Can you Recite Your Own Vows?
You have made the decision to have your wedding at San Francisco City Hall and have made the appropriate reservations to secure a date for your Civil Ceremony. You and your future spouse have discussed some of the things you would like to say to each other during the marriage ceremony. In fact, you both agree that it would be great if you could write your own vows. One problem….. San Francisco city hall ceremonies have preset vows and are very short. The entire ceremony usually does not last more than about 4 minutes. This is, of course, done by design because many people each day want to get married at San Francisco city hall and so there is no time for long ceremonies. What do you do? Actually, there are MANY options for engaged couples to consider if they really want to make and say their own vows. This blog post will examine some of the many options that are available to brides and grooms who want to save money and celebrate their nuptials at San Francisco city hall. For more information about how to get married at San Francisco city hall, you can check out our website featuring San Francisco city hall wedding photography.
Ask your City Hall Marriage Commissioner
City Hall Marriage Commissioners (The Officiant) are super nice people and all volunteers. If you ask them nicely they just might allow you some time to do your own vows and incorporate them into the standard Civil Ceremony. We have seen this request often granted, but not always. It depends upon the Officiant and also if they happen to be on schedule with their ceremonies that day. If they are running way behind, there is a good chance that will not be able to grant your request. I always tell our brides and grooms to let the officiant know that they promise to make it quick and that their privately written vows are not that long. Quite honestly, I have seen this request granted more frequently than not, but anything is possible. In fact, just last week this request was granted and the happy couple was able to incorporate a little of their own cultural customs into their vows. This truly made their San Francisco city hall civil ceremony truly special. It only added 2 minutes to the ceremony and that is the key! If for some reason the Marriage Commissioner prefers not to allow it, we always have Plan B (see below).
Recite Wedding Vows After your Civil Ceremony
There is nothing stopping the newlyweds from reciting their own wedding vows in a different San Francisco city hall location after they have completed their Civil Ceremony. We have done this quite frequently with our Couples after the ceremony is over. With our many years as San Francisco city hall wedding photographers, we know some of the most private places in the building to take our couples. Once we arrive at a private place on any one of the 4 beautiful floors at this historic building, we put everyone in place including the wedding guests. Often times one of newlywed’s friends or relatives will record the vows on a cell phone or video camera. We take pictures of the vows and also can provide an optional video clip with a professional microphone. Despite what you may hear about how crowded SF City Hall can be, there are plenty of great places to do this and maintain a good amount of privacy. This is a great way to personalize your Civil ceremony and there is nothing stopping you from doing it. My suggestion is to first try to ask the Marriage Commissioner to allow it and if they do not, we will make it happen in alternative private city hall location.
Have your own Private Wedding Ceremony at City Hall
This option is being used increasingly at San Francisco city hall because it has become harder to book ceremonies due to the decreased number of slots now available. You do not need to reserve anything with this option and we are happy to help organize this and plan it for you. All you need is an officiant to perform your ceremony and of course a marriage license. As mentioned elsewhere, we can help you find the perfect officiant to do this for you and they WILL have experience at city hall. They will likely even be wearing the robes that the Marriage Commissioners wear for civil ceremonies. We have scouted out a number of great places in city hall to do private ceremonies with a good amount of privacy. This will allow you to recite whatever vows you want! The picture below was one of these kinds of weddings.
Head to a San Francisco Destination for your Wedding Vows
Another option is to find one of the amazing places in San Francisco and recite your vows overlooking the Ocean or Golden Gate Bridge. There are also some nice woodsy areas you can go to in the Presidio or near Baker Beach. We have taken our newlyweds to many of these places and documented this important event. One of our recent wedding couples booked us for our San Francisco Tour package and we ended up in the deep woods and took pictures of the bride and groom reciting their private vows that they had written to each other. We also used the opportunity to take some amazing wedding pictures at nearby Baker Beach with the Golden Gate bridge behind them. This is a fantastic wedding photography opportunity. See below for a picture of this couple reciting their own vows.
Book a Reserved Ceremony at SF City Hall
I could have actually listed this one first because this is the most obvious choice. The reason I didn’t was because I was trying to provide engaged couples with some low cost alternatives that go along with their planned Civil Ceremony. However, a reserved ceremony at San Francisco city hall provides a couple with the opportunity to bring in their own private officiant. You can reserve either The Mayor’s Balcony or the 4th Floor for one hour for the cost of $1,000. This allows you to bring in up to 60 guests and have more control over your wedding proceedings. The area is roped off which provides you with privacy and the ability to do your own vows. You will have to pay for the officiant, but there are a number of available ones and we would be happy to recommend some to you. Most San Francisco city hall wedding photographers know quite a few exceptional Officiants to perform your marriage.
San Francisco City Hall’s Standard Ceremony
I thought it would be useful to provide the standard vows that will be performed at your Civil Ceremony at San Francisco city hall. As you can see, it is a pretty short ceremony and there is no place for the couple to do their own vows.
We are gathered here in the presence of witnesses for the purpose of uniting in matrimony ____________ and ____________. The contract of marriage is most solemn and is not to be entered into lightly, but thoughtfully and seriously with a deep realization of its obligations and responsibilities. ____________ and ____________, no other words of mine or any other person truly marry each of you to the other. That is done when you exchange your promises and commit yourselves to this marriage and each other. By entering into this marriage, you are pledging yourselves to a lifetime in which each will enrich the life of the other. You will be partners standing together to cushion the difficulties of life. Rejoice in your partner’s graces. Nurture your marriage carefully and watch it grow gracefully.
Do you _______ , take ________, to be your lawful wedded (spouse)? To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as you both shall live? Do you _______ , take ________, to be your lawful wedded (spouse)? To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as you both shall live?
Place the ring on __________ left finger and repeat after me, “I give you this ring, in token and pledge of my constant faith and abiding love. With this ring, I thee wed.” Place the ring on _______ left finger and repeat after me, “I give you this ring, in token and pledge of my constant faith and abiding love. With this ring, I thee wed.”
You have joined yourselves in solemn matrimony. May you strive all your lives to meet this commitment with the same love and devotion that you now feel. For love is truly the greatest gift we are given to share: love’s compassion is the glory of life. Delight in each other’s company and never take the other for granted, for you are destined to enjoy the blending of your two lives. And now, in as much as you, _______ and_________ have given and pledged your love and faithfulness, each to the other, and have declared the same by joining hands, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the State of California as Deputy Marriage Commissioner, I now pronounce you (husband and wife/spouses for life). You may Kiss.