If you’re looking for up-to-date information regarding wedding ceremonies at San Francisco City Hall, you’re in the right place! I’m a wedding photographer that shoots a large number of weddings in this iconic public building.
I have a lot of updates, news and info to share with you, based on my knowledge and experience working inside the building very frequently, both pre-pandemic and now. If there is anything you’d like to add, please share it in the comments.
As the situation changes frequently, I will update this page with more info as the situation changes as regards wedding ceremonies at SF City Hall.
Is San Francisco City Hall open for weddings again?
As of June 9 2021, San Francisco City Hall is open once again for wedding ceremonies. Civil ceremonies are available Monday-Friday starting at 9:00 am through 3:30 pm every half hour.
San Francisco City Hall was closed throughout most of 2020 and the first half of 2021. As you can probably imagine, there’s been a surge of couples booking their wedding ceremonies at City Hall. This is likely to persist into 2023.
If you have a particular date in mind, it’s recommended to stay up until midnight 90 days before your desired date to increase your chances of snagging that slot.
👉🏾 Marriage – Civil Ceremony (City’s official page)
For information concerning County Clerk services during COVID-19 response, this page was being used but hasn’t been updated since the move from virtual back to in-person ceremonies.
Can you go inside San Francisco City Hall?
SF City Hall is a public building, open to the public between 8am – 5pm every weekday, excluding holidays. There is no fee to enter and no permits are required for photography.
Can you get married inside SF City Hall right now?
SF City Hall is back to its regular schedule, with ceremonies available from 9am – 3.30pm. There are 3 ceremony slots once again available every half hour. Appointments must be scheduled online in advance. A separate marriage license appointment must also be made, from any California county.
Is San Francisco City Hall limiting the number of guests allowed for Civil Ceremonies?
Yes. With immediate effect as of February 14 2022, San Francisco City Hall is once again limiting the number of guests permitted to attend Civil Ceremonies to 6.
Please note this number includes any children in your party, as well as photographers and videographers.
A little story: back in May 2019, SF City Hall began enforcing the 6-guest rule for Civil Ceremonies (meaning you can only bring in a maximum of 6 guests).
After the reopening post-pandemic shutdown, however, couples were delighted because it seemed that City Hall would look the other way and allow well-behaved and non-disruptive groups of 10, 12 – even 25+ at several of my own weddings.
However, now once again (February 2022), things are taking a turn and the rules are being enforced. Larger crowds have been known to cause disruption and even prompt complaints – and it only takes a few incidents like this for City Hall to step in and put a stop to it.
With the efforts they’re going to in order to control crowds (by limiting the number of weddings per half-hour slot), and with us hopefully at some point going mask-less, it makes sense that the next step is to clamp down on the overall number of people that can be present at any one time.
This is to keep a safer and more manageable limit on people in the building, and to attempt to get back to a calmer and more peaceful environment that’s fitting of a wedding venue and workplace for the City’s officials.
After all, if every wedding couple brought 20 guests, it would be pandemonium.
I have just been informed that the 6-guest limit would be brought back with immediate effect. If you were hoping to have more than this number, you have some options.
Is it possible to have more than 6 guests at SF City Hall civil ceremony?
- If your wedding is still a way off, consider booking the Mayor’s Balcony or the 4th Floor for a 1-hour ceremony for the affordable price of $1,000. This allows personalization of any aspect of your ceremony as well as music, seating, your own officiant, you can begin when you like with no 30-minute check-in process, and you can have anything up to 40 or 60 seated guests depending on the area, set up exactly how you wish.
- If you don’t have the budget or time, consider trimming down your list. Your officiant will ask you how many guests you have during check-in, and it’s at their sole discretion whether anything over the limit is allowed or not. Guests will be able to join in for family photos and to celebrate with you before and after, just not the ceremony itself.
- Ask any guests over the 6-guest limit to wait well away from the Rotunda area. If you’re reporting only having 5 or 6, it’s best not to have more than this number tucked away somewhere else. The officiant could notice and may not take kindly! They can rejoin after the 3 minutes the ceremony lasts.
- If you can’t do any of the above, just be honest with the officiant and see what they suggest. I haven’t seen the Private Room being used since early 2020, but this or other areas may be open to you. Again, this is 100% at the officiant’s discretion and may be refused.
