All images via Goran Veljic
Most weddings you see in New York City seem elaborately planned – not surprising as weddings in this city are some of the most expensive in the country. But what if you wanted to elope or do something a little more than just a City Hall wedding? That’s where NY1 Minute Weddings comes in, a wedding elopement company. NY1 Minute Wedding is run by Goran Velijic, a Serbian immigrant, who was not only the first official City Hall wedding photographer since the marriage bureau opened, but also the first New York City wedding officiant to conduct underground same-sex marriages in the city. He has done more than 8,000 weddings since 2009.
Velijic says that weddings are as easy as “1, 2, 3” and that his business started when he turned his job as the first City Hall wedding photographer into a business of his own by becoming a wedding officiant through American Marriage Ministries. Now Veljic, 47, marries people from all over the world in various locations around New York City.
Here we learn more about his story in a Q&A.
Tell me about your business:
We serve couples who are getting married in New York from all over the world. It’s becoming one of the most popular ways to get married, called elopement. Our clients are coming from all over the world — mostly from UK, Australia, or other states in the United States. You also have a lot of New Yorkers who are getting married in New York.
Goran Veljic (right) standing with a couple
What got you started in doing weddings?
I started my business as the first City Hall wedding photographer since the marriage bureau opened. Then I started to offer all-inclusive wedding packages including ceremony at desired spots and now we are organizing hair stylists, makeup artists, flowers, violinists. We do the whole paperwork for the ceremony and everything.
Where do you marry people?
Central Park is one of the most popular wedding locations now and the Empire State Building is very popular. Times Square was popular, but I can tell that Grand Central is more popular. We do a lot of weddings in Grand Central in the winter time.
How many people work at NY1 Minute Weddings?
Now I am performing ceremonies and my son is working as a professional photographer. If our clients book the violinist then the violinist is performing. If our clients book the hair stylist and makeup artist then they are going in their hotel room and doing that job as well.
How long before their wedding do people contact you?
Actually, we have some couples that have booked us for 2020 even if that’s elopement. We have 2019, we have a lot of couples for 2018 already, but we are available all of the time for last minute weddings. Mostly our couples are booking us a few months in advance, but if you are planning on getting married in 48 hours we are available. Legally you could be married just 24 hours after you get your license. If someone called me now and said we have a marriage license we do it.
What type of people elope?
Everybody likes to elope. Everybody. People from every country have a reason to elope and get married here. We have very young people who get married, but we have a lot of people who are getting married for the second time or even third time. I don’t know how to describe my clients. I love them so much.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love to perform the ceremony. The story of how I started to perform the ceremonies is funny. Some of my clients came for the ceremony, but the marriage bureau is closed at 3:45. So, I got a certificate to perform the ceremonies and started to do it for people who were late. Then I started to say, you could schedule your ceremony with me in the afternoon, morning, it could be Saturday or Sunday when the marriage bureau is closed, you could do it at your home, at your backyard, you could do it at your favorite place.
How much does it cost to elope at NY1 Minute Weddings?
Our packages start at $1,000 and include a lot of things – flowers, ceremony, photography, all wedding planning, meeting in the marriage bureau when obtaining your marriage license, but sometimes clients need to book separate services.
Are you married?
I was married in City Hall by a friend of mine who is a wedding officiant there. She provided the ceremony for us and one of my photographers took photos for my wedding. It was real eloping, me and my wife and a photographer.
Do the couples you marry usually stay together?
A lot of my clients tend to stay together. You know how I know that? Because I see them on Facebook. A lot of them are still together but you can not predict that. Maybe I am so optimistic and so idealistic. I believe all decisions are good and nothing is wrong, so even if they divorce they tried so what can you do.