Getting Married in San Francisco City Hall

Elopements

So, you’ve decided that you’re going to get married in San Francisco City Hall!? This is so exciting; this guide will help walk you through the whole process of decision making so you can have the day you’ve always dreamed of.

Table of Contents

What are my options for getting married at San Francisco City Hall?
How much does it cost to get married at City Hall?
How do I get my marriage license?
Do I need to bring anything to my civil ceremony?
What should I know before getting married at San Francisco City Hall?
How can we make our wedding day special and unique?
How do I book a photographer if I’m getting married at San Francisco City Hall?
Planning Your San Francisco City Hall Wedding

What are my Options for Getting Married at San Francisco City Hall?

There are 4 types of ceremonies you can have at San Francisco City hall: a civil ceremony, one hour ceremony, two hour ceremony, or a full wedding. Depending on how many guests, what day of the week, the availability of San Francisco City Hall, and your budget will determine what type of ceremony works best for you.

You can take a look at the table below to see what your best option is depending on what you’re looking for your elopement.

Type of CeremonyPublic or PrivateGuest CountAvailability Cost
Civic CeremonyPublic6Weekdays 9am – 1pm$95
One Hour CeremonyPrivate40 for Mayor’s Balcony
60 for 4th Floor Gallery (100 standing)
Weekdays 9am – 3pm$1000 + chairs
Two Hour CeremonyPrivate200 Saturday 9am – 12pm$5000
Full WeddingPrivateup to 3000Weekday and weekend eveningsstarting at $10,000

A lot of couples opt for a civil ceremony for an elopement. While other couples want more privacy and a few more guests typically do a one hour ceremony. They are pretty strict with the limit being 6 people for a civil ceremony and that includes your photographer. So, if you want more than 6 people I would opt for the 1 hour ceremony.

You can read more about the pricing and rental structure for using San Francisco City Hall here.

How much does it cost to get married at City Hall?

Civil Ceremony

1. Make an appointment for your marriage license* ($113) and civil ceremony ($95). (*If you don’t live in SF, you can also get your marriage license elsewhere in California, which might also be cheaper as rates are set by the county.) Appointments can be booked up to 90 days in advance – book your civil ceremony first as dates fill up much quicker. However, if you are scheduling your marriage license for the same day as your ceremony, book your marriage license appointment at least 1 hour before the ceremony appointment. If possible though, I recommend scheduling them for different days so it’s less stressful on your wedding day.

2. On the day of your ceremony, arrive at least 10 minutes early and check in at the Office of County Clerk in Room 168. You’ll get in line and go to the first desk for check in. You’ll then receive a number and wait outside in the hallway. Once your number is called, bring your 1 or 2 witness(es) and go to the desk on the left where you’ll meet the marriage commissioner who will officiate your wedding. (If you’re eloping with just the two of you, your photographer can also be your witness!) The witness(es) will sign the official marriage license, and you’ll also sign a commemorative certificate.

3. Head to the top of the staircase to wait for the marriage commissioner. Typically there are up to 3 ceremonies for each half-hour slot, so the marriage commissioner will wait until all couples have checked in before heading upstairs. Once it’s your turn, you’ll be called up, say a few words, exchange rings, and say I do!

Important note: Civil ceremony only allow 6 guests and that includes any photographers, videographers, and children.

One Hour Ceremony

1. Check the SF City Hall events calendar to check availability for your preferred date(s), then contact the office by phone at (415)554-6079 to make your reservation. You can choose the 4th Floor North, South Gallery, or the Mayor’s Balcony. Bookings can be made for at least 3 weeks and up to 24 months in advance. If your date is available, you can place a complimentary hold on that date. If another hold is on that date, you can challenge that hold. To officially book your ceremony, submit the contract and 75% of the full rental fee. Final payment is due at least 5 days prior to the ceremony date.

Important note: Popular dates like 02/22/2022 tend to fill up fast so be prepared to book another date or book far in advance.

2. Make an appointment for your marriage license or you can check with your local county in you don’t live in San Francisco. If you are scheduling your marriage license for the same day as your ceremony, make sure to book your marriage license appointment at least 1 hour before the ceremony.

3. For one hour ceremonies an officiant is not provided so you can either check with the office of the county clerk, ask officiant that’s a friend or family member, or have a friend become a Deputy Marriage Commissioner for a Day.

4. Due to time constraints, food and beverage service is not possible during a one hour ceremony. But, acoustic music may be played with advance approval, and musicians must be selected from City Hall’s qualified list. No more than two musicians are allowed to perform during the ceremony.

