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 its iconic views, one-of-a-kind cuisine, and just overall good vibes San Francisco has the best of both worlds. This is a complete in-depth on having a San Francisco Elopement.
The City is well, a city and so with that, you have end less 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 fun in the city are ENDLESS. And best of all after you’ve trekked all around the city you can enjoy the sunset at Fort Funston with your pups 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 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 also just a few hours away from other tourist destinations like Napa, Sonoma, Lake Tahoe, Mendocino, and Big Sur. Because if you’re eloping the right way you should it exactly how you want!
Choosing a Location in San Francisco
San Francisco is known for some iconic places like Pier 39 and 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 picking your wedding or ceremony location there are a few important things to remember.
- Guests – Are you inviting guess yes or no? – If it’s just you two think about what you want that place to feel like. The sounds, sights, 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.
- 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?
- Cost – Do you have a budget? What are you willing to spend? Consider everything from catering costs to food and alcohol minimums. Because believe me, I’ve looked and sheesh some venues ain’t cheap by any means.
Where to Have a San Francisco Elopement
Baker Beach is a great option for your San Francisco Elopement. It has an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge and 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’t get any better than the absolute most epic views that this beach has to offer.
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. Whether you’re thinking of having a San Francisco elopement or an intimate wedding 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 getting married here in the middle of the day be sure to have some patience and grace when moving throughout the building for portraits. For more information check out my Complete Guide for Getting Married in San Francisco City Hall.
Shakespeare Flower Garden
The Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers is located in Golden Gate Park and is sure to provide a warm romantic setting. As it’s tucked away from all the big city madness. This is a great space for your San Francisco Elopement if you’re looking for an outside ceremony spot away from the bridge with some privacy. The space can accommodate up to 200 guests 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.
If you’re looking for a location 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. There are so many different locations in this area so be sure to do your research and find a view you’re absolutely in love with!
Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts is such a pretty backdrop, especially for a San Francisco elopement. And honestly, anytime I go there my mind is blown that this place exists in SF. You are 100% free to walk around, explore, and take photos of the grounds. However, to rent the rotunda if you want. It’s around $152/hr with 2 hours minimum amongst other fees. It’s important to note that this does not guarantee you’ll have the space to yourselves! Check out more from this Palace of Fine Arts wedding.
Portal to the Past
Portals of the Past is also located in Golden Gate Park right along Lloyd Lake. One of the many great places in Golden Gate Park for your San Francisco elopement. This site works best as a standing-only site. But, if you did want to include chairs, about 20 could fit in front of the Portal. To book Portals of the Past as your venue you will book through Golden Gate Recreations and Parks by filling out the Outdoor Wedding Application and emailing it to them. The reservation fee is $303 and there is a two-hour minimum of $76 an hour. There is also a $500 refundable deposit.
Legion of Honor
Legion of Honor is another location with gorgeous architecture for your San Francisco elopement. It can host events in various different spaces onsite. However, if you’re just looking for something fun to do, a place to visit and see, or are just in love with the architecture visiting and taking photos on the outside of the museum is completely free and visible. Check out more from this Legion of Honor wedding.
Sutro Baths and the rest of Lands End can be an absolutely gorgeous backdrop for your day. Sunrises here are so quiet and on a sunny morning quite literally magical. There’s also a small beach past the baths that is accessible during low tide and would be a great place to have a private ceremony or a picnic.
Conservatory of Flowers
The Conservatory of Flowers is located in Golden Gate Park. If you’re looking to hold a large event or full wedding this is a beautiful venue. However, if you’re just looking to explore for the day or a few hours and it’s just you two plus me(photographer) as long as you pay admission you are free to take photos. It’s of course important to remember their rules and that we are in a public place so to be courteous of others.
Lovers Lane is located right in the Presidio area and is close to many great locations like the Palace of Fine Arts, Baker Beach, and Marshall Beach. It’s a great place for a quiet ceremony. Or a quick stop along to bigger plans. While no official chairs or arches can be set up here the art installation can serve as a reminder about your love. Please note this is also a public area that cannot be reserved. So, if this place is calling to you it’s important to keep that in mind when planning your ceremony time.
None of these locations catch your eye? Check out my blog post 18 Best Places to Elope in San Francisco for even more ideas!
Places to Stay For Your San Francisco Elopement
The Proper Hotel
The Proper Hotel in San Francisco is a beautiful hotel with a gorgeous rooftop. And one major plus about this hotel is literally within walking distance to City Hall. So, that’s one less thing to worry about. Charmaine’s the rooftop restaurant within the hotel is well known for it’s drinks and as one of the best rooftop bars in the city.
Located right near the Giants stadium, Hotel Via is the perfect option for any couple that wants a staycation getaway right next to the game. They have an amazing rooftop bar and offer a wide range of packages to make your stay more enjoyable and adventurous.
