Oh, for more of these stunning Mayor’s Balcony weddings at the glorious San Francisco City Hall! The Mayor’s Balcony is an elegant choice for couples that would like a little more privacy, a higher guest count and the chance to exchange personal vows at their City Hall wedding.
To show off this private area of City Hall to perfection, and walk you through it, I’m going to introduce you to TWO wedding couples!
Jessica and Blake who had a splendid wedding ceremony on the Mayor’s Balcony in July 2019. For a more casual vibe, I also wanted to include some photos from Cheryl and Harry’s celebration from December 2019.
This way you can get a feel for how the space works for a seated, formal ceremony and for a smaller, standing celebration.
Both these couples had adorably goofy personalities! They made sure their wedding ceremonies involved a good dose of laughing and silly faces.
Are you ready to envisage your Mayor’s Balcony wedding? Which of the styles are you most drawn to? Let me know in the comments!
Where is the Mayor’s Balcony?
The Mayor’s Balcony is located (duh) in San Francisco City Hall. To be a little more precise, it’s on the 2nd floor. That is, you walk up one flight of stairs and there it is.
It is directly below the large clock and is extremely easy to locate from the main entrance on Polk. You simply walk in the main door, walk a few steps to the elevator on your left, go up one floor, exit the elevator take a left and you’re in the Mayor’s Balcony!
Mayor’s Balcony floorplan
There is a view over the Grand Staircase, which lets out opposite the Mayor’s Balcony. Additionally, you will see the rotunda in the background of your photos. This is the main area where 95% of couples having a civil ceremony will be getting married. It’s also the location of the Christmas tree.
The views are expansive, so even though it’s a ‘private’ rental, you’ll almost definitely see other folks in the background – getting married, milling around and taking pictures!
What are the pros and cons of the Mayor’s Balcony?
When you choose a private area rental at San Francisco City Hall you have three options. The Mayor’s Balcony is one option and the other two options are essentially mirror images of each other – the 4th Floor Gallery (either the North or South side).
The Mayor’s Balcony is undoubtedly darker than the 4th Floor galleries at all times of the day as there is no natural light streaming in. However, as long as you are OK with the sample photos, it’s more the photographer’s issue than anything for you to be concerned with.
From a more practical point of view, some plus points of the Mayor’s Balcony are that it has beautiful views, an ornate iconic gold railing, easy accessibility, and seating for up to 40 guests (or 100 standing).
I love the small steps between the lanterns that you can use as a stunning aisle to descend down and make your entrance. The stairs work well for positioning guests in a staggered formation for family photos. It makes family formals quicker.
The most sensible choice is to arrange your own officiant when booking a private ceremony. You will most likely want to personalize your ceremony and avoid the short script and long check-in process.
How do you book the Mayor’s Balcony?
For more information about booking the Mayor’s Balcony, you’ll need to reach out to the San Francisco City Hall events team. They have their own dedicated website and info here. This is separate from the civil ceremony information, and they have their own office on the 4th floor.
They have more information on their contact page here. 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.
The earliest and latest appointments are probably your best bet for avoiding crowds. Light-wise, morning is going to be brighter with cleaner light and less orange tone.
You can book your appointment a year out. 9 months out is common for popular dates, though last-minute appointments are frequently available if you can be flexible as to the time and day.
How much does it cost to book the Mayor’s Balcony?
The current cost of an hour-long rental of the Mayor’s Balcony at San Francisco City Hall is $1,000 as of 2020.
Compared to any other venue in the Bay Area it’s a steal. Especially considering that it’s a formal ceremony in a prime San Francisco location. Chairs add a small extra cost on top of this. Currently that can be as little as $3.50 per chair.
Also, it barely needs decoration due to the richness of the area’s warm colors. You’ll save on decor (and there are strict rules on what decor is permitted). A hand-bouquet can be a nice, totally optional touch that adds a splash of brighter color.
If you are looking simply to take photos on the Mayor’s Balcony, but not have your ceremony there, you can! Availability is never guaranteed without a paid reservation, as City Hall is a public building with constant photoshoots. At times a short wait is involved, other times it’s completely empty! Ask me about my recommendations.
Jessica and Blake’s Mayor’s Balcony wedding
Before their wedding, I asked Jessica and Blake how they wanted their wedding remembered. Together they came up with, “warm, light-hearted and unique”.
The San Francisco couple was cautious about logistics, planning and timeline. When going down the City Hall route, the structure is built into your day.
Your photographer can help you to customize a timeline that works for you.
Jessica and Blake got engaged just over a year before their wedding. They met on Tinder and had lived together in the Inner Richmond for almost a year at the time of Blake’s proposal.
The magical moment happened during a trip to Joshua Tree. It was a fun and memorable trip with lots of romantic surprises.
They had always wanted to get married at San Francisco City Hall.
They had always wanted to get married at San Francisco City Hall.
Though the proposal was a surprise, the couple had talked about marriage since early on in their relationship. They had always wanted to get married at San Francisco City Hall.
The idea of eloping also crossed their minds! Eventually, they settled on a medium-sized City Hall celebration with about 25 guests.
The couple would also have two larger receptions the two weekends that followed! They had an informal Chinese banquet-style reception in Millbrae that I had the pleasure of photographing. And a backyard celebration in Blake’s family’s backyard in Seattle.
Their Mayor’s Balcony ceremony started at 11am. We kicked off the photography coverage with a first look on the City Hall steps. Jessica and Blake didn’t want personalized vows at their ceremony, but they did have their own private officiant. So the ceremony was much shorter than most private ones. It certainly kept me on my toes! Enjoy their pics below!
Other options you might want to consider…
Cheryl and Harry’s Mayor’s Balcony wedding
Cheryl and Harry had a friends-only wedding with an informal style. As Cheryl lives in the UK, and is originally from Hong Kong, she only had two guests from her side.
The bride got ready at the Palace Hotel on New Montgomery Street. It was a really stunning venue where we also staged the first look and a few couples’ pictures. It was close to Christmas time. Festive trees galore!
We had a slight snafu at this wedding. With all the traveling and chaos of the season, the couple omitted to obtain their marriage license. It’d been on their to-do list but somehow slipped.
Their faces fell when I asked them about their license as we were leaving the hotel. They bravely proceeded and we could only hope for the best. Luckily, their friend who officiated the ceremony is also a pastor and very experienced in these matters! He would deal with it all the following day to make it legal.
I mention this because what a relief they were still able to conduct their ceremony! This is a major upside to booking an area rental. You’re not subject to the reams of red tape surrounding the check-in process and presenting your ID. The paperwork is dealt with after the ceremony.
Jessica & Blake
Cheryl & Harry
About Zoe Larkin Photography
Not to be all sales-y, but you can learn more about my SF City Hall wedding photography services here. I provide helpful resources for couples interested in marrying at my fave Bay Area venues. That’s me in the pics above! And it’ll be me photographing your wedding if you book with me.
So, if you found this information valuable, please leave a comment below and consider me for your upcoming Mayor’s Balcony wedding at San Francisco City Hall! Psssst! Still here? The best planning resource I have it this jumbo City Hall guide linked below.
If you’re stumped for ideas as to where to go after your Mayor’s Balcony wedding, check out my restaurant guide linked below.
Spot the unicorn when you hover over any image on this page =)
Photos from SF City Hall Mayor’s Balcony weddings
Jessica & Blake