The Sunnyside Conservatory in San Francisco is such a charming, unexpected delight. This wedding was the first one I photographed at this historic, storied venue, but I hope it won’t be my last.
In this article, I’ll guide you through some must-know information about the whimsical Sunnyside Conservatory along with photos from Antonella & Marc’s fabulous October ceremony.
This place deserves the title of one of San Francisco’s true hidden gems, perfect for an informal & intimate wedding ceremony and/ or reception. Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
History of the Sunnyside Conservatory
The Sunnyside Conservatory is conveniently located within the City of San Francisco itself, tucked between Glen Park and City College. It boasts affordability as well as its obvious beauty and serenity.
The Sunnyside Conservatory is comprised of two features: the impressive conservatory building itself and the hundred-year-old garden.
The conservatory once housed the rare plant collection of a large estate owned by William Augustus Merralls. He was a British-born inventor that had originally come to San Francisco to put his engineering knowledge to profitable use in the mining industry.
Merralls’ original Victorian oasis was constructed around 1900 next to his home, an old dairy farm. The original Conservatory featured a redwood-shingled two-story octagon flanked by single-story wings on each side, with concrete walkways around the building.
About the Sunnyside Conservatory
It was extensively remodeled in 2009 by neighbors and preservationists after a $4.2 million restoration project with the goal of exceeding its original beauty. The Sunnyside Conservatory now has tall windows to capture the maximum amount of sunlight (which can be rare in that part of San Francisco!). It retains the original unique and striking octagonal shape.
The garden area, while not particularly large, is exquisitely landscaped. The pristine grounds are anchored by drought-tolerant succulents and rare, giant Chilean wine palm trees.
There are even 23 playful little bronze sculptures dotted throughout the site. Known as the Sunnyside Menagerie, the collection of fantastical bronze creatures was designed by the artist team of Wowhaus.
This place is affectionately known as the ‘other conservatory’, with the first conservatory of course being the Conservatory of Flowers.
The venue is under the care of San Francisco Recreation & Parks.
The facts: Sunnyside Conservatory for weddings
|Price range||💲 (affordable). Pricing here + staffing costs|
|Reservation & staffing minimum||2 hours|
|Address||236 Monterey Boulevard, San Francisco, CA 94131|
|Indoor or outdoor?||Venue is indoors, with some outdoor space for cocktail hour & photos|
|Reception and ceremony?||Yes, both|
|Maximum Seated Capacity||71|
|Maximum Standing Capacity||100|
|Parking||No (shuttle or rideshare recommended)|
|Items provided||Six round tables, five rectangular tables, and 65 padded folding chairs|
|Note||Set up team to be provided by event sponsor|
|Kitchen on site||No (only for storage)|
|Amplified sound||Outdoors – no; indoors – yes subject to timing|
|Venue owner & contact||San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (Contact & Application here)|
What to know about utilizing the Sunnyside Conservatory
You can opt to have your ceremony here (as rentals begin at just 2 hours), or both ceremony and reception.
As it’s not the largest venue around, it’s worth paying close attention to some of the limitations of the space – including how to work around not having a kitchen on-site; and the lack of parking.
On that subject, I recommend a shuttle bus if ferrying your guests from their hotel or on to a separate reception venue. Ridesharing may work well for your local guests.
It’s only a 9-minute walk from Glen Park BART station for those guests that are comfortable with public transit. The route is mostly flat.
The guest maximum lends itself better to more intimate weddings of 60 or fewer; and buffets would suit better than plated meals due to the lack of space for servers to get thorough, and the more informal feel overall.
There are no wait/bussing staff provided. The venue comes only with chairs and tables, no linens. All tabletop items must be rented separately from your own supplier. A small team of 3-5 people (to be provided by the renting party) is required for setup and teardown tasks.
If serving any food or drinks, you need to provide your own staffing for that, too. For these reasons, we strongly recommend hiring an independent wedding coordinator/ planner.
While costs are very affordable considering usual San Francisco wedding venue rentals, please be aware that there is an extra cost for weddings (as opposed to community events or non-wedding events).
Reservations can be made a maximum of one year in advance before your wedding date. Due to how popular this venue is, you should begin your application process as possible.
How this couple used the space
Antonella and Marc live in San Francisco so this felt like a super local event. I started by capturing getting-ready photos at their condo in the Dogpatch, then a first look on the water nearby where they usually hang out and walk their dog, Freddie.
We took an Uber to the Sunnyside Conservatory and I captured some pre-ceremony moments as the guests filtered in.
The ceremony was a heartfelt one! Freddie the dog was part of the processional, proudly carried in by Antonella’s brother. Folks had come from far and wide, and I love to capture as many candid photos as I can of everyone.
Special touches from the ceremony included the stunning floral display, the display table and beautiful live music.
Read the vendor credits below if you’re looking to hire wedding pros who are used to getting the best out of this unique space.
After the ceremony, guests filed out to enjoy cocktail hour in the garden area. I gathered up family members so we could start the formal group photos. Either outdoors (with the conservatory right behind you) or inside the building works really well.
After a few very quick photos with just the couple, it was time to board the shuttle bus to the reception venue, which I’ll share more about in a future post.
With some careful preparation and a solid vendor team in place, the Sunnyside Conservatory in San Francisco is an absolutely perfect place to get married! You’ll be surrounded by an intimate group of loved ones in a cozy, informal atmosphere.
Venue: Sunnyside Conservatory
Photography: Zoe Larkin Photography
Planning: AR Weddings N Events
Floral design: Toeaina Events And Designs
HMUA: Makeup By Maggi
Rentals: Bright Event Rentals
Dress: Bridal Breeze
Suit: Suit Supply
Groom’s boots: Thursday Boots
Rings: Blue Nile
Transportation: Corinthian Transportation
Photos from Sunnyside Conservatory Wedding
About Zoe Larkin Photography
Looking for a San Francisco wedding photographer? You can learn more about my services at the links below:
Hoping I’ll be back at Sunnyside Conservatory soon, shooting your lovely wedding!