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First of all, congratulations on your engagement and your choice to get married at San Francisco City Hall. It’s a decision you won’t regret. I know you have a lot of questions about how to plan your San Francisco City Hall wedding, but let’s take a moment to extoll the virtues of getting married in this marvelous monument!

For one thing, it’s a very budget-friendly option, especially when compared to some other San Francisco wedding venues. Secondly, it’s an extremely beautiful venue…. in my opinion, it’s San Francisco’s most beautiful monument! Lastly, it’s a quick and easy option.

That said, it’s tricky to know exactly where to begin when planning your San Francisco City Hall wedding. There’s a lot of information out there, but how do you know which sources to trust?

The folks at San Francisco City Hall are super helpful and run a well-oiled machine. However, due to the sheer volume of couples they marry each day, they cannot necessarily give every couple personalized attention.

That’s why I’ve created this practical guide, which dives into every aspect of planning your San Francisco City Hall wedding. All in friendly, down-to-earth language. My complete, comprehensive 5,700-word guide is the resource you need.

And not only that. Many of the other guides out there quickly become outdated. My goal with this ultimate guide is to create a live resource. I have committed to updating this guide every 6 months or as and when I come by new information.

If there’s anything I missed, any errors you spot in the text, or questions you have, please let me know in the comments. 

The last revision date of this guide is December 2019. 

Table of Contents

Different ceremony types at San Francisco City Hall

beautiful civil ceremony taking place at San Francisco City Hall. The rotunda is the spot at the top of the Grand Staircase where the majority of civil ceremonies take place | Zoe Larkin Photography

The rotunda is located at the top of the Grand Staircase. This is where the majority of civil ceremonies take place | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

Regular Civil Ceremony

Book your appointment for your ceremony.

95% of couples that marry at City Hall will book what’s called a ‘Civil/ Commitment Ceremony‘. That means a short ceremony officiated by a volunteer judge, also known as a Deputy Marriage Commissioner.

Appointments may be made within 90 days in advance. Ceremony reservations are available every half hour between 9:00 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Civil Ceremony (Confidential)

Within the category of ‘civil ceremony’ there is also a ‘confidential’ civil ceremony. It’s very similar, with just this tiny difference.

‘Confidential’ stipulates that both parties of marriage must be living together, no witness is required at all, and the marriage record is only available to the parties on the marriage license.

It isn’t particularly common and won’t be required for most.

Where this ceremony is held (both regular civil ceremonies and confidential)

There are two options for regular civil ceremonies: the rotunda (see photos above) and the private ceremony room (see below).

The rotunda is the little round area at the top of the grand staircase. When the Christmas tree is in the middle of the rotunda during the month of December, ceremonies take place on the steps leading to the rotunda.

The private room is located close to room 168, the County Clerk’s Office. In fact, you’ll walk past it on your way to check in. Go take a peek in the room as long as no-one’s using it! It has a frosted glass pane so you can see if anyone’s in there.

Of the two options, the rotunda is preferable in terms of how iconic it is. Guests stand as there are no seats available.

Though the private room doesn’t share the same grand architecture as the rotunda, it does have a few benefits. For one thing, it’s completely private, so no random tourists snapping pics.

The light is not bad at all, plus there are cushioned benches which might work well for elderly or less mobile guests. The acoustics are more conducive to your guests being able to hear everything, too.

Images from San Francisco City Hall wedding ceremony in the private ceremony room located close to room 168 the county clerk's office | Zoe Larkin

This couple had more than 6 guests, so opted to marry in the private ceremony room located close to room 168 | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

Maximum number of guests allowed 

The maximum number of guests permitted for a civil ceremony at City Hall is 6. In May 2019, City Hall began officially enforcing the maximum 6-guest rule until further notice due to an incident. The number includes your photographer, videographer and any children in your party.

However, if you do happen to have more guests than the 6 that are officially permitted, the private ceremony room will be the best option.

