How to Elope in San Francisco

For many, planning a wedding is an endeavor that they do not wish to take on. City Hall elopements, both locally and as a tourist, have become a popular option for those looking for a low key solution to their marital vows.

A beautiful wedding does not need to be a big wedding. Intimate weddings are appealing, with lower costs and less people to manage. Whether planning your first wedding or joining families with a second marriage, a City Hall elopement can create beautiful memories without breaking the bank.

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Why Elope?

There is no limit to the reasons why a couple might elope, but the common ones include:

  • Lower cost
  • Smaller wedding
  • Short engagement
  • Second marriage
  • Because you want to

With stunning architecture and beautiful backdrops for photos, San Francisco City Hall has become a popular destination for weddings.

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We’ve talked with Marge Maghoney, San Francisco based wedding photographer, about her tips for fall weddings in the iconic San Francisco City Hall. Marge has photographed over 250 weddings and has focused her business on specifically providing wedding photography for couples seeking elopements.

Set the Date in Advance

Even when you are eloping, you still need time to plan ahead. San Francisco City Hall allows you to book a date three months in advance. You do not need to be a city resident to reserve a time slot.

Registering for a date requires paying for a license and ceremony upfront. Expect to spend around $200 for both. With this popular location, time slots fill quickly, and while the city can accommodate up to 36 couples per day you don’t want to miss your desired wedding date by waiting too long to reserve a spot.

Cull the Guest List

Most city hall weddings have a limit to the number of guests you can include at your ceremony. San Francisco officially allows up to six guests per ceremony, but parties of up to 30 have been seen as long as they do not disrupt others sharing in the celebration.

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Families are invited to circle the wedded couple as they exchange vows. For those looking for a more traditional set-up, the San Francisco Events Office can accommodate a seated ceremony.

Arrive Early

The city is very strict about arrival times and missing your scheduled time may mean you can not have the wedding date you intended.

Bring your ID’s, marriage license, rings and witnesses [not required] with you. Upon check-in, the commissioner will show a picture of the main lobby and allow you to select where you want to take your vows.

The most popular location is the rotunda at the top of the stairway. Most couples choose to marry in the rotunda for the beautiful photo opportunities, but more private areas are available upon request.


After the ceremony you’ll have plenty of time to explore the area and find the best location for photos. If working with a local San Francisco photographer they will most likely be able to help you find the best sights.

Once photos are through, join your family and friends for a celebration on the town! Some elopement couples enjoy a low key dinner together while others participate in a more traditional reception. Let your personality drive the rest of the day and you’ll be sure to have memories that last a lifetime.

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Other popular elopement locations

Las Vegas
Hit big and have Elvis marry you at a little white chapel on the Las Vegas Strip.

One-stop-shop resort weddings take care of all the details, allowing you to relax and celebrate on the beach.

Niagara Falls
Boarding in both the US and Canada, you can get married and visit another country in the same day!

Central Park
If your ceremony includes less than 20 guests no permit is required to marry in the heart of New York City.

Looking for more wedding advice? Check out our post on what to do with your wedding dress after the wedding.

Photo credits: Marge Maghoney

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