Two Hour Ceremonies

1. Check the SF City Hall events calendar to check availability for your preferred date(s), then contact the office by phone at (415)554-6079 to make your reservation.The two-hour wedding package offers the occasion of exchanging vows on the Grand Staircase of the Rotunda surrounded by family and friends and can accommodate up to 200 guests.

2. Make an appointment for your marriage license or you can check with your local county in you don’t live in San Francisco. If you are scheduling your marriage license for the same day as your ceremony, make sure to book your marriage license appointment at least 1 hour before the ceremony.

3. Before your wedding make sure you:

  • Submit an event timeline, floor plan, list of vendors and proof of insurance.
  • Pay the preliminary estimate of costs to cover labor, equipment, and additional fees and expenses.
  • Secure needed permits, including from the San Francisco Fire Department.

Due to time constraints the use of outside vendors, including food and beverage service, requires advance approval.

4. For two hour ceremonies an officiant is not provided so you can either check with the office of the county clerk, ask officiant that’s a friend or family member, or have a friend become a Deputy Marriage Commissioner for a Day.

Full Weddings

1. Check the SF City Hall events calendar to check availability for your preferred date(s), then contact the office by phone at (415)554-6079 to make your reservation. City Hall is available for full evening weddings on weekdays and weekends. The building remains open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, though areas can be privatized for special event use during those hours. Due to regularly scheduled meetings of the Board of Supervisors, evening weddings are not possible on Tuesdays. Access for load-in to the North Light Court begins at 2:00 pm and for all other areas at 4:00 pm. Your guest event must conclude by 12:00 midnight and load-out by 2:00 am.

2. Make an appointment for your marriage license or you can check with your local county in you don’t live in San Francisco. If you are scheduling your marriage license for the same day as your ceremony, make sure to book your marriage license appointment at least 1 hour before the ceremony.

3. Before your wedding make sure you:

  • Submit an event timeline, floor plan, list of vendors and proof of insurance.
  • Pay the preliminary estimate of costs to cover labor, equipment, and additional fees and expenses.
  • Secure needed permits, including from the San Francisco Fire Department.

Due to time constraints the use of outside vendors, including food and beverage service, requires advance approval. It’s important to note that rental rates include basic building services, but do not include equipment, insurance, security and other charges.

4. For evening weddings and ceremonies an officiant is not provided so you can either check with the office of the county clerk, ask officiant that’s a friend or family member, or have a friend become a Deputy Marriage Commissioner for a Day.

San Francisco City Hall Wedding

How to get a marriage license in California?

In general, you’ll want to make an appointment at your local county clerk’s office. Each county has a different fee amount and they accept cash, credit, or check. The marriage license is valid for 90 days from it’s issuance date.

San Francisco Marriage License

To get a marriage license in San Francisco you need to make an appointment at the county clerk’s office of San Francisco. If you live in a different county in California you can make an appointment to that country clerk’s office. For San Francisco the license costs $113.

For your appointment you will need to bring:

  • Valid, authentic, legal photo identification for each person.
  • A completed public or confidential marriage application.
  • If either/both parties were previously married or a State Registered Domestic Partner (SRDP), a certified** copy of divorce, annulment, termination, or death record must be presented at the time of your marriage license reservation if it ended within the past 90 days of your marriage license reservation date.

**“Certified” copy must have an original court seal and a signature (or signature stamp) of the court clerk. It is the original seal and court clerk signature (certification) that make this a “certified” copy. The “CONFORMED / FILED / ENDORSED” stamp in the top right corner of the copy of the court order (usually issued by your attorney) is NOT the court clerk’s certification and will NOT be accepted.

If a marriage license has already been purchased, check the expiration date of your marriage license prior to making the ceremony reservation. The marriage license is valid for 90 days from the marriage license issuance date.

If you plan to purchase your marriage license on the same day as your ceremony reservation, you must make and pay for a marriage license reservation for the same day at least 30 minutes PRIOR to your ceremony reservation time. For example, if your ceremony reservation is 10:00 a.m., your marriage license reservation should be scheduled no later than 9:30 a.m.

Do I Need to Bring Anything to 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 presenting a public marriage license.

Civil ceremonies only allow 6 guests and that includes photographers, videographers, and children. For the rotunda, couples arriving with larger groups will be held in a private ceremony room. Specific requests for the rotunda or any other area will not be accepted because they can’t guarantee availability and ceremonies are performed in a location determined by the commissioner. You should arrive check in ten minutes before your ceremony reservation, at the Information Desk in Room 168.

