Are you thinking about getting married in San Francisco City Hall?
If you’re thinking about getting married in San Francisco City Hall, then this guide is for you. It will help walk you through the whole process so, you know what to expect, can decide what would work best for you, and can have the day you’ve always dreamed of.
Table of Contents
OVERVIEW OF SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL
TYPES OF CEREMONIES
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE GETTING MARRIED AT SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT GETTING MARRIED IN SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL
TIPS FOR PLANNING YOUR SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL WEDDING
IDEAS FOR HAVING A FULL WEDDING DAY IN SAN FRANCISCO
Overview of San Francisco City Hall
San Francisco City Hall is located right downtown in the City Center Plaza. It’s known for its gorgeous architecture and grand staircase. City Hall has been and continues to be one of the most popular places in California to get married. Even Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were married in the rotunda.
In more recent years, it has been a popular place for domestic destination elopements and small weddings. It’s the perfect place to say “I do” for couples that want to celebrate their love in a city that is meaningful to them, capture the gorgeous gorgeous building, or even kick off a honeymoon adventure exploring California and beyond.
San Francisco City Hall is a fully functioning government building. It consists of 4 floors with ceremonies taking place on levels 2 or 4. The building is open to the public Monday through Friday 8 am – 5 pm. And you can book civil ceremonies and balcony ceremonies during that window. Alternatively, you can rent out spaces privately in the evenings and Saturday afternoons.
What are my Options for Getting Married at San Francisco City Hall?
There are 4 types of ceremonies at San Francisco City Hall: a civil ceremony, a one-hour ceremony, a two-hour ceremony, or a full evening wedding buyout. Some important things to think about when booking a ceremony are your guest count, the day of the week, City Hall’s availability, and your budget.
You can take a look at the table below to see what your best option is depending on what you’re looking for in your elopement or small wedding.
|Type of Ceremony||Public or Private||Guest Count||Availability||Cost|
|Civic Ceremony||Public||6||Weekdays 9 am – 3:30 pm||$95|
|One Hour Ceremony||Private||40 for Mayor’s Balcony|
60 for 4th Floor Gallery (100 standing)
|Weekdays 9 am – 3 pm||$1000 + chairs|
|Two Hour Ceremony||Private||200||Saturday 9 am – 12 pm||$5000|
|Full Wedding||Private||up to 3000||Weekday and weekend evenings (except Tuesdays)||starting at $10,000|
Civil ceremonies take place in San Francisco City Hall Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You have to make an appointment for your marriage license* ($113) and civil ceremony ($95). It’s important to note that these ceremony appointments can only be booked up to 90 days in advance. And it’s recommended to schedule your marriage license and ceremony for different days.
Civil ceremonies are 5-10 minutes long. They include a few short vows, exchanging rings, and of course your first kiss. If you plan on having more than six guests consider booking a balcony for your ceremony.
One-hour ceremonies at San Francisco City Hall are available Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. They can be booked on the City Hall events calendar. On the calendar, you’re able to check availability and then contact the office to make your reservation. You can choose from the 4th Floor North Balcony or the Mayor’s Balcony and rentals start at $1000. Chair rentals can also be purchased additionally. And if you’d music during your ceremony you can hire one of their qualified musicians. This ceremony option does not have an officiant so you will need to ask a friend or hire your own officiant. Bookings can be made for at least 3 weeks and up to 24 months in advance.
Two Hour Ceremonies
Two-hour ceremonies are offered only on Saturdays. They offer two start times 9 a.m. or 12 p.m. This ceremony allows you to say your vows on the grand staircase and starts at $5000. The two-hour timeframe does include your load-in and load-out time. And while you will have the entire building to yourself there are a few more things you must complete to have this type of wedding at City Hall including:
- Submitting an event timeline, floor plan, list of vendors, and proof of insurance.
- Paying the preliminary estimate of costs to cover labor, equipment, and extra fees and expenses.
- And securing the needed permits, including ones from the San Francisco Fire Department.
And like the one-hour ceremony, this ceremony option does not have an officiant so you will need to ask a friend or hire your own.
