No witness for our NYC wedding
May 1, 2014 6:59 PM   Subscribe

My (hopefully) soon-to-be wife and I both have really severe social anxiety issues. Unfortunately, we need a witness for our City Hall wedding tomorrow in NYC. What are our options?

Current ideas:

- Hire a photographer: Expensive ($150-$300) and we've likely missed our window.

- Hire a tour guide, but ask them to serve as our witness instead: Maybe less expensive, but also terribly weird.

- Ask strangers on the street to help: We tried this today, but gave up after an hour since we both failed to work up the courage to ask a stranger to spend 45-ish minutes of their day sitting with us in a waiting room.

- Hope that a "professional" witness will be in the proximity: We also failed with this today, since the photographers mentioned in this article weren't around

- Loiter at the City Clerk's office until we spot another couple without a witness: Might work, but would require a lot of luck.

Other ideas? Or any recommendations on potential tour guides who might be sympathetic to our plight? Throwaway address:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
What time will you be down at the City Clerk's office?
posted by Caz721 at 7:02 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Why ask strangers on the street when you can ask a Mefite here? Do you have a time window so people could respond? Also, what about that website "TaskRabbit" in NYC? Or even Craigslist? Maybe combine photographer and witness as you mentioned, in your ad, but make the photography non-professional, so anyone with a decent phone camera? (Tomorrow, whew! Anyway, congrats).
posted by bquarters at 7:03 PM on May 1, 2014 [9 favorites]

Couple behind you in line. Why would this require luck? You're hardly going to be the only people getting married tomorrow, and they've got nothing better to do.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:03 PM on May 1, 2014 [9 favorites]

I can't speak for NYC, but in most courthouses members of the staff will serve as a witness if necessary. Bailiffs, clerks, whatever. Heck, the judges' law clerks will serve this function if no one else will.

Barring that, it's a courthouse. There are people around. Many of them would be happy to help you if asked.

This really isn't something you need to worry about.
posted by valkyryn at 7:06 PM on May 1, 2014 [19 favorites]

I very much think you will be able to show up and have someone there, either a bystander or a dry city employee, witness for you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:08 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I got married at a courthouse one random morning, the court clerk did the officiating and another person who worked at the clerk's office did the witnessing and it was no big deal.
posted by steinwald at 7:11 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

What time do you need a witness? I could take an hour to help out... memail? Or post to mefijobs, I'm sure if I can't make it, another nyc mefite would be happy to help out...
posted by larthegreat at 7:18 PM on May 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

I work across the street from the marriage bureau in Manhattan. Send me a memail if you want; I'll probably be around all day tomorrow.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:06 PM on May 1, 2014 [64 favorites]

: "Ask strangers on the street to help: We tried this today, but gave up after an hour since we both failed to work up the courage to ask a stranger to spend 45-ish minutes of their day sitting with us in a waiting room."

If you want this approach I'd make up a hand lettered sign: "Marriage witness volunteer needed" or words to that effect and then just hold it up in line. Someone will approach you.
posted by Mitheral at 8:19 PM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a feeling your anxiety about this is coming from some mistaken assumptions - particularly, assuming that it's wrong to ask a person (especially a stranger) to do something, and that being a witness for your wedding is a massive and unpleasant task. I suspect neither of these assumptions are true. If I was in your city (and not on the other side of the world) I would volunteer to come and be a witness at your wedding because it's generally a short and enjoyable duty. It looks as though mlle valentine (above) is nearby and feels the same way, or else I'm betting someone else can help you out. It will be fine! Congratulations!
posted by Cheese Monster at 8:23 PM on May 1, 2014 [16 favorites]

Depending on the time, I might be able to do it. I think Cheese Monster is right -- there's nothing wrong with asking someone to help out. If you memail me and the time doesn't work out, I'll tell you I'm sorry and stay hopeful for you. That's to say I very much doubt people are as put off by the request as you might think, so take any of the above suggestions/offers, and enjoy your day!
posted by whoiam at 9:19 PM on May 1, 2014

My grandfather worked in the Woolworth Building when he was in his late 20s. He was sitting outside eating lunch with a friend outside City Hall and was randomly asked to be a witness to a marriage. In fact, he even stuck around long enough to get back to work about a half hour late, as I recall. He was thrilled and honored, and it remained to be one of his favorite memories for the next 65 years. That particular day was over 80 years ago at this point.

