San Francisco City Hall Wedding Options

There are three ways to get married at San Francisco City Hall.

1  Standard Civil Ceremony

 this is the option which majority of people choose.  You will have to schedule an appointment to obtain your marriage license, pay an administrative fee  $105, and set up a second appointment for the actual civil ceremony, with additional cost at $81.  The ceremony will be conducted by a city hall wedding commissioner, and the whole ceremony takes about less than 10 minutes. You may only book your civil ceremony appointment no earlier than 90 days in advance, and a 6-guest limit is officially imposed at least according to the City Hall rules.   Although officially you can only bring at most 6 guests, we did see  lots of wedding parties who have more than 6 guests.  You can make reservations in person Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm. City Hall makes reservations for three weddings at a time, each marriage ceremony time slot is for thirty minutes. You will pay for your reservation at the time that you reserve it. The reservation can’t be changed after you reserve and pay for it. The date and the time are yours and can’t be changed.Your marriage license is valid for 90 days from the date it is issued. To get our marriage license, go to Room 168, on the first floor to check-in 10 minutes before your appointment time. If you plan to obtain your license and be married on the same day, it’s recommended that you make the two appointments an hour apart, for example, license at 10:00 am and ceremony at 11:00 am. Obtaining your license usually takes about 15-30 minutes. You can also choose to make your ceremony reservations online, go to Online Civil Ceremony Reservations. Reservations online may only be booked with a Visa or MasterCard. A $5 convenience fee is added.

Reserve the 4th Floor Gallery or the Mayor’s Balcony 

SF City Hall Wedding Photography

SF City Hall Wedding Photography

– This option will provide you a private space in one of three locations inside the building: The 4th floor galleries (North or South), or the Mayor’s Balcony. For this option, you will have three advantages: 1), you will have the private space for one whole hour for your San Francisco City Hall wedding, which means that no other couples, photographers or tourists will be  at the spots you have ceremony. 2) you can have much more guests than the 6-guest standard limit imposed on the civil ceremony. 3) chairs and a table will be provided,  and all guests can sit comfortably during the ceremony, champagne toast and snacks  can be served afterwards. 3)  you can also  bring your own officiant, and you do not need to use the City Hall commissioner (although you still have the option to do so).   Both the Mayor’s Balcony and the Fourth Floor can hold up to 100 guests. To reserve for the Mayor’s Balcony or the Fourth Floor contact the City Hall Events Department (415) 554-6079 or visit them online. Their office hours are 9:00 am-5:30 pm, Monday through Friday. The  additional rental fee  is roughly about  $1,002.

Reserve the Entire City Hall on a Weekend – This is an option if you want to make City Hall your wedding venue for the evening. For information on holding events in the evening or on a weekend, please contact theOffice of Special Events, Room 495, at (415) 554-6079 or online at SF city hall event. If you take this option, you may want to make the reservation one year in advance, just as you would with any other wedding venues . Please note:  City Hall is a government owned building, many legal requirements are imposed on your wedding vendors – especially proof of liability insurance.

Wedding Event at SF city hall

Wedding Event at SF city hall

What to bring for your San Francisco City Hall Wedding ceremony

You’ll need to bring legal photo identification(passport), cash or check to pay all fees, a valid marriage license, 1 witness, and no more than 6 guests. And remember to bring your rings too! The Legal Stuff:  Marriage License.  The marriage license may be obtained from any county in California.

You are not required to get married in the county where you purchase the public marriage license; however, you must be married in California. You must file the license in the county where it was purchased. You must have at least one witness present at your ceremony. The license contains a place for two witnesses if you prefer.  If you are coming to SF city hall for elopement and you don’t have witness, don’t worry, the photographer can be your witness.

Virtual tour of  City Hall

The building has four main floors, and each offers unique opportunities for wedding pics

First Floor – the beautiful pattern on the marble floor, along with the elegant gold lamps makes this a great part of the building to explore. The first floor is also where the County Clerk’s office – Room 168 – is located. The natural light streaming through both the Van Ness and the Polk Street entrance doors also invites some unexpected photographic opportunities. The first floor offers direct access to the grand staircase. One thing to keep in mind is that the first floor is also the busiest part of the building. Sometimes the wedding commissioner will offer the ‘private room’ as an option for your San Francisco City Hall wedding ceremony. This is a small room located near the County Clerk’s office, in the administrative hallway. It may be a good option if the building is extremely busy . but keep in mind it is relatively less beautiful than Rotunda. 

