City Elopement Inspiration
If you’re thinking about eloping and are a city person at heart then this post is for you. Having a city elopement can be such a fun and unique experience filled with just as much adventure around the corner as any other mountain-top elopement. You don’t need “those mountainous views “wildlife” or a 7-mile hike to make sure you get those awesome epic pictures. In San Francisco, you can get some fun not-so-typical elopement photos and have the experience of a lifetime. Here are 32 ideas and activities for your city elopement.
1. Catch some epic city views
There’s no way you’re eloping in a city without getting the epic skyline that sets it apart from any other city. In San Francisco, that can be the Transamerica building, Coit Tower, Salesforce, or some other place. You want all the city vibes so let’s make sure to capture that. Twin Peaks is also another place in San Francisco with epic views for your city elopement. But, how can you not want to capture the iconic hills of San Francisco with some type of view?
2. Go see the Golden Gate Bridge
There are so many ways to see the Golden Gate Bridge from beaches to adventuring to the actual bridge and walking across. A few of the beaches that I would recommend for your city elopement in San Francisco/Marin are Marshall’s Beach, Baker Beach, or Kirby Cove. Nothing feels more relaxing after a long day of running around than walking along the beach to the sound of the crashing waves. Trust me all the stress of the day will suddenly be washed away. It can be the perfect end to a day in the City. However, if the beach isn’t your thing check out Moore St. Pier and Fort Point. Those are perfect for a vintage car moment too!
3. Explore Downtown San Francisco
Downtown San Francisco has some hustle and bustle. And if you want to explore North Beach there are some amazing spots for some ICONIC photos downtown. Think about grabbing a coffee from Reveille Coffee and walking around. Or maybe even explore City Light Booksellers for all my bookworms, This warm light light-loving bookstore offers a cute and unique backdrop for your city elopement.
4. Say Your Vows at San Francisco City Hall
People come from near and far to get married here and why wouldn’t they? I think I can confidently say San Francisco City Hall is one of the most gorgeous City Halls in the US. If you’re looking for something quick with beauty definitely stop here and have a civil ceremony if it’s just the two of you. However, if you just love the way it looks and would rather grab a few pics but say your vows with a view of the ocean that’s also an option! I love photographing San Francisco City Hall weddings and don’t worry we’ll find a way to make it special and unique to you!
5. Catch a Sunset Cruise around the Bay
For your city elopement definitely think about ending the day cruising around the Bay. There are a couple of private charters that can take you out and around the bay. I would probably only recommend this to couples during summer and fall. With the last winter we had it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Check out Captain Kirk Sailing for different options or Captain Heather they are the best people to be able to point you in the right direction for this epic elopement day adventure.
6. Include Your Furry Child
Please, please, please, include your furry child. If you’re like most millennials you probably consider your dog or cat your child. And wouldn’t you love to include them somehow on your wedding day? Whether it be before your ceremony or after in photos. Their presence is definitely a must in my opinion. While on City Hall’s venue website, it does say only service and emotional support dogs are allowed. I’ve had couples email and ask you never know it could be your lucky day!
7. Try an Outfit Change
Who doesn’t love an outfit change!? And for a city elopement in San Francisco with so many different vibes from downtown to the coast why not mix it up? Maybe you go from formal to casual or a long dress to a short dress. American wedding attire to your cultural wedding attire. Options are endless, you could even just include some fun accessories like glasses or leather jackets and have a blast.
8. Visit a winery or brewery
Yes, even with Napa so close, why drive when your favorite local brewery or wine shop is right there? San Francisco is home to a few dozen breweries and wineries so take your pick. If you don’t already have a favorite, Park Chalet right on Ocean Beach, has amazing views, and lots of space for an intimate gathering or just the two of you.
9. Get some Photos after Sunset
Blue hour isn’t most photographers favorite however, it can add such diversity and fun photos to your gallery. Grab some lanterns or fairy lights and walk along the beach. And if weather permitting you might even be able to grab some astro photos. Flash photography can be so fun and different than your average wedding or elopement photos so don’t be afraid to wait till just after the sun sets to get some classic flash paparazzi-style photos.
10. Pop Something Bubbly
Who doesn’t love a good champagne bottle pop followed by a glass of bubbly? Or if you don’t drink and or are in nature you can always pop some sparkling water for the same effect. Champagne towers are all the rage and why shouldn’t they be!? Even if just the two of you pop the bottle and celebrate this next chapter.
11. Rent a Fun Vintage Car
If you’re a classic car lover or just want to travel around the city in style then this is perfect for you! Trust me it’s worth the splurge! You can watch a beautiful sunset from Marin Headlands or maybe ride away to Napa or Sonoma limo style. Check out Drive Vinty for some different options when deciding what car.
12. Get a drink at your favorite local spot
Grabbing a drink at a local watering hole is really the essence of a city elopement. All dressed up maybe you can even convince the bartender to give them to you on the house. Everyone has their go-to drink I know I do! Plus a little alcohol definitely gets the juices flowing and loosens everyone up for photos. Emperor Boozeland is just down the street from San Francisco City Hall an easy two blocks if you’re not driving and I would definitely recommend going here. Some of my other favorite bars in San Francisco are Emporium, Arcana, Trick Dog, Good Good Culture, and Cavana.
13. Explore the Skies with a Helicopter Tour
Most major cities have some fun helicopter tours that can give you the bird’s eye view you never knew you needed. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! My biggest recommendation would be to check and see if the date is flexible depending on the weather. I’m sure you know the Bay Area and Karl are besties and there’s no point in the aerial tour if all you’re seeing is gray.
14. Catch a Game at Oracle Park or Chase Center
Where are all my Giants and Warriors fans?! Did you know you can rent time in Oracle Park for private photos for photos?! How cool is that! They have two different options so be sure to check them out if this would be something you’re interested in. The best part of eloping and doing a nontraditional wedding is getting to do things that you normally wouldn’t be able to do. Getting some private photos inside before going to the game or maybe even during the game would be an amazing experience for Giants superfans. I’m not 100% sure that Chase Center offers anything similar. However, it never hurts to ask!
15. Explore Golden Gate Park
Now some of the things you can do in Golden Gate Park are already listed here like the Conservatory of Flowers or rowing boats at Stow Lake but that’s just a small part. You could also explore the de Young Museum, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Botanical Gardens, or the California Academy of Sciences. But, if you’re just looking for some fun spots for portraits there is Portals of the Past, the Music Concourse, or even the Dutch Windmill. You could get lost here in during your city elopement if you really wanted to!
Weekdays here are fairly quiet, especially in comparison to the weekends. So, definitely take advantage of that and visit a couple of different locations and fun things that’s what having an elopement is all about!
16. Have an After-Party with Friends and Family
Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean you can’t include family or friends during some part of your day. Make reservations or reserve a portion of a restaurant and have a party with your closest friends and family. There are amazing restaurants and venues all over San Francisco to host your gathering of 10 to 50+ guests. Need suggestions of a few places check out my other blogs 10 Wedding Venues in San Francisco and 15 Restaurants for your San Francisco Wedding Reception.
17. Play Mini Golf at Stagecoach Greens
Stagecoach Greens is located right next to Spark Social in the Dogpatch area of San Francisco. If you and your new wife or husband love a good little competition or just want something fun to do definitely check it out! Every hole is set up as a San Francisco Landmark from the Painted Ladies to Sutro Tower. It’s adorable! And since it’s right next to Spark Social when you’re done playing, head to your favorite food truck and grab some grubs.
18. Grab Lunch at In-n-Out
If you’re not from California then maybe you’ve never been to In-n-Out Burger and I would definitely say you’re missing out! I believe there’s only one in San Francisco located right at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf. If you’re looking for a snack or an extra stop exploring all of Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf definitely check out In-N-Out get some hats, and milkshakes, and enjoy some fries lady in the tramp style.
19. Have a Picnic at the Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts is always a gorgeous additional stop during your San Francisco city elopement. Especially during a weekday when crowds can be minimal and it can actually be really peaceful to sit by people-watch, enjoy the ducks and turtles swimming and just soak in the day. There are some surrounding areas with grass that would be the perfect place for a small picnic setup.
20. Take a Boat Ride in Stow Lake
One of the best parts of getting married is making it a memorable day and what’s more memorable than the first time you try something new? Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park offers both peddle rowboats and row boats. And as cute as the row boats are for photos I don’t blame you if you opt for the one with the peddles. Golden Gate Park has lots of different things you can explore so if this isn’t your vibe I’m sure there’s something else you might like.
21. Explore Pier 39
There are so many fun things to do at Pier 39 from grabbing some delicious mini donuts at Trish’s Donuts to the Lefty Store, watching the sea lions, or even riding the carousel. The sea lions at Pier 39 are a part of the main attraction. People love to watch them bark at each other, sunbathe, and swim. After enjoying the Pier or maybe even while snacking on Trish’s donuts grab a seat soak in the sun and watch these creatures do absolutely nothing!
Fisherman’s Wharf, another iconic tourist attraction in San Francisco, is just a short 10-minute walk so don’t be afraid to explore both! This is the perfect activity if you’re not local to SF or the Bay Area because even though these may be “tourist attractions” they are still so much fun! I always take visitors here when they’ve never been to San Francisco. It’s like a right of passage.
22. Get a Sundae from Ghirardelli Square
Ghirardelli Square is known for its sundaes. I mean Ghirardelli is obviously known for chocolate and there’s just something about the ice cream, warm fudge, and caramel that transports you to heaven. There are two spots to grab sundaes–the shop right next to the iconic Ghirardelli sign or walk into the square for the shop in the back with shorter and faster lines. There are a lot of other cute shops around this area so don’t be afraid to explore.
23. Tour San Francisco with GoCar
GoCar is a tour company located in lots of major cities and they have these little go-carts for rent that you ride all over the city. There’s a voiceover that gives you a tour and the history of driving all over San Francisco and seeing all it has to offer. This can be a great way to see more of the city than you probably would have otherwise. And even if you’re local I love doing stuff like this because you never know what you might learn.
24. Ride the Cable Cars
Did you know that the cable car system in San Francisco is the world’s last manually operated cable car system?! It’s an absolute icon of the City and whether you’re local to SF or not think about adding in a ride to your day. On a clear day in San Francisco, it is SO much fun! You’ll be able to learn some of the city’s history and in the morning it’s actually crazy to think about people using these as a part of their commute! There are a number of stops throughout the city, but for the best photo ops definitely get on one at Ghirardelli Square. And usually, if it’s slow the workers are super happy to let you one one that isn’t being used to snap a few photos.
25. Picnic at Alamo Square
What would San Francisco be without these famous houses? Alamo Square is famously known for the Painted Ladies better known as the Full House houses. And the Painted Ladies is a fun thing to just see and enjoy during your city elopement. This park sits just 10 minutes from downtown San Francisco and San Francisco City Hall. I have an amazing perspective of downtown with of course the houses in full view. Don’t be afraid to set up a cute picnic and enjoy the sights and sounds of San Francisco. And the Blue House actually does tours daily every hour on the hour best part is it’s only $20 pp.
26. Go bowling at Presidio Bowl
Who’s up for a little competition?! My fiance and I get SOO competitive when we bowl and so of course we will 1000% be making it a part of our day. And if you’re anything like us you love a good little competition. Presidio Bowl is located right in the Presidio near Crissy Field, Palace of Fine Arts, and Lovers Lane. So, you’re close to lots of other fun things to do. There are other places to bowl in SF like Lucky Strike but if you want that burnt popcorn and true authenticity then this is the place.
27. Watch Sunrise or Sunset from Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks is one of the highest points in San Francisco and offers 360-degree views. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s an INSANE view that never gets old. As the sun rises you can view the light slowly leak into the city it’s gorgeous. If you’re looking for a spot with minimal privacy and unbeatable views check this one out.
28. Explore the Conservatory of Flowers
The Conservatory of Flowers is located in Golden Gate Park and is home to many one-of-a-kind exotic flowers and plants. And you can actually get married for like a full-on wedding here if you want. However, if you’re a plant lover or just want to check it out take a walk through the conservatory. You’ll see things like blooming orchids and giant lily pads to the Amorphophallus titanum better known as the Corpse flower if it’s the right time of the year.
29. Play some games at Musée Mécanique
The Musee Mecanique is best known for The Princess Diaries (a cinematic masterpiece if you ask me). You know the scene where the Queen’s arm wrestles with a machine well that was filmed here. This place is family owned and operated located at Pier 45. And is one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade artifacts. There are over 300 machines for you to choose from. And I have to say I’m a sucker for a good photo booth moment.
30. Read Letters from Your Family and Friends at Lovers Lane
Lovers Lane is in the Presidio and is the perfect place to catch some quiet from the city hustle and bustle. Lovers Lane Trail is really only 1.5 miles long it’s most famous for the zigzag trees which is formally called the Wood Line. This part of the trail is an art installation by Andy Goldsworthy located in the eucalyptus forest just east of the actual trail. This sculpture is made up of fallen tree trunks laid end-to-end to create a zigzagging installation that you can even stroll on top of.
31. Explore the Legion of Honor
The Legion of Honor Museum is one of the premier fine art institutions in San Francisco. People love to come here for the gorgeous exterior – the fountain, the pillars, the glass installation. However, don’t be afraid to go inside and explore especially for something a little different. And if you happen to elope on a Saturday entry is free to their main exhibits.
32. Take a Horseback Ride at Fort Funston
I bet you had no idea you could go horseback riding in San Francisco, did you!? Well, you can in Fort Funston. And if that isn’t your thing no problem! Enjoy the views and the sand dunes because this place is literally the coast along Big Sur but without the drive. And if you want to include your dog this is the perfect place for them to run around and get all their zoomies out!
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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.