What Should I Know Before Getting Married at San Francisco City Hall?

It can be crowded at San Francisco City Hall.

Unless you’re booking the private ceremony, SF City Hall is open to the public which means that there are multiple couples getting married, photoshoots going on, tour groups, and just everyday working people. A 1-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. But, Friday’s tend to be the absolute busiest days since it’s the last day before the weekend. Depending on the date like (02/22/2022) might mean the day is crazy busy anyways. A general rule is Thursday and Friday tend to be the busiest and mid week is usually calmer. Also don’t forget about long weekends and holidays.

San Francisco City Hall is a government building.

As beautiful as San Francisco City Hall is do remember it is a government building. Meaning that things can get lost in the shuffle, run behind schedule, or just be a little chaotic. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead and have all your paperwork, ID, and everything else in check so that you’ve done everything you can to help your day go smoothly.

Try to book either the first or last ceremony of the day. 

For civil ceremonies, I recommend booking the 3:30 PM slot, and for 1-hour ceremonies, I recommend booking the 3 PM slot or the first time slot available for the day which is 9am. San Francisco City Hall tends to be less busy towards the end of the day or beginning of day as tours haven’t started or they’ve left. And many people aren’t early risers so it’ll be easier to capture the stunning shots on the staircase and balcony. An early morning ceremony means you could get ready and capture some golden hour portraits at sunrise followed by your ceremony and maybe even bottomless brunch. Or an evening ceremony allows you to get golden hour sunset portraits or plan for a dinner reception afterwards!

Street parking at San Francisco City Hall is terrible.

There is very little to no parking around city hall. I’d recommend parking at either the Civic Center Plaza Garage or Performing Arts Garage. Trust me the parking ticket fees in San Francisco are no joke and save yourself the headache.

How Can We Make Our Wedding Day Special and Unique?

First Look

First looks are a great way of getting even more portraits and photos of your day. Whether you’re having a full wedding or just eloping with the two of you there are such a sweet moments you’ll always cherish. Since you’re already doing things a little different by getting married at city hall don’t be afraid to go against the grain and “tradition” and have a first look.

Adventure Outside or Around the City

Don’t be afraid to adventure outside of San Francisco City Hall. There are so many iconic and breathtaking landmarks in San Francisco and don’t be afraid to go and explore them before or after your ceremony. This is such a great way to make the day a really memorable adventure around a city that you’ll always hold close to your heart.

Include a few family or friends

You can invite a few family and friends to your ceremony if you choose to have a civil ceremony. If want more then, 4 or 5 guests I’d suggest renting a balcony. Plus it gives you a little more privacy which could be something that you want or are looking for. Unfortunately, other than service animals no furry friends are allowed inside City Hall but if you opt for portraits after we can always include them in those!

Pop some bubbly or bring some sweet treats

Who doesn’t love a good champagne pop or a sweet treat! This is a day of celebration so don’t be scared to go the extra mile and get some yummy treats for you to enjoy afterwards. And you don’t drink no problem we can pop some bubbly water or even do a bubble exit.

Include Special or Sentimental Details

Weddings can be full of traditions and just because you’re eloping or doing things a little different doesn’t mean you can’t include sentimental things. You can do a letter reading, include special momentos, take a moment of silence or even include something old, new, borrowed and blue. This is your chance to put all the personal touches on the best day ever.

Do Whatever the Hell You Want!

At the end of the day it’s your wedding and I am firm believer that it should be exactly however you want it to be! Want to get ice cream after – let’s do it. Stop at a tattoo shop – I’m down! Bring your fur babies – I’d love. You want 2 people there, no people, there 100 people there, it your frickin’ day do whatever the hell you want to make the day memorable to you!

How Do I Book a Photographer if I’m Getting Married at San Francisco City Hall?

Once your date is solidified for a ceremony you can begin looking for a photographer. Whether you decide to use Google, Instagram, or a referral from a friend there are a few things you should make sure.

1. Make sure that you feel comfortable with them. You want photos of you enjoying the day, your love, and just being you. The last thing you want to worry about is how your photos are going to turn out. So, make sure you can trust them, love the way they work, edit, and their style of photography. There aren’t many do overs in life and you want someone that is going to give you photos that you love for years and want to share with everyone.

2. They can secure a photography permit to photograph your wedding in SF City Hall. Is this going to be an extra fee or is this include in their price? It would be a disaster if they didn’t get a permit and that meant you could get photos on your day.

3. You know their policies. What is their booking process? Is a deposit or retainer required? What are their cancellation policies? When will your photos get delivered and how? Ask all of the questions!

Planning Your San Francisco City Hall Wedding

It can be very overwhelming going through the planning phase. Looking for vendors, choosing a date or the amount of guests. Deciding whether you want to do something after like drinks, dinner, cake or not. And so much more. I love helping my couples in any way possible because I know it’s a lot to take on. So, let me help my taking some of that planning stress off.

I help all my couples with vendor selection, location scouting, and timeline planning.

When you book your appointment at City Hall, City Hall should let you know the time of the ceremony and what time they need you to arrive before to sign the marriage license (usually anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes before depending on how much paperwork you have to fill out.) Then make sure that you arrive on time and give yourself a little bit of leeway in case you have to wait in line to check in.

City Hall schedules two civil ceremonies every half hour. So, if you have a 9AM slot you will be assigned to either go at 9am or 9:15am. After checking into the offices, they will check your ID and paperwork before assigning you a number to listen out for. Once you hear your number called, you will bring in your photographer and your 1-2 witnesses to have them sign the paperwork and you will meet your marriage commissioner. They will tell you what order you’re in and then head upstairs to the rotunda to wait for your ceremony. Try to hang out nearby so you don’t miss your slot.

Example Timelines for Getting Married at San Francisco City Hall

It takes at least 2 hours to get photos throughout City Hall. Just between the waiting, the ceremony, and other couples throughout the building it can take awhile so, patience is key. This time includes some portraits, ceremony shots, and family formals.

A typical early morning timeline could look like this:

8:00AM Arrive for first look or bride & groom portraits
8:45AMHead to Offices to get marriage license signed
9 – 9:30AMCeremony Slot (I’ll hang nearby and grab a few more portraits if we have time)
9:30 – 9:50AMFamily Formal Photos (Or more Bride/Groom if only the couple)
9:50 – 10:00AMBride/Groom Portraits Out Front of City Hall

If you’re looking for a little longer maybe about 4-6 hours of coverage a timeline might look like this

6-6:40AMFirst look and sunrise portraits at Fort Point
7:00AMHead to Palace of the Arts for Portraits
7:15 -8:20AMPortraits at Palace of the Arts
8:20AMHead to Offices to get marriage license signed
9 – 9:30AMCeremony Slot (I’ll hang nearby and grab a few more portraits if we have time)
9:30 – 9:50AMFamily Formal Photos (Or more Bride/Groom if only the couple)
9:50 – 10:00AMBride/Groom Portraits Out Front of City Hall

Or for a longer wedding it could look like this

2:00PMArrive at City Hall First Look/Bride and Groom Portraits
2:45PMHead to Offices to get marriage license signed
3 – 3:30PMCeremony Slot (I’ll hang nearby and grab a few more portraits if we have time)
3:30 – 3:50PMFamily Formal Photos (Or more Bride/Groom if only the couple)
3:50 – 4:00PMBride/Groom Portraits Out Front of City Hall
4:00PMhead to Golden Gate Bridge for photos
4:30 – 5:00PMPortraits at the Golden Gate Bridge
5:00PMhead to Sutro Baths for Sunset
5:30 – 6:30PMsunset portraits at Sutro Baths
6:30PMHead to Dinner at Beach Chalet
6:40 – 9:00PMDinner and celebration with friends

A little Bit About Me

If you’ve made it this far wow that was a lot of information! And if you’re looking for a San Francisco elopement photographer I would love to introduce myself. Hi, I’m Torez but you can call me T. I’m a Bay Area native born and ready to be your personal tour guide! 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-coms and corny Hallmark movies without any shame. And I cry at every single wedding I go to.

I know getting in front of a camera can feel weird and awkward and you’re like what the hell do I do with my hands. But, seriously I’ll be there to make you laugh, guide you through the whole process and make things as easy, fun, and as seamless as possible. I know photography can feel like an investment especially if you can get camera nervous or shy but that’s what I’m here for! It can take some time to warm up in front of a camera and that’s totally normal. I do everything I can to make sure my couples feel comfortable, safe and get some beautiful photos that they love.

Elopement Package San Francisco

I have a few elopement package for San Francisco. And I am always happy to make a custom package that will best fit your needs. All of my packages include sneak peek images, a questionnaire for me to get to know you better, a list of recommended vendors, and any costs associated with permits, parking, and travel.

If you think we might be a good fit, I would love to be your San Francisco elopement photographer and capture this beautiful day for you! Please fill out the contact form below. If you want more information on packages/pricing you can find that here.

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