San Francisco is a city close to my heart! I’m a sucker for a SF City Hall wedding or elopement. They’re my absolute favorite which is why I photograph 15-20 every year. Some may call them my speciality. But, did you know that there are so many other places to elope in San Francisco?
See I love SF because at heart I’m a city girl. I love walking from place to place and just absorbing the sites and sounds. However, one thing that sets San Francisco apart from other major cities is the nature and beauty that this city has. When you drive out to the Susnet and get to the Golden Gate bridge it’s hard to believe that that just 30 minutes before you were in the heart of some giant skyscrapers.
San Francisco has the best of city and nature. And while a lot of couples op for a City Hall wedding or elopement there are actually tons of other places in San Francisco where you can have your ceremony at. I think a common misconception people have is that elopements are just two people. And while yes that can be true. Elopements can also include your closest friends and family. And these people will hopefully allow you to do just that!
Eloping in San Francisco
Thankfully in the state of California, you only need one witness to sign a marriage license if it’s not confidential and if it is a confidential marriage license then you actually don’t need any witnesses. Most of the locations just require a permit from the National Park Service which allows you to hold a ceremony. And you can actually get anyone you know to get ordained through the Universal Life Church which is free or have someone apply to be Deputy Marriage Commissioner for the Day which is $162 in SF county. Then they are ordained and can perform your ceremony.
1. Sutro Baths
Sutro Baths is one of my favorite spots in San Francisco to watch the sunset. And usually, on a weekday there aren’t tons of people around which can make for a more intimate experience. Also, depending on the tide if it’s low enough there’s a small beach right past the baths which is so cute, exclusive, and a perfect place to say I do.
2. Marin Headlands
The Marin Headlands have me in a chokehold. I’ve been DYING to take a couple here. While it can be hard to access if using public transport or ride-share. It is definitely worth the views! Marin headlands have my favorite views of the Golden Gate bridge since you not only look at it but you can also see the city in the background. It’s also the only view from above unless you are in a plane. There are numerous hikes here and countless places for epic views.
3. San Francisco City Hall
While this blog post is mainly for places other than San Francisco City Hall, I still wanted to include it because it’s just too good! And if City Hall 1 hour ceremony isn’t in the budget some other places on this list might be able to fit. Plus you can always go into city hall for photos – no appointment or anything needed! And this view from the Mayor’s Balcony is one of my favorites.
4. Palace of Fine Arts
Palace of Fine Arts is absolutely stunning and believe it or not bigger in person. As beautiful as this place it’s not all fun in roses. Car break-ins are sadly very prevalent in SF/Bay Area and they can be essentially bad here. However, one great plus of this spot is unless you need to make reserve the space for 30+ people then no permits or anything are needed to get married here. If you want to know more information about a reception at the Palace of Fine Arts check it out here.
5. Fort Point
Fort Point has one of my favorite views of the Golden Gate Bridge. And I love this spot because it’s also close to Crissy Field. When means you could have a really cute picnic and then walk over the bridge or even have a ceremony on Crissy Field Beach before adventuring to the Fort. While this site is not on the pre-approved list from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area you can still possibly have a ceremony here with their permission.
6. Legion of Honor Museum
The Legion of Honor can host not only weddings but elopements too! You of course would have to check with them. But, assuming you didn’t need to reserve any space there; there would be no additional permits or paper required other than your marriage license. Which makes the process super easy and straightforward. To see more from this elopement check out this post.
7. De Young Museum
The De Young Museum is managed by the same company that helps maintain and upkeep the Legion of Honor. So similarly, unless you’re wanting to reserve space at the museum holding a small ceremony with a few guests should be an issue. If you want more information about holding a wedding at the De Young Museum check out this page.
8. Fort Funston
Fort Funston is on the sunset side of San Francisco. And is kind of a link point between Daly City and San Francisco. The rolling cliffs, sand dunes, and ocean views remind me of Big Sur. If you’re looking for a beach that allows dogs, doesn’t have views of the Golden Gate Bridge and has limited crowds. Then look no further.
9. Conservatory of Flowers
The Conservatory of Flowers is a beautiful space that’s a perfect indoor option for an elopement or wedding. They do rent their space for weddings which is great. And for photo sessions should as engagement sessions or couples sessions no permit or additional reservation is required. Please again call and ask if you need a permit or any special info if you want to hold a small ceremony here. I would assume if it’s just your officiant, you both, and a photographer reserving a time may not be required inside or outside. However, for larger parties, I would think you would need a full rental. Remember this space is funded by the city and so longer wait time between emails is expected; always inquire as soon as possible. To find out more information about weddings here check out their site here.
10. Lovers Lane
Lovers Lane is located right in the presidio of San Francisco and fairly close to lots of good locations like Fort Point, Baker beach, etc. To the left side of the art installation is a steep hill that leads to a road with fairly constant traffic. So, if you’re looking for a quiet and intimate place to say your vows while eloping in San Francisco. Then, this place may not be it. The trees, the art, and if the weather is good, this place is amazing. And I would venture to say fairly quiet if you want to do a ceremony during a weekday morning. However, this is not a private and you can not reserve a area but for small ceremonies of under 10 people this could be a great spot.
11. Marshall Beach
Marshall’s Beach has an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s very similar to the view at Baker Beach only closer and with more rocks. A couple of key things about this location are that the beach is only really accessible during low tide. So, if you’re planning to go here just in general I would definitely recommend check out apps and googling. The hike down is fairly easy and low effort but definitely not accessible for wheelchairs and any other injuries that limit mobility. And for the hike back up you will most like sweating and gasping for air (or at least I was.)
Since it can be challenging to access this beach especially in comparison to Baker Beach there’s a lot less crowds of people. Which is you’re hoping for something a little more private is definitely a good trade off for the hike.
12. Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks truly has some of the best views of San Francisco. On a clear day you can see EVERYTHING from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate and of course everything in between. If you elope in San Francisco here I would recommend keeping the guest count small. There is parking that’s accesible but it is first come first serve so that could be tricky depending on the day of the week and time. However, sunrise rise here on a clear day is EPIC is probably the best time to avoid loads of people.
13. Lands End
The Lands End Trail has been rated one of the best trails in all of San Francisco. It is about 4 miles long and has about 300-500 ft of elevation. There are tons of epic landmarks along the way from Sutro Baths, views of the Golden Gate, and of course the famous Labyrinth. There are multiple points along the trail that can vary the total length and are available for parking. Whether you’re eloping here or not this defintiely a great trail for exploring the sunset side of SF.
14. Baker Beach
If you want to elope in San Francisco specifically on the beach. Then, Baker Beach is probably the beach that you’ve been thinking about! It super accessible with two parking lots, a ramp down to the beach, and even access from public transport (Muni.) However, Baker Beach is one of those places in San Francisco that you really have no idea what you’re going to get until you get there. And that means everything from the weather, the crowds, the waves(tide), etc.
Baker Beach is also a nude friendly beach so in the summer and evenings you’ll get a vast variety of different characters. And weekends, holidays, and probably summer/warm nights, loads of people flock to enjoy the views of the Golden Gate on the beach. So, defintiely keep date and time of day at the top of mind here.
15. Pier 7
Pier 7 is one of my new favorite places in San Francisco. The lights, the views of the Bay Bridge and the Transamerica building are INCREDIBLE. This spot is super closer to Embarcadero and all of downtown San Francisco. I’m not 100% sure on how the traffic fairs during the evening especially weekends. But, I’ve been on weekend morning and there’s been only a few (maybe 8) other people around. So, very quiet and calm for the city. This also a great second spot if you wanted to get married in City Hall and get portraits at another fun location in the city.
16. Alamo Square
Alamo Square is one of those places that are for sure on the bucket list when your planning your first trip to San Francisco. I mean the Full House houses (otherwise known as the Painted Ladies) are definitely a must. And actually the Blue Painted Lady’s Owner hosts hourly tour of the house And Alamo Square is the perfect little park to enjoy a small picnic together. Crowd control varies at Alamo Square but this is definitely not a place to expect privacy. And parking can definitely be a challenge any time of the day or week.
17. Pacific Overlook
This is one of my new favorite view of the Golden Gate bridge. This overlook with the Batteries is such a a great location is you decide to elope in San Francisco. There is SO much space here people constantly moving, walking the trail, taking pics, coming and going. So, while you may not have complete privacy you’ll have a fair amount. This can be a great place for a initmate wedding of 10-15 people. Because even on the larger side there will still be plenty of space for everyone including your guests and other onlookers.
18. Ocean Beach
Ocean Beach is just around the corner from Sutro Baths and on weekends you can find an array of different people. I would definitely say morning are the best, not exactly quiet but easy accessible parking and people just out for their morning walk. Ocean beach is also I believe the only beach in San Francisco that you can have a bond fire. So, just think about how much fun you could have getting married at city hall, adventuring around San Francisco and get epic photos at the sunsets to finish the day here with your favorite people by a bond fire.
19. Stow Lake
Stow Lake does have an option to do a venue rental if you decide to elope in San Francisco here. So, it can accomodate 20-70 guests depending on the room you book. Stow Lake is also a great location for just two people because come on rowing the boat in the water is SOO CUTE! They have row boats and pedal boats that fit 2-6 people. Row boats start at $26/hr and pedal boats start at $32.50/hr. This also makes a great activity to do on your elopement day especially if you’ve never done it. Because it’s definitely on my bucketlist!
20. Point Bonita Lighthouse
While technically Point Bonita is not in San Francisco I’m still adding it to this list of places to elope in San Francisco. Because, it’s close enough. Point Bonita is on the Marin Headlands side of the bridge. And it’s on the pre-approved list by the Golden Gate service. This ceremony site holds max 65 people and it’s about 1/2 mile walk from the parking lot. And ceremonies must take place before 11am or after 4:30pm.
To see a full list of locations that have been pre-approved check out this awesome map by the Golden Gate Recreation Area.
21. Yuerba Buena Island
Yuerba Buena Island is I think technically also known as Treasure Island. On clear days the views of the city are endless and absolutely EPIC. And you’re probably like you say that about every place. And yea, because it’s true. From this island, you get amazing views of the city in the background, the bay bridge to your left and the Golden Gate to your right. There are even a few restaurants and breweries that could be the perfect location for a small reception or party after!
How to Decide Where to Elope in San Francisco
If you made the decision to elope in San Francisco, but don’t know where to elope and now after looking at all of those locations you might be even more confused. Don’t worry! I got you. First, even if you don’t have your location picked or all those details figured don’t hesitate to inquire. I love getting to help couples plan a day that’s geared toward them.
When deciding on where don’t get too tied down to one location. No one’s stopping you from having your ceremony in one spot and getting portraits or doing activities in a few others. Again, elopements and small weddings are what you make them!
Out of all these locations and maybe a few of your own think about a place that might be special, make a new memory or adventure, privacy, the number of guests, and accessibility. Make a small list of your favs and start narrowing downing to 2 or 3. A pros and cons list always helps! No matter the location I’m sure you’re going to have a beautiful wedding so just pick from your heart!