That said, even with all the rules that City Hall has in place, you can always ask your judge if they would permit you to marry in the rotunda, if you have your heart set on it. After all, the worst they can say is ‘no’.

So what’s the official maximum number of guests allowed in the private room? Well, if you ask City Hall they will always tell you 6. Unofficially, I think up to about 15 is fine, but it is always at the judge’s discretion – and they’ll ask.

How much this ceremony costs

$90 as of the time this article was last revised. Payment is by Visa or Mastercard online. International credit cards are accepted.

How long this ceremony lasts 

The ceremony lasts about 4 minutes. However, it may be less if you choose not to exchange rings. You’ll see information out there about the ceremony lasting 10 minutes but this is a misunderstanding. There are 3 couples every half hour, yes, but that doesn’t mean your ceremony takes 10 minutes! It’s very, very short.

Different judges approach ceremonies differently. Some will take a few moments to get to know you and may even dish out some words of wisdom and congratulation. Others are more to-the-point and keep the interaction brief.

There are three or four couples scheduled for each half-hour slot, so the actual ceremony time will be somewhat later than your booked appointment time. Usually about 20 – 45 minutes later.

More information

Marriage: Civil Ceremony information from the Office of the County Clerk 

This wedding ceremony took place on the Mayor's balcony at SF City Hall, one of the areas available for an hour-long rental for $1,000 | Zoe Larkin Photography

A wedding ceremony taking place on the Mayor’s Balcony of San Francisco City Hall | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

Private Area Rental during regular opening hours

Private rentals are when you rend out a designated area for your wedding to take place. The area is cordoned off with velvet rope, though the building will be open as usual. Food and drink service is not permitted.

The benefit of these ceremonies is that you can have more guests. You can design your ceremony to resemble a more conventional wedding – without the private venue price tag.

You can have a choice of chairs (for an extra fee), an aisle to walk down, your wedding party standing by your side, your own officiant, programs, [limited] decorations and even acoustic musicians.

City Hall requires a minimum of three weeks advance notice for scheduling One-hour and Two-hour weddings, and a minimum of four weeks advance notice for scheduling evening and weekend events.

One client gave me the following information about booking their 1-hour rental,

“In order to secure our reservation, we were required to sign a contract and put a deposit of 75% (money order or cashier’s check). We submitted the 13-page contract to room 495 and they would send the copy of the contract via email. Then we would pay the remaining 25% within 5 days of the reservation date.”

On The fourth floor of San Francisco City Hall, a couple has their wedding ceremony and the bride throws her head back laughing | Zoe Larkin Photography

A private wedding ceremony taking place on the 4th Floor of San Francisco City Hall | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

Where this ceremony is held

You have three options:

  1. The Mayor’s Balcony
  2. 4th Floor North Gallery
  3. 4th Floor South Gallery

How much this ceremony costs

$1,000.

How long this ceremony lasts

You have the space for 1 hour, and you’ll need to fit all the pre-and post-ceremony happenings into this time! 20 -30 mins is about standard for a wedding ceremony.

You need to allow time for all the guests to arrive and get situated. You’ll probably want to use the area you’ve rented to do family formal pictures immediately afterward.

Maximum number of guests allowed 

Mayor’s Balcony seats 40, and the 4th Floor Galleries seat 60. They both have standing room to take the maximum guest count up to 100.

More information

San Francisco City Hall Events Page – One Hour Weddings 

Guerilla-style Ceremony anywhere you like

same sex couple during their San Francisco City Hall wedding ceremony. they had their friend officiate and managed to hold their ceremony on the 4th floor | Zoe Larkin Photography

Though this couple didn’t book a one-hour rental for the wedding ceremony, they had their friend officiate a guerilla-style ceremony on the 4th Floor North Gallery | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

Where this ceremony is held

Anywhere you like in City Hall, except areas that are already being used by other marriers.

