A spectacular Beaux-Arts building in the center of bustling downtown, San Francisco City Hall offers a beautiful setting for intimate nuptials without emptying your wallet on the venue space. As San Francisco City Hall wedding photographers, we have seen all kinds of couples who are attracted to the beauty and history of the building, which was constructed after the massive earthquake of 1906 that destroyed the previous City Hall structure just two blocks away. 42 feet higher than the United States Capitol Building in D.C., it’s easy to fall in love with this massive and magnificent place in the heart of our wonderful city.
As veteran wedding photographers at San Francisco City Hall, we are pretty much experts on the process. So to condense our knowledge and experience, we have assembled a fool-proof guide on how to get married at San Francisco City Hall. Please find the answers to your questions below and don't hesitate to reach out with any other questions we may have missed!
What are the requirements to get married at San Francisco City Hall?
Not a resident of San Francisco or California? No problem. Any unmarried person 18 years or older with a valid photo I.D. is permitted to marry at SF City Hall. Destination weddings are common here and international folks are welcome to exchange vows, so no need to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident! Keep reading to know how to get married at SF City Hall!
Note: Documents in a foreign language must be translated into English by a Court certified translator or American Translators Association (ATA) certified translator.
What is the first step to getting married at San Francisco City Hall?
Make your appointments! It’s best to make your appointments 90 days in advance for your nuptials, this is also the soonest you are able to reserve dates. Fridays are the busiest, especially in the afternoon, so if you have plans for a Friday afternoon wedding at City Hall, definitely try and be the first to reserve your desired time-slot. Appointments are first come first serve. You can access City Hall’s online booking platform here. It is best to book the ceremony appointment before the marriage license appointment in case you want to take care of them the same day.
You will need to make two SEPARATE appointments:
First Appointment for Ceremony
Your first appointment will be made for your civil or private ceremony. Civil ceremonies can be booked using the same online booking platform you use for the marriage license appointment. Private ceremonies must be booked directly with the City Hall Events Office in-person (room 495) or over the phone at 415-554-6079.
Second Appointment for Marriage License
Your second appointment will be made to obtain your marriage license, which can be done at any time within 90 days before your ceremony takes place. Come ready with your valid photo I.D. along with your filled-out Marriage License Form. If you have an appointment for a civil ceremony, it’s best to obtain your marriage license 1 hour before the ceremony time. This way you can avoid two trips, just be sure to get your license before you say “I Do.” For private ceremonies, it is recommended to obtain your license 3 days in advance.
We receive dozens of requests a month from couples looking for a SF City Hall wedding photographer. Be sure to book your photographer for your SF city hall wedding as soon as you have reserved your appointment at city hall!
What is the best time to get married at San Francisco City Hall?
San Francisco City Hall is open Monday through Friday, 10:00am - 3:30pm. From our experience, the best time slot for ceremonies is the latest available appointment in the day (so there are no ceremonies taking place after yours.) This is also a good time of day for celebratory champagne afterwards! For morning weddings, mimosas are also a win!
Alternatively, some of the quietest times for weddings are morning hours Monday through Wednesday. So if you are looking for an intimate affair with fewer spectators, these would be the best options. Thursday and Fridays are generally busy, but there is a great vibe - especially on Fridays. Everyone is happy and excited to be there and the place is full of love, so even if your ceremony takes place during the busy hours, you will still be able to enjoy it!
How far in advance can we book our civil ceremony for our SF City Hall wedding?
Civil ceremony appointments can be booked within 90 days of your desired wedding date. For prime days and times like Friday afternoons, we recommend booking your San Francisco City Hall Wedding as soon as you can! To make an appointment, you will need to register for an account with the official booking platform of San Francisco City Hall here.
Below is a screenshot of the appointment process, which is the same process used for both your marriage license and your civil ceremony. It is best to book the ceremony appointment before the marriage license appointment in case you want to take care of them the same day. Before booking with payment, double-check that there is a time slot available for your marriage license appointment one hour before the civil ceremony appointment.
How much does a San Francisco City Hall wedding cost?
