The Ultimate Guide to your San Francisco City Hall Wedding

The ultimate guide to your san francisco city hall wedding. Learn the tips and tricks to getting amazing wedding photos at san francisco city hall.

The ultimate guide to your san francisco city hall wedding. Learn the tips and tricks to getting amazing wedding photos at san francisco city hall.

I just love shooting San Francisco City Hall weddings! They are more than just a fancy or trendy way to elope these days. They are a no-fuss, chic and modern way to celebrate your love without breaking the bank. Plus, SF City Hall is a beautiful piece of architecture and part of the National Historic Landmark District. Even Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were married at City Hall in 1954.

 

Some people don't even think of this as an option, or may even think it is an anticlimactic way to tie the knot. However, A  SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL WEDDING IS not only A NO-FUSS, BUDGET FRIENDLY EVENT, but an intimate and romantic way to have a unique wedding without being a millionaire!

 

There are many reasons for having a SF City Hall wedding:  complicated family situations, for the sake of ease and time, or just the expense of a traditional wedding, are just to name a few.  For some couples, it is a matter of taking a non-traditional approach.  City Hall weddings are ideal for these reasons, and I want to give you the best tips to have a non-traditional San Francisco City Hall wedding.

 

Here are some simple tips to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to your City Hall wedding.

 

  1. THE CEREMONY:

    1.  You can have a civil ceremony, which is public and costs $78. You make your appointment at City Hall and can have a quick ceremony in the Rotunda. You are only allowed 6 guests, including your photographer and your witness. For this easy ceremony you only need to bring your photo ID’s and acquire a marriage license, then you are good to go. 

     

    2. The other type of ceremony you can have is a Private ceremony, which costs $1,002.  You will need to Call (415) 554-6068 to schedule your spot and you have three choices for your wedding location:  Mayor’s Balcony, 4th Floor North Gallery or 4th Floor South Gallery. You may have up to 100 guests and you will need to make sure to provide your own officiant, as San Francisco City Hall cannot guarantee a judge on the day of your ceremony!

  2. THE DRESS:  Add in small touches so it feels like you’re actually getting married and not just standing in line. There aren’t any rules for what to wear, so feel free to get creative. You’re saving so much money - go ahead and splurge on that beautiful gown you’ve got pinned on Pinterest!

  3. THE FLOWERS: Don’t forget the flowers! Since you don't have to buy bouquets for a whole wedding party OR flowers for a reception this is somewhere you can really splurge that can make a huge impact on your photos. Carry a beautiful bouquet and get your guy a boutonniere!

  4. SECOND LOCATION: The nice part of getting married in San Francisco is that not only is City Hall an amazing place to get married, but there are so many other places to go after you say "I do" to add some extra photos to capture your special day. Check out locations like Baker Beach, the historic Light House and Sutro Baths, China Town, Union Square and the Japanese Tea Gardens.

  5. BRING EXTRA SHOES: Most people don’t realize how much walking takes place both before and after your ceremony. Even though those dreamy heels are for sure what you want to be married in, they can really slow you down and make it so you don’t have as much time to get your photos taken. (As well as wreck havoc on that pretty new pedicure!)

  6. GUESTS:  At San Francisco City Hall you are allowed 6 people for the Civil Ceremony, including your photographer. This means that some people are likely to get left out and they may get their feelings hurt. So you probably want to have that conversation beforehand with them. Some couples wait to tell everyone after their nuptials. If you do want to wait to spread the good news, make sure your photographer knows too, so they can post your photos on social media or not.

  7. TO NAME OR NOT TO NAME: Some people don’t know  if they are ready to change their name right away or not. There is no judgement here, but this seems to hang everyone up, while the staff tries to make it sound super complicated if you want to change your last name later. Usually the minimum cost to legally change your name at a later date is a $250 court filing fee, and a court appearance. So, make sure to show up with a game plan of what you want to do.

  8. PICTURES:  Check out our pinterest board here and feel free to make your own board and share it with your photographer so they know what you want.  Your photographer will really appreciate any and all information that you can provide them in regards to your wishes, style and location ideas.

  9. SAVING TIME: One good hack is getting your marriage license before the day of your marriage appointment. This can save you 20-30 minutes, which you can add to time you are paying your photographer! Make sure your guests understand where to park, have directions to City Hall and know the importance of being ON TIME.  Your day can really get hung up waiting on that witness or special relative.

  10. TRAVEL:  A lot of the couples I work with travel across the country or even from a different country. It is such a great honor to be part of your special day and many times I have been a witness during the ceremony. If you are coming from a different country all you need is a valid passport. No need for a special visa or paperwork.

  11. TIMING: Timing is everything in a San Francisco City Hall wedding.  It is less crowded earlier in the day. Typically, you will have an easier time getting an appointment and won’t have to worry as much about having a bunch of random people in the back ground of your photos. 

     

EVEN THOUGH IT IS A S.F. CITY HALL, STILL TREAT IT LIKE YOUR WEDDING DAY

When it’s all said and done, go out and celebrate! If you’re ceremony is in the morning, have a special lunch with your closest family and friends. Then, when the sun goes down, throw that fabulous reception to include everyone else!

 

There you have it! Now you’re ready to start planning your very own San Francisco City Hall wedding. If you would like to see my City Hall wedding galleries and photography packages go to the City Hall Wedding Page and feel free to ask questions!

San Francisco city hall wedding photography

You’ll have less to plan, but you still need to do your research

Be sure to check the requirements for the marriage license in the city where you plan to marry. Sometimes there’s a waiting period, so you may not be able to get married on the same day you purchase your license. There’s usually an expiration period as well.

Some city halls will let you make an appointment – so make your reservations in advance, because they can get really busy. Ask which days and times are their busiest so you can have a better idea when making your plans. If your city hall operates on a first come basis, go early so you can minimize your wait time.

City halls are real sticklers about paperwork! Don’t forget to bring everything you need or you won’t be able to have your ceremony. Make sure you’ve got your marriage license, a photo ID, your witness (your photographer can be your witness!), your rings, and an acceptable form of payment.

There you have it! Now you’re ready to start planning your very own City Hall wedding. Let me know if you’re going to be in San Francisco and want to get married! I’d love to be there with you capturing all those special moments!!

Claire Dobson

Claire Dobson Photography