How much this ceremony costs

Just the cost of the license and getting a friend deputized as Deputy Marriage Commissioner For A Day (currently $149 as of the last revision)

How long this ceremony lasts

As the City does not control the content of marriage ceremonies performed by DMCFODs, your ceremony can be whatever you want!

Maximum number of guests allowed

My advice is to keep it small and seek guidance from City Hall if you want to avoid being moved on!

More information

How to have a private ceremony at SF City Hall without renting a space

Deputy Marriage Commissioner for a Day – From the Office of the County Clerk 

Full buyout of City Hall – Saturdays

same sex couple getting married in San Francisco City Hall having rented out the whole building for their wedding | Zoe Larkin Photography

A City Hall buyout on Saturday morning. The couple had use of the space for 2 hours and said ‘I do’ on the Grand Staircase. | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

If you feel like having the whole building to yourself in the beautiful morning light, you can choose the 2-hour package that’s available on Saturday mornings. It represents good value and you can then head on to another venue for your wedding reception.

City Hall has its own list of approved catering & bartending vendors together with rules about liquor licensing. Their list of ‘qualified vendors’ is here on their Events site.

Where this ceremony is held

You’ll exchange your vows on the platform of the Grand Staircase. Guests will be seated on the 1st Floor (ground level).

How much this ceremony costs

It starts at $5,000 for the 2-hour package which can begin anytime between 9 am and 12 pm on Saturdays only.

How long this ceremony lasts

2 hours inclusive of load-in and load-out.

Maximum number of guests allowed

A guest count of up to 200 is included in the price. However, you can exceed 200 guests for a fee.

More information

San Francisco City Hall Events Page – Two Hour Weddings 

Full buyout of City Hall – any other time (weekends and evenings)

Where this ceremony is held

There are many different options and configurations of space to choose from. Some of the rental rates are listed here. While ceremonies normally take place on the Grand Staircase, the areas that you might include in your rental are the

It’s best to speak directly to the City Hall events team for full details.

How much this ceremony costs

There are many rental options going up to up to $30,000 for packages that include the rotunda & both light courts. That’s a pretty exceptional amount. For most weddings, it will be much less than that!

If you’re interested in an evening ceremony with time for dinner and dancing, you are looking at a cost of $5,000 – $7,000.

Due to the bespoke nature of these types of ceremonies, be aware that extra charges are levied. This in addition to the actual rental rates.

Be sure to contact City Hall’s dedicated events team to get a fuller understanding of what’s required for your wedding.

How long this ceremony lasts

Varies depending on what you would like. Generally, it’s a bespoke experience.

Maximum number of guests allowed

Up to 3,000.

More information

City Hall Wedding Rental Rates

City Hall Wedding Fees and Expenses

Requirements for booking your appointment and obtaining your marriage license at City Hall

waiting for marriage license outside room 168 - this sweet couple's journey to get married starts with signing the marriage certificate and filling out the paperwork!

Entering the County Clerk’s office otherwise known as room 168 of San Francisco City Hall. Here the bride fills out the souvenir marriage license. Official licenses are sent by mail about 10 days later. Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

One of the wonderful things about getting married at San Francisco City Hall is that you don’t need to be a US citizen or resident. That makes it an ideal spot for destination elopements.

You must be at least eighteen years of age and unmarried.

It’s recommended to make the appointment for your marriage license after you confirm your actual wedding date.

The reason is that there is far more availability for license appointments than for ceremony appointments.

Separate appointments are necessary for the marriage license and the ceremony itself. Walk-ins will be turned away so be sure to use the booking system. You cannot get married without a marriage license.

Booking your appointment for your civil ceremony at San Francisco City Hall

To book your ceremony appointment, go to:

Marriage License and Civil/Commitment Ceremony – Online Reservations (Office of the County Clerk)

You’ll have to enter your full name, phone number, email address and your partner’s full name.

screenshot showing the booking process at San Francisco City Hall wedding - online reservation system | Zoe Larkin Photography

From there, you’ll see this screen showing City Hall’s booking calendar.

the process of booking your San Francisco City Hall civil ceremony appointment and using the online ceremony booking system | Zoe Larkin Photography

Though you’ll need to pick up the marriage license before you get married, you won’t need to enter license information into the ceremony booking form.

