It didn’t take long to decide on San Francisco City Hall as our wedding venue. With its 100 years of history and Beaux-arts architecture, this building is truly breathtaking.
As romantic as it would be to wake up one day, run off with your loved one and get hitched—it’s not quite that simple.
There will be a few steps you’ll need to take if you want to get married at San Francisco City Hall—so let me walk you through it!
Make a Reservation
First thing you’ll have to do is secure a civil ceremony reservation online.
Appointments are available from Monday-Friday, 10am-3:30 pm and the ceremony fee is $78.
Mondays through Wednesdays tend to be the least busy at City Hall. Thursdays are a little bit busier with Friday afternoons being the busiest. If you are looking for something more private, you may want to go with a less busy day. Do remember though that City Hall is not a private space, so no matter which day you go on, you’ll have people getting married and walking around the building. With that being said, there was something very sweet about seeing others get married and having so much love surround us! And even though we ended up having a bigger audience than expected, it only added to the energy and magic of the day. One of my most cherished memories was saying “I do” and then hearing an eruption of little cheers. It turned out that there was an elementary school class on a field trip silently watching our ceremony the whole time! (That is the great thing about weddings at City Hall–even though there were people walking around, everyone was very quiet and respectful of our ceremony space–even little kids!) They were so happy for us and gave us both a round of congratulations and high fives! It really was one of the cutest moments of my life.
The inside of City Hall is absolutely beautiful and I can’t imagine there being a bad spot for lighting—but if you do plan on taking photos outside after your ceremony, you’ll want to be very mindful of the time of day and lighting. Jean Philippe and I didn’t want it to be too bright outside because we didn’t want to be squinting in photos or have shadows, so we got married at 10am and took photos at Lands End after our ceremony.
Obtain Your Marriage License
In order to get married at San Francisco City Hall, you will need to have your marriage license the day of your ceremony. You are more than welcome to obtain your marriage license the same day as your ceremony, but to alleviate stress I suggest obtaining this beforehand! While the marriage license process shouldn’t take too long, do you really want to be worrying about paperwork on your big day?
In California, your marriage license cannot be anymore than 90 days old at the time of your ceremony. JP and I obtained our marriage license three days before our ceremony. While you can do this in San Francisco, you will need to reserve an appointment. If you do not live in San Francisco and you are a California resident, I recommend obtaining your marriage license at your county’s Clerk Recorder’s office. Once your ceremony is over, your marriage license will be mailed back to their office. However, if you obtain your marriage license in San Francisco, you will need to come back to San Francisco once your marriage certificate is processed (which takes at least 10 days). If you don’t want to come back to San Francisco and deal with the parking and driving, then you will need to send in a notarized request to receive a copy of your marriage certificate by mail. So, your best bet is to obtain your marriage license in your own county and then later pick up your marriage certificate at your county’s office. Again—your marriage license must be issued from a California Clerk Recorder’s Office. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be a California resident, but your license will need to be obtained in California.
In order to obtain your marriage license all you will need is a government issued photo ID—but call your County Clerk Recorder’s office first just to make sure you have everything they require.
The process was pretty painless. JP and I weren’t in the office for more than thirty minutes. Make sure to keep this document safe. You will need to bring it in to City Hall and you won’t be able to get married without it!
Fees to obtain your marriage license vary depending on the county—ours was $98.
Choose Your Witness
You’ll need at least one witness for your wedding—you’re allowed to have up to two but you will need at least one. You can use your photographer as your witness if you’re planning on not having any guests. If you do have a bigger ceremony, then you can have one witness from your side and one from your spouse-to-be’s side. You’ll need to bring your witness(es) with you to the office to fill out some paperwork and to your ceremony.
Get There at Least 10 Minutes Before Your Reservation
Likely, there will still be some waiting even though you have an appointment slot. Still, you’ll need to go through security which could take some time depending on the day and time of your reservation. You’ll also want to take in the beautiful building that is City Hall and it’s always good to take a couple of test shots with your photographer so they can adjust their settings to the lighting.
SAY I DO!
And that’s it! Those are all of the things you’ll need to get married at San Francisco City Hall. Overall, the process was pretty easy. I absolutely loved having City Hall as our venue and I love that as such a historic building, it will be around for us to visit again in the future.