Grand Staircase of SF City Hall

Grand Staircase of SF City Hall

Big Lamp at first floor of SF City Hall

Big Lamp at first floor of SF City Hall

Second Floor – this level of the building is home to The Rotunda, an iconic part of City Hall that plays big role to the majority of San Francisco City Hall wedding civil ceremonies, as well as occasional art exhibits and the annual Christmas tree which will be setup in early December. This level also offers two expansive hallways on both the north and south side of the building, with gilded railings and big windows that make for a lovely photographic setting. Directly opposite to  the Rotunda, the second floor is  Mayor’s Balcony. You can easily recognize it by its extravagant railing and the giant Roman numeral clock that hangs above.

SF city hall wedding photographer

Hallway of Second floor of SF city hall

second floor of SF City Hall

second floor of SF City Hall

Third Floor – this is probably the quietest part of the building, and for this reason,  one of my favorites. This level has giant art deco-style windows on both the north and south side, and you can get lots of fantastic pics by using the decorative window as backdrop.   On this level, you are also high enough above the atrium of the building to really get some amazing views.

Fourth Floor – this level offers the two popular wedding spots – the North and South Gallery – which can be reserved for your ceremony. The fourth floor is the place which has most abundant nature light which comes streaming into the building through giant windows. It’s also an incredible vantage point from which to fully appreciate the architectural beauty  of the building. The architectural details of this level  are also  stunning. Both Galleries are drenched in white marble, with two intricate, stone urns serving as the centerpieces.

San Francisco City Hall Wedding

fourth floor of SF city hall

Outside the Building – The building is really gorgeous,  you can get amazing photographs by using the whole building as backdrop.  

entrance of SF city hall

entrance of SF city hall

outside of SF City Hall

outside of SF City Hall

SF City Hall at Dusk

SF City Hall at Dusk

San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photography

When thinking about your San Francisco City Hall wedding, keep in mind that no matter which option  you choose, you will have all of City Hall available for creating beautiful images on your wedding day.  There are few occasions when special events are taking place inside the building (such as the inauguration of the Mayor, or press conferences) and certain parts of the building are closed.   And also  if you do not reserve part of the building for your ceremony, you’ll have to respect the privacy of couples who do.  City Hall was constructed in marbles  and gilded bronze ,with fine architectural details throughout all parts of building. From the outside, the stately columns and gilded dome of the façade are really fine pieces of art work. These stunning backdrops are exactly  why so many couples choose to get married at San Francisco City Hall

So far we took wedding pics for many couples who got married at SF city hall.  You can take a look at our San Francisco City hall Wedding Portfolio

Many couples ask me to recommend “the best time” to get married at City Hall.  Best time for the Ceremony is early morning or around noon as City Hall is less crowded that time of the day, waiting is shorter and it is easier to get wide angle photos without  tourists in the background. Another thing to keep in mind is Friday is always quite crowded. Tuesday or Wednesday morning are less busy.

We strongly recommend arriving at City Hall for your ceremony at least 20 minutes in advance. This way, you will be the first in the check-in line for the ceremony.

If you are planning a larger number of guests, I’d suggest having your marriage ceremony on the 4th floor. It’s well-lit area and usually very quiet.

Address and Parking

The front entrance of City Hall is at 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, California 94102, between Grove and McAllister. It’s easy to park at meters in the City Hall plaza, which offer up to 4 hours of time. There is also underground parking across the street at Civic Center Plaza, entrance on McAllister St.  You can park your car there. Civic Center is the closest BART station, three blocks from City Hall.

When you arrive at City Hall for the civil ceremony, you’ll need to proceed to Room 168 (the County Clerk’s office) in order to meet with the commissioner and have your marriage license witnessed.  You need to get calling number first before meeting with commissioner to get marriage license.  The hallway is usually crowded with other wedding parties . The County Clerk’s office only admits the wedding couple, the photographer and no more than two witnesses. It’s usually a good idea to ask your families and guests to wait in the hallway while you take care of getting marriage license.  If you are eloping and do not have a witness, I am happy and honored to serve as your witness, as I have done for many couples

If you prefer to read in Chinese, here’s the Chinese version guide to San Francisco City Hall wedding ceremony