How to Get Married in San Francisco: A Complete Guide

How to Get Married in San Francisco: A Complete Guide

Planning Resources

Why Should You Get Married in San Francisco?

Whether you’re from the Bay Area or are a transplant, for one reason or another we all love San Francisco and the Bay Area. It’s a place rich with culture, fine dining, progressive thinking, and mostly good weather. So, should you get married in San Francisco? Well, besides it iconic views, one-of-a-kind cuisine, and just overall good vibes San Francisco is has the best of both worlds.

The City is well a city and so with that you have endless amount of things at your disposal. From attending a live music event to enjoying a local museum. You could spend the day exploring Golden Gate Park or walking the bridge. What about attending a Giants game or a boat tour around the Bay? The possibilities of enjoy the city are ENDLESS. And best of all after you’ve trekked all around the city you can enjoy the sunset at the beach. Or enjoy the last bits of golden light in the Marin Headlands.

See that’s what makes getting married in San Francisco TRULY one of kind is that because you get the best most iconic cityscape and also the most epic coastal views. And if you really want to take full advantage San Francisco is just a few hours away from other tourist destinations like Napa, Sonoma, Lake Tahoe, and Big Sur. Because it’s your wedding day and there should be absolutely no limits!

Choosing a Location in San Francisco

Of San Francisco is known for some iconic places like Pier 39 or the Golden Gate Bridge. But, where should you say your “I dos.” Well I have lots of ideas but down below are just a few. When pick your wedding or ceremony location there are a few important things to remember.

  1. Guests – Are you inviting guess yes or no? – If it’s just you two think about what you want that place to feel like, and the sounds, sites, smells, what is the vision you have in your head. If you are inviting guests – are there any accessibility things to consider? And how many guests are you having are they all going to comfortably fit into the space? Also consider transportation and parking!
  2. Booking – What’s the booking process going to be like? For example if you want a place outside are you going to need permits? How long will those take to get? Are you going to need extra insurance? How far out are you going to be able to book the location or venue?
  3. Cost – Do you have a budget? What are you willing to spend? Consider everything from catering costs to food and alcohol minimums. Because believe I’ve looked and sheesh some venues ain’t cheap by any means.

Baker Beach

Baker Beach is a great option that looks onto the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a part of public land and a permit does need to be acquired for a marriage ceremony. I’ve seen some beautiful ceremonies on the beach. And if you’re a beach person like me you can get any better than the absolute most epic views that this beach has to offer.

Couple getting married in San Francisco City Hall.

San Francisco City Hall

Hundreds of couples are married in San Francisco City Hall every year but that doesn’t make it any less special. SF City Hall is absolutely gorgeous and while you most likely will be sharing the building you can rent out certain spaces for your private event or even the whole space in the evening. If giving married here in the middle of the day be sure to have some patience and grace when moving throughout the building for portraits. Be sure to check out my other blog Getting Married in San Francisco City Hall Tips for 2023 for more information.

Shakespeare Flower Garden

The Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers is located in Golden Gate Park and is sure to provide a warm romantic setting tucked away from all the big city madness. This is a great space if you’re looking for an outside ceremony spot away from the bridge with some privacy. The space can accommodate up to 200 guest so there is sure to be lots of space for your ceremony. You do need to make a reservation and acquire a permit to have your ceremony here.

Marin Headlands

If you’re looking for a location not in the mist of the city’s craziness but with the most absolutely EPIC views of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the ocean – then this is the spot for you. You do need a special use permit to perform a wedding ceremony but it’s only $60 and super easier to obtain as long as you plan ahead. Marin Headlands is also on the way to Sausalito which has some of the best cuisine and quaint establishments that can be a great way to wrap up your wedding day.

Fort Funston

Another location that falls under the jurisdiction of the Golden Gate Park and Recreation Center to be sure to file a permit accordingly. However, if you’re looking for a location that looks like Big Sur but without the 3-4 hour drive then this is the spot. Not only are dogs allowed and obviously encouraged as it’s an off leash beach but the ocean views are endless and the wind, wild. Fort Funston has 200 ft high bluffs and a network of trails that you can enjoy hiking or horseback riding.

Ideas for Including Family and Friends

Whether you’re getting married with just the two of you or including family and friends there are ways definitely ways to the people that mean the most to you and your fur babies in your special day. I have a whole blog post that goes way deeper into this topic so be sure to check that out here.

Getting Married with Friends and Family

Family heirloom jewelry on wedding day.

If you’re getting married with your friends and family by your side there are lots of ways to include them in your day. Of course there are the more traditional ways like having a wedding party, father daughter dance, mother son dance, and speeches. But, you can also have someone officiate your ceremony, help you with some of the detailed decisions, or even help picking out what you’re going to wear

If you really want to elope just the two of you but family is proving that to be difficult may be consider splitting up the day. One part just the two of you and a reception or dinner with all of them.

Getting Married without Friends and Family

Couple announcing elopement to family.

If you’re choosing to elope just the two of you but your family still means the absolute world to you and you are looking to include them some how I also have some ideas for that too! Think about incorporating family heirlooms or jewelry this also doubles as your something borrowed or old. (If you’re into that sort of thing.) Your family and friends could write you letter that you can open during your elopement. And if you’re eloping in secret you could even surprise them with a Facetime call!

How to Get Your Marriage License

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 its issuance date.

If you opt to have a wedding make sure everything is signed by you and your partner, your officiant, and your witness(es) if you have a public marriage license and that it gets sent! At City Hall your license will be signed by a justice of the peace but it will not be valid until after the ceremony takes place.

Officiant signing marriage license.

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.

Be sure to get whatever county you file for your marriage license’s rules for more clarity and information.

When to Get Married in San Francisco

When is the best time to get married in San Francisco? Well if you know anything about the Bay Area and San Francisco you know its micro climate reck havoc. And so, I feel like though, I can definitely recommend some seasons and months. You really won’t know what the weather’s looking like until a week or two before your wedding.

Bridge and Groom kissing at Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge views in February

Winter

Winter is a really toss up as far as weather is concerned. Obviously it will be cold so be prepared with lots of layers, gloves, jackets, hats, etc. But as far as Karl is concerned it could either be completely foggy with no bridge in site. Or clear with a strong chill and golden sunsets. I’ve found the most luck in the months of November and February for clear skies.

Spring

You’ll most likely have the most chances of potential rain in the spring. Obviously, there are those gorgeous spring days but I would say at least 90% of the time there will be fog and wind. So, if you are thinking about having some part of your day outside you may want to consider a different season.

Summer

I know what you’re thinking, summer is obviously the best time for a wedding. It warms everywhere, clear skies, longer days…. well you’re wrong. That’s not the case for SF. Summer is usually the foggiest, windiest, coldest time in the Bay. If you’ve ever spent the 4th in SF then you know. Ever heard of that famous quote “The coldest winter I ever experience was a summer in San Francisco” – Mark Twain. Yea, he wasn’t kidding. If you’re looking for moody weather then summer is definitely the time but if you want that golden lighting just wait a few months.

Couple getting married in San Francisco.
Alamo Square in October

Fall

Ok, this is the one you been waiting for! Fall is by far the best season in the Bay Area and in San Francisco. We have what’s called an “Indian summer” which basically means a late summer. I’m telling you! It hits August 1st and boom clear skies, the temperature rises 10+ degrees, everything is just warm, glowing, and fuzzy. Having beautiful weather is definitely a plus but there is one downside. Which is that September/October is the thick of wedding season and just busy season in general for most vendors. So, if you’re thinking of a fall date the sooner you book the better!

Things To Do in San Francisco

Like any big city there are tons of different things to do in San Francisco. There are plenty of fine dining restaurants that you can either enjoy a private meal at or rent for a small gathering. Be sure to check out the SF Michelin guide for the best restaurants in the city. Maybe try catching a show at Bill Graham, the Opera House or the Midway if you enjoy live music. You can also just enjoy the sites and sounds of city! It doesn’t have to be extravagant to have the best day ever.

Helicopter Tour

There are a lots of great companies in San Francisco and Sausalito that can show you breathtaking views of San Francisco and the Bay Area. SF Helicopters has some amazing tours around the bay area and you can even have an aerial tour from SF to Napa that includes a wine tasting once you land in Napa.

Picnic

I’m sure you’ve seen luxury picnics become popular. And your wedding day is definitely a great excuse to have a picnic with an amazing view like the Golden Gate Bridge. Just a quick google or instagram search can help you find lots local vendors that can organize this experience for you.

Boat Tour

Boat tours are definitely popular in San Francisco! Everyone wants to see the bridge but that doesn’t make them any less fun! You could even spend the first half of your day just with your partner on the boat. And then are joined by your families later on for dinner and the sunset! Be sure to bring your sea legs and warm layers.

Go to a Local Bar For a Drink

engagement ring San Francisco.

If you’re anything like me and my boyfriend we not only have our go-to drinks but or favorite watering hole. And who said you can’t head there after you get married to celebrate and pop some champagne. My biggest tip to couples for them to enjoy their day is to incorporate events and activities that are just so them. A lot of couples have their favorite spot or bar and don’t be afraid to incorporate that in your day.

Giants or Warriors Game

Maybe you two are HUGE sports fan. You can go to a game if it’s the right time of the year or include a jersey or just go by the stadium. The Giants stadium actually has a full tour where you can see the whole stadium, it’s completely private, and obviously you can bring a photographer with you capture all the moments.

Rent a Vintage or Fun Car

If classic cars are your thing don’t be afraid to consider adding one. Either as a fun prop or possibly with a driver for a cruz around town. Drive Vinty is a great site to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Parking the car near the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, or Treasure Island with the city in the background are great locations for this experience. With the car there you can pop some champagne and watch the sunset and just enjoy the views.

Mini Golf

I don’t know if any other couples are ultra competitive like my boyfriend and I. But, we’re always down for a little “friendly” competition. There are two mini golf places in San Francisco that are fairly popular for their setups of the iconic SF staples like the Painted Ladies and Sutro Tower. Check out Stagecoach Greens and Urban Putt. I’m partial to Stagecoach Greens because it’s right next to Spark Social. Which is a food truck hub with happy hour and tasty treats!

So, what do think about getting married in San Francisco?

I hope you didn’t really need any convincing on why you should get married in San Francisco. But, if you did then I hope this blog did its job! And if you didn’t need any convincing at all, hopefully this blog sparked some ideas and inspiration for your wedding day.

And the ideas don’t just stop there. I have a full guide I give to all my couples about eloping and getting married in San Francisco, the in-and-outs of City Hall, the best vendors, and the list goes on and on. I love being my client’s biggest cheerleader, helpful hand, and sounding board for any and all questions! If you have any questions at all feel free to drop them in the comments below and I’ll do by best to answer them.

Do you have questions about my photography services? Check out this page.

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