City Hall Crowd Rules
The city hall website specifically states that the maximum number of guests allowed at standard civil ceremonies is 6. The rules go on to explain that if you DO bring more than 6, city hall reserves the right to have them removed from the building. The rules also talk about your guests being a nuisance and disrupting city hall business. UPDATE: City Hall now enforces this rule and anyone bringing more than 6 guests will most likely be forced to have their ceremony in the Private room. The Rotunda is absolutely restricted now to 6 guests due to past disruptions by large groups making loud noise.
So the question is, should you as an engaged couple violate the rules and and still try to invite anyone you want and as many people as you want? My opinion is that couples getting married at San Francisco city hall should, at the very least, respect the spirit behind the rule. So if you are going to go over the 6 guests, don’t go way over. Realize that your extra guests may not be allowed to witness the ceremony close by. In general, city hall finds it difficult to restrict the number of guests that come in to the building to watch your wedding, but they ARE able to prevent the large group from being present at the actual ceremony. Please keep in mind that if every couple brought 25 guests the place would be a mad house. The rules are there for a reason, to try to keep the environment safe and quiet.
Reserved Ceremony Option
So what do you do if you have a large crowd but still want to get married at SF City Hall? Contact the Events Department and talk to them about reserving a space to have your city hall ceremony. It only costs around $1,000 and you are able to have a nice section of city hall all to yourself. They even give you 2 choices for this reserved ceremony. You can have your nuptials on the Mayors Balcony or The 4th Floor North Gallery. Both locations are exceptionally beautiful and provide plenty of room for the couple and their guests. You can seat up to 60 people on the 4th floor and up to 40 at the Mayors Balcony. If you bring more guests than those numbers, the remaining guests can stand. They also rope of the area to keep others out which provides your wedding a certain amount of privacy.
Music is Allowed for Reserved Weddings
Another very nice feature of reserved weddings is that city hall allows you to bring in music to be played at your ceremony. Book harpist, string quartet or guitar player. It is your choice so long as you choose one of the SF Event Departments approved vendors. You can use the music to announce the bride coming in during the processional or when the happy couple leave. Many couples also just want to have background music for the time leading up to the actual ceremony. Even after the ceremony, you can book the musicians to stay and keep playing.
Keep in mind all of these many options before you decide to bring your whole family and friends to a small civil ceremony. It will make your special day more enjoyable for you and your guests! They can even listen to music!
UPDATED: San Francisco City Hall Wedding Ideas
We have been photographing weddings at San Francisco City Hall now for nearly 12 years and have learned some interesting ideas and helpful hints throughout this time. I thought it would be instructive to share some of these thoughts with our readers to help engaged couples planning on getting married at San Francisco City Hall.
- Hire a Professional Wedding Photographer – OK so it is probably no surprise that I started with this hint since I am a City Hall Wedding Photographer. However, this is not strictly self-serving. I would highly recommend that you hire ANY of the top wedding photographers that specialize in City Hall weddings. Why? Because the top 10 or so photographers will not only take wonderful photos of your ceremony and formal shots, but they will also guide you through the process. Over these 12 years I have watched other photographers work with their clients and all of them are happy to help. Conversely, when I see couples without a photographer, they appear confused and keep doing the wrong thing with regard to activities such as the County Clerk ceremony check-in. Having a helpful professional there to guide you just takes one more stressful thing away to worry about on your wedding day.
- Dress up and Bring Flowers – We often find that brides and grooms are surprised when they see other couples wearing formal attire. Many of them are disappointed that they didn’t do the same. I think people that are unfamiliar with SF City Hall don’t realize that people actually have formal weddings there because of the beauty of the venue. But the biggest issue we see is brides not bringing a bouquet for photography. The only negative thing I would ever say about City Hall is that the colors are all very monotone. So even though our photos come out gorgeous with the amazing backgrounds and architecture, SO much is added simply be mixing in a splash of color. It also gives the bride something to do with her hands!
- Avoid City Hall Crowds – Yes, it really is possible to have your wedding at San Francisco City Hall and not have other weddings and tourists everywhere. How do we avoid this? You just need to pick your spots. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days to get married and by far the least crowded. Mondays are great also. Some clients tell me, “But we can’t get married in the middle of the week, it needs to be Friday to accommodate our friends and family”. Well if you have ever been in City Hall on “Crazy Friday”, you wont be using the word “accommodate” and “Friday” in the same sentence. Ask your friends and family, they might surprise you. Also, if you really want to have the place to yourself, get married early morning (9:30 am slot) or later (3:30 pm slot).
- Consider a Reserved Ceremony – Obviously one of the big draws to having your nuptials at San Francisco City Hall is the low cost. Under $100 to get married in this beautiful historic building. However, the rules state that you should only bring 6 guests. Yes, most people ignore these rules, but you are still limited and the more people you bring the more others are disrupted. Note: The County Clerk’s office is now strictly enforcing the 6 guest limit rule. Brides and grooms arriving at city hall with 7 or more will most likely be sent to the Private room for their ceremony. Reserving the Mayor’s Balcony or the 4th Floor North Gallery only costs $1,000 and pretty much guarantees you privacy and 1 hour of no crowds. Get married on a Friday, who cares now! You have your own space, they rope if off, and even set up chairs for your 40 +guests. In addition, your photographer now has at least one location to get great shots with no worries of tourists in the photos.
- UPDATE: I was looking through this blog post and realized that I forgot one very important suggestion to enhance your city hall wedding. Bringing props! In recent months it has become a bit of a trend. Brides and groom have been bringing “Thank you” signs to use on their gift responses. The obvious sign saying: “Just Married” is another popular idea. But we have seen all kinds of different signs made from different materials. Some are homemade while others are obviously store bought. Just another very good and fun idea to enhance your city hall wedding!