After you’re done, you’ll get this confirmation screen and will proceed to the payment screen.

screenshot showing ceremony booked confirmation on san francisco city hall online reservation booking system for civil wedding ceremony | Zoe Larkin Photography

When, how and where to get your marriage license

bride with tattoos on her fingers holding up her marriage license with her B number outside room 168 of San Francisco City Hall

Waiting to be called into room 168 at San Francisco City Hall, having received their ‘B’ number | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

It is whole-heartedly recommended to obtain your marriage license on a separate day before your wedding. If you walk into City Hall with your license already in your hand, it is going to make for a much smoother wedding process.

San Francisco City Hall states that your marriage license appointment can be made anytime up until 30 minutes before your booked ceremony time. However, in my experience that has been a recipe for unnecessary stress. Now, with higher volumes of people marrying there than ever before, even a 1-hour gap is not enough.

The license process usually involves about an hour of waiting around, which can not only kill the excitement for your wedding, but has left some couples worried that they would have to miss their wedding ceremony!

To obtain your marriage license, each applicant must present:

  • Unexpired government-issued photo identification in English (Non-English language documents should be translated beforehand by an approved translator)
  • Complete public or confidential marriage application form.
  • 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.

(Source: County Clerk’s Online Reservations Page)

Reservations for obtaining the marriage license at San Francisco City Hall are available Monday-Friday beginning 8:15 a.m. and every half hour between 8:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m.

Since 2018, photography is not allowed during license pick-up, so that’s one more reason to get your license on a separate date!

How much the marriage license costs

$110 if you obtain your marriage license from San Francisco City Hall

Top tip: In California, in contrast to all the other US states, the county sets the price of the marriage license.

I’ve heard of couples who paid $80 as that’s their county’s rate. Even though the price is set per county, the marriage license is valid anywhere in the state of California.

What to have with you on your San Francisco City Hall wedding day

the look on the groom's face when he realized he forgot the ring - waiting to get married at San Francisco City Hall | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

This groom realized he forgot the rings (middle picture!) As they were eloping, they simply had an impromptu ring exchange at their beautiful hotel afterwards. | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

The couple must bring:

  • Valid, authentic, legal photo identification.
  • Valid marriage license.
  • One witness (no more than two) if presenting a public marriage license.
  • No witness is required if presenting a confidential marriage license.
  • Not a requirement at all, but don’t forget to bring your wedding rings, if exchanging!

(Source: County Clerk’s Online Reservations Page)

Witnesses to your marriage and how many you need

For the regular civil ceremony, you need one witness and can have two if you like. It is quicker and easier (therefore recommended!) to have just one.

The judges at City Hall get very nervous about witnesses making a mistake on the license. If there is a mistake or crossing-out, the whole form must be generated again from scratch.

Having just one witness decreases the chance of a mistake on the form which will inevitably delay proceedings. It may cause major issues if the license was issued in another locale other than San Francisco, as it can’t simply be reprinted.

Photographers are honored to act as a witness to your marriage and don’t charge an extra fee for this.

Step-by-step planning timeline for your SF City Hall wedding

6-12 months out

  • If you are booking a private area you can actually book up to 24 months in advance. About 6 months or so is usually sufficient.

90 days out

2 months out

  • Start planning how the rest of the day might look with regards to a reception venue or private room in a restaurant
  • Consider logistics including transportation options, how you’ll get around and make the day flow smoothly

1 month out

  •  Confirm any other vendors such as floral designer, hair & makeup artist, wedding rings and accessories.

