San Francisco Elopement Guide 2023

San Francisco Elopement Guide 2023

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

couple at baker beach in san francisco

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.

San Francisco City Hall

wedding in 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

marin headlands san francisco

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.

Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts is a such a pretty back drop. 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 you can read more information here. It’s around $152/hr with 2 hours minimum amongst other fees. However, this do not guarantee you’ll have the space to yourselves!

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.

Legion of Honor

couple getting married at legion of honor in san francisco.

Legion of Honor can host events throughout different spaces on site. 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 of this wedding here.

Sutro Baths

Couple at Sutro baths in san francisco

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 picnic.

Conservatory of Flowers

The Conservatory of Flowers is located in Golden Gate Park. If you’re looking to holder 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 it’s important to remember their rules and that we are in a public place so to be courteous of others.

Lovers Lane

Lovers Lane in san francisco.

Lovers Lane is located right in the Presidio area and is close to sooo many great locations like Palace of Fine Arts, Baker Beach, or Marshall Beach. It’s a great place for a quiet ceremony or stop along to bigger plans. While no official chairs or arches can be setup her 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 in mind your ceremony time.

Places to Stay in San Francisco

The Proper

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.

Hotel Via

Located right near the Giants stadium, Hotel Via is the perfect option for any couple that’s 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

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!! Like imagine doing your first look up there! Honestly this hotel is so dreamy I’m planning my own staycation here. 🙂

Hotel G

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.

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.

PRO-TIP: If you elope in San Francisco, you do NOT need to get a marriage license within the county. The license can be obtained in any California county, as long as it is returned to the same county after signing.

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!

Day Trips For Your San Francisco Elopement

Muir Woods

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

Big sur elopement

Big Sur is about a 3-4 hours drive from the San Francisco Bay Area depending on traffic. And Highway 1 is stunning coastline. There are so many epic stop from the Bixby Bridge to McWay Falls. And one of the best parts of the Big Sur is 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 know 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

Bride and groom kissing in Napa vineyards

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

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

Mendocino is known for coastal wines and its climate. Which just so happens to be the perfect climate to grow specific grapes for certain wines. This city is know for being dog friendly and delicious seafood and sips. There’s 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

Eloping in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is about a 3-4 hour drive from San Francisco. Obviously 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.

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.

San Francisco Elopement Packages

San Francisco City Hall elopement

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 breath-taking 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 and 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’s lots of ideas above and I’m happy to help craft a day that’s perfect to you!

9 HOURS OF SAN FRANCISCO ELOPEMENT COVERAGE

Full Day coverage is a great package for you and your partner to spend the entire day in San Francisco. We can see all that San Francisco has to offer with just you two or I can tag along to a dinner reception, dancing, and celebration with the people closest to you.

Includes:

  • 9 hours of Wedding day coverage 
  • Timeline and planning assistance
  • 20-25 sneak peek images of your photos delivered within 1 week of your wedding
  • An in-depth questionnaire to get to know you better and to get you the absolute best lighting and photos possible on YOUR day
  • Officially booked welcome zoom call, time planning zoom call, and any other calls to help in any way that I can
  • Guaranteed 40 images per hour processed images (~400 images)
  • Entire gallery delivered online in 8 weeks
  • A SUPER in depth elopement guide with tips for planning, styling, recommended vendors, info about what to pack, how to choose elopement activities, when to book travel, and the all the smallest details

$5800

6 HOURS OF SAN FRANCISCO ELOPEMENT COVERAGE

Half day coverage is the perfect fit for you and your partner if you want photos capture before and after “I do.” We can take off and explore the city for a bit afterwards and make the day one that you’ll always remember.

Includes:

  • 6 hours of Wedding day coverage
  • Timeline and planning assistance
  • 10-15 sneak peek images of your photos delivered within 24-48 hours
  • An in-depth questionnaire to get to know you better and to get you the absolute best lighting and photos possible on YOUR day
  • Officially booked welcome zoom call, time planning zoom call, and any other calls to help in any way that I can
  • Guaranteed 40 images per hour processed images (~240 images)
  • Entire gallery delivered online in 8 weeks
  • A SUPER in depth elopement guide with tips for planning, styling, recommended vendors, info about what to pack, how to choose elopement activities, when to book travel, and the all the smallest details for planning, styling, etc.

$4200

3 HOURS OF SAN FRANCISCO ELOPEMENT COVERAGE

The mini is just enough coverage to get those most important cherish moments of getting married, the “I do’s”, and some fun portraits afterwards.

Includes:

  • 3 hours of Wedding day coverage
  • Timeline and planning assistance
  • 5-10 sneak peek images of your photos delivered within 24-48 hours
  • An in-depth questionnaire to get to know you better and to get you the absolute best lighting and photos possible on YOUR day
  • Officially booked welcome zoom call and any other calls to help in any way that I can
  • Guaranteed 40 images per hour processed images (~80 images)
  • Entire gallery delivery in 5 weeks
  • A SUPER in depth elopement guide with tips for planning, styling, recommended vendors, info about what to pack, how to choose elopement activities, when to book travel, and the all the smallest details

$2200

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