Starting next Monday (1/12/09), New York City will officially open its newest attraction: its Marriage Bureau in City Hall. Second only to Las Vegas as a nuptial destination, the Big Apple is hoping to lure away romantics with its $12 million makeover.
“We want to be the wedding destination of the world,” said NYC First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris.
Zach Patton of Governing.com posted this description of the old facility:
Couples sit on plastic chairs lining the walls in the hallway until their names are called; there is graffiti scratched into the walls; and, worst of all, there are no bathrooms nearby….
“I feel like I’m at the DMV,” said one man, who was at the clerk’s office to witness a friend’s wedding.
The bride-to-be agreed, saying, “It’s so institutionalized – not really what you picture your wedding day” to be.
Jamie Drake, designer to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Madonna, and other celebrities, headed up the renovation, which now includes two romantically themed chapels (one in peach tones, the other in purples), gleaming marble hallways, and expansive dressing rooms (in place of the old institutional toilet stalls that used to service the facility).
WNYC news reports:
The gleaming, 24,000 square-ft. space officially opens on Monday, and includes a sound system that allows couples to play their wedding processional music from their iPods.
Before a pack of reporters, a young marine and his blushing bride [pictured below] became the first couple to get married [on 1/7/09] in the city’s elegant new marriage bureau.
Fernanda Santas of the New York Times writes:
But it is not simply an aesthetic upgrade. City officials are trying to overhaul the whole experience in the new space.
Gone are the metal detectors and security guards who used to greet couples at the entrance to the Municipal Building, bellowing, “Put your cellphones on the tray! Take your coins out of your pockets!”
The interminable lines — to apply for a marriage license, to pick up the license, to get on the chapel’s waiting list — will be condensed into one. A phone service will offer translations to 170 languages. And instead of written forms, couples can fill out computerized ones online or use the self-service kiosks right near the front door.
Also, for the first time, the marriage license, which costs $35, and the fee to have the wedding performed there, $25, can be paid for by credit card — putting an end to the need for about-to-be-wed couples to dash out to the closest A.T.M.
As for minuses, aside from the fact that the new bureau is a longer walk from the subway than the old one, they are hard to find.
The new Marriage Bureau is located on the ground floor of 141 Worth Street. In addition to marriage licenses, the bureau will offer floral bouquets, silver certificate holders and tissues. So much for romance. It’s all about making a buck after all, isn’t it?