2 weeks out

  • Finalize plans with your photographer including:
  • Family groupings list for the formal shots
  • Final review of the day’s timeline
  • Where to go for portraits after the ceremony

Day of

  • Get there early so you can savor the moment
  • Allow more time than you might think for hair and makeup plus traffic
  • Check in for your civil ceremony officially 15 before so you’re the first in line to marry.

For more day-of tips, check out my 10 San Francisco City Hall on-the-day wedding tips!

Transportation to your San Francisco City Hall wedding

Car (driving yourself)

The main concern with driving yourself is allowing enough time for traffic. City Hall is located in the very center of San Francisco in a very busy area. The nearest parking lot is Civic Center Garage at 355 McAllister St. The entrance is small and easy to miss but it’s actually a large underground lot.

Problem is, it’s often full unless you get there first thing in the morning. It’s advisable to skip driving unless you allow plenty of time (I’d say an hour) to allow for traffic and figure out alternative parking if the lot is full. A lot of the spots around there will not allow you to park for a long enough time. With the added stress this could cause, driving yourself isn’t recommended.

BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), San Francisco’s Metro trains

The BART system is pretty reliable, particularly during the week. It’s about 2 blocks from the Civic Center stop and an easy walk.

Muni, San Francisco’s cable cars

Examples of public transportation on your city hall wedding day to get around san francisco after getting married

Left: the F Muni train at Embarcadero. Right: Though it doesn’t depart from close to City Hall, the Powell St Cable Car turnaround is an iconic photo op! | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

These cute streetcars can be a little unpredictable in their schedule. But if you’ve the time, it can be a really nice, authentic touch to the experience. The F Train runs up Market Street and is totally unique. The streetcars are vintage models and have been shipped in from all over the US & further afield. Some even come from as far away as Milan!

groom feeding bride a snack in the back seat of the Uber after their San Francisco wedding day

Getting around by Uber/ Lyft is the preferred mode of transportation! No time is wasted parking or walking and it’s totally stress-free. | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

Hired road transportation with driver (car, limo, shuttle bus, your own trolley car)

The most convenient option is the most expensive, but in my opinion, it’s so worthwhile. Anything you can do to cut down stress is 100% something you should consider. Having a designated driver that’s with you for these few hours makes traveling a cinch.

There are stretch limos, shuttle buses, or just a regular car if it’s just the two of you eloping. I’ll travel with you and may even snap a few photos of you lovebirds canoodling in the backseat.

stretch limo outside San Francisco City Hall while the guests tuck into sushi

Guests tuck into sushi and champagne in this stretch limo while listening to the couple’s favorite tunes. | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

One lovely touch that is SO San Francisco is the Hornblower Cable Car. Your guests will have the most memorable transportation experience!

Hornblower cable car is a road transportation system that works well for City Hall weddings in San Francisco!

A cable car like this one is a great way to transport your wedding group even if you have 20+ guests! | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

couple in a becak - transportation ideas after san francisco city hall wedding

Intrigued by this mode of transportation? It’s called a becak. Learn more at this link | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

Exactly what happens on your City Hall wedding day

Arrival at City Hall

Enter the building through the Polk side. The small section at the front of the building is now known as Dr. Carlton B Goodlett Drive, but to your cab driver, it may just be Polk 😉

If you have backpacks, a camera bag or any other larger items with you, you’ll need to enter through the Grove side. There you’ll find an airport-style scanner, gate and security guard. They are all very friendly and efficient.

How to check in at San Francisco City Hall

‘Checking in’ is a simple process of presenting yourselves to the main Information desk straight ahead in room 168 (County Clerk’s office) on the north side of City Hall.

What you’ll need to have with you is detailed above.

After this initial check-in, you’ll get a numbered ticket. It’ll start with the letter ‘B’. The first ticket of the day is B101.

Watch the screen in the corridor and wait until you’re called in again. You’ll meet with the judge that’ll marry you. This time go to the desk on the left. You’ll shake the judge’s hand and they will give you instructions for filling out and signing the form. Your witness must accompany you this second time.