Wondering what fees you have to pay to get married at San Francisco City Hall? Uncharacteristic to our lovely city on the bay, the costs of a City Hall wedding in San Francisco are quite low. Directly from the website of the San Francisco County Clerk's Office, fees are listed below:
Marriage license: $107.00 (as of Sep. 2018) collected at the time of scheduling. Payment accepted online: credit card only (Visa/Mastercard). Payment accepted in person: cash, money order, credit card or debit card.
Civil Ceremony: Ceremony fee is $86.00 (as of Sep. 2018.) Payment accepted online: credit card only (Visa/Mastercard). Payment accepted in person: cash, money order, credit card or debit card.
Private Ceremony: $1,000 for one hour ceremony (as of Sep. 2018) and must be confirmed/approved by the City Hall Events Office. Two-hour private ceremonies and extended rentals are also available. You can check out their City Hall Private Ceremony Rental Rates at this link.
Do we need a witness for our San Francisco City Hall wedding?
Unless you are doing a confidential marriage license (which doesn't require a witness), you will need a witness present at your ceremony. You are only required to have one witness, but you have the option of two witnesses. If we are the ones photographing your City Hall Wedding in San Francisco, we are always happy to be your witness so don't hesitate to ask us.
How many guests can we bring to our San Francisco City Hall ceremony?
Up to 6 guests are allowed for Civil Ceremonies, including your photographer. However, it is a public space which means anyone can be present. (Note: we’ve often see ceremonies with more than 6 guests but they’ve recently been cracking down on this! To play it safe, try and stick to this number.) If you end up bringing your squad, they might be able to view from afar and we can still grab some photos of them.
From our experience, fewer guests = less stress.
For private ceremonies, you can seat up to 100 guests, depending on the space you reserve.
Can we Exchange Personal Vows?
If you reserve a private ceremony at city hall, you will be able to exchange your personal vows. Civil ceremonies, however, do not allow this and are limited to a duration of 10 minutes.
We are having a small ceremony, should we hire a San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photographer?
No matter the size of your wedding, this is one of the most important days of you life. We believe that every wedding is worthy of beautiful and timeless photography. As SF City Hall wedding photographers, we have covered countless weddings of all sizes and our couples are always thrilled with the final photos. Be sure to enjoy some of our San Francisco love stories.
What are some of the best locations for photos after our City Hall wedding in San Francisco?
There are several spots within City Hall for incredible wedding photos, such as the Grand Staircase, the Mayor's Balcony (if available), the 4th floor gallery, the entrance to City Hall with the City Hall sign, the geometric windows on the 3rd floor, and between the English Sycamore Trees behind City Hall.
Some other wonderful spots after your SF City Hall wedding include: the Palace of Fine Arts & the Warming Hut Cafe at Fort Point, Pier 7, Land's End, and many more. Just keep distances and travel time in mind when choosing your photo locations.
Can we bring decorations to our San Francisco City Hall ceremony?
The venue itself is so beautiful that decor isn’t necessary or recommended. Ceremonies are quick and you have very little time for setup and breakdown. We recommend sticking with bouquets and not worrying about additional decor. You can ask us to document the "getting ready" part of your day if you want to have photos of your accessories such as shoes, rings, jewelry etc.
What is the parking situation at San Francisco City Hall?
Metered parking is available on Van Ness, McAllister, Grove, and Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place. A CityPark underground parking lot is located on McAllister, between Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place and Larkin, which offers higher rates but convenient access to the building if street parking is difficult to come by. (Note: you will definitely want to allow extra time to find parking and go through security once you are in the building.)
How do I obtain our certificate of marriage after our San Francisco City Hall ceremony?
A certified copy of your marriage record ($15 each) will NOT be available for purchase on the same day as your ceremony. Expedited services for certified copies are also NOT available. We recommend discussing this with your representative when you obtain your marriage license and plan accordingly.
No matter the day of the week or the type of
ceremony you reserve, San Francisco City Hall
is a magical place to say "I Do."
Questions or comments? Send us an email and we will get right back to you!