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Helpful Hints for your City Hall Wedding

We have learned many things over the past 12 years photographing San Francisco City Hall weddings. As time goes by, we find ourselves providing a considerable amount of advice to our couples with the intent of making the whole process easier and more enjoyable. We really feel like our extensive experience makes us experts when it comes to San Francisco city hall wedding planning and advice. With this in mind, we decided it would be useful to share some of our expertise and provide some helpful hints on how to get married at San Francisco city hall. In addition to this more general wedding planning help, we also offer detailed information about how to get married at San Francisco city hall with this step-by-step guide. Below are some general thoughts and ideas on how to make your city hall wedding go smoothly.

We are also happy to answer any specific questions you might have regarding any of this information so feel free to email us if your question is not answered below. As noted elsewhere in this website, we provide free wedding planning advice for any of those who want it. There is no charge for this service and you do not need to book us for your wedding photography at city hall to take advantage of it. For those who want to avail themselves of this type of service we ask that you please email us at

Please provide us the specific questions you have and the wedding month you are considering at San Francisco City Hall. The month is important, because sometimes the advice may be different depending upon the time of the year. Once we figure out this part, we can talk to you about some of the other variables involved such as time of day and the day of the week of your wedding celebration.

  1. Allow plenty of time on the day of your wedding to get to S.F. City Hall. Instead of having breakfast or lunch at home, have at in San Francisco somewhere close to City Hall. This gives you a little more cushion in case things run late. Unexpected city traffic, parking problems and special events are just a few of the things that can make you late to your own wedding. If you arrive too early, you can check out some of the historical information about San Francisco City Hall while you wait for your ceremony to commence. Avoid stress on your wedding day and plan things out! We have seen more than our share of late brides and grooms on their wedding day. It is especially important to be on time if you have a 3:00 or 3:30 pm ceremony scheduled. You can park in the Civic Center parking garage. Click the link for information on how to find it and parking costs.

    The County Clerk's office closes shortly after this final ceremony time and so if you are too late, you risk all of the officiants going home. We have seen it happen before and literally had to chase down an officiant one time because he was leaving the building and there was nobody else left to perform the ceremony. It wasn't the officiant's fault, they just left because nobody checked in for the appropriate time. City Hall gets lots of ceremony cancellations, so if you show up late, they may think you just decided not to get married on this particular day. Just remember that we may not always be able to catch an officiant before they leave. The other issue involves Reserved weddings. Keep in mind that you only have 1 hour in the space and when that time is up, you will often be asked to leave (yes even if your wedding celebration is still going on). This is because they may have another wedding scheduled right after yours. They often have to reconfigure the chairs.

  2. If you plan on bringing lots of guests ask them to wait by the stairs (see note below). This is preferable to having them all follow you to check-in at the County Clerk's office. We definitely notice a rise in the stress level of our brides and grooms when they have to deal with everyone in that small space outside of the clerk's office. The noise level can be crazy and if things are running behind, it just makes the whole process more complicated. Just bring your witness and your wedding photographer. There will be plenty of time for your guests to join you and watch your ceremony. It's also important to educate your guests in advance. Let them know that they won't be missing anything by not following you both to the ceremony check-in. Following this advice also makes it better for other brides and groom checking in by cutting down the crowds in this small space!

    Note: Effective May of 2019, the County Clerk will no longer allow more than 6 guests at your ceremony. This rule is not enforced evenly, but the fact is that your guests may be asked to step back from the ceremony. In addition, wedding photographers are no longer allowed in the County Clerk's office. They have even limited the amount of witnesses to only one. Even if you have 2, they prefer to just have one witness go back to the County Clerk's office to sign the marriage license. You might be able to request an exception to this rule for sentimental reasons, like a grandparent witnessing, etc.

  3. Be sure to bring water bottles, protein bars or other snacks. City Hall civil ceremonies often run late, especially in the afternoon. Conditions in the building can often be hot with a lack of air circulation so it is important to keep hydrated. Protein bars or some sort of snack food is also advised for similar reasons. Assuming you are going to hire a professional San Francisco city hall wedding photographer, it's also a good idea to bring some comfortable walking shoes. This will help with all of the walking you will be doing to each photo location within the building. Most city hall wedding photographers will give you plenty of time to change back into your dress shoes (we certainly do!) Other items to bring to any courthouse wedding include safety pins, tape, and a sewing kit and a friend to help out. Even Band-Aids can be useful in case of injury from the safety pins!

  4. The best days to have your civil ceremony are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Fridays are by far the busiest days followed closely by Thursday. 9:00 am ceremony times are usually not too crowded and we also like the later times. After 4 pm, people start to slowly clear out of City Hall, but there is a slight risk of tour groups and large events. Overall we still like the late times best! If you book a 3:30 ceremony and it runs typically late, you wont be getting married until closer to 4:00 pm. By the time we are ready to take your photos, most of the tourists will have cleared out of San Francisco City Hall! This will make your whole matrimonial experience more enjoyable and less stressful. Just beware of special events that occasionally shut down portions of the building in the late afternoon. You will still be able to get married, but photography options might be limited. We still know the best places to take you and will obtain beautiful pictures under any circumstances. Plus these events are very rare.

  5. To really experience this famous city, consider booking one of our SF Tour Packages. This will allow you and your new spouse the opportunity to see some of San Francisco's most famous sites. Our packages are affordable and we provide the transportation! We know our way around the city and are happy to provide you with a quasi guided tour! We are not experts, but have learned quite a bit over the past 10 years. All of this while having your wedding photos taken in the locations of your choice. If you prefer to drive yourself, that works too.

  6. Brides, if possible bring a nice bouquet to your SF City Hall wedding. Flowers provide a nice splash of color to the background and will enhance your wedding pictures. It also gives you something to do with your hands! City Hall is beautiful but could use a little more color! Lots of grays and whites in the background, so it is nice to break it up with color. Red and pinks work nicely. If you are worried about having to carry the bouquet in all of the photos, we can also set it on the floor sometimes. It just provides a nice accent to your San Francisco city hall wedding pictures. Please check out our Blog Post on the some of the best Florists for SF City hall weddings.

  7. Allow extra time after your SF City Hall Ceremony. If you plan on doing a luncheon or small reception after your San Francisco city hall wedding, make sure you allow plenty of cushion time after whatever time you plan on being done. The County Clerk can occasionally run up to 30 minutes late for your ceremony. This will throw your entire schedule off for the day, so plan accordingly and keep the timing loose. The last thing you want on your wedding day is to feel stressed due to timing. You will feel a lot more relaxed if you don't have to be thinking about getting somewhere at a certain time. The whole idea of having your marriage at city hall is to avoid these normal traps. Keep your schedule light and enjoy the ride! Planning ahead is the key factor.