5 Reasons To Have A San Francisco City Hall Wedding

Considering eloping? Will and I bounced around different ideas, but ultimately eloping was absolutely perfect for us. Well, if you can still call it eloping I suppose (we cheated a little, oops!). For us it wasn’t quite as spontaneous or edgy as it sounds, we planned it out a bit and even had our immediate family there with us. Continue reading to see how you can squeeze some traditional elements into your elopement!

1: Short & Sweet

The actual ceremony was short and sweet. Will and I lean more toward the ‘let’s get to the point’ side of things, so this was perfect for us. Contrary to what you might think though, it did not feel scripted, rushed, or robotic. It was simple, but heartfelt. We chose to write our own vows, adding a personal touch to the ceremony and I’m so glad we did! Our magistrate was wonderful and allowed us time to say them. Afterward, our photographer told us this was unusual. So if you’re looking to do the same thing, I’d suggest a couple things for your best chance at it:

  • First, ask your magistrate ahead of time.
    • We asked while signing our marriage license (one of the first steps you’ll take during the whole process), this way you won’t bombard them with it on the spot.
  • Second, you’ll raise your chances of including any personal touches if you go on a Monday (their slowest day).
    • Each wedding has a specific time allotment, and they truly do their best to stick to it. Although the ceremonies are held in open, public areas, you’re only technically allowed 6 guests, we had 11 attend. There’s a fine line here, so I recommend your guests be respectful and unobtrusive. I was also allowed to have my father walk me into the small rotunda area where we had our ceremony and take a moment to hand me off and hug Will.
  • Lastly, keep it brief.
    • They’re giving you the courtesy of more time, try not to take advantage!

2: All Eyes Are NOT On You

If you truly love being the center of attention, let’s be real, this is probably not the wedding for you. However, I found it so refreshing that I was not the only bride! I was one of at least a dozen brides/grooms walking around City Hall. My little introverted-self felt like I could fully enjoy every moment this way. Don’t get me wrong, you’re still a radiant bride and most likely dressed in white and looking absolutely beautiful, so people will stare. However, this really cut the pressure down for me. Plus, there’s something so fun about having multiple weddings happening at once. It’s everyone’s ‘best day ever’, so naturally the entire place is filled to the brim with love. It really tugs on your heartstrings.

3: Save That Moolah

Everyone always says it, ‘I wish we’d saved more for the honeymoon’. Hey, why not do just that?! My best advice is to choose a couple areas that matter most to you and use the money there. Break it down, what’s most important to you? It’s really that simple, I promise! We kept things pretty low key allowing us to spend a little more in certain areas, like our honeymoon for example (we went to Hawaii). We also spent a little more on sleeping accommodations. Will and I are both from the midwest, and our family had to travel to the west coast. It was important to us to make the most of our time together celebrating and uniting our two families. We rented a huge house in Russian Hill and made a weekend out of it. We had the best time! Since we limited our guests to just our immediate family (11 total) and thankfully we all get along, this worked really well. We also cut corners by relying on the charm of the city, and choosing a reception/dinner venue (Tosca) within our style, so decorations were not needed. I did my own hair and makeup (with help from my mom, thanks mom!), and didn’t splurge on my dress or jewelry. Best of all though, you won’t start your marriage together with racked up wedding debt.

4: Skip The Stress of Planning

After hearing so many horror stories, and seeing first hand some of my friends turn into zombie brides (missing their brains!), haha, I wasn’t looking forward to wedding planning. Will and I talked about other options at first, but even in the early phases of planning we quickly realized for us it wasn’t worth it. A City Hall wedding eliminates worries of not getting the wedding date you picked, or waiting a year for venue availability. Stress free wedding with everything that mattered most to us… I call that a win-win!

5: Gorgeous Venue

If you’re thinking of a dingy little courthouse, think again. San Francisco City Hall is be-A-utiful! Everywhere you look there’s another breathtaking detail. The intricate window panes, elegant staircases, opulent marble floors… it oozes sophistication and makes for some seriously stunning photographs.


Speaking of photographs, don’t feel like you have to miss out on an awesome photographer because you chose to have a City Hall wedding. A great photographer is essential on your big day. We got a little frustrated at first when searching for available photographers in the SF area. In our experience, not as many photographers are willing to do City Hall weddings, or if they are, they’ll charge you for more time than you’ll need. However, I’m so glad we didn’t give up or decide to budge on quality. After some digging we hit the jackpot and found the sweetest photographer Kayla F Photography. She was a total gem to work with from our first email, on the day of, to the last email sent. Another perk, she was knowledgeable about SF City Hall and was able to guide us through the process, making it all easy breezy! We would hire her again in a flash (see what I did there?)! All photographs included in this post were taken by Kayla. You can also see more images from our big day in her blogpost.


There are a several other traditional elements that we added to help make our wedding feel extra special. You certainly don’t have to skip out on all of it for a City Hall wedding!

  • Engagement photos!
    • We chose to get them done even though we’d be getting married in two short months. We are big on capturing the moments, so this was important. It’s nice to have professional photos of you as a couple that are a little more casual, not just in your wedding gown/suit.
  • We mailed out formal invitations.
    • Everyone attending already knew they were invited, but it’s nice to have another physical keepsake from your big day (also gives the parents/grandparents something to show off!). Plus, as a designer, I certainly didn’t want to miss out on designing my own wedding invitation suite. 
  • Rehearsal dinner.
    • Okay, so there’s no rehearsal per say, but it’s still great to get everyone together for one last meal before the big day. Helps build the excitement and gives guests another chance to chat and have a glass of wine!
  • Something ONB&B, cake & flowers.
    • I had my something old, new, borrowed and blue that made getting ready even more memorable. We chose to have cake at our reception dinner, giving us a chance to try out some cakes together ahead of time (yum). We also had a boutonniere and bouquet for the ceremony, plus some extra flowers to add into my hair and to decorate the cake.

If you’re on the fence of what type of wedding to have, I hope this was helpful in your decision. My husband and I have zero regrets and are still so happy looking back on everything about our big day. With so many fun and creative wedding options these days, you just have to choose what’s right for you and yours!

Best wishes,




Ceremony Venue: San Francisco City Hall | Photographer: Kayla F Photography | Bouquet & Boutioneer: Amspersand SF | Dress: Sawyer Gown by BHLDN | Jacket: Zara | Hair & Makeup: Bride | Reception Venue: Tosca