I wanted to provide an update to this blog posting from a few years ago because there seems to be some additional concern right now about the new versions of Covid that are out there. We are seeing more and more people masking up at San Francisco city hall in recent weeks. Most newlyweds take them off for their SF City Hall wedding pictures, but what about the rest of the time in the building including during your civil ceremony?
Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question because it seems that each Marriage Commissioner handles this differently from a personal standpoint, but none require the bride and groom to mask up anymore. I have asked a few of them what their instructions are from the County Clerk and I have not received any kind of consistent answer. To me, this means that they have mostly been placed on their own to make this decision. Since the pandemic ended and San Francisco City Hall reopened, I have photographed approximately 150 weddings. During that time we have seen lots of different phases of masking wearing. One thing is clear, City Hall no longer requires all people entering the building to wear masks.
Here is what used to be required so we can see how far we have come. Listed below are the 3 primary ways I have seen City Hall officiants handle masking during the ceremony:
- The bride and groom or same-sex couple are told to wear their masks throughout the entire ceremony from start to finish. They are not allowed to take their masks off when saying their vows nor are they allowed to kiss at the end of the ceremony. Unless of course they want to do their kiss with their masks on. This obviously is the most strict way of handling a City Hall ceremony, but it does comply with the current mask mandate. UPDATE: This is no longer required.
- The bride and groom or same-sex couple ARE allowed to take their masks off at the very end of the ceremony in order to say their vows and do the first kiss. They must begin the ceremony with masks on and only remove them when instructed to do by the officiant. After the first kiss they’re supposed to put their masks back on immediately. Another common variation to this way of performing the ceremony is to only allow masks to come off for the first kiss. UPDATE: This is no longer required.
- The Officiant wears a mask for the entire ceremony, but does not require the bride and groom or same-sex couple to wear masks.
In all of the above situations, the guests and photographers used to be required to wear masks for the entire ceremony. City Hall officiants are still frequently wearing masks throughout the ceremony. Now with this new Covid variant out there, we are seeing more and more people wearing masks.
In my opinion, couples getting married at City Hall should at least consider wearing masks in public areas like the County Clerk hallway and the elevators. This of course assumes that they are more on the cautious side.
There are definitely no mandates and all of this is voluntary at this point. If you are vulnerable to Covid you might consider it, but it is entirely up to you. My thinking is that San Francisco allows people to walk into tiny bars and restaurants and not wear masks in order to eat. In many cases they will be going mask-less in a crowded room for extended periods of time. It would be logical to conclude that it should be okay for the bride and groom to do the same. After all, the couple is celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime event and should be allowed to enjoy the moment without masks on. Yes, I am biased as a San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer but I think it’s a double standard to tell people that they can eat and get drunk at bars without masks on, but that they can’t get married unless fully covered up.