There is no harm asking your judge whether you can get married in a different spot than the rotunda. This is the time to do it!

Sure, the rotunda iconic but the prettiest spot that’s much better for pictures, more private and quieter is the 4th Floor North Gallery. The South Gallery is also great but the light is less harsh on the North side).

Deputy Marriage Commissioners split their time between checking 3 couples in and then officiating weddings. He/ she will send you upstairs to the ceremony spot and you’ll wait until they are ready to join you (in matrimony!).

About 20-45 minutes after you checked in, your ceremony will begin.

What happens during the San Francisco City Hall ceremony

The judge will call you up by name so make sure you’re within earshot of the rotunda (or other ceremony location). The ceremony is very short and simple. No personal vows or other words are permitted. I obtained a copy of the general script they follow and the vows you’ll say which I’ll link to soon!

The best position for the judge is for them to face the back of City Hall (see above) We want to capture the grandness of the open area with the Mayor’s Balcony. We don’t want them blocking you. So, their back should be to the staircase.

Remember to turn and face one another and not the judge. The pictures will be better if you are looking at each other and keep your hair tucked back so your face is visible in the pics.

Don’t forget to kiss at the end to seal the deal. The officiant doesn’t always give the traditional prompt!

What happens after the wedding ceremony

Posed family formal portraits

After the hugs of congratulations is a good time to do formal, posed family pictures. This normally takes around 20 minutes.

For more information about compiling your family grouping lists, see this helpful article:

How to plan family photo list for your wedding

Though you won’t see a ton of these kinds of photos online, I recommend making time for them at every City Hall wedding (except if you’re eloping, of course! I’ve included some fun ones here, but naturally the formal ones are done, too.

4th floor family formal portraits at San Francisco City Hall

After the rotunda ceremony, we found a favorite spot on the 4th floor and took some family formal photos. | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

Couples’ photos of the newlyweds!

After that, your photographer will guide you around the building. Photographers know the best spots to take photos, but always feel free to suggest any particular spots you have in mind.

Usually, you’ll run around your preferred San Francisco portrait location for kickass photos! The key to all of this is planning.

I do recommend making time to get at least some photos outdoors, even if it’s just near City Hall. Nothing beats the flattering and magical quality of natural light, whatever the weather.

For couples who are concerned with timing, I have compiled a list of my favorite photography locations that are less than 3 miles from San Francisco City Hall. Check out the recommendations for great photo locations close to City Hall!

Finding this article helpful? Please consider my City Hall wedding photography services 

morning couple's portraits at the back of San Francisco City Hall Van Ness side by Zoe Larkin Photography

The back of San Francisco City Hall (Van Ness side) has perfect light for morning wedding ceremonies. | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

Planning FAQs

How to create a timeline for your City Hall wedding

It honestly can be tough to know how much time to allocate to each portion of the day!

For the time at City Hall, I’d say 15-mins is pre-check in time. Then you check in and will wait about half an hour for the ceremony to start.

After the quick ceremony, you might do 20 minutes of family photos followed by 30 minutes of couples’ photos.

Bear in mind, you’ll want a photographer that can help to plan proactively, making sure there is enough time for what you value. After all, a wedding planner is generally not required for a civil ceremony-only wedding, and you need the help of a pro to share their expertise with you.

After the wedding, you probably want to choose a cool San Francisco location for couples’ photos, and then have a meal with your guests. If you’re looking for recommendations, I’d be happy to help!

Every City Hall wedding is unique, so you’ll probably want to brainstorm some ideas for what you really want to do and that feels like you. Then just start writing out some ideas for how long each piece will take, making sure you leave plenty of buffer time and take into account delays and travel time. The day will take shape before you know it!

I’m bringing out an in-depth article dedicated to this topic very soon.

The best times of the day, week and year to marry at San Francisco City Hall

The first ceremony slot of 9 am is a very good choice. You’ll likely be the only ones in the building! In this case, I’d suggest starting for pictures at 8 am or 8.15 am so you can have the Grand Staircase to yourselves. By 8.30 am there are quite a few more folks around already.

If you book the last appointment of the day, that can also be a wise choice. Although the lighting is much sharper than in the morning when it’s soft, City Hall will have emptied. There is more time to linger afterward.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the quietest days.

Fridays are the busiest, craziest days, particularly Friday afternoons. On Thursdays, the weekend rush is already starting to pick up. Mondays can also be fairly busy as couples try to bundle their wedding day in with the weekend.

Too many people around does cause delays. For example, you’ll have to wait longer for your ceremony to begin as the judge checks in other couples.

And you’ll have to wait your turn for pictures as typically everyone clamors for the same spots (4th floor, 3rd floor picture windows, Mayor’s Balcony, Grand Staircase). The staircase may be just too busy to photograph on if there are 50 people in the shot.

If you’re keen on a Friday, make sure you book with City Hall as soon as your date is available online – 90 days prior. Fridays book out the quickest with your vendors, too.

What you should let your guests know in advance about your SF City Hall wedding

There are definitely several things that you need to inform your guests about before your City Hall wedding day. Here are a few of them!

  • How they are going to get to City Hall
  • Where they should meet you
  • That it takes time to enter the building and they’ll need to allow for lines
  • Make sure they aren’t unwittingly carrying an item that’s not permitted – it is airport-style security. A very thorough list that City Hall produced is here.
  • If they have larger bags, they’ll need to enter through the Grove side-entrance not the main entrance on Polk
  • Where they will be going exactly when it’s time for couple’s photos of the two of you.
  • Bring a folding seat if they are older or cannot stand for long

 

How to find the vendors you need for your wedding

A Google search normally uncovers some great options for your wedding vendors. However, for more personalized recommendations, read on!

Once you’ve found a great photographer who is used to photographing a lot of San Francisco City Hall weddings, they can connect you.

The benefit of this is that they can draw from their wide pool of vendors at every style and budget.

For example, the best hair and makeup artists will show prominently when you search. However, if hair and makeup isn’t something you prioritize, you don’t want to pay top dollar for the best in town, but you still want a professional HMUA.

So, if you’re good with a trainee makeup artist that’s looking to build their portfolio, I have several skilled artists I can recommend. You won’t find them on Google.

What to wear to your San Francisco City Hall wedding

What to wear to your City Hall wedding? There are so many options for wedding attire these days, and with a City Hall wedding like these San Francisco City Hall ones, you can take your pick between traditional and contemporary, formal or relaxed, colorful or plain. If you're looking for inspiration for what to wear to your civil ceremony, take a peek at some of these gorgeous wedding ideas from previous City Hall clients! #cityhallwedding | Zoe Larkin Photography

Ideas and inspiration from past clients – what will you wear to your City Hall wedding? | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

These days, marriers are doing wonderful things with their wedding attire!

I photograph brides in traditional floor-length fairytale wedding dresses, as well as jumpsuits and overalls. I see dresses in all different shades, from charcoal gray to bright red.

Most grooms to opt for a suit or button-down shirt that shows their unique style, but you can choose for yourself how traditional or contemporary you want to go.

There’s no dress code for weddings at San Francisco City Hall, so let your imagination run riot!

My one piece of advice is to make sure it’s something comfortable. Nothing will ruin your day more than wearing an outfit you’re constantly tugging at or that doesn’t fit you right.

In contrast to a regular wedding, you won’t be sitting down at all during your City Hall wedding. Comfortable footwear is a must 😉

The right accessories can also really help to elevate your style and personalize what can be an impersonal experience. Florals are, for me, an absolute must. Get the best designer you can afford!