Hotel Drisco is located in Pacific Heights. And if you’re looking to get a little bit more of the classic San Francisco vibe then this hotel might be the one for you. It’s away from the hustle and bustle of downtown San Francisco. But, about right in the middle between the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco City Hall.
1 Hotel San Francisco
1 Hotel in San Francisco is located right off of the Embarcadero. It has amazing views of the Bay Bridge and the Ferry building. They have an amazing restaurant and space right within the building. And a terrace with extraordinary views!! Imagine doing your first look up there! Honestly, this hotel is so dreamy I’m planning my own staycation here. 🙂
Hotel G is just steps away from Union Square. This hotel offers views of the giant tree in Union Square every Christmas. And is right near all the delicious eats in Chinatown. One of the main trolley stops is just a short walk.
Mansion on Sutter
Mansion on Sutter is a boutique hotel and one of the only victorian style mansions left in San Francisco. This hotel features just 10 unique rooms for you to stay in. It’s just a short 5 minute drive or 20 minute walk to San Francisco City Hall. And you’ll be able to enjoy rich architecture and antiques from this rich age in San Francisco’s history.
Cavallo Point has everything you need for a relaxing getaway and to host a wedding weekend no one would ever forget. Right near the base of the Golden Gate this hotel offers gorgeous views of the Golden Gate, rejuventating spa services, private dining spaces, and tons of activities. This is also a dog-friendly hotel so you won’t have to worry about leaving your furry baby behind.
Casa Modrona Spa and Hotel
Casa Modrona Spa and Hotel is a beautiful luxury hotel located right on the water in Sausalito. This hotel sits right in the harbor with views and stunning panoramas of Marin from the bayside town of Sausalito. It does offer parking and other accommodations and discounts like the California resident rate (10% off) and an onsite spa.
Inn Above Tide
Inn Above Tide is also in Sausalito and offer panoramic San Francisco Bay views. The have various different rooms and suites all with stunning views. And they also have a spa on site if you need a massage or some extra relaxation time.
Eloping in San Francisco with Family and Friends
Deciding if you want to include friends and family in your elopement can sometimes be a hard decision. Guest can totally change the vibe and the plans for the day. But, whether it’s just the two of you or a few of your closest people here are a few ideas to help you make your decision.
Ideas for Gettting Married WITH Friends and Family Present
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 have them help pick out what you’re going to wear.
If you really want to elope just the two of you but family is proving to be difficult. Maybe consider splitting up the day. You can do one part the day just the two of you and a reception or dinner with all of them.
Ideas for Getting Married WITHOUT Friends and Family Present
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 somehow here are some ideas for that! Think about incorporating family heirlooms or jewelry (this also doubles as your something borrowed or old). You could also ask your family and friends to write you letters that you can open during your elopement. And if you’re eloping in secret you could even surprise them with a Facetime call like Hanna and Thomas did seen above!
How to Get Your Marriage License
If you’re from California 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’re not from California you’ll want to make an appointment at the San Francisco county clerk’s office.
There are two types of marriage license you can apply for a public and a confidential. Be sure to pick the one that best for you both and be sure to coordinate with your officiant and witnesses as needed for signatures. Read more in-depth information on my blog post California Marriage Licenses FAQ.
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 County 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.
When to Have a San Francisco Elopement
When is the best time of year for a San Francisco elopement? Well if you know anything about the Bay Area and San Francisco you know its micro-climates wreck havoc. And so 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.
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 sight. Or clear with a strong chill and golden sunsets. Just take a look above, Tea and Cam eloped in early February and lucked out with crystal clear blue skies.
You’ll most likely have the most chances of potential rain in the spring. There are also 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. Or you’ll want to bring layers and warm beverages. In the photos above, Inez and Bryan got married in April and though you can’t really tell in the photos it was actually pretty cold and windy.
I know what you’re thinking. Summer is obviously the best time for a wedding! But, that’s not the case for SF. Summer is usually the foggiest, windiest, coldest time in the Bay. If you’ve ever spent July 4th in SF then you know. Ever heard of that famous quote “The coldest winter I ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco” – Mark Twain. Yeah, he wasn’t kidding! If you’re looking for moody weather then summer is definitely the best time but if you want that golden lighting just wait a few months for fall. Marizol and Julian got super lucky for their June wedding with these gorgeous clear skies downtown in the morning. Check out more from this 4th Floor San Francisco City Hall Wedding.
Ok, this is the one you’ve 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. It hits August 1st and boom clear skies, the temperature rises 10+ degrees. Everything is 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 for all wedding 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 San Francisco! It doesn’t have to be extravagant to have the best day ever. Check out more ideas in my blog post 32 Ideas and Activities for Your City Elopement.