Go for it, and congratulations! I hope you will have a beautiful sunny day to celebrate with your bride. :)
posted by dancinglamb at 9:56 PM on May 1, 2014 [37 favorites]

I witnessed a wedding at City Hall, and one of the grooms in my wedding hung around and witnessed the wedding for the guys after them. Wasn't an issue at all. I think he appreciated being asked to be part of someone else's happiness.
posted by kjs4 at 10:54 PM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I worked in a courthouse for a few years and it was totally common for myself or another staff member to witness for a wedding after being approached by strangers. If you happen to find a nerdy IT staff photobug they might even take some photos for you. :) Good luck!
posted by BeerFilter at 2:39 AM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

My friends got married in NYC last year and asked the couple behind them in line. In fact they witnessed for each other. Seems to happen all the time!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 2:51 AM on May 2, 2014

They'll find you someone. But if you post the time, I could likely do it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:29 AM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

What time? I work nearby and I could do probably do it. My husband and I married there a few years back, so I'm familiar with the procedure/building. Anyway, memail me if you're interested.

Edit: This is assuming you mean Manhattan and not another borough.
posted by melissasaurus at 4:59 AM on May 2, 2014

What time are you going to be there? I should be in lower manhattan later in the afternoon. It's a short walk for me to the courthouse.
posted by Yellow at 5:07 AM on May 2, 2014

Apparently you should have made a Metafilter Meetup for this! Nthing that this really wouldn't put off most people - I think most folks would respond more like dancinglamb's grandpa. Love is awesome, and it's not every day that you get to unexpectedly help out another person with something that is both steeped in love AND super easy for you to do. I kind of wish I were in NYC so I could throw my hat into the ring, too.

Good luck and congratulations!
posted by DingoMutt at 5:24 AM on May 2, 2014 [14 favorites]

Nthing the meet up, DingoMutt! We could all bring snacks and drinks and have a picnic reception in the park!
posted by Yellow at 5:55 AM on May 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, you will be fine finding one on-site.

If you have never been there, it's THE GREATEST PLACE ON EARTH. OH MY GOD it is so great. There will be a ton of people there, getting married or getting licenses, and there's a bit of waiting around, and they are used to situations like this. It combines all the best elements of the DMV (okay, maybe the only best element) with like TOTAL JOY and AMAZING DIVERSITY.

Congratulations, don't sweat the witness thing, they will help you deal with it, and someone wonderful will step in.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:01 AM on May 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

If you need a backup I'm free today and would be happy to come and be a witness for you. In either case congratulations I hope you both have many years of happiness ahead of you!
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:37 AM on May 2, 2014

If you have never been there, it's THE GREATEST PLACE ON EARTH. OH MY GOD it is so great.

Yeah. The marriage license office and adoption court are basically the only two places in any given courthouse where everyone wants to be there and is having a good time. And the judge (or whatever officer) performing the ceremonies tends to view that as the highlight of their day, if not week, as most of the rest of what they do is some combination of tedious and depressing.

Make no mistake, just about everyone in that particular room will be more than happy to help you out any way they can.
posted by valkyryn at 7:32 AM on May 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

Don't forget to update this (via mod)! How'd it go?
posted by heyho at 11:10 AM on May 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Followup from the OP:
I wanted to let everyone know that this was resolved very happily! My (now) wife and I were both overwhelmed by all the kindness exhibited in your responses to this question, and we feel very lucky to have had mlle valentine be the witness at our wedding yesterday. Thank you so much to everyone who responded, especially those in our proximity who so quickly volunteered to help two strangers in distress. Our gratitude is immense.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:58 AM on May 3, 2014 [137 favorites]

Just wanted to say it was a pleasure being a witness for the wedding. Again, congratulations!

(I hope this isn't a violation of AskMe etiquette, since I'm no longer directly answering, but it's a form of followup, right?)
posted by mlle valentine at 1:56 PM on May 4, 2014 [89 favorites]

Double Congratulations - once for getting married, a second for making the Mefi FP sidebar!

Good luck, and good job MIle Valentine.
posted by marienbad at 12:25 AM on May 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

(Surely mlle valentine merits a best answer for that?)
posted by maryr at 2:21 PM on May 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

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