SF City Hall Elopements

Congratulations on your engagement! Whether you're already browsing for available dates and exploring wedding attire options or simply gathering ideas, this guide is designed to help you familiarize yourself with San Francisco City Hall and the entire planning process before the venue officially reopens.

San Francisco City Hall is a stunning, convenient, and affordable venue that welcomes photography. Organizing a wedding here can be a breeze if you're armed with a few insider tips to streamline the planning process. As a photographer who has captured the love stories of thousands of couples at this iconic venue, I've compiled my expert knowledge into this comprehensive guide to assist you in planning your special day. This resource aims to address all your key questions, offer valuable insights, and guide you through each step of the process. So sit back, enjoy the read, and embark on your wedding planning journey with confidence!


Organizing a wedding at San Francisco City Hall can be a seamless experience. Whether you're opting for a swift daytime ceremony or a more elaborate Saturday evening celebration, having insider knowledge about the venue will greatly assist you in orchestrating the perfect event. The initial step in this process is to create a practical planning timeline that will keep you on track and ensure a stress-free experience.

Planning Timeline 

Step 1: Book your ceremony

The first step in planning your wedding is to secure an available time slot for your special day. You can conveniently book your ceremony at San Francisco City Hall online through this link. Be sure to select the most suitable date, as City Hall can get quite busy at times. For additional information, please visit the Office of the County Clerk page.

Step 2: Book your Marriage license appointment

As walk-ins are not permitted at City Hall, it is essential to apply for a marriage license and have it ready to present before your ceremony. To secure a reservation, you can visit the County Clerk's Office website and complete the necessary steps.

Step 3: Rent a private space at the City Hall (optional) 

Eloping in one of San Francisco City Hall's shared spaces is a popular choice; however, you can also opt for a more intimate setting by renting a private area within the building. Available locations include the Mayor's Balcony and two galleries on the 4th floor, which are ideal for couples who wish to accommodate a larger guest list. For further information, please visit the SF City Hall events page.

Step 4: Pick a hotel nearby

Securing a location to prepare for your wedding is crucial, and it's best to avoid long commutes in your wedding attire. To ensure convenience, I recommend booking a hotel room within walking distance of City Hall. There are several stylish and luxurious hotels in the vicinity, including the Ritz-Carlton, Palace Hotel, Proper Hotel, Fairmont San Francisco, Kimpton Sir Francis Drake, Marines' Memorial Club and Hotel, and Westin St. Francis. These options offer both comfort and convenience, ensuring a stress-free experience on your special day.

Step 5: Find a restaurant in the area

Regardless of whether you have 5, 10, or 50 guests, it's essential to reserve a reception venue. A great tip is to seek out a restaurant near City Hall that can accommodate daytime events. Popular brunch venues include Zuni Café and Brenda's French Soul Food. If you prefer a lunch or dinner setting, consider making reservations at Absinthe, E & O Kitchen and Bar, or Lazy Bear. These establishments offer delicious cuisine and a memorable atmosphere for your wedding reception.

1. Zuni Café: https://zunicafe.com/

2. Brenda's French Soul Food: https://frenchsoulfood.com/

3. Absinthe: https://absinthe.com/

4. E & O Kitchen and Bar: https://www.eosanfrancisco.com/

5. Lazy Bear: https://www.lazybearsf.com/

Step 6: Contact your vendors

Essential vendors for a typical City Hall wedding encompass hair and makeup artists, photographers, and florists. To secure your preferred professionals, it's crucial to book them well in advance, as their schedules can fill up quickly, sometimes even a month ahead. By planning ahead, you can ensure that your dream team is available for your special day.

Step 7: Site visit (optional)

If possible, consider visiting City Hall prior to your wedding day to familiarize yourself with the building and its layout. This will help you navigate the premises more easily on the day of the event. Additionally, you can assess parking arrangements and public transportation options during your visit. If an in-person tour isn't feasible, be sure to gather all the essential information online to ensure a smooth experience on your special day.

Requirements for getting married at San Francisco City Hall 


Firstly, you must be able to understand and speak the English language. Your wedding ceremony can also be performed in another language, or you can ask your celebrant to use American Sign Language. Should you require this option, make sure to notify the County Clerk’s Office. Or contact San Francisco City Hall before an online appointment.


Upon arrival, you will be asked to show valid marriage license. CLICK THIS LINK to make an online reservation. The document is valid for 90 days from the day it has been issued. Don’t forget to get your license at least 90 days before your wedding day. Additionally, both you and your partner need to present a valid photo identification in English. And on the day of your wedding, you need to have at least one witness (who can be your wedding photographer).

Marriage License 

As mentioned early, you do need to make two appointments. One of them is to obtain the marriage license, and the second one is before the ceremony itself. Walk-ins are not allowed even for the short 4-minute ceremonies. While you can get your marriage license on the day, it would be better to do this at least one day ahead. You don’t need the stress of waiting in lines on your wedding day when you should be enjoying yourselves.

What do you need to bring on the day?

To avoid any mishaps on the day, make a list of things you have to bring with you to City Hall. Here are the five must-haves:

  1. A valid photo identification issued by the government. This document should contain your full names and not just initials
  2. Your marriage license
  3. One or two witnesses (you don’t need a witness if you present a confidential marriage license)
  4. Wedding rings (if you want to exchange them at the ceremony)

The cost of a SF City Hall wedding

Weddings at San Francisco City Hall are affordable. This outstanding building is the perfect location for a couple who wants a wedding on a budget. While saving on the venue, you can easily splurge on other services such as wedding photography or your wedding dress.

The breakdown of costs

The marriage license currently costs $107, while the civil ceremony is priced at $83. A one-hour ceremony package costs $1,000 (as of February 2020), and a two-hour weekend celebration starts from $5,000. Remember that this is the cost of your wedding ceremony and that you’ll have to pay extra for the reception (at the City Hall or elsewhere).

Wedding on a very low budget.

The cheapest way to get hitched at City Hall is to book a civil ceremony. This will cost you only $190. But if you want a truly superb photo album, why not book a private event which costs between $1,107 and $5,107 (the cost of the marriage license included). You’ll get exclusive access to one of the locations to ensure breathtaking wedding photography. You can find more information on all of these options at the City Hall Events website. Or contact the venue directly at 415 554 6086.

How long does it take to get married at SF City Hall?Civil ceremonies at City Hall are super short. A public ceremony lasts only 4 minutes (or shorter if you choose not to exchange the rings). There are three time slots every 30 minutes, and you can choose one between 9 am and 3:30 pm.When do you need to be there?You should arrive at City Hall and check-in at least 10 minutes before your appointment, but make sure to be there at least 30 minutes earlier. Before the ceremony starts, you will be called for and invited into the office. You’ll have a couple of minutes to meet the judge and ask your witness to sign the marriage license.

How long will you have for the photos?

After the ceremony, you can go and make wedding photos in and around the ceremony venue. This can take as long as you like, but you’ll have limited access to the venue’s most exclusive photoshoot locations. If you book a private one-hour ceremony at the Mayor’s Balcony or the 4th-floor Galleries, you’ll ensure fantastic photo backdrops. And if you book a two-hour ceremony, you will be able to say your vows and make fantastic snaps at the majestic Grand Staircase. Additionally, there is a possibility to buy a weekend wedding or evening wedding package. You can then choose to host your ceremony and reception at City Hall. Choose any of the fabulous locations, including the Rotunda, North Light Court, South Light Court and the Grand Staircase.

How many guests can attend your ceremony?

To avoid the crowds, you are allowed to invite only 6 people, including your photographer, who can also act as a witness and sign your marriage license. If you book a private ceremony space, you are allowed to invite up to 100 people.It is also important to consider the number of seats for each of the private venues if you choose to book one. The Mayor’s Balcony seats up to 40 people, while the 4th-floor galleries can accommodate up to 60 guests each. Each of these private areas has enough standing room to take a maximum of 100 people.A two-hour Saturday package allows you to invite up to 200 guests. If you decide to host a weekend wedding, the number of your guests will vary depending on the ceremony location you pick. This option allows you to bring your own officiant and choose a weekday evening wedding which is cheaper than a Saturday one.

The best time to get married at City Hall

San Francisco City Hall is open for the public Monday to Friday from 8 am to 8 pm. Early morning and late afternoon ceremonies are very popular because the building is not too crowded. But when looking for available dates and time slots, be aware that City Hall is a public building. There will always be visitors around. If there is a major public event, some parts of the building might be inaccessible while you are there.

An experienced photographer who knows the venue will be able to find enough great photo locations no matter how crowded the building is.

The busiest day is Friday. Some couples prefer to have their wedding ceremony on these days because they can relax on the weekend right after the wedding, while others are looking for alternative options. If you don’t like your venue to be busy, then book your appointment for Tuesday or Wednesday. The most hectic hours are between 11 am and 2 pm, so look for available time slots early in the morning.

Ideally, you’ll book the first time slot, which is 9 am.

Between 8 am and 8:30 am there is hardly anyone in the building, and you’ll grab the best photo opportunities! Alternatively, you can book a late afternoon appointment to avoid the crowds. A 3:30 pm ceremony is a good choice because most of the people will leave by then. You’ll be the last couple to tie the knot that day, and many of the stunning photoshoot locations will be available.

What to Wear to a City Hall Wedding?

There isn’t a strict dress code for a City Hall wedding. I have seen brides in all types of outfits from princess dresses to jumpsuits and cocktail-length gowns. If you want outfits that complement the opulent surroundings, then pick a formal or semi-formal attire. For the bride, a ball gown, an A-line dress or a sexy fit-and-flare style will do the trick. The dress can be a full-size or tea-length, but even a short skirt will look fabulous with a detachable ball gown overlay. For the groom, pick a classic tuxedo or a formal dinner jacket that matches the formality of the bride’s dress.

Beaux-Arts building is an inspiration itself. White is the best color to complement the crisp bright walls, but you can also add a vibrant detail such as a silk sash in pink, lilac or blue. The monochromatic combination of a white dress and a black suit will emphasize the interplay of light and shadows and provide endless opportunities for black & white photography.

But don’t forget that your outfit has to be appropriate for your reception venue as well. Are you celebrating at a restaurant or cocktail bar afterwards? You can pick a transformable dress or a casual white gown. Or you can show up at City Hall in a Cinderella outfit but later change into a more relaxed dress (this is why it is co convenient to rent a hotel room nearby).

San Francisco City Hall Rules and Regulations

Just like any venue, San Francisco City Hall has its own regulations you need to keep in mind. Certain limitations may affect your choice of vendors, which is why you need to familiarize yourselves with them before you start planning.

Here are the most important rules you should know straight away:

Respect other couples. Give other brides and grooms space to take their photos and don’t block any doors, hallways and staircases. Know the City Hall policies about the number of people allowed at your wedding. At public ceremonies, couples are allowed to have only 6 people, while private ceremonies are a bit more relaxed and you can send up to 100 invitations. Arrive earlier to the venue. About 10 minutes before the ceremony, you need to go through a ceremony check-in process which takes place at the County Clerk’s Office. Come earlier than that and wait until you are called. Remember that it isn’t polite to cut the line.Bring only your photographer and one witness to the County Clerk’s office. Don’t bring your family and friends into the crowded hallway in front of the office. Ask your guests to wait outside. Do a quick photoshoot inside the building. Remember that other couples need space too. Half an hour is about enough for fantastic professional photos. If you invest in a great photographer, he will know how exactly where and how to take jaw-dropping photos in thirty minutes. 

Don’t use messy props and decorations. You are not allowed to use things that should be glued, wired or fixed. Items which can damage surfaces are forbidden at City Hall.Don’t leave a mess behind you. Couples are not allowed to use confetti or rose petals. If you opt for an alternative, makes sure to clean up. Read the City Hall Building Rules and Regulations!