Interested in having the whole of San Francisco City Hall to yourself for your Saturday wedding ceremony? Then check out Eduardo and Dieter’s September City Hall ceremony for full buyout inspiration! The San Francisco couple were kind enough to lift the lid on some of their planning experiences – so I’m going to share this, too.
A full buyout is when you pay a fee to rent out the whole of San Francisco City Hall. OK, maybe there are some areas that are off-limits but you’ll get the Grand Staircase and staircase landing. And though your guests probably won’t use the other areas, you’ll want to run around the whole building with your photographer.
If you’ve ever seen those photos of a couple getting married on the Grand Staircase of San Francisco City Hall, and swooned… get ready to swoon some more!
Ready to dive in?
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What days of the week are available for a full buyout?
Saturday mornings have some special options for your San Francisco City Hall full buyout. This is what Eduardo and Dieter chose for their wedding.
Known as a ‘two-hour wedding’ on the SF City Hall Events site, this option is available on Saturdays only. There are other slots available on different days but in this article, I will focus on the Saturday options.
There are two timeslots available. Your booking can begin at 9am or at 12pm. All bookings are 2 hours long, inclusive of load-in and load-out.
Saturdays also work best because then you can go on and hold your wedding reception at another San Francisco venue. Dieter and Eduardo chose the General’s Residence, part of the Fort Mason complex, for their reception.
How far in advance do you need to book the 2-hour Saturday ceremony?
This couple inquired with the San Francisco City Hall events team 18 months before the wedding day. They were looking at Saturdays anything from 15 – 18 months out. Many of the Saturdays 15 months out were already taken (or had ‘holds’ on them), but 18 months out they had better luck. With the most popular Bay Area wedding months of June, September and October, it’s recommended to start looking 18 months in advance.
For off-season dates, you may be able to find an open slot just a few weeks out. However, San Francisco City Hall gets more popular year on year, so I wouldn’t be surprised if before long, dates get reserved much further out.
When you consider that it’s one of the most affordable, prestigious and beautiful places to get married in California, it’s popularity is hardly surprising!
What’s the cost of a full buyout of San Francisco City Hall?
The current cost for a buyout for bookings taking place on Saturdays is $5,000 as of March 2020, though this can go up anytime without warning. Also be aware there are extra fees and permits that may be payable depending on your guest count and other specifics.
For example, if you are serving champagne, you’ll need to pay a $100 cleaning fee via a separate cashier’s check. It’s best to check this directly with City Hall.
How does the ‘hold’ work and how do you pay?
When you are interested in booking a date for your buyout, City Hall offers a service in which you can hold a date for 3 months. You can use this time to complete the paperwork and make arrangements to pay.
During the ‘hold’ period, another couple can challenge you for the slow. If you were the first to place your hold, you’ll be granted the right of first refusal and 2 business days to decide whether to move forward with your booking.
To confirm a booking with City Hall, and make your date definite you’ll need to do a couple of things. You’ll have to sign and return the contract with a 75% deposit (currently $3,750) in the form of a cashier’s check or money order.
Once this has been completed, the date is yours. The second and final installment is due 5 business days before the wedding date.
Can we have food and drink at our Saturday ceremony at City Hall?
Food no, drinks yes. Dieter and Eduardo had a champagne reception so guests could linger for a short while before hopping on the Google bus to the next port of call.
Planning their SF City Hall Saturday wedding
There was undoubtedly so much that went into the grooms’ wedding. Planning started more than 18 months before the big day. It was definitely a challenge to coordinate two venues – and on a very popular wedding date!
To add to the logistics, many of their 140 or so guests were coming from their home countries of Brazil and Austria, as well as many others from elsewhere.
It was very important to this Eduardo and Dieter to honor the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. They knew early on that this is what they really wanted for their wedding day. They fit everything else in around their San Francisco City Hall ceremony.
Order of events
We started bright and early with getting ready photos at the grooms’ home in the Castro. You can see these on the General’s Residence post linked below.
We arrived at City Hall early enough to do a few couples’ shots in Memorial Court at the back of the building.
The time at which you can enter the building is quite strict, especially if the building has two couples booked on that day.
We had to wait for a few minutes, making sure it was past 12pm until we could enter the building. I began with couples’ photos, while my second photographer captured guests arriving and mingling.
The ceremony was an emotional one, officiated by Eduardo’s dear sister, Flavia. The bears were part of the wedding – a meaningful touch that brought love and laughs!
After a big group photo on the Grand Staircase, guests sipped champagne and I captured candids and some grip n’ grins! I accompanied the couple to their wedding reception where the fun continued long into the night.
About Zoe Larkin Photography
You can learn more about my services at the links below. Looking for a San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer for your upcoming City Hall wedding? I would be delighted to help you craft your day, allowing time for what you value and creating beautiful memories together!
Photos from San Francisco City Hall full buyout wedding