How to Get Married in San Francisco: A Complete Guide

Planning a wedding in the Bay Area? From best venues to local requirements, here’s everything you need to know about getting married in San Francisco.

married couple taking wedding photo on San Francisco bay coast
Photo by Zola

Are you planning to tie the knot in San Francisco? You’re in the right place. The San Francisco Bay area, popularly called the ‘Bay Area,’ is a vibrant metropolitan center long known for its fine wine, beautiful beach fronts, and cultural melting pot.

Renowned festivals and praiseworthy gastronomy are two of many perks to hosting a Bay Area wedding. As home to one of the largest pride parades in the nation, the LGBTQIA community will find the city very welcoming.

Whether you’re envisioning a large wedding event or an adventurous elopement, it’s important to have all the logistics in place regarding venues, accommodation, and travel guidelines. From COVID-19 updates to marriage license requirements, our San Francisco wedding guide has tips and inspiration to help plan your special day.

Read the complete guide or use our jump-to links below:

Places to Get Married in San Francisco

From wine country (hello Napa!) to luxurious estates, there are plenty of Bay Area wedding venues to suit your style and tastes. With so many stunning and versatile options, it’s hard to choose!

To help, our list of prescreened wedding venues in San Francisco has dozens of locations in which you can filter by price, availability, type, capacity, and setting. Here are some popular venues throughout the city consider:

  • Vineyards and wineries: Enjoy the beauty and ambiance of a winery wedding. With the perfect balance of industrial rustic and chic, most wineries provide event coordination services, quality food, and (of course) excellent wine.
  • Museums and galleries: When it comes to art and creative expression, San Francisco does not disappoint. From science exhibits to cultural arts, saying “I Do” in one of its magnificent museums is as cool as it sounds.
  • Waterfront settings: Host a memorable seaside celebration at one of the city’s many coastal venues. Choose from plenty of restaurants, resorts, and cottages where you and your partner can enjoy a lovely beach backdrop for both the ceremony and wedding photos.
  • Parks and gardens: The Bay Area is surprisingly full of enchanting and colorful gardens to host your wedding. The gorgeous natural scenery and green ambiance can be the peace you need away from the bustling city. Book from golf courses, country clubs, farms, and more!

San Francisco City Hall Wedding

san francisco city hall

You can skip the waiting process and get married right away at the San Francisco City Hall! Affectionately known as the People’s Palace, the City Hall is a historic landmark and beloved venue in San Francisco. From its elegant embellishments to ravishing architectural design, this building is the perfect backdrop for weddings and events.

To have a civil marriage ceremony at City Hall, you must book an online appointment and pay the $93 fee in advance. Ceremonies can have up to six guests (including the photographer).

Due to COVID-19 regulations, the San Francisco City Hall is currently closed to the public. Reservations for ceremonies and other events are set to resume after the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

How to Obtain a San Francisco Wedding License

COVID-19 Update: San Francisco’s Office County Clerk is currently closed to the public. Marriage services, including the issuance of marriage licenses and conduction of ceremonies, are available through video conferencing.

To obtain a wedding license in California, you and your partner need to do the following:

  • Schedule an appointment: Make a reservation online with the County Clerk for a video conference. Couples must be unmarried and at least 18 years of age.
  • Pay the fee: The cost of a marriage license issuance is $112. For both the issuance and a civil ceremony, the fee is $205.
  • Download necessary software: For the video conference, you will need Microsoft Teams or a computer with an up-to-date browser and audio-visual capabilities.
  • Fill out the application: The marriage license application is available online to download and complete.
  • Prepare and send paperwork: Couples must email their contact information, marriage license application, and copies of valid legal identification (front and back) to marryme@sfgov.org at least 3 business days before the appointment. The email subject line should say your date and time of appointment with both of your names. If either party is divorced, include the certified copy of divorce or annulment.
  • Appear together during the appointment: Both parties must be physically present together and in the state of California during the video conference (this also applies when filing a marriage license application in-person). During the meeting, couples will need to show their valid I.D.s that were submitted. If also having a civil ceremony during the appointment, you will need a virtual witness who is also physically in California.

Since marriage licenses are valid for 90 days after issuance in California, you and your partner will need to get married within that time frame. You can visit the official county clerk website for additional marriage FAQs and forms.

Do I Need a California Marriage License?

Yes. To get legally married in San Francisco or any other city in the State of California, you must have a California Marriage License.

Where to Get Your Marriage License

During the COVID-19 pandemic, marriage license issuance is only available through video conference appointments with the county clerk.

Can I Get Married the Same Day in San Francisco?

Yes. In the State of California, couples can have their wedding ceremony the same day they obtain their marriage license. Couples can also schedule to have a civil ceremony during the marriage license issuance via video conferencing.

San Francisco Wedding Trends

San Francisco Wedding Trends

The creative culture of San Francisco is without parallel. The city is home to numerous art institutions, musical productions, and vibrant murals that exude ingenuity for a Bay Area wedding. With this in mind, bold brights and nature-inspired palettes are two of many wedding colors and trends this year to consider.

Average Cost of a Wedding in San Francisco

As a busy metropolitan hub, getting married in the Bay Area can be much more costly than in a rural area. With an average wedding cost of $39,300, San Francisco is about $6,000 more expensive than the national average. Guestlist size, location, season, and style also play a major role in wedding costs. View the chart below for a helpful breakdown of costs:

Average Wedding Costs in San Francisco

If a San Francisco wedding is a bit more than you budgeted for, consider an intimate, small ceremony to help cut costs. For additional tips, check out our guide on how to plan a wedding on a budget.

Best Times of Year for Weddings in San Francisco

Seasons play an important role in wedding planning, including the venue choice and wedding style. With three surrounding bodies of water, San Francisco has a unique, cooler climate than other cities in California. The weather here is mild year-round with temperatures ranging mid-40s to low 70s. Here are factors to consider for each season.

Spring: April, May

While nice and sunny, temperatures are generally in the mid-60s and 50s. The springtime is beautiful, yet cool and windy. This is the best time to visit San Francisco, since tourism is low during this season and you can find good travel and lodging deals.

Summer: June, July, August The Bay Area is gorgeous this time of year, but the weather is very unpredictable. You may experience a warm, sunning morning with a chilly and foggy afternoon. Temperatures fluctuate a lot, from the mid-50s to the 70s. This is also peak travel season when you can expect large tourist crowds and plenty of festivals.

Fall: September, October

With daily temperatures around 70℉ and mid-50s at night, the fall season is warm and sunny in San Francisco. It’s a great time to enjoy an outdoor wedding and the city’s many walking tours. Be sure to pack a light sweater or jacket for the evening breeze. Early fall is the perfect time to explore the city when hotel rates are low and the kids are back in school.

Winter: November through March This is the rainiest season of San Francisco with chilly, damp weather. Light rain lasts most of the day with temperatures ranging from 50℉ – 60℉. Fortunately, the city doesn’t experience freezing temperatures in the winter. