San Francisco City Hall is one of the most beautiful places to get married with its grand staircase, elegant architecture, and romantic light streaming through the windows. As a local San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer, I've worked with so many couples to capture all the big and small moments of their wedding day. Whether you're looking to elope with just the two of you or want to have a full day wedding, check out this guide on how to get married at San Francisco City Hall for more info on common questions like different options (civil ceremony vs. 1-hour ceremony), costs, logistics, and sample timelines for photography coverage.
Table of Contents
This San Francisco City Hall Elopement and Wedding Guide covers:
1. Why get married at San Francisco City Hall?
2. What are my options for getting married at San Francisco City Hall?
3. What is the process for getting married at San Francisco City Hall?
4. What should I know before getting married at San Francisco City Hall?
5. How can I make my wedding day special?
6. How far in advance do I need to plan for my San Francisco City Hall wedding?
7. How many hours of photography coverage do I need?
8. Where can I host my reception after?
Why get married at San Francisco City Hall?
If you've ever seen photos of San Francisco City Hall, you'll probably know that the photos speak for themselves. Check out some galleries to see photos of San Francisco City Hall weddings and elopements:
What are my options for getting married at San Francisco City Hall?
There are 4 ways to get married at San Francisco City Hall:
Most couples opt for the civil ceremony when looking to just have an intimate elopement. If you have more guests or want more privacy, the 1-hour ceremony is a great option.
What is the process for getting married at San Francisco City Hall?
Two-Hour Weddings and Full Weddings
For private weddings, check out the San Francisco City Hall Events Office for more info on 2-hour weddings and evening weddings.
What should I know before getting married at San Francisco City Hall?
How can I make my wedding day special?
Plan a first look. If you're arriving separately, having a first look of when you see each other for the first time is such a sweet way to start off the day. I recommend pre-arranging meet-up locations so that you don't accidentally see each other!
Write your own personal vows. Since the civil ceremony is quick (usually 5-10 minutes), saying your personal vows after is one of the best ways you can take in all the emotions of your wedding day. If you prefer more privacy and/or love adventuring to the outdoors, you can also choose to say your vows to each other during sunset portraits.
Celebrate with cake and champagne (or your own favorite desserts!) Just because you aren't having a traditional wedding doesn't mean you can't still celebrate with wedding traditions. You can cut cake, pop a bottle of champagne, or my personal favorite, have boba on your wedding day.
Adventure outside of SF City Hall. While the architecture of SF City Hall is undoubtedly stunning, there's just something magical about chasing the views in the city. As a local who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm happy to recommend my favorite spots!
Wear comfortable shoes. I will always remember the huge grin on a bride's face when she took off her shoes. Getting around SF City Hall requires walking around a bit and going up and down the staircase, so it's always best to wear comfortable shoes that have been broken in or bring a pair of flats.
Dress the way you always dreamed of on your wedding day. Whether that's getting married in a wedding gown or a jumpsuit, choose the details that make you feel absolutely beautiful.
Include your fur babies. While pets are not typically allowed at San Francisco City Hall, a great way to include them is to get ready with them.
Craft your wedding day to be a day that truly reflects your love story. The beauty of getting married at SF City Hall is that there are endless ways to personalize your wedding day. You can still have many aspects of a traditional wedding - getting ready with your closest family and friends, saying your vows to each other, chasing the sunset as newlyweds, and celebrating with an awesome reception as you dance the night away. At the same time, you don't have to be limited by traditions! You can start the day at your favorite coffee shop and brunch restaurant (Ritual Coffee and Brenda's French Soul Food are our go-tos), rent a vintage car and drive along the coast, grab beers at your favorite brewery, or toast to your friends and family over a bonfire. My goal is always to help you create a day that feels like "This is so us."
How far in advance do I need to plan for my San Francisco City Hall wedding?
A huge reason why couples choose to get married at San Francisco City Hall is because it's a beautiful space without all the details, complexities, and stress of planning a traditional wedding. How far ahead in advance you need to plan very much depends on whether you're doing a civil ceremony or 1-hour ceremony, how many guests you're having, popularity of wedding date, and whether you are planning a reception. Here are sample planning timelines to help you get started:
How many hours of photography coverage do I need?
Because SF City Hall can get so busy, it is always better to err on the side of caution as sometimes you may need to wait for spots to clear out to take photos. I recommend planning for 60-90 minutes for couple portraits at SF City Hall, or 45-60 minutes if you will be also be taking couple portraits at a second location. Here are sample timelines to get you started:
Where can I host my reception after?
There are so many restaurants and venues in San Francisco ranging from rustic outdoor patios to 1900's historic taverns. If you're looking to host an intimate reception, check out The Venue Report for private dining options. Broaden your search to wedding venues if you have a larger guest count and are looking to host a wedding reception to dance the night away. Here are some options to get started: