Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! I also commend you on your excellent taste – you won’t regret choosing San Francisco City Hall as your wedding venue. This iconic building, with its exquisite Beaux-Arts architecture and remarkable history, serves as a breathtaking and photogenic backdrop for your special day.

This article will introduce you give you all the information you need about how to get married at San Francisco City Hall. I’m excited to share all my knowledge with you in this guide. If there’s a question you’d like addressed, please leave a comment!

I created this video below (also linked here!) to introduce myself to you (hey there!), and give you WAY more examples of my work, visual examples of what I’m talking about, and more depth than this blog post could allow! I would love it if you would check this out, as I think you’d find it even more helpful! It’s 11 minutes long, but really jam-packed with information.

I’m Zoe and I lead a team of photographers that will help make your City Hall wedding fun and simple! I’ve specialized in photographing weddings at the most iconic City Hall in the United States since 2017, shortly after I moved here from the UK.

This overview is intended for those at the beginning of their wedding journey. There are more detailed articles I’ve written sprinkled throughout for those who want a deeper dive. I really hope these resources are helpful and look forward to hearing from you when you’re ready to book a photographer for your SF City Hall ceremony!

Date of last update: January 5, 2024

Let’s dive into the different ceremony types available, and then I’ll answer ALL the frequently asked questions about how to get married at SF City Hall. And don’t forget your marriage license! 

Civil Ceremony 

Current cost (subject to change without notice): $103 (fee schedule here)

How to book: The official SF.Gov website

Location: Rotunda (at the top of the Grand Staircase) 

Days of the week: Monday – Friday, excluding holidays

Time slots: Every half-hour between 9 am – 3:30 pm

Maximum guest count: Up to 6 guests 

When to book: Maximum of 90 days out; calendar opens at midnight PST 

Civil Ceremony at San Francisco City Hall
Civil Ceremony at San Francisco City Hall | Zoe Larkin Photography

You can’t get simpler or more quintessentially City Hall than a Civil Ceremony! This involves a quick 3 – 4 minute ceremony with a very limited number of guests. 

You’ll have your marriage license in hand already. Then check in to Room 168 (County Clerk’s office) 15 minutes before your appointed ceremony time. The check-in process takes anything up to 30 minutes. 

Officially, a maximum of 6 guests are permitted to attend your San Francisco City Hall Civil Ceremony. This limit includes any children in your group, your witness and your photo/video team. Though the rule isn’t strictly enforced, the official rules may be invoked at any time.

Civil Ceremonies usually take place in the Rotunda which is located at the top of the Grand Staircase, but the officiant you’re allocated will make the determination. You can try to request a different area which is more open and bright! (Examples: Mayor’s Balcony, 3rd Floor or 4th Floor).

These are the actual vows you’ll recite. Personalizing your vows is not possible with a Civil Ceremony. An officiant is provided for Civil Ceremonies only. 

1-Hour Private Rental 

Current cost (subject to change without notice): $1,000

How to book: The Official San Francisco City Hall Events page

Location: Choose from 4th Floor (North Gallery) or Mayor’s Balcony

Days of the week: Monday – Friday, excluding holidays

Time slots for 4th Floor: 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm

Time slots for Mayor’s Balcony: 10am, 12pm, 2pm 

Maximum guest count: 4th Floor: 60 seated plus 40 standing. Mayor’s Balcony: 40 seated plus 60 standing. 

When to book: Maximum of 2 years out. Minimum of 2 weeks out. 

4th Floor North Gallery Private Ceremony
4th Floor North Gallery Private Ceremony at SF City Hall | Zoe Larkin Photography
Mayor's Balcony Private Ceremony
Mayor’s Balcony Private Ceremony at SF City Hall | Zoe Larkin Photography

A one-hour private area rental gives you more privacy, the ability to customize your ceremony, and you can have a lot more guests.

There are two different areas to choose from:

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

You can even further personalize proceedings by reciting your own vows, having acoustic musicians, a display table and floral decor. You’ll have to provide your own officiant, too. Food and drink service is not permitted.

During the one-hour slot, there is enough time for your ceremony followed by formal group photos. You can even have a wedding party and be joined at the ‘altar’ by your dearest friends. 

For sought-after dates, we recommend booking as far as possible in advance to avoid disappointment. To book, you’ll need to sign a contract and put down a deposit of $750 by money order or cashier’s check. You’ll then submit the contract to Room 495, the Events Office. The process can be done remotely for those who are not local. The final payment must be made within 5 days of the reservation date.

Our preferred location out of the two is the 4th Floor North Gallery. It’s spacious, more private with better acoustics and natural, even light.

2-Hour Weekend Buyout

Current cost (subject to change without notice): $5,000 

How to book: The Official San Francisco City Hall Events page 

Days of the week: Saturdays

Time slots: 9 am or 12 pm 

Location: Entire building. Ceremony takes place on platform level near bottom of Staircase 

Maximum guest count: 200

When to book: Maximum of 2 years out. 

full buyout saturday wedding ceremony at sf city hall
Saturday buyout at SF City Hall | Zoe Larkin Photography

For bigger or more private events, you can have the whole of City Hall to yourselves! The two hours easily cover your romantic portraits, ceremony and formal groupings. You’ll tie the knot on the Grand Staircase and be surrounded by rows of family and friends watching you from the ground floor.

There is way more personalization you can weave into your event, as well as a higher guest count. The biggest benefit though is that there are no other people around, making it a truly private event. 

It’s possible to fit a short champagne reception into the end of your rental time, especially if you do your formal group photo session off-site at your chosen reception location. 

Marriage License

Current cost (subject to change without notice): $120 (fee schedule here). Available at any other CA county for lower cost.

How to book: The official SF.Gov website

Location: Room 168 (County Clerk’s Office) 

Days of the week: Monday – Friday, excluding holidays

Time slots: 8:15 am – 3:30 pm

When to book: Maximum of 90 days out. Minimum: same day as wedding

After you’ve secured your ceremony booking, then you can set about booking your appointment for your marriage license. There are plenty of appointments for license pickup but ceremony slots are highly sought-after, so that’s why we recommend booking the ceremony first!

To get married at City Hall, just like with any wedding you’ll need to obtain a marriage license in advance. This can be obtained from any county in California and is valid for 90 days from the date of issue. After that, the license expires if not used. 

It’s highly recommended to make your marriage license appointment for a different date within 90 days of your wedding day. There’s enough going on without dealing with another appointment, plus you might want to schedule photography events pre-ceremony. It also gives you peace of mind to have your license in hand already. Delays are pretty commonplace for license pickups.

If you are from out of state and eloping here, you might want to ensure you’re able to reach CA at least one business day before your ceremony and ensure you have a license appointment secured.

License costs vary across counties, with San Francisco being the highest in California. So if you live in California, it’s easiest to pick this up from your local county rather than driving into SF. Both partners getting married must be present for the license appointment. Appointments are necessary for all Bay Area counties as far as I know. 

Next, we’re going to dive into some frequently asked questions. 

Getting married at San Francisco City Hall
Getting married at San Francisco City Hall | Zoe Larkin Photography

Breakdown of the main ceremony options

These are the main types of ceremony and a comparison of guest count, availability and current price. In addition there is also an evening ceremony option during weekdays.

Type of CeremonyMaximum number of guestsAvailability Price (excluding license cost)
Civil6Monday – Friday 9 am – 3.30 pm$103
Private100 (40 or 60 seated depending on area)Monday to Friday 9 am – 3 pm$1,000 + chair rental
Full buyout 200Saturday mornings $5,000 + chair rental + other charges 

Here’s a quick recap in the form of an Instagarm reel – save this for future reference, or if you prefer video to text!

Can we take wedding photos at San Francisco City Hall?

Of course! San Francisco City Hall is a public building, open to all. Entry is free. Anyone can enter and take photographs, even if you’re not getting married there. Permits are not required for wedding photography or videography. Opening hours are currently 8am – 6pm.

How long is an SF City Hall wedding?

A Civil Ceremony is very short. The ceremony lasts about 3-4 minutes. If you choose not to exchange rings, the ceremony is even shorter at closer to 2-3 minutes. Some officiants choose to embellish the moment with meaningful words for a more personal touch. Others are more perfunctory.

A Private Ceremony gives you the space for 1 hour. You’ll choose your own officiant and ceremony proceedings, including adding personal vows, readings, religious traditions, musical accompaniment, or anything you’d like.

What’s the best time of day to get married at San Francisco City Hall?

Best times of the day to have your ceremony at SF City Hall
Best times of the day to have your ceremony at SF City Hall

The best time of day is as early in the day as possible. The building is only relatively empty when the doors open at 8 a.m. Sometimes it remains pretty empty for the first half-hour.

City Hall fills up as the day goes on, and then starts to empty out again after 3:30 p.m when the final ceremonies are taking place. If you’re not a morning person or would prefer to go straight to dinner, the last ceremony slots of the day are worth considering. 

What’s the best time of the week to get married at San Francisco City Hall?

Best day of the week to have your ceremony at SF City Hall
Best days of the week to have your ceremony at SF City Hall

Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be the quietest days of the week. Fridays are by far the busiest – year-round. On Thursdays, the weekend rush starts to pick up. Mondays can also be a little busy as couples want to tie their wedding in with the weekend.

Because popular dates sell out quickly, I highly recommend logging on to the County Clerk’s website at midnight PST exactly 90 days out so you can snag your desired date and timeslot. The earliest and latest slots of the day are the first to book out, being the most desirable. 

What’s the best time of the year to get married at San Francisco City Hall?

Best months of the year to get married at SF City Hall
Best months of the year to get married at SF City Hall

As visualized in the graphic above, the busiest months of the year at SF City Hall are:

  • Last 2 weeks of March 
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • September 
  • October
  • Last 2 weeks of November 
  • December 

If you want fewer crowds, avoid the above months! 

Bear in mind, the less quiet months coincide with the cold and rainy weather (January and February) and the foggy, cold months (July and August). Bear that in mind if you’re planning photoshoots outdoors!.

Another consideration is that during the winter months, the quality of light appears darker by 3pm and on more overcast days. 

How many witnesses do we need to elope at City Hall?

In California, it is mandatory to have one witness present during your wedding ceremony. It is possible to have up to two witnesses sign your marriage license (if the staff allows you to).

Although the state doesn’t enforce an age requirement for witnesses, they must be capable of signing their names on the official marriage license.

If there are any errors on the form, it may not be accepted. Mistakes include crossings-out, smudging your name, going outside the lines, or accidentally tearing the paper. I recommend just one witness, to minimize the risk of a mistake which could void your license.

If you do not have any guests, or would prefer not to ask them to witness, your photographer will gladly act as witness. This does not incur an extra fee – it’s always an honor to be asked!

What do we need to bring with us?

You’ll need your marriage license, government-issued ID and a witness. If you obtain a ‘confidential’ marriage license (not to be confused with a private ceremony), no witness is needed.

On your ID, check your ensure your entire name is spelled out in full with no initials. If that’s the case, bring your passport too.  If the language of your ID is not English, you will need to bring a certified translation. 

You may also choose to exchange wedding rings but they are not necessary in order to get married.

Romantic photos around City Hall
Romantic photos around City Hall | Zoe Larkin Photography

What should we not bring with us?

Avoid bringing too much stuff in general! Be careful not to bring any prohibited items inadvertently as you’ll be entering through airport-style security.

As it’s a public place, you will have to keep anything with you at all times, or ideally pass it off to a guest. Also, your photographer may offer to put your personal effects in their bag to avoid them being visible in photos, but they are already wearing heavy camera gear and a bulky case.

How do we formulate a plan for our day?

The ceremony can be the centerpiece of your day or it can be just one very small part of it. You can more of an occasion out of your day and optimize the photography accordingly using these timeline tips. It’s totally up to you! 

This article linked above goes into all the ins and outs of planning, as well as what events you might choose to add before or after the City Hall portion. Our photography services begin at just 2 hours, so there’s no pressure to book any more than the basics.

Can we take photos away from City Hall as well?

There are so many fantastic portrait locations within San Francisco. Here’s a list of 36 of my favorite locations.

Popular choices include:

  • The Palace of Fine Arts (it’s formal and pairs well with the classical architecture of City Hall). 
  • Crissy Field (shows off the Golden Gate Bridge as well as combining nature vibes, a city view, palm trees and a beach, all in close walking proximity of each other)
  • The San Francisco Botanical Garden (beautiful, diverse and mature planting with dramatic photo backdrops around every corner!) 

Alternatively, you can choose a meaningful location such as a coffee shop or park in the neighborhood where you met or live in. Some favorite neighborhoods include the Mission District, Marina District, the Dogpatch, Nob Hill, Bernal Heights and Pacific Heights. 

If you’re looking for something closer to City Hall to cut down on travel time, here is a list of wedding photo locations that are within 3 miles of City Hall.

Wedding photos at the Golden Gate Bridge
Wedding photos at the Golden Gate Bridge | Zoe Larkin Photography

What else can we add on to make our day complete?

I have a full outline of what else your day might include (and what that looks like) in my detailed timeline guide

Just a few ideas include:

  • Getting ready photos at your hotel (hotel guide here
  • A first look (first look at City Hall guide here)
  • An external portrait location either before or after the ceremony as mentioned above (location guide here
  • A reception event at a local restaurant (post-City Hall restaurant guide here). You could just have the first half-hour or so photographed if you don’t have an extensive program of events. 
  • Chill at your home or hotel, go on a hike, to a sports game, anything you want!

You can even choose to split up your photography coverage when you book with us. This allows for there to be a big gap between your morning ceremony and your dinner reception. 

What should we wear for our San Francisco City Hall wedding? 

A statement look that represents you as a couple is the way to go. The only fashion style to avoid is anything too casual. 

I love something elegant and modern, think jumpsuits, vests, fascinators, bustiers, bow ties, smoking jackets, and materials such as tweed, ruffles, fur, velvet or lace. These fabrics photograph beautifully. 

A classic white wedding dress or black/ blue suit is timeless and remains the most popular choice. However, there is no need to be constrained by tradition if that’s not you. 

Jewel tones photograph well against the neutral colors of City Hall, as do pastels and pops of primary color. 

When choosing an outfit, be aware that the building is extremely warm inside year-round. The heating is usually on full blast! The sun streams in and raises the temperature even more! 

Also, make sure your chosen ensemble fits you correctly. Alterations are well worth it to avoid tugging at your outfit. You should also ensure you have the correct undergarments (that are not visible) so you look and feel as good as can be!

bride and groom photos on 4th floor, sf city hall
Stylish couple on 4th Floor of SF City Hall | Zoe Larkin Photography

Should we stay in San Francisco before the wedding?

100% recommend! Even if you’re not planning to have professional photographs taken there, it pays to wake up feeling fresh and relaxed. Plus you get to retreat back there when the hustle and bustle of getting married in a busy environment is done. You do not want to deal with bridge traffic and congested freeways on your wedding day!

I have a list here of my recommended SF hotels that I hope you’ll consider if you live outside of San Francisco. With how tight our timeline is, it can have a detrimental effect if you’re late and flustered, sadly – and you would be missing out on valuable photography time you’ve paid for. That’s always such a bummer. 

We’re worried about delays at City  Hall, what can we do?

Delays are commonplace at San Francisco City Hall, but when you book an experienced photographer they can a) build enough buffer time into the plan and b) troubleshoot on the fly if there needs to be a change of plan. 

You can also get valuable tips that save time day of, as we’ve seen it all! Preparation is key. We want you to walk into your wedding day knowing everything is in hand! 

Also at the end of the day, you’ll be married. The staff runs a well-oiled machine and even if there are delays and unforeseen circumstances, you’ll still have a blast!

What’s the best way of getting to City Hall and traveling around?

I recommend using Uber / Lyft to travel to and from City Hall and onto your other locations. Why? It’s the most efficient and low-cost way of getting from A to B. There’s no time given over to walking to and from parking spots, plus you skip the hassle of parking altogether. 

If you do opt to drive your own car, I recommend the Civic Center Garage, Lot #200 (Google Maps link). It’s across the road from City Hall. There is an entrance to the garage on Larkin and another on MacAllister – they can be hard to spot so drive slow!

I recommend going down to the much emptier Level 2 or 3 as Level 1 can be full by 9 am. Level 1 is always full, Level 2 is sometimes hard to find a spot (but not usually), and Level 3 is practically empty (unless there was a HUGE event taking place, but I’ve never seen that happen). Once on foot, be sure to use the elevator bank that will bring you up near Polk Street (UN Plaza). 

The Civic Center Garage is closed every Pride Weekend. You will not be able to park there.

The garage closes every night at 12am.

If you have the budget to do something more memorable, or you have more guests, be sure to read my guide to the best transportation ideas for your SF City Hall wedding day. You could opt for a town car, limo, vintage car rental, bus or even hire a San Francisco-style trolley!

Couple in their limo with champagne after City Hall wedding | Zoe Larkin Photography

What will the pictures be like if City Hall is super busy?

It’s the photographer’s job to guide you to places that are less busy, or to time your session so that you have the maximum chance of getting into key photo spots. Bear in mind though that sometimes there is a wait while other couples get their photos on the Grand Staircase. It’s definitely an art to navigate this always busy, bustling space and not for the faint-hearted!

Many photographers will retouch background people like we do for the important shots you’ll want to frame. These include the romantics, ceremony and formal groupings. For the more candid shots like waiting before the ceremony, we prefer a more faithful approach to capture how it felt, so you might see bystanders in the distance. 

Is a San Francisco City Hall wedding even right for me?

A City Hall wedding is all about simplicity and convenience rather than focusing on personal touches. (That said, I do have lots of tips on how to make your City Hall wedding day more special and personal here!) It’s quick, easy, and of course more affordable.

City Hall weddings often attract practical-minded individuals who don’t necessarily enjoy being in the spotlight. Planning such an event is usually lower on the stress-o-meter, and a civil ceremony can be organized within weeks.

Keep in mind that City Hall is bustling with various events, such as press conferences, city meetings, gala events, filming, and most often protests. You’ll also be sharing space with numerous other couples taking wedding photos.

Although pictures may suggest otherwise, you’d only have the place to yourself if you arrive at 8 a.m. (and even then, there may be others vying for the Grand Staircase)! A lot of patience and nifty photo editing techniques are necessary to make it look like you’re alone in this grand palace. In reality, its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, making it more crowded each time.

So, if you value your marriage more than an extravagant wedding day and don’t want to spend ages planning the ‘perfect event’, a City Hall ceremony and a nice meal afterward might be just right for you!

How do we find vendors for our wedding?

I recommend booking vendors who are familiar with City Hall specifically. Hair and makeup needs to look in an indoor, artificially lit environment. There also might be earlier start times and smaller party sizes, like just one person that requires service. 

With floral design, your order will be much smaller than what a regular wedding florist may offer, typically just a bouquet/boutonniere combo.

For officiants, they need to project their voice because there’s no amplification permitted. And so on!

Photographers typically have their own recommendation list of just about every vendor you can think of. Once you’ve found the photographer for you, lean on them for impartial recommendations. You can also check out Google, Instagram, Pinterest and Yelp. 

Expect an experienced San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer to guide you through everything!

lgbtq couple getting married at sf city hall
A happy couple, suited and booted for their chic City Hall wedding day | Zoe Larkin Photography

How do we choose a San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer?

One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is which photographer to choose. There are no doovers and little that can be done if you end up disappointed with your experience or final photos.

There are many photographers out there, but fewer who specialize in City Hall weddings. Even fewer who make images that are authentic, modern yet timeless, fresh, and full of life. We don’t do silly, awkward, or outdated posing. We don’t do heavily processed edits that will look dated in 5 years. In fact, our approach relies on the magic of your own chemistry. It involves lots of movement, humor and being yourselves. 

I provide unlimited planning help, and I’m responsive and communicative. Day-of, I’ll be a calm and reassuring presence. The same goes for my expert team of associate photographers, some of whom also have tons of experience at this iconic venue. 

Book an experienced San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer that you can rely on! Because these kinds of ceremonies are so specialized and are unlike any other kind of wedding. Insider knowledge is key.

San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer – Zoe Larkin Photography

What’s the one tip you have for those planning a San Francisco City Hall ceremony?


We do see some couples trying to fit as much as possible into as small a timeframe as possible to save money or time. While this might sound like a good idea on paper, it’s likely to lead to disappointment with the photos as well as unnecessary stress. 

Our 2-hour package is carefully crafted to encompass the very basics, but anything else will take more time as I’m sure you can appreciate. 

There’s also plenty that happens that might be off-script, meaning we can’t predict it (unless you’ve rented the whole building). Especially when getting married inside a busy public building. 

Ultimately, your wedding day is about more than just photos. Weddings of any size are chock full of emotion. There’ll be little moments you don’t want to rush. Inhale deeply, soak it all in. No other day will be quite like this. Embrace every moment and savor it all. 

Hope this guide has been helpful as you navigate how to get married at San Francisco City Hall!

Check out our hundreds of reviews from happy past City Hall couples! Yelp | Google

Tips from past clients

san Francisco city hall wedding

Hiring Zoe was the best investment of our wedding. She shot both the City Hall ceremony and our reception. She did not miss a single beat and captured all the candid moments with perfection.

Weeks before the wedding day, she took time to understand our love stories so we’d feel comfortable being the best selves around her. She studied our sequence of events of the day and discuss in detail to plan for the spots with best lighting conditions.

She’s super experienced and has a wiki of recommendations for every type of wedding vendor. We just reached our 1st year anniversary and her photos are the best way to memorize our wedding day. You would not regret hiring her!

Ru & Steph, Oakland CA

Married 11/29/21

guide to wedding at san Francisco city hall

We first met Zoe in person for our engagement shoot in the SF Botanical garden. Prior to our meeting, I was sure to read & watch the guides Zoe expertly produced on what to expect from an engagement shoot, what to wear, and how to pose, which she quickly recapped before we got started.

I was nervous about how things would go, as my husband and I aren’t great about taking or posing for pictures, but Zoe’s gentle yet expert approach put us at ease, and we got SO MANY great shots. Zoe even took some of us on a bus as a way to recreate where my husband and I met!

For our actual 9am Friday wedding on the Fourth Floor of SF City Hall, Zoe came with us early to take shots around the venue prior to our actual ceremony. As an expert and veteran of the venue, Zoe was able to direct us efficiently according to lighting and crowding, as other couples were in the venue for pictures as well.

Zoe also encouraged my husband and me to tell each other jokes as we had on our engagement shoot as a way for me to loosen up, as my nerves matched the enormity of the occasion.

The finished photos are STUNNING. Many people at the ceremony & friends on Instagram have complimented Zoe’s astute use of light in addition to how well she captured our dynamic as a couple. I cannot recommend her enough!

Jess & Kevin, Union City CA

Married 9/3/22

guide to planning wedding at san francisco city hall

To say her smile took away our stress and her attitude and knowledge made our day perfect would be the understatement of the century. There are not words to describe what Zoe meant to our day, and now our memories.  We are truly forever indebted to her.

The biggest observation my wife and I had was how nervous we thought we SHOULD have been (we have never done a photoshoot) but yet were put completely at ease. Zoe’s kindness and demeanor made us so comfortable allowing her to dictate our every pose, not to mention her AMAZING knowledge of the City Hall spaces, lighting, crowd movement, and architecture. And mind you, this is all BEFORE the ceremony began!

Once the ceremony began, Zoe turned into our ceremony director, which we didn’t know was going to happen. I’m no actor, but this is what working with a great movie director must be like – her ability to lead and engage our guests, her placement of herself in the perfect places, and her completely clear communication style (again, all while the ceremony is going on) was absolutely amazing.

Again, we’re not actors, but I suddenly realized that, despite our stresses in the morning getting ready and running into City Hall 30 minutes late, we felt safe.

For everything Zoe was doing, she made the ceremony and the space belong to my fiance and I; the world washed away, and I got to see my fiance shine.  And I got to join her.  And none of that would have been possible without Zoe, we KNOW this.

Arty & Alexandra, Alameda CA

Married 4/21/22

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

Getting married at San Francisco City Hall? Our expert guide explains how to plan your SF City Hall wedding. Packed with helpful tips, you'll plan the City Hall wedding of your dreams. Whether you're eloping or having a larger private ceremony, our guide is the most comprehensive San Francisco City Hall planning resource.
How to get married at San Francisco City Hall – Zoe Larkin Photography

Questions, comments? Please leave them in the comments below 👇🏾 so other people who want to learn how to get married at San Francisco City Hall can benefit too. Thank you!

