With San Francisco city hall finally reopening after the long Pandemic closure, many of our clients have been asking us about how the 6 guest limit rule is being enforced. Even other San Francisco city hall photographers have been asking us. It is a valid question because for years, the County Clerk, SF city hall security and the officiants did not enforce it and basically looked the other way even if a couple brought 20 guests in tow. It’s sudden enforcement took many by surprise not only because of its newness, but also because of the inconsistency of how the rule was applied. To summarize, as of May, 2019 San Francisco city hall started allowing civil ceremonies with 6 guests maximum in attendance. This rule is stated on the San Francisco city hall website and has now become strictly enforced. With Covid-19 still a threat, I am guessing it will be even more closely watched. However, even as I say this, there is inconsistency among the various officiants. My honest feeling is that if you stay close to the 6, but go slightly over, you should be ok.
So of course, that has been the question. Let’s say you walk into the County Clerk’s office with your 12 guests. The first question that is now asked when you check in is: “How many guests do you have today?” You let them know that you have 12 and that’s when the discussions start. Depending upon the officiant you have or the time of the day there are a number of things that may happen. With all of the uncertainty, I decided to go to the top person I know in the County Clerks office and asked them. What IS the rule? The answer came back swiftly and strong. If you have more than 6, you will be forced to have your ceremony in the Private room. They will no longer allow you to have that large of a ceremony in the Rotunda. Period. I went further and asked what happens if they have so many guests that they will not fit in the private room (fits about 20, but very crowded). Basically the answer came back that we will stuff as many people in the private room as possible and the rest just have to wait outside. In practice, we have seen other ways of handling larger crowds, but its probably because they were still trying to figure out how to fairly treat brides and groom getting married at city hall. It seems now that the rules are going to be strictly enforced. Here again, this rule has probably been slightly altered by the Pandemic. I think we all know that stuffing people in rooms is no longer a good or safe practice. So what happens now?
What are our Options?
You have showed up to your San Francisco city hall wedding with too many people, what can you do? One option that some people are doing is to just bring 6 people into the Rotunda and the others will have to watch from afar. You can also use the Private room, but then do your own celebration later in other parts of SF city hall. If you have the time and the money, you can book a reserved ceremony at the Mayors Balcony or 4th Floor North Gallery for the price of $1,000 for 1 hour. But this would have to be done well in advance of your wedding date. We can help you arrange for any of these options, just let us know in advance. We strongly advise to be honest with San Francisco city hall officials regarding guest count to avoid potential embarrassment and inconvenience on your wedding day.