The Ultimate Guide for your San Francisco City Hall Wedding
One of the most beautiful places to get married in the Bay Area is San Francisco City Hall. Since it’s a popular wedding venue and open to the public if it's not booked for a private event, it can get pretty crowded! After capturing many weddings and elopements at SF City Hall, here's a list of tips to help you prepare if you're thinking about having your wedding at SF City Hall, and how to get the most beautiful photographs here.
Arrive at the Bookends of the Day to Avoid Crowds
If you want those empty staircase photos, make sure to arrive right when City Hall opens at 8AM. As the day continues, more couples and guests start to gather at the bottom of the staircase and the civil ceremonies happen at the top of the staircase, so there will almost always be people in your photos. For your actual ceremony, the first ceremony spot of the day is at 9AM and the last is 3:30PM.
Avoid Fridays if Possible
San Francisco City Hall is open for public weddings Monday-Friday, but Fridays tend to be the busiest. Although City Hall is popular every day of the week, if you have the option to go midweek like Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, I would recommend it!
Get your Marriage License Before your Ceremony
On the day of the ceremony, City Hall will ask you to arrive around half an hour before your ceremony. If you haven’t already filled out the marriage license paperwork, they’ll instruct you to arrive earlier than that. Consider getting your marriage license prior to your appointment - California marriage licenses are valid for 90 days. This will save you time the day-of, and prevent you from running late on your ceremony time.
Since SF City Hall is a government building, things occasionally run behind, especially if there are many ceremonies that day. Plan ahead to save yourself the time!
Keep your Guest Count Small, or Rent a Private Balcony
For civil ceremonies, city hall limits each couple to 4 wedding guests (6 people total) who are allowed to stand in the rotunda and witness the ceremony. Civil Ceremonies are the most common and usually take place at the top of the grand staircase in the rotunda.
If you have more guests you want to celebrate with, you can rent out one of the semi-private balconies instead. The Fourth Floor Gallery allows up to 60 guests, and the Mayor’s Balcony allows up to 40 guests (+chair rental fees). If you decide to rent a balcony, I recommend the fourth floor balcony because it has the best natural light!
Figure out Transportation
If your guests live in the city, bart is a convenient and cheap option and is a ~2-block walk to City Hall. If you plan to drive there, there are two parking lots you can park at:
Civic Center Plaza Garage
355 McAllister Street (at Polk) | 415.863.1537
Performing Arts Garage
360 Grove Street (at Gough) | 415.252.8238 For a stress-free day, I recommend taking Uber/Lyft/Taxi, or if you have a larger group, hire private transportation like a limo or bus so you don't have to worry about logistics.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this guide was helpful as you're planning your San Francisco
City Hall Wedding!