San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photographer

How to Get Married at San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco City Hall is an easy place to have your wedding ceremony. Unlike some civil ceremony venues, SF City Hall allows you to set specific appointments for your Ceremony and also for obtaining your marriage license. Many other City Halls across the country ask you to just show up and wait for your ceremony to occur. This is how it is done in New York's City Hall, which may be the second best civil ceremony location in the USA. We have it great here, no waiting! So let's look at a step-by-step guide on how to get married at San Francisco city hall. Planning a City Hall wedding? Check out our SF city hall wedding photography.

Introduction photo of Guide to City Hall Weddings

Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Married at SF City Hall in 2022

Step 1: How to Obtain your Marriage License at SF City Hall. If you have not already obtained your marriage license, you can do it at San Francisco City Hall up to 90 days before your wedding date. The City Hall website has a convenient and easy way to set up this appointment. We personally recommend obtaining your marriage license at least the day before the wedding, but you can actually do it on the same day if it's more convenient. You can set your appointment by clicking here. You can also obtain your Marriage license at any County Clerk's office in California. The license is valid to use for up to 3 months after it's issuance. For more detailed information on California Marriage Licenses click the link provided. Only California marriage licenses will be accepted at city hall and can be obtained at County Clerk offices throughout the state. The San Francisco County Clerk allows you to book your marriage license appointment only 30 minutes before your ceremony. If you prefer to do both appointments on the same day, we suggest at least an hour between the 2 just to make things less rushed.


Step 2: How to Book your wedding at SF City Hall. This same link from Step 1 will also allow you to set up your marriage commitment ceremony for the time of your choice. Appointments are available from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm on week days. Once you have set up both of these appointments and pay your fees, you are ready to go! It is advised that for popular dates, you are ready to make the reservation at midnight on the 90th day before the day you want. Wedding dates with numbers of significance seem to go the fastest as do Fridays. You may be asking yourself, what are some of the significant numbers we are talking about? One example would be a recent date - 02/22/22. That is the type of date combination that people seem to like, but there are many more! I suggest you look up potential dates in advance and then check online to see what is available. It will quickly become obvious which dates are more and less popular. In almost all cases, it has been reported that brides and grooms who logon to the city hall website 90 days before their wedding at midnight are able to obtain their desired date. NOTE: Recently, city hall has been booking up very quickly each month, partially due to the fact that they now offer less ceremony slots. You may want to use the above advice for booking any and all city hall dates.

Amazing long veil displayed on the Grand Staircase in San Francisco


Step 3: Make sure you have Current Identification. On the day you set your marriage license appointment, be sure to allow plenty of time for parking and the commute to San Francisco City Hall. You also need a little extra time to get through security. You will need your current ID's in order to obtain your marriage license. A U.S. Passport will work also, but make sure it is unexpired. Only Current Identification will do! There is no exception to this policy that we have seen. We have been involved with marriages that were not allowed to occur on their selected day due to documentation issues. This is one of the reasons we recommend obtaining your marriage license the day before your city hall civil ceremony. It may give you time to fix any documentation problems before the actual wedding day.

Step 4: Check in for your Ceremony. It's the day of your wedding and you have smartly given yourselves plenty of time to arrive, get through security, and park at City Hall. Your next step is the "ceremony check-in". Depending upon who you talk to at the County Clerk's office, your check-in time is either 5 or 10 minutes before your actual ceremony. Bring your current Identification with you and head to the Clerk's Office (room 168) at City Hall. It's on the 1st floor and relatively easy to find. If you enter through the main doors, veer to the right of the Grand Staircase and keep walking to the right. Follow the signs provided. Once you check-in you will receive your ceremony number and will head out to the hallway to wait for your number to be called. Make sure your witness is with you so they can sign the license in a little bit. This is where you will discover that your marriage ceremony isn't actually going to take place at the time you booked! Most weddings occur approximately 15 minutes after you check-in. All you need is your witness and paperwork. The County Clerk asks that you not bring your entire family and friends with you to check-in. Recently they have also requested that only 1 witness come back in the office to sign. If you bring 2 witnesses, one will politely be asked to leave. Also, us wedding photographers are no longer allowed to accompany you for the signing. These are most likely Covid-19 related precautions.

Step 5: Have your Witness sign your Marriage License. When your number is finally called, you bring your witness into the County Clerk's office and meet with your Deputy Marriage Commissioner (wedding officiant). At this time, you will be asked some questions regarding preferences for your ceremony including location and ring exchange. They will also want to know what you would like to be called during your nuptials (first name, nickname, etc.) The only ceremony location choices normally offered are the "private room" and the Rotunda area. Most people choose the beautiful Rotunda and not the tiny room. Once the meeting with the officiant is complete, we all walk up to the Rotunda at San Francisco City Hall to get married! Remember that City Hall restricts your guest list to no more than 6 people. This is mostly enforced now, but it largely depends upon your Marriage Commissioner. Circumstances that day can also have an impact on enforcement of the 6 guest rule.

Bride placing ring on Groom during city hall marriage ceremony


Step 6: Ceremony Location at SF City Hall, can you choose? Depending upon how busy it is at city hall, you may be able to request an alternative location instead of the Rotunda. I have found that if you approach your officiant in a sincere and polite way and provide them with a logical explanation as to why you would prefer a different location, you might be rewarded! Don't just say that you want the Mayors Balcony because you have heard it is pretty! At San Francisco City Hall the Mayor's Balcony and the 4th Floor North Gallery are both fantastic alternative locations for your wedding ceremony. It doesn't hurt to ask! If it is the Christmas season you can ask to NOT be married by the tree if that type of thing bothers you or doesn't work with your religious or cultural beliefs. The officiant will be more than willing to work with your own preferences and desires. Christmas is a good time to try the Mayor's Balcony if your officiant agrees. Of course during the Christmas season, the tree is still visible in the background so we will need to try a different angle if you want to avoid it showing up in your pictures.

Step 7: Wedding Ceremony. Once the location of the ceremony is settled on, it is time to start. In most cases, there are 2 weddings every 30 minutes. If your wedding is not the first of the 2, City Hall requests that you wait down the small staircase just below the center Rotunda area. This is out of respect for the other weddings occurring. This is especially important if you have brought a large group with you. Please remember the restriction of 6 guests, some officiants wont allow your ceremony to start if you have that many people standing by. Your professional city hall wedding photographer will help point you in the right direction as well.

Step 8: Kiss, you are Married! The wedding ceremony typically takes only about 4 minutes to complete. Some officiants add a few little personalized comments, but in general, you will be married in less than 5 minutes. After the wedding, you might want to take a posed photograph with the officiant, but this is not required. Keep in mind that a select few Marriage Commissioners would prefer to not have their photo taken with each couple, but you can ask. If your ceremony happened to be the first ceremony of the half hour, it's a nice idea to move out of the area to allow the next wedding to occur with a little bit of privacy. We will help direct you where to go next.

Bride and Groom siting in 3rd Floor window San Francisco city hall


Step 9: Time for Wedding Pictures! Most wedding photographers will want to do your family and friend photos right after the ceremony. This is the traditional way of photographing a wedding. You have everyone right there and it's certainly more convenient for your guests to not have to wait around for the bride and groom photography to be completed. We always go right into the family shots, complete them, and then excuse the family members so we can take the couple around the building for a beautiful San Francisco City Hall photo tour. If you would like more photos with your guests at other locations, this is the time to tell us. We are very willing to take your guests to a few other locations within the building, but please remember that the more time spend on family pictures the less time for the 2 of you! However, It's still a personal choice and we will capture as many family photos as you want.

Step 10: Your city hall photo tour will usually last about 40 minutes depending upon the package you chose. We encourage our couples to communicate their desires and preferences with regard to their wedding photography session. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended for the bride when strolling around San Francisco city hall. We will allow plenty of time to change shoes before each photo location. We strongly prefer that this session be completed without all of your guests in tow. It just becomes distracting and we spend a considerable amount of time moving them out of the way. In some cases, guests have been known to shout criticism in the direction of the couple regarding their smiles or other issues. As you can imagine, this does not help the photography session in any way! The best wedding photography is conducted with the couple feeling free and uninhibited.

Wedding Ceremony Check-in photo at San Francisco City Hall

City Hall wedding ceremony check-in with receptionist

San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photographer - Meeting with Officiant

Meeting with your Wedding Officiant in the County Clerk's Office

Your City Hall Wedding Photographer is here to help!

Now that I have put together this long step-by-step guide on how to getting married at San Francisco City Hall, I want to make sure that you understand that we are here to help! We feel that our role goes well beyond just taking pictures of the process, ceremony and doing formal photos. We want to guide you through your whole day and make it as easy as possible for you. Rather than worrying about all the steps above, just let us be your guide. We really enjoy helping our couples and there is an added benefit of creating a more relaxed atmosphere which of course leads to better final images! Our packages are affordable and easy to understand. We want to provide you with the best city hall wedding photography in the industry! We hope that you have enjoyed this complete guide to getting married at San Francisco city hall. It has been newly updated for 2022 and contains some of the latest changes.

How To Learn More

We have provided you with instructions on how to book your San Francisco city hall Marriage and also how to actually get through the process. However, there is so much more to making your Civil Ceremony perfect. The steps above provide you with a great blueprint to take you through the entire process. However, sometimes it is the little things that make your wedding day go perfect. SF City Hall Wedding Photography by Michael offers ALL of it's clients (and non-clients) free Courthouse wedding consultation as a community service. There is absolutely no fee for our service and it is open to anyone who contacts us. You do not have to book us to be your wedding photographer to receive our wedding planning services. We are happy to answer any questions about how to make your wedding day at city hall go smoothly. In addition, we can offer you referrals to many of the common services available to brides and grooms getting married in this historic building. This includes: wedding officiants, videographers, musicians (reserved ceremonies only), Coordinators and even wedding photographers. Yes, we will be happy to provide you with our advice on the best San Francisco city hall wedding photographers for you. We have worked with the vast majority of popular photographers and have seen their work. We might even be able to offer some of our comments about each photographer's style. We happily recommend many of them even if we are available and you are looking for a different style. To utilize this service we ask that you email us with your questions and comments. We spend a lot of time down at the courthouse photographing weddings and so it is much more efficient for us to answer your emails in the evening when we are home. We hope you have found this guide to getting married at SF City Hall to be helpful.

Family Photos at San Francisco city hall after the ceremony

Family Photos after the wedding ceremony at SF City Hall

Return to City Hall Wedding Photography Home Page if you also want to book a wedding photographer.