Unlike some other states in this nation, New York does not recognize “common law marriage.” Common law marriage is a form of legal marriage that arises out of situations that did not include a wedding ceremony. Two examples from two other states would be (1) living together for seven years or more and holding each other out as each other’s spouse; (2) checking into a hotel, registering as husband and wife, and introducing the other person as your spouse at dinner to the waitress such as my wife will have… then spending the night together. New York legislated this away in the very late 1800’s.
But, now here’s the fun part that no one expects (besides the Spanish Inquisition for the Monty Python fans out there): if you hold a fake ceremony in front of guests to make them believe you are married within the State of New York, then you are legally married. But what if the person who officiated the wedding is not licensed to perform marriage? You are still married. But what if we never signed the marriage license? You are still married. But what if we never got a marriage license? You are still married. This is by statute not case law.
When and why might this occur? An example would be the son and daughter of very religious parents who do not want them cohabitating outside of marriage. So they fake a wedding to get their parents off their backs. They tried to fool their parents but tricked themselves. Another example might be when the wedding is bought and paid for by one spouse, and other spouse refuses at the last minute to execute the prenuptial agreement. The spouse who paid for the wedding does not want to waste the money spent. So, they go through with the ceremony and party, but he does not sign the marriage license because she will not sign the pre-nup, and so neither document gets signed by wither person. One or both of them may think they are not married, but they are.
Thus, the people are legally married in the state of New York if the fake ceremony is in front of guests who then believe the couple is married and the ceremony occurred within the state of New York and now a divorce is necessary to sever their legal ties.