Jessica + Nick | Small intimate San Francisco City Hall wedding ceremony photography

January 12, 2018
wedding photography couple at city hall

This gorgeous couple enjoyed a very low-key family-only San Francisco City Hall wedding with just the key players present. This is such a wonderfully simple but special way of starting married life.

It’s one of the grandest locations in San Francisco to tie the knot and being a public building, it’s a snip, too. Jessica and Nick plumped for the rotunda, on the 2nd floor at the top of the grand staircase. For this spot, you’re limited to 10 minutes and, officially, up to 6 guests, but couples often bring a few more along and this doesn’t seem to be a problem.

For more private affairs with guaranteed no random passers-by wandering into your pictures, there is the 4th floor Mayor’s Balcony which can hold up to 100 guests and is completely private. The time limit here is up to an hour.

One of the wonderful things about getting married at City Hall is that you don’t need to be a resident / citizen of California or even of the United States, making it an ideal spot for elopements, whatever your country of origin!

You will need to apply for a marriage license before the wedding, and you’ll need government-issued photo ID for this from the country you hail from. You’ll need to make an appointment in advance and then pick up the marriage license from the County Clerk’s office at the specified time.

You have a choice either to get your marriage license before the ceremony takes place (up to 90 days in fact) or in the case of elopements, at least an hour before the appointed ceremony time. It does get busy though! Friday afternoons are the moment popular and certain times of year also fill up faster than others. Times you can choose from are Monday through Friday between 10:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Jessica and Nick chose to pick up their marriage license on the day of their wedding. This only added about 20 minutes but it can vary! An added bonus of picking up the license on the day of the ceremony is that your photographer is allowed to accompany couples in to the office, alongside your witnesses, so these little moments too can be documented and remembered forever as part of your wedding photography.

A word of caution: there are a couple of things it’s easy to forget about. First, an officiant or celebrant isn’t included in the hiring out of the space. Also, if you’re thinking of serving alcohol in one of the private areas, make sure you get a liquor license. A vendor list for this and many other useful services is provide here.

Lastly, although it seems City Hall is the quick and easy option (and for Jessica and Nick, it was), it’s really worth allowing plenty of extra time. For example, everyone entering the building must go through a metal detector and all bags are inspected. Sometimes there is a line for this. What if you unwittingly bring along items not permitted in the building? If you run into any snags, it’ll take time to resolve.

Remember ceremonies frequently do run late, so don’t expect that if you have an appointment for 2.30, you will definitely be saying ‘I do’ by 2.35.

One thing I love about City Hall is that we’re allowed to run around and shoot wherever we want as it’s a public building! Granted, everyone needs to wait their turn, but when the view is the grand staircase or the balcony, it’s worth the wait!

All information is correct as of the time of writing (January 2018), but may change. For up to date information, please go to http://sfgov.org/countyclerk/marriage-civil-ceremony and http://sfcityhallevents.org/

Are you looking for a creative, fun, friendly and down to earth wedding photographer who LOVES San Francisco City Hall weddings? Then you’re in luck! My specialty is intimate weddings (and elopements) of under 50 people – and short, non-traditional weddings are not a problem (in fact they’re my favorite)! My photography coverage starts at 3 hours for a City Hall wedding, which includes portrait locations of your choice around the City. Contact me for more information and check out my Instagram!

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