- The official rules located here state that “Couples arriving with larger groups will need to be rescheduled or held in a private ceremony room.”
The importance of staying within the rules… and some caveats
However, please be aware that though the official rule remains ‘no more than 6 guests’, there are some officiants who may permit more. This puts us in a difficult position, because we’re caught between creating the best possible experience for our clients (suggesting loopholes if it helps them with their wedding experience) and enforcing the rules (which City Hall officials themselves sometimes ironically break).
This may lead to you seeing other couples there on your wedding day that have been allowed to bring in dozens of guests, when you’ve heard from me and from official sources that this isn’t permitted. And you’re wondering why one group is allowed, and another isn’t. This is par for the course.
I can only stress that each couple must make the choice that’s right for them, with the information you have to hand. Photographers can only do so much to help you make this choice, ultimately it’s your call what you feel comfortable with.
I would always urge people to stay within the rules to avoid disappointment. After all, it’s a public building and we must respect the way things have been set up for the health and safety of all patrons, visitors and employees. This ensures everyone that uses City Hall has the best possible experience.
Update from May 2022: One officiant recently (no idea if it’s all of them) actually asked the couple to select their 6 preferred guests (or 5 if you have a photographer), then made everyone else from their party (about 3 – 4 other people) stand one floor up where there is a balcony. So they were able to see the ceremony, but from above – meaning they probably wouldn’t have been able to hear anything, as the acoustics would make this impossible.
The officiant actually waited until people were away from the immediate rotunda area in the mezzanine area, before he began the ceremony.
If you insist on trying your luck with more than your 5 or 6 guests, please make sure you have the ‘ceremony spectators‘ selected in advance – and don’t forget to prepare anyone above this number that they may not be permitted to be present right at the ceremony.
However (providing they are not disruptive, or do not break any other rules concerning entry to the building), there is no restriction to them entering into the building itself, or being able to take photos around City Hall before or afterwards, whenever we please.
SF City Hall pandemic news and updates
Since reopening in June 2021, I have noticed a few things have changed, which I’ll fill you in on here.
Please note: I’m not affiliated with City Hall. I’m piecing things together with the information I have. This information is passed on to me by the couples I work with, or is what I’ve figured out.
Of course, everything is subject to change. Please treat this as purely anecdotal information
Photographers and guests must wait outside check-in
Photographers are no longer permitted to enter room 168. There is a different setup now, in which a check-in booth has been set up at the entrance to that long corridor.
Now, a staff member stops and greets everyone as they come in. He will request that only the couple (and one witness), is permitted to enter the hallway and line up to wait to check in with the Justice of the Peace (officiant).
That means no photos are possible from this segment of your photography coverage. However, all you’ll miss are moments of you waiting to be called in, signing your marriage license, your witness signing, and you sitting in front of the judge.
The license process is NOT something truly ‘worth photographing’, it’s a rather bureaucratic process not dissimilar to going to the DMV. The hallway and office you’ll be in are pretty dark.
Issues obtaining marriage licenses
Many couples are having issues obtaining a marriage license. It’s recommended to go to a different Bay Area county than San Francisco as appointments are still hard to come by, and book out far in advance.
Alameda County had been experiencing long delays of up to 6 weeks as well. But by all reports, this has eased up a bit lately.
For the counties of Santa Clara, Marin and Napa, these all changed their rules. Now, applicants need to provide proof they are residents of the county to qualify.
Sonoma was offering an online application then a walk-in appointment with same-day processing and no county residence requirement (if you fancied a day up in wine country)
San Mateo seemed to be another county with promising availability.
All of this information is likely to become outdated quickly, so please check with each county before making your plans.
Do you need to wear a mask for Civil Ceremonies at San Francisco City Hall?
There used to be mandates in place at San Francisco City Hall, requiring masks to be kept on during civil ceremonies.
However, this has now been relaxed, and the new guidance is below. The date of this update is April 13 2022 and it subject to change without notice, so please check with the staff at City Hall directly to be certain.
I hope this was helpful! If you’re looking for a wedding photographer that specializes in San Francisco City Hall wedding ceremonies (and has shot over 150 weddings there and counting!) check out my City Hall photography services here