Evening weddings go through the same process as two-hour ceremonies. But, they are only available to book weekday and weekend evenings (except Tuesdays.) You’ll have the entire building to yourself. And of course, you must get the proper permits and submit all the documentation as stated above. These weddings start at $10,000 and have various other fees and add-ons depending on what you book.
What to Know Before Your San Francisco City Hall Wedding
It can be crowded at San Francisco City Hall.
Unless you’re booking the private ceremony, SF City Hall is open to the public. This means there are multiple couples getting married, photoshoots going on, tour groups, and everyday working people. A one-hour ceremony does allow you private use of the space but there will still be people around City Hall.
Plan an early or midweek ceremony if possible.
San Francisco is only open for public weddings from Monday through Friday. A general rule is Thursday and Friday tend to be the busiest and midweek is usually calmer. And don’t forget about long weekends and holidays which could affect what days City Hall is open.
Try to book either the first or last ceremony of the day.
Book the first or last ceremony of the day. For civil ceremonies, that’s the 3:30 p.m. or 9 a.m. slot. For one-hour ceremonies, that’s the 3 p.m. or 9 a.m. slot. San Francisco City Hall tends to be less busy towards the end or the beginning of the day. Many people aren’t early risers so usually 8 to 9 a.m. is empty in City Hall. And the last hour is when most appointments have wrapped up in the building.
Street parking at San Francisco City Hall is terrible.
There is very little to no parking around the city hall. I’d recommend parking at either the Civic Center Plaza Garage or the Performing Arts Garage. Or make things easy for yourself and just use ride-share services.
Schedule your Marriage License and Ceremony Appointments For Different Days
Save yourself the stress and headache and make your appointments for different days. You don’t want to miss your ceremony time because city hall is running late and can’t issue your marriage license on time. This is mainly if you plan to get your marriage license from San Francisco County. If you’re bringing your license from another California county then don’t worry about this.
Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Married in San Francisco
How does it work for civil ceremonies?
For civil ceremonies, when you book your appointment online you’ll choose whether you want to say personal vows or not. Then the day of your ceremony you’ll check into the county clerk’s office 10-15 minutes before your appointment time. They’ll check all your paperwork and then give you a number. Once your number is called you, your partner, and your witnesses (if you have them) will go into the county clerk’s office and sign your license. The Justice of the Peace marrying you will tell you where you’re having the ceremony (usually the rotunda). The justice of the peace will say a few words, you’ll say vows, exchange rings, and then you’re married! Civil ceremonies are short sweet and to the point, they last anywhere from 5-10 minutes max.
Do I need to bring anything for my civil ceremony?
For your civil ceremony, you need to bring a valid, authentic, legal photo identification for each person. A valid, unexpired, marriage license issued by a California County and one witness if you are bringing a public marriage license.
Do I need witnesses to get married at San Francisco City Hall?
Technically no. In the state of California, there are two different types of marriage licenses: confidential and public. For a public marriage license, you need one witness minimum and can opt for two if you’d like. For a confidential license, no witnesses are needed.
How many guests can I bring?
According to the website civil ceremonies can max accommodate 6 people. For other ceremonies, the number of people will depend on the size of the space you rented. For the Mayor’s balcony 40 people. Fourth-floor balcony 60 people. Full buyout for the Rotunda 200 people.
What are some good places for a reception?
There are some amazing restaurants in San Francisco. And there are beautiful places for photos after your ceremony (besides city hall of course.) If you’re looking for specific restaurants check out this blog post on 15 Restaurants for Your Wedding Reception in San Francisco.
Ideas for Having a Full Wedding Day in San Francisco
Get Ready at a Hotel or Airbnb Nearby
San Francisco has some of the best hotels in the Bay. So, if you’re getting married at San Francisco City Hall definitely check them out! You can find something a little more homey and warm or a waterfront hotel with views and amazing rooftop bars. Hotels nowadays are the easiest way to go. The cleaning and keeping everyone together are obvious pros. But there’s also parking and other great perks too.
Especially if you’re traveling from out of town or have others traveling from out of town I would recommend a hotel over an Airbnb. Depending on what you want to do there are great hotels all over the city. If you’re planning a more urban city-style elopement I would recommend hotels close to city hall like the Proper Hotel, Hotel 1, and the Line.
And for Airbnbs, most will be closer to Golden Gate Park if you want to stay in the city. If you don’t mind staying outside of the city I would recommend checking in Sausalito, Marin, or Tiburon.
Have a First Look
First looks are a great way of getting even more portraits and photos of your day. Since you’re already doing things a little differently don’t be afraid to go against the grain and “tradition” and have a first look.
Celebrate After with Family and Friends at a small reception
Fine dining and cuisine are all over San Francisco. And so even if you want to keep your celebration small and intimate you can still have a reception with friends and family to celebrate. There are countless restaurant options in San Francisco. If you want to have a small dinner or reception a lot of them have amazing options for private dining or semi-private dining.
The most important things to consider are your budget, the number of people, and the day of the week/time of day you are planning for. With more guests, most restaurants will have minimum food and beverage spend. And that can be more expensive on a Friday/Saturday versus Monday-Thursday. Be sure to check out 15 Restaurants for your Wedding Reception in San Francisco if you want a full breakdown of some recommended places.
Plan a Small Picnic with Just the Two of You
Picnics are so cute and they’re a perfect way to take a pause and soak in the day. Imagine this. You’re getting married at San Francisco City Hall and after your 4th-floor ceremony. Everyone you invited wants photos with you so we’re hustling through the list to get all the formal family and friend portraits done. Then you’re walking around City Hall making sure you get all those must-have spots like the grand staircase, steamy elevator pics, the iconic window seal, and of course the City Hall sign.
You do a small exit leaving City Hall with all your friends and family cheering you with confetti on the steps. Then you hop in a car and head over to Marshall’s Beach to enjoy a few last portraits on the beach with the Golden Gate in the background. Finally, you take a break to relax, enjoy the view, and have a small picnic on the beach. One of your absolute favorite things to do. Soaking in the salty air and sounds of the waves. All the day’s hecticness behind you. You get to relax and unwind with your favorite snacks and an amazing view.
Adventure Around San Francisco
Take the extra time to head to a nearby location that’s more private and secluded for a few more photos. You’ll be able to pick a place, that is uniquely you so you can get even more portraits and time together. Because trust me I’ve never had a couple say “We wish there were fewer photos of us!”
Do Something Fun After Your City Hall Wedding
One of the things that makes elopements so different from weddings is getting to explore and adventure. San Francisco is one of those cities where something is always going on! And you can go do anything from visiting a museum or go to Pier 39.
Here’s a whole list because I can’t help myself!
- ride a trolley car
- row rowboats at Stow Lake
- Seaplane Tour
- go to the Conservatory of Flowers
- go see the Golden Gate Bridge
- go to the San Francisco Botanical Garden
- go on the Star Light Ferris Wheel
- Emporium Arcade Bar
- Get tea at the Japanese Tea Garden
- go to a Giants or Warriors Game
HELPING NON-TRADITIONAL COUPLES WHO WANT TO INCORPORATE THE SOUL OF SAN FRANCISCO INTO THEIR INTIMATE WEDDING CELEBRATION.
San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photographer
Hi, I’m Torez. I’m a Bay Area native-born and San Francisco elopement photographer. The Bay will always be home to me and I’d love to show you around some of my favorite spots and capture your memories! I’m an absolute hopeless romantic and I watch all of the rom-com and corny Hallmark movies without any shame. And I cry at every single wedding I go to.
I help all my couples through the planning process. You don’t have to keep track of all your wild ideas. Any time you have an idea, you can pop into your inbox and send me a message. It’s super easy! And I’ll be there to make you laugh, guide you through the whole process, and make things easy and fun. I love to meet couples where they’re at whether that’d be being silly and candid or maybe more serious and posed. Let’s capture you being you and having fun!
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Hi I'm Torez, a die-hard romantic and San Francisco-based wedding photographer with years of experience capturing love stories against the backdrop of our charming city. From intimate City Hall ceremonies to epic coastal elopements, I've seen and photographed it all. I know the ins and outs of navigating wedding planning in San Francisco like the back of my hand - from selecting the perfect location that aligns with your love story, to creating the dreamiest wedding timeline that lets you enjoy your day to the fullest. And guess what? I'm sharing all of that expertise right here with you.