GETTING MARRIED AT SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL
I photograph dozens of beautiful weddings each year at San Francisco City Hall and adore each one. This stately civic building in the heart of the City belongs to all of us. It’s where history has been made and is part of our region’s story. In addition, it’s beauty is breathtaking. Couples from all over the world come here to elope, hold intimate ceremonies or celebrate on the entire first with lavish celebrations. I get a lot of questions about how it all works, so I wanted to give my couples a few pointers. But please, check in with City Hall to confirm these details. I also added a variety of my City Hall photography to show all the options available, including fun spots we travel to after the ceremony. Congratulations on your wedding and congratulations!
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GREAT PHOTOGRAPHY
• Unless renting a space from City Hall’s event department, the County Clerk office does not allow ceremony reservations beyond 90 days in advance so those who are planning on popular dates, long weekend dates, etc., we suggest reserving your ceremony time immediately 90 days prior to your intended date.
• If photography is your top priority, please contact us before booking the City Hall to make sure we are free on your potential date.
• If you are planning to get married at San Francisco City Hall from across the world, all you need is valid passports. City Hall commissioner will perform your ceremony while we can act as your witness.
• 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 panoramic photos without roaming tourists in the background.
• 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.
• The least crowded time at City Hall is 8-9:30AM or after 3:30PM.
• Photography friendly days are Monday through Wednesdays.
• You can always hire an independent wedding officiant who can perform (and even customize) your Ceremony. Among other benefits, you won’t have to check in with the County Clerk office and officiant will file all the paperwork on your behalf.
• If you are planning a San Francisco City Hall 4th floor wedding, we recommend booking a Northside as lighting there is better (no direct sunlight) when it comes to a Ceremony.
Instructions on Getting Married at City Hall:
- Ceremonies are available Monday-Friday starting at 9:00 a.m through 3:30 p.m. every half hour. Three reservation slots available each half hour.
- Reservations require a payment of $83 at the time of booking. Appointments may be made:
- Online – Reservations can be made with credit card only (Visa or MasterCard): Online Civil Ceremony Reservations.
- In person – Reservations may be made by one of the parties to the marriage or a third party. The person making the reservation must be able to pay at the time of making the appointment. Cash, personal check (preprinted with account holder’s name issued from a U.S. Bank), money order, credit card, or debit card accepted when making the reservation in person.
- Rescheduling and NO-Refund Policy – Please make sure you make your reservation selection very carefully as there will be ABSOLUTELY NO REFUNDS issued once the reservation has been made. Note: If you are also having your ceremony at City Hall, be sure to check both marriage license and marriage ceremony calendars first and schedule your ceremony appointment first as there are less ceremony appointments as there are marriage license appointments. We recognize that situations may arise, which may prevent you from making an existing appointment; therefore, you will be allowed to reschedule by submitting a request to our office at least 3 business days prior to your existing appointment. This will allow other members of the public to have an opportunity of taking the slot you are vacating and will allow our office to schedule staff accordingly.
- For Ceremonies….
- The ceremony will NOT be performed unless you present a VALID marriage license to the commissioner at the time of your ceremony. If you are unable to do so, you will be required to make another ceremony reservation and pay the ceremony fee again.
- The office does NOT perform wedding vow renewal ceremonies.
- Marriage licenses are issued by prepaid confirmed marriage license reservation only.
- If a marriage license has already been purchased, check the expiration date of your marriage license prior to making the ceremony reservation. The marriage license is valid for 90 days from the marriage license issuance date.
- If you plan to purchase your marriage license on the same day as your ceremony reservation, you must make and pay for a marriage license reservation for the same day at least 30 minutes PRIOR to your ceremony reservation time. For example, if your ceremony reservation is 10:00 a.m., your marriage license reservation should be scheduled no later than 9:30 a.m.
- Both parties to the marriage must be able to speak and understand English. If the commissioner feels that either party does not speak English, he/she may refuse to perform the ceremony unless you provide your own third-party interpreter. Couples requiring a ceremony performed in American Sign Language (ASL) or any other language, must notify the County Clerk’s Office in person or Contact Usto make arrangements, prior to booking an appointment online. Please allow a minimum of two week advance notice for all sign language bookings.
- The couple and no more than 2 witnesses should arrive at the INFORMATION DESK at City Hall, Room 168 for CHECK-IN 10 minutes before your appointment time (other witnesses shall wait in outside area.)
- The couple must bring:
- Valid marriage license
- Unexpired government issued photo identification in English
- At least 1 witness (NOT provided to you. Applies only to couples with a PUBLIC marriage license)
- No more than 6 guests total* (includes witnesses, children, photographer, etc…).
*Couples bringing more than 6 guests, or guests who are creating a nuisance, impeding official government business, or impeding the enjoyment of the building by others may be removed by the Sheriff’s Department. If you are bringing more than 6 guests, and/or would like to request a specific venue for your marriage ceremony at City Hall, please make arrangements with the San Francisco City Hall Events Department at www.sfgov.org/cityhallevents
- Ceremonies are performed in a location determined by the commissioner (usually our private ceremony room or the rotunda, if available.) Specific requests for the rotunda or any other area will NOT be accepted as we cannot guarantee availability.
- A certified copy of your marriage record will NOTbe available for purchase until at least 10 business days AFTER the license is received from the person solemnizing the marriage. Same day and expedited services for certified copies are NOT available. Please plan accordingly. For further information, see
- No form of litter is permitted to be thrown anywhere inside or outside the building; including exterior steps (flower petals, bird seed, rice, confetti, silly string, etc…). Helium balloons, alcohol, and knives are not allowed into the building.12. Camcorders and cameras are permitted.
Off-Site Weekend Ceremonies (Only Saturdays, Sundays, and Legal Holidays):
Arrangements for off-site weekend ceremonies are only made for marriage licenses purchased through our office. Our office will assign a Deputy Marriage Commissioner to perform a civil ceremony at a San Francisco location of your choice and time (you are responsible for arranging and paying for the venue, permits, etc.). A marriage license must be issued by San Francisco County prior to requesting for arrangements. We will not accept requests within 7 days or more than sixty (60) days prior to the ceremony date.
To make arrangements, complete and submit an Off- Site Ceremony Request Form and $139.00 non-refundable fee to the SF County Clerk. Arrangements will not be made without receipt of payment. Upon receiving the request form and payment, you will be provided with your assigned Deputy Marriage Commissioner’s name, phone number, and email address (if available).
On the day of the ceremony, $150.00 CASH must be paid to the Deputy Marriage Commissioner. Deputy Marriage Commissioners are volunteers and not City and County of San Francisco employees.
Note: The ceremony must take place in San Francisco. Re-scheduling or rehearsal time is at the discretion of the Deputy Marriage Commissioner.
Deputy Marriage Commissioner for a Day:
Any person age 18+ years may be granted authorization to perform a civil marriage as a Deputy Marriage Commissioner for a specific couple. For further information, see webpageDeputy Marriage Commissioner for a Day.
CAN WE GET MARRIED IN CITY HALL ON THE WEEKEND?
Yes! 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 www.sfgov.org/cityhallevents.
About the Building
The City Hall you see today took two years to build. Steel, granite, and four floors of white marble interiors make up San Francisco’s symbol of resilience, built after the previous City Hall was destroyed in the Great Earthquake and Fire of April 18, 1906.
Civic leaders were determined to demonstrate the city’s rebirth in time for the start of the World’s Fair of 1915. Designed by architect Arthur Brown, Jr. and begun in 1913, natives and the world were suitably awed by the gilt exterior detailing, the sweeping grand staircase, and the massive dome. At 307 feet in height, the dome is a full 42 feet taller than the dome of the nation’s capitol.
During the past century, the building has seen major political upheavals and demographic shifts in the makeup of its legislators. City Hall is often a focus of drama: the tragic assassinations of 1979; and jubilation, when same-sex marriages were first performed in 2004. Once the repository of records and a site for smaller courts, current debates and decisions about labor, land use, and public policy issues take place inside on a regular basis. City Hall has been a location for movies from Dirty Harry and Indiana Jones to Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
An earthquake of 7.1 magnitude struck on October 17, 1989, and damaged City Hall severely enough that the dome itself moved four full inches. Repair and restoration, completed in 1999, included an earthquake safety enhancement called a base isolator system. This absorbs shocks and movement at the foundation, protecting the structure above.