also be a way to include festive colors even if we don’t go to a holiday themed location.

For the ultimate New York experience any time of the year, but especially during this season, hiring a vintage cab is a fun idea. The drivers know great spots to park the taxi for photos and it is just a fun way to get around and keep warm! If that isn’t your style, simply hiring a car for a few hours will also help keep us warm and make the whole process easier if we are going to multiple locations.

Obviously, I suggest hiring a professional photographer!

See all of my recommended vendors here.

Including a vintage taxi in a holiday elopement in NYC is an unforgettable experience.
View of Manhattan from Weehawken, NJ with a vintage taxi by Film Cars

When should I start booking my December holiday elopement in NYC?

Given the popularity of visiting the city during this time, I suggest starting to plan about six months before. However, I often book last minute weddings during this season as well. 

Accommodations will fill-up for this time earlier because it is so popular. I also suggest making restaurant reservations as soon as the window opens-up. (which can vary from 3-1 month before) Given all the visitors in town, holiday parties etc. it is wise to plan ahead.

Additionally, I often travel during the holiday season myself and usually have my tickets booked by early October. If I know I have a booking, I will schedule around it. 

Can you recommend locations and a timeline?

Yes! I make custom elopement timelines for my couples. Usually we have a chat and I’ll make a plan based on their desired photo locations and ceremony spot.

I highly recommend having an elopement on a weekday. In December, the sun sets at about 4:30 pm. Locations like Central Park will largely be in shadow by 3:30pm, though won’t be dark until about 5:00pm. However, the angle of the sun is low the entire day so I find that photographing between say 9am-4pm results is ideal daylight conditions most days. I work with an assistant so it is possible to take photos after this time using flash or continuous LED lighting. 

A December Holiday Elopement in NYC Timeline

  • 9:30 Meet at Grand Central (Lots of holiday decor outside and a great back-up ceremony location) A brief ceremony can be done here without a special permit.
  • 10:00 Rockefeller Tree/Top of the Rock (I suggest the Express Pass for flexibility and faster access) A brief ceremony can be done here without a special permit.
  • 11:00 Central Park – A brief ceremony can be done here without a special permit or you can reserve a location. See this post for location info.
  • 12:00 End.  Head to Tavern on the Green for lunch or The Plaza for tea. (Or start later and end with champagne!)

2.5 hours gives us enough time to visit a few locations nearby each other.

What is the weather like in New York in December?

It is usually chilly (40-50s) but not typically below freezing everyday during this time. There can be arctic blasts for a day or two or even a bit of snow, but the end of fall and early winter in NYC is more mild than later in January. By the end of November, the non evergreen trees are typically bare, however we had quite a few hold outs until mid December this year. If foliage is important to you, I’d suggest visiting in early November to be on the safe side.

What should we wear for an elopement?

A holiday elopement in NYC is not complete without stopping for champagne at Tavern on The Green.
Holiday decor outside of Tavern on the Green in Central Park

You will need some kind of a coat for a December holiday elopement in NYC. I work with an assistant who can carry coats while we are taking photos when you don’t want them in the photo. I will be able to more thoroughly capture the day if you are ok with the coats being in the photo. Often my favorite moments happen in the inbetween so I do suggest investing in a beautiful coat or cape if possible.

As usual, I recommend good walking shoes since we usually are on foot at least some of the time. If it is cold, wear a pair of warm boots and then you can change into nicer shoes at specific spots. However, if you are wearing a long dress, your shoes may not show and I’d just focus on warmth and comfort.

I usually have extra hand warmers with me, but wearing foot warmers may be a good idea.

Where should we stay in NYC for holiday elopement?

Hotels will be very busy during this season so expect to pay premium prices. I suggest booking early and if possible, during the first two weeks in December and avoiding Thanksgiving week and the week before and after Christmas. It is also less crowded at popular spots during this time but just as magical.

Most of the holiday activities during this season take place in Manhattan. Most of my couples book there to avoid long taxi rides and traffic. 

What is there to do in NYC during the holiday season?

Here are my top suggestions for fun holiday activities and sights in Manhattan during the Christmas/New Years season. 

  1. Holiday Markets are a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening and enjoy the season. Check the website for exact 2024 dates.
  • Union Square Holiday Market: Mid November through December 24
  • Holiday shops at Bryant Park: End of October through January 2
  • Columbus Circle Holiday Market: End of November through  December 24
  • Brooklyn Borough Hall Holiday Market: End of November through December 26 
  • Grand Central Terminal: Mid November through December 24
  1. Ice skating in Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center & Central Park
  1. Shopping along 5th Avenue, in Soho etc.
  1. Window displays lights along 5th, Rockefeller Center Tree and more
  1. Seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, Mid November through early January
  1. Book an Igloo at Bryant Park or City Winery at Rockefeller Center
  1. Christmas Themed Bars Miracle on 9th, Rolf’s (year round), Frosty’s and more.
  1. And naturally, all the regular things New York has to offer from Broadway to museums etc. 

Thinking about a December holiday elopement in NYC? Please reach out, I’m happy to answer your questions.