Go on a Helicopter Tour
There are 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.
Be A Tourist for the Day
One of the best parts of San Francisco is that there’s no shortage of things to do and see. Even if you’re a local you can still be a tourist for the day and explore all of the sights and sounds of SF. Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf have so many different things to explore and try. From the carousel to watching the sea lion, maybe even stopping at Boudin for some clam chowder. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box a little.
Book a 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.
Have A Gorgeous 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 of local vendors that can organize this experience for you.
Go to a Local Bar For a Drink
If you’re anything like me and my boyfriend we not only have our go-to drinks but our 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 for them. A lot of couples have their favorite spot or bar and don’t be afraid to incorporate that in your day.
Go to a 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 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 to 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 cruise 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.
Play 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!
Day Trips For Your San Francisco Elopement
The entry fee to Muir Woods is $15 per person and if you do want to hold your wedding ceremony here you do need to apply for a special use permit which is $60. Muir Woods is only about a 40-minute drive. So, it’s the perfect distance if you want some more than just coastal views but still would like to be close to San Francisco. And since it’s so close to the city you can take the ferry or bus to Marin, Sausalito, or Mill Valley, and from there grab public transit to the woods.
Big Sur is about a 3-4 hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area depending on traffic. And Highway 1 is a stunning coastline. There are so many epic stops from the Bixby Bridge to McWay Falls. One of the best parts of the Big Sur has the best of the endless California coastline and redwoods. You can see some of these amazing trees at the Pfeiffer State Park and along your drive.
Half Moon Bay
If Big Sur seems just like a little too out of reach but you still want those views of the coastline. The Half Moon Bay might be the place for you. A little surfing town known for their Mavericks. This quaint town has lots to offer from galleries, lighthouses, hiking, and water sports. The Ritz of of course offers a stay with coastal views and a total 5-star experience.
Napa/Sonoma from San Francisco is just under a 2-hour drive depending on traffic. They have that small-town vibe with amazing service and spectacular food. Wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma is definitely something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Just think about a private dinner in a vineyard enjoying the warm, wine, and each other’s company.
Point Reyes is a very cute coastal town just north of San Francisco about a 2 hour drive without traffic. There are some incredible hikes here. Including the Point Reyes Lighthouse Trail and you of course can’t miss the Cypress tree tunnel. Point Reyes is super close to Muir Woods as well so you can definitely explore both places if it’s up your alley.
Mendocino is known for its coastal wines and its climate. Which just so happens to be the perfect climate to grow specific grapes for certain wines. This city is known for being dog-friendly and delicious seafood and sips. There are tons of things to do including fishing, hiking, kayaking, and other water sports. Grab your favorite glass of red and watch the sunset here for a little getaway.
Lake Tahoe is about a 3-4 hour drive from San Francisco (depending on traffic). And during winter (high season) be sure to consider road conditions. Luckily, if bumper-to-bumper traffic isn’t your thing flights from the bay to Lake Tahoe are available. Especially if hitting the slopes during your elopement is up your alley. There are tons of gorgeous places around the lake should you want to hike, paddle, or just explore!
So, what do think about eloping 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 my best to answer them.
If you couldn’t tell already but, San Francisco is very close to my heart. It’s dare I say my favorite city in the world. I love how you get the best of an urban city and breathtaking views of the coast and some of California’s most iconic landmarks.
Below are my most frequently booked packages for San Francisco elopements. I’m happy to customize any package. Or make you a completely custom package based-off what you need! Whether that be rehearsal dinner coverage or a multiple-day elopement. My 3-hour package is the smallest that I offer because your elopement day deserves more than just a few quick snaps in city hall. With 3 hours we can not only properly capture your city hall civil ceremony or wedding but we can also hit your favorite spot or view in town.
Doing something you love and what you want your day is a part of which makes the day so special! So, if you have no idea what you would even do for 6 hours plus there are lots of ideas above and I’m happy to help craft a day that’s perfect to you!
Meet Your San Francisco Elopement Photographer
Hi there! I’m Torez, your go-to San Francisco Elopement Photographer who adores capturing the essence of your unique love story. Just like you, I’m deeply in love – with the city, the architecture, and most importantly, making your dream intimate wedding or elopement a breathtaking reality.
Here are some rapid-fire facts that are important to know:
- My signature style as a photographer is fun, vibrant, and timeless! You can expect true-to-life photos that organically document your wedding or elopement experience
- I have two dogs – Marley and Seymour – and I will always advocate for you to bring your pup on your big day
- I was born and raised in the Bay Area for all my 27 years of life (except for my college years spent in Upstate New York, but then I came right back) so I know this gorgeous slice of California like the back of my hand
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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.