The Manhattan Marriage Bureau is on the second floor of the Municipal Building downtown. As the Times describes today, its hallways are "lined with cracked tile floors, fading yellow walls and dim fluorescent lighting where city employees . . . have been giving true love a brief, secular send-off since 1916."
No more, though. This fall, the Bureau moves to shiny new digs up the street at Centre and Worth. Why the move? Stupid question! As the Times notes:
The relocation will mean more than just swapping one space for another, or reconfiguring furniture into new surroundings. What will happen, in fact, is the death of the marriage bureau as Manhattan has known it for generations: a storied but shabby place, long on protocol but short on charm and comfort..
The move, an idea that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has nursed for almost as long as he has been in office, was inspired in part by concerns about dignity. The bureau’s appearance has not changed much over its 92 years, and despite periodic renovations, Room 257 — which houses the wedding chapel — looks as bureaucratically stiff as all the other Municipal Building offices. The chapel itself has no adornment except a pulpit used by the handful of officiants who perform the ceremonies.
The other reason for the switch is purely strategic. City officials see in the revamped marriage bureau an opportunity to market the city as a wedding destination, offering it as a more tasteful alternative to Las Vegas.
[T]here will be are doors coated in bronze, heating-unit covers fashioned by a Brooklyn artisan to match the building’s Art Deco style, and ornate columns throughout the 5,000-square-foot space
I know a few couples who were married at City Hall. They've said there is something romantic about the drab surroundings. If they wanted fancy (say, art deco style and ornate columns), they'd have got hitched in a hotel ballroom somewhere. According to city records, there have been 1.2 million weddings at the Bureau since 1930. Here are a few of them, via YouTube.