Looking to elope at a courthouse? Look no further than San Francisco City Hall! It’s famous for its architectural beauty and draws couples from all over the world.

But here’s the scoop: City Hall is getting busier every year. So, while it might look calm and empty in pictures, it’s often crowded. But don’t worry! I’ve got you covered with tips to prepare for your dream wedding at City Hall in San Francisco, plus a downloadable guide with all the details you need. Let’s dive in!

Intimate elopement at San Francisco City Hall.
Candid bride and groom kissing outside SF City Hall.

About San Francisco City Call

In the heart of San Francisco, the iconic City Hall is famous for its stunning architecture, grand staircase, and impressive windows. Since its rebuild in 1915, it’s been featured in various media forms. Today, it’s a beloved spot for elopements and small weddings, drawing couples who want to soak in its elegance, celebrate their love in a special city, or kick off a Northern California honeymoon adventure.

City Hall is more than just a pretty face; it’s a bustling hub of government activity spread over four floors with elegant corridors and offices. Plus, it’s conveniently close to other famous landmarks like Union Square, Golden Gate Park, and the Presidio. You can have civil ceremonies and book balcony spaces from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday-Friday, and even rent it privately for Saturday afternoons and evenings.

Types of Ceremonies at San Francisco City Hall

Civil Ceremony

This option is perfect for couples looking for an intimate celebration, with no more than six people including the photographer and other service providers. These ceremonies are short and sweet, typically wrapping up in about 5 minutes. You can book your civil ceremony up to 90 days ahead, with time slots available every half-hour from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Each half-hour slot can accommodate up to three ceremonies, so you’ll be assigned as the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd ceremony upon check-in. Ceremonies usually take place in the beautiful rotunda at the top of the grand staircase. Arriving 15 minutes early is a must. While you can’t exchange personalized vows during the ceremony, many couples choose to share them privately before or after.

The Details

  • Time: 5 min
  • Cost: $98
  • Availability: Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m. in increments
  • Locations: Rotunda at the peak of the grand staircase
  • Guest Limit: Six people or fewer


Bride and groom walking up the grand staircase at San Francisco City Hall.

Private 1-Hour Ceremony

Bride and groom first kiss during their intimate wedding ceremony at San Francisco City Hall.

If you’re dreaming of a more intimate or larger gathering than what a civil ceremony allows, City Hall offers two beautiful balcony rental options: the Mayor’s Balcony on the second floor with views of the grand staircase and rotunda, and my personal favorite, the Fourth-Floor North Gallery.

You can add extras like chair rentals and acoustic live music. This option doesn’t include an officiant, so you can choose someone special or hire a professional to personalize your ceremony. The one-hour rental lets you enjoy a 20-30 minute ceremony and group photos afterward.

The Details

  • Time:  1 hour
  • Cost: $1,000 rental fee through City Hall 
  • Availability: Monday–Friday from 9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
  • Locations: Mayor’s Balcony or Fourth Floor Gallery
  • Guest Limit: 40-60 seated guests, or up to 100 people standing


Full Buyout 2-Hour Ceremony

With the two-hour wedding package, you get to have City Hall all to yourselves! It’s perfect if you’re planning a bigger wedding and want total privacy. Your ceremony will take place on the Grand Staircase of the Rotunda, one of the hall’s most stunning features! 

The Details

  • Time: 2 hours
  • Cost: $5,000 rental fee through City Hall
  • Availability: Saturdays ONLY from 9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
  • Locations: Grand Staircase of the Rotunda
  • Guest Limit: Up to 200 guests


Black and white bride and groom portrait at San Francisco City Hall.

Evening Wedding

San Francisco City Hall elopement photo.

If you are looking for a completely customized wedding package, an evening wedding is the best option. While City Hall remains open to the public, this package allows for multiple locations to be be privatized for special events. (Note: Tuesday evening rental is not available)

The Details

  • Cost: See website for rental rates
  • Availability: City Hall remains open to the public Monday–Friday from 8:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
  • Guest Limit: Up to 2,000 guests


Tips for Getting Married at San Francisco City Hall

1. Choose a Midweek Date

Fridays are busiest, so aim for a Tuesday or Wednesday to avoid crowds.

2. Opt for Early Morning or Late Afternoon Slots

Arrive early for quieter moments, or consider late afternoon for beautiful light.

3. Secure Your Marriage License in Advance

Get your license before your ceremony date, as it’s a separate process.

4. Prepare for Unpredictable Weather

Bring appropriate attire and accessories for San Francisco’s ever-changing weather.

5. Consider a First Look Moment

Plan a private moment before the ceremony for added emotion.

6. Maximize Privacy and Personal Moments

Schedule downtime, exchange vows privately, or plan a sunrise/sunset celebration.

7. Consider Guest Limits or Balcony Rental

Civil ceremonies allow up to six guests, but balcony rentals offer more space for larger gatherings.

8. Craft a Timeline

Arrive on time, check in, and be ready for your ceremony slot.

9. Extend the Celebration

Explore San Francisco’s attractions post-ceremony for an extended celebration.

Bride and groom portrait at North Light Court at SF City Hall.

How to Get Married at San Francisco City Hall: Step By Step Guide

Step One: Lock in Your Date

Start by reaching out to book your appointment and secure your dream elopement date. Consider having a couple of backup dates just in case. Once you’ve got your date set, sign the contract and put down a rental deposit to claim your spot!

Step Two: Choose Your Ceremony Location

Picking where you’ll say your vows is the best part! You’ve got options like the Mayor’s Balcony, 4th Floor Gallery, Grand Staircase, or even outdoors between the English Sycamore Trees behind City Hall.

Step Three: Get Your California Marriage License

Before City Hall becomes your wedding venue, you’ll need a California marriage license. Opt for the public license, which allows you to celebrate anywhere in the state. Grab it from any California county clerk’s office, including the one at San Francisco City Hall. Applying is easy—do it in person or online, then show up with your partner and IDs. Your license is good to go right away and lasts for 90 days.

Just a heads up: City Hall won’t provide an officiant or manage your marriage licenses and certificates—it’s all on you for that part!

Best Photo Locations at San Francisco City Hall

1. Grand Staircase

Get ready for stunning shots on City Hall’s iconic staircase, perfect for those intimate first looks and romantic couple photos.

2. Next to the Grand Staircase

Right by the staircase, find a cozy spot that mixes grandeur with a more private feel, ideal for capturing private moments amid the beauty of the building.

3. The 3rd Floor

Escape the crowds and bask in beautiful natural light on the 3rd floor, creating a peaceful and elegant backdrop for your photos.

4. Mayor’s Balcony

Enjoy some privacy while soaking in views of the grand staircase and rotunda, making you feel like VIPs in the heart of City Hall.

5. North Light Court

Bright and airy with plenty of natural light, this spacious area focuses on emotions and connections, giving you authentic and beautiful shots.

6. South Light Court

Similar to the North Court but often overlooked, it offers simplicity and elegance in a spacious setting filled with light.

7. Rotunda

Central and dramatic, the Rotunda boasts intricate architecture and a stunning dome, making for unforgettable backdrops that capture the grandeur of City Hall.

8. Opposite the Front

Embrace the grand facade of City Hall for photos with a regal touch, blending urban vibes with architectural beauty.

9. Polk Street Entrance

A classic backdrop with fewer people around, perfect for elegant shots with a bit more privacy.

10. First Look as you pull up outside City Hall

Capture the excitement and anticipation of your day with spontaneous shots as you arrive at City Hall, adding genuine moments to your wedding album.

11. Memorial Court

Tucked behind City Hall, this peaceful spot surrounded by greenery offers a serene setting for heartfelt and intimate photos.

Get the lowdown on getting ready hotels, post-ceremony photoshoot locations, and top reception restaurants for your City Hall wedding in our 2024 SF City Hall Elopement Guide – Download now for all the insider tips!

My Approach to Capturing San Francisco City Hall Weddings

In my approach to San Francisco City Hall weddings, I blend classic elegance with a modern twist, capturing timeless moments with a personalized touch that reflects your unique style.

Offering both digital and film photography options, I ensure you get the best of both worlds, creating stunning images that stand the test of time. With a keen eye for light and composition, I use natural and artificial lighting to enhance your beauty, making every shot radiant and picture-perfect.

Drawing from my experiences on both the East and West coasts, I bring a dynamic perspective to your photos, blending New York chic with California cool for a truly unforgettable result.

Having photographed numerous weddings at City Hall, I know the ins and outs of the venue, guiding you through the day with expertise and ensuring every moment is captured with grace and authenticity, from directed poses to candid, heartfelt shots that truly reflect your love story.

What’s Included in the City Hall Elopement Guide?

– SF City Hall Overview

– Ceremony Choices & Insider Tips

– Step-by-Step Elopement Guide

– Marriage License & Protocol

– Photo Spots & Logistics

– Reception & Accommodation Info

– Fun Extras & Photographer Tips


San Francisco City Hall candid bride and groom photo.
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Instead of the usual spiel, let me give you the real scoop on what I do and why it might just be what you're looking for in your wedding photographer.

My approach? It’s all about capturing the raw, unfiltered joy and those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments. I believe in photography that tells a story - your story - with all its unique quirks, laughter, and, of course, love.

I’m talking about the tearful smiles, the spontaneous dances, and the silent glances that speak volumes. My style is a blend of candid documentary and artistic flair, ensuring each photo feels as real and vibrant as the moment it captures. I don't just take pictures; I preserve memories.

Welcome to the party! I’m Katherine Marchand.

meanwhile, on the dance floor...

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