You probably already know that the 4th Floor Galleries are available for private rental for wedding ceremonies at San Francisco City Hall. You are perhaps thinking of booking one of the 4th Floor balconies and want to get a little bit of info before doing do.
First of all, welcome! I’m Zoe, one of the most experienced San Francisco City Hall wedding photographers. I’ll be your guide to everything you need to know about wedding ceremonies on the 4th Floor of SF City Hall.
You may know there are three distinct areas available for private rentals. The 4th Floor constitutes 2 of these areas. The other area that’s available is called the Mayor’s Balcony. I’ve a separate post about that space below:
However, the 4th Floor is widely regarded as the crowning glory of City Hall – the most beautiful and sought-after area for private wedding ceremonies. After all, if it’s good enough for billionaire heiresses….
Let’s dive into what this particular area has to offer, and what you need to know about wedding ceremonies on the 4th Floor of SF City Hall.
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Unique features of the 4th Floor Gallery
The area has some unique features – striking among any wedding venue, not just the alternative locations within City Hall.
Just to set the scene, the 4th Floor is made up of 2 identical mirror-image ‘galleries’, so-called because they are like mezzanine levels right at the top of the building.
A wide view and spacious environment
For one thing, the environment of the area is just spectacular. You’ll have a wide view, with the other gallery visible directly across from you. Though people may be visible there, a skilled photographer would zap folks from your photos when it’s distracting.
It’s high up, so you can enjoy the feeling of being up in the rafters, away from the hustle, bustle and noise of Civil Ceremonies taking place below.
You are set apart from the tourists that are a common sight in the building. As your private area will be roped off, you won’t even notice anyone else as they cannot get close. This is also good to note in COVID times.
The color palette is incredibly elegant and refined with light, flattering and neutral colors.
Natural light streams in through the large semi-circular windows, and bounces off the white reflective marble floor. This creates the softest, most beautiful lighting conditions.
Let’s just address the first question that always gets asked – which is the best option, North side or South side?
That’s an easy one! The 4th Floor North Gallery wins hands down every time. The South side gets very harsh light as you can imagine, resulting in photos with high contrast.
Shadows are very pronounced, and the background may even look totally black. Light will hit your face when you’re on the South side. Not great! Photographers look for even light to get the kinds of photos you’re dreaming of.
However at certain times of day, this isn’t a problem on the South Gallery.
Have the processional of your dreams
The shape of these areas is very long – they’re basically corridors. This is great for walking into your wedding processional and really making an entrance! The unique space affords your ceremony a true sense of occasion.
Where is the 4th Floor Gallery?
To reach the 4th Floor gallery, enter the building on Polk (also known as Dr Carlton B Goodlett Place). As soon as you get past security, walk a few steps and you’ll see the elevators on your left-hand side.
Enter the elevator and hit 4. On your near side (exit and then go behind) you’ll find the South Gallery. Walk the other direction – the far side – and you’ll find the North Gallery.
4th Floor Gallery Floor Plan
How many guests does the 4th Floor Gallery hold?
You can have up to 100 guests attend your 4th Floor ceremony. This is the same as the Mayor’s Balcony. However, it’s more convenient because the area is larger, so 60 guests can be seated as opposed to 40.
When is the best time to rent the 4th Floor Gallery?
Just like with the other areas of the building, I always recommend booking either one of the earliest slots (9am or 10am).
The earliest appointments are best for avoiding crowds. Light-wise, morning is going to be brighter with cleaner light. For winter ceremonies at 3pm, there is an orange tone that’s visible in your photos. This isn’t bad per se, but as it’s such a neutral area, it can be jarring to see such rich colors of the light. The light starts to fade around 3.30 pm in the winter months, hence why the color of the artificial light starts to take over.
You can book your appointment up to a year out. 6-9 months out is common for popular dates, though somewhat last-minute appointments are sometimes available if you can be flexible as to the time and date.
Do you need to book the 4th Floor to take photos there?
Nope! City Hall is a public building. Anyone is permitted to enter and take photos wherever they please in the public areas.
The only exception to this is when a couple has already made an official booking for the 4th Floor, in which case the area will be cordoned off to the general public.
We definitely encourage obeying the signs if someone else has booked it! If they’re not there yet and you don’t move anything, then it’s entirely possible to sneak in for some photos!
Are there any disadvantages to the 4th Floor Gallery?
The only disadvantage is the only I’ve alluded to about the lighting on the South side being less than preferable.
Another very minor point is to make a clear plan for your guests, as it can be hard for people to figure out where they need to go. They have to find the elevator, then figure out how to get to your specific ceremony area – and there are no signs whatsoever!
A bit of preparation goes a long way to ensuring the ceremony can begin on time.
Other than these minor points, this really is the dream spot!
How much does it cost to book the 4th Floor Gallery?
The rental cost for the 1-hour ceremonies is $1,000 at the current time.
This doesn’t include chairs, which are an extra cost. If your budget allows, I recommend splurging on the Chiavari chairs which look way classier than the folding wooden ones!
For up-to-date pricing information, check out the links below.
How long is the rental period?
The rental period for all private area rentals taking place during regular opening hours is 1 hour in duration.
How do you book the 4th Floor Gallery?
You’ll need to reach out to the San Francisco City Hall events team. This is separate from the Civil Ceremony information. They have their own office actually located on the 4th floor.
There is a process for holding and booking a date which the team will explain to you. You’ll pay 75% as a deposit by cashier’s check or money order.
Then there are contracts, insurance, vendor forms, various permits and fees. It sounds scary, but it’s really not. The team is there to help and will hold your hand through it all.
Where can you find a photographer for your wedding on the 4th Floor Gallery?
I’m an experienced San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer. My team and I have photographed many weddings on the 4th Floor Galleries and have guided even more couples around the whole building!
When you’re looking around for the right photographer for you, be sure to find someone that is familiar with the space. Not just so they can get the best photos there, but because the right photographer can also be your guide and offer planning assistance and insider tips.
I pride myself on helping couples with all aspects of making their City Hall wedding days run smoothly. With a vast knowledge of all aspects of getting married in San Francisco, I’ll soon prove myself as a valuable addition to your wedding vendor team!
My goal is to take every couple I work with to the 4th Floor Galleries, as in my opinion it’s the most beautiful area to shoot. Even if you’re having a Civil Ceremony, you can expect some photos from this amazingly beautiful area – subject to availability of course (it usually isn’t a problem!)