Zoe Larkin

I’m Zoe, a wedding photographer based in San Francisco! My style is candid, capturing authentic moments for my couples all over the Bay Area and Northern California. Creating content is my passion! Follow along the blog and Insta!

couple exiting san francisco city hall after wedding

↞ back to blog

How to Get Married at San Francisco City Hall (2024)

Filed under:

Share this post:

  1. Jessa K. says:

    Hi! My fiancé and I just booked our wedding date here for next year for the 1 hour ceremony. Do we need to have an appointment to turn the contract in? Or can we just mail the contract with the deposit to have it officially booked?

    • zoelarkinphoto says:

      Hello Jessa, thanks for the question. This isn’t part of the process that I have any insight into as a photographer, I’m afraid. From what I have heard in passing from clients, I think it’s more likely you would mail it in, as couples book weddings there from far and wide. I would advise you call and check with them. Thanks again. Zoe

  2. Anna says:

    Hi Zoe, thanks for providing all this great info! My fiancé and I booked getting our marriage license at the end of august at 1:30pm but unfortunately could not get an appointment for the civil ceremonies which are all completely booked out. I saw the section for guerrilla weddings which would be our only option and wanted to ask if an
    ordained minister can perform this or if it had to be the deputy minister for the day that you mentioned in your article. Additionally could this take place in any open space at city hall and at any time (adhering to when city hall is open of course). Also wanted to get your pricing since you have experience photographing city hall ceremonies.

  3. David Goodin says:

    Hi Zoe! I found this blog extremely helpful. My fiancé and I are planning on scheduling our civil marriage ceremony for 12/4/21. What I’m not 100% clear on is how long in advance we need to schedule our Marriage License appointment. Do we receive the Marriage License the same day as the appointment? Can we schedule the Marriage License appointment the same week as our Civil Ceremony Appointment? Any info you have on this would be hugely appreciated. Thanks!

    • zoelarkinphoto says:

      Hi David, I’m so sorry my reply is coming in so shamefully late – it’s been the craziest wedding season in history, and I haven’t had a chance to breathe since before May! I know it’ll be too late for you, for which I apologize – but hoping this may help others who have the same question.

      You can schedule the marriage license anytime up to 90 days before the wedding date. It can be picked up from any county in California.

      Scheduling it for the same day as the wedding is not recommended. If it has to be the same day (for example if you’re from out of state and flying in very close to the wedding date) it’s recommended to schedule your appointment for at least 2 hours before your ceremony time.

      City Hall will allow you to schedule for 30 minutes out, but this is a recipe for HUGE stress, as appointments frequently run 30 – 60 minutes late, and you need to check in for your Civil Ceremony 15 minutes before the booked time, anyway.

      Hope this helps someone out there!

  4. Celia Y. says:

    This is the exact information I’ve been looking for!! Thank you for all the details. Would you say the rules of 6 guests will still be relaxed in 2022? I’m itching on 7 guest and crossing my fingers it’ll be possible.

    • zoelarkinphoto says:

      Hi Celia! I’ve an article coming out soon about City Hall news and updates post-pandemic. It’s here:

      City Hall is now strictly enforcing the 6-guest rule with immediate effect.

    • zoelarkinphoto says:

      Just to ensure the info posted here is as up-to-date as possible so it helps others browsing for this info: As of the current time (fall 2023), City Hall is no longer strictly enforcing the 6-guest limit for Civil Ceremonies. They seem to be much more relaxed, though the official rules may be invoked at any time.

  5. Herzog Date says:

    Thanks for sharing! its a very informative. I appreciate this website.

    • zoelarkinphoto says:

      Thank you so much! Glad it’s been helpful. I look forward to hearing from you soon via my contact page!

  6. Kristen says:

    Hi Zoe,

    Your page is extremely helpful. I just wanted to clarify the guest count. You said 6 guests, but that is in addition to the bride and groom, is that correct? So a total of 8 people with bride, groom, photographer, and guests?


    • zoelarkinphoto says:

      It’s technically 6 people total. This article however goes into more of the nuance of how it actually works and what I’m allowed to say publicly:

    • zoelarkinphoto says:

      In recent months, the official guidelines have been relaxed, and it’s usually OK to bring in more than 6 people to your Civil Ceremony. It is however at the discretion of the officiant that is allocated to your wedding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *