You probably already know this, but getting married at San Francisco’s City Hall is quite unique and special. For something that’s mostly an in and out affair, you get to do it in one of the most beautiful buildings. Don’t believe me, I’ve had clients fly in from Sweden, Australia, and China to get married here. One couple even planned a California road trip around getting married in OUR city hall.
The truth about getting married at City Hall
So what is it really like to get married at San Francisco’s City Hall? The first thing you may not know is that a typical ceremony lasts about 3 minutes. Fast is an understatement. I’m not going to dress it up. After you take a number and line up at your appointed time, they give you another number and you line up again when its time to meet your officiant.
At this point, you will sign your marriage license, unless you’ve already secured it beforehand, and you will need a witness (if you don’t have one, I will sign as your witness) for this. Remember to set this appointment 30 minutes prior to your ceremony reservation. This part takes about 3-5 minutes. I’s are dotted, T’s are crossed. You’ll get a “marriage certificate”, but the real thing needs to be purchased 10 days afterwards.
The officiant will give you a time (usually 15-30 minutes after) to meet at one of the common locations where the ceremony will be performed. I believe the Rotunda is the default and recommended spot, but the 4th floor is always a nice and quiet spot to get married as well if the Rotunda is not available.
When it’s time, the officiant will have you and your guests (up to 6) line up in the Rotunda. In 3 minutes, you will have exchanged rings, kissed and be declared married in the State of California. Sounds romantic doesn’t it?
I’ve shot wedding ceremonies that last an hour, ceremonies on a cliff overlooking the waters, and ceremonies with bells and whistles add-on. While the ceremony at City Hall is none of that, I’ve also never failed to see real emotions and joy on the looks of my clients during those 3 minutes. There’s two things that important here. The first is that you will be across from the person you’re marrying and the second is that you’ll be doing it in a beautiful designed Beaux-Arts style building. A place memorable enough to serve as the set for movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Dirty Harry. And then you get to have your wedding portraits done around the rest of the building.
Wedding portraits at City Hall
It’s hard to keep count of how many times I’ve been here and I still enjoy it every time. There are so many different spots across the 4 floors that’s ever changing depending on the time of day and year. The fourth floor is my favorite spot. Surprisingly, it’s almost always empty when I go up to shoot and the photographs almost always turn out differently because of how light pours in through the wall of windows. Below are some of my favorite portraits over the years.
City Hall Packages
My standard City Hall package is 2 hours long. Plenty of time for the ceremony and to get portraits around the building. The package is available for $750. I’ll meet you before you appointment and serve as your witness if you’d like. We will take advantage of the time before and after the ceremony to get some candids and portraits. If you’d like to continue the session with an additional location in the city, I offer an additional hour at $300. Shoot me a message and we can get started.