Everything about your wedding day must be right, from the friends and family who help you to usher in this milestone to the venue where you take this step. The great news is that one of San Francisco's most beautiful wedding venues is surprisingly affordable. Most people may not think of a city hall as a romantic wedding venue, but the San Francisco City Hall is an exception.
The current city hall in San Francisco was opened in 1915, replacing an earlier building that was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. Known as "The People's Palace," this new city hall was designed and built during the height of the City Beautiful movement. The City Beautiful movement swept the country with its attempt to create civic order through beautification. This stunning structure leans heavily on the Beaux-Arts aesthetic, which started in France in 1830s. It is largely influenced by French neoclassicism while also incorporating both Renaissance and Gothic elements.
Today, when you walk into the San Francisco City Hall, still in operation as a seat of government, you are immediately overcome with the sweeping rotunda which prominently features a grand staircase. The sandstone and marble interior with classic molding and decorative elements create an elegant setting for events-- for which the City Hall is often rented-- while the granite exterior can create a breathtaking backdrop for photos. There are few, if any, bad locations at San Francisco City Hall for creating and capturing memorable moments from your big day.
There are a variety of wedding packages to fit any size and budget. None of these packages, however, includes the $104 license fee. You will have to procure your marriage license independently before the ceremony. For private ceremonies, it is recommended that you provide your own officiant.
- Civil Ceremony- Simple civil ceremonies take place throughout the business day, Monday through Friday from 9am to 3:30pm. They take approximately 10 minutes and cost $83. This is just a basic ceremony where you will need one or two witnesses. And, yes, your photographer can stand as a witness. A judge or marriage commissioner will officiate. Many judges will tell you that after a day of mediating court cases, performing a wedding ceremony is something to which they look forward. Civil ceremonies are generally held at the top of the grand staircase. If there are not any other ceremonies after yours, you might be able to talk the judge into performing the ceremony in another spot like one of the balconies. Be prepared to take photos away from the ceremony spot if the City Hall is busy.
- One-Hour Wedding- This is a package created specifically for the small, private ceremony. For a flat fee of $1000 dollars, your 40 closest friends and family can witness your nuptials on the Mayor's Balcony or 60 guests can join you in the Fourth Floor Gallery, both of which offer a magnificent view of the Rotunda. Ceremonies begin between 9am and 3pm. You can rent chairs for an additional fee.
- Two-Hour Weddings- The two-hour wedding package allows up to 200 of your family and friends to see you exchange your vows on the Grand Staircase in the Rotunda. The $5000 fee includes rental of the space, tables and chairs and basic building services. Two-hour wedding packages are only offered on Saturdays. Ceremonies must begin between 9am and 12pm.
- Evening Weddings- The Evening Wedding Package begins with cocktails in the North Light Court which can accommodate between 300 and 800 people depending on the seating. Stand before your friends and family as you exchange your vows on the Grand Staircase. And then, celebrate with dinner and dancing in the Rotunda. Just remember: the magic ends at midnight, so have guests on their way before coaches turn back into pumpkins.
When planning your special day, you will likely require the services of vendors such as florists and caterers. The City Hall offers a list of preferred vendors from which to choose. Due to the civic nature of the building, many precautions must be taken to ensure safety and security. Vendors on the qualified vendors list have been vetted and are familiar with the venue and it's policies. For that reason, it is recommended that you choose vendors from this list. In some cases, other vendors may be permitted but you should check with the events office before booking.
While the San Francisco City Hall is handicap accessible, it does not offer many of the amenities that you might find at other wedding venues. There is no bridal suite, internet service or on-site accommodations. On the up side, you can get married in a gorgeous historical landmark that would make Cinderella swoon.
When planning your San Francisco area wedding, the San Francisco City Hall is a venue well worth considering. A virtual palace and remnant of the City Beautiful movement, this stunning structure is also still a fully functioning seat of government. Despite that fact, it is possible to get married there no matter what your budget.