If your budget won’t stretch too far, I can recommend mail-order bouquets or even silk ones that photograph beautifully and you can keep as a decoration in your home.

collage of 3 wedding bouquets at San Francisco City Hall weddings

A tasteful and modern bouquet is one of the few ways you can personalize your City Hall wedding experience and photos. Florals add a touch of magic. | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

What to look for in a photographer

  • Find someone you vibe with, whose work you adore and with whom you share a creative vision.
  • An established photographer works in a fixed style with consistency in their work. Make sure you like that style!
  • Ask questions
  • Make sure you see a bunch of full client galleries.
  • Gauge their personality from their social media
  • Read through their website carefully.
  • Read reviews from past clients on Yelp, Google, Facebook and The Knot.
  • Look at value as well as price.
  • Understand exactly what’s included
  • Meet them or chat on the phone. You’ll know when you’ve found the one!

I have an in-depth blog post coming out about this topic very soon 😉

Find out more about my San Francisco City Hall wedding photography services here.

Totally random tips that will transform your City Hall wedding experience

I love providing helpful tips to folks getting married at San Francisco City Hall! Below is an article of my 10 super handy tips that you’ll need on the day of your SF City Hall wedding!

10 San Francisco City Hall on-the-day tips!

City Hall weddings – the fine print stuff

The City Hall category on my blog has so much info about getting married at City Hall along with past couples for inspo! 

The most important tip is to remain flexible and hold your plans lightly. When considering any kind of wedding, planning is key, but there are so many factors that can impact on your day. This is part and parcel of the unique experience of getting married at San Francisco City Hall.

Three unexpected events that took place at my SF City Hall weddings! The Christmas tree was being erected, a group of schoolkids were visiting, and a press conference took place outside San Francisco City Hall. Zoe Larkin Photography

There are unexpected events that happen at City Hall! Occasionally, entire areas may be out of commission. | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

I’ve seen all kinds of stuff take place that has impacted on my couples’ wedding days in different ways. Events that commonly take place at San Francisco City Hall (and that can scupper the best-laid plans) are:

  • Protests
  • Press conferences
  • Maintenance work
  • Busloads of tourists
  • School visits
  • Gala event set-up
  • Motion picture filming
  • & many others!
Different protests take place regularly on the front steps of San Francisco City Hall - this is a common occurrence that can affect your wedding | Zoe Larkin Photography

Protests are a pretty common occurrence at San Francisco City Hall | Photos by Zoe Larkin Photography

The trick is to roll with it! Revel in the joy, the shared experience, and uniqueness of getting married at San Francisco City Hall! I’d love to hear your wedding ideas – feel free to reach out here once you have your date booked!

Pin this graphic below to your San Francisco City Hall Pinterest board!

This guide takes you through the whole process of how to get married at SF City Hall! I know how overwhelming it can be. It's so hard to find relevant, up to date information written in plain English, am I right? Well, I have you covered.Everything from booking your license appoinment, ceremony appointment, finding your wedding vendors, all the way through to the planning process (which I work with you on, always giving my helpful tips!). Finally the day itself comes around and you're armed with all the knowledge you need for a smooth, easy, efficient, stress-free and FUN wedding day! Whether you're having an intimate City Hall elopement, a 6-guest ceremony in the rotunda or a 100-guest traditional ceremony in one of the private areas, this guide is the BEST place to start! #cityhall #sanfranciscowedding #sfcityhall #weddingplanning #sanfranciscoelopement

Be sure to Pin this to Pinterest! | Zoe Larkin Photography

 

 

More helpful resources for planning your SF City Hall wedding

For detailed and comprehensive info about getting married at SF city hall, click here.

Specific wedding-focused City Hall information check out their dedicated event website here.

A Practical Wedding’s guide here

Articles related to City Hall on my blog

How to get married at San Francisco City Hall – The Ultimate Guide

city hall

December 4, 2019

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Lover of ice cream, killer of houseplants, Zoe is a San Francisco-dwelling love documentarian. Contact | Insta

about the author

MOMENT CATCHER, LIGHT CHASER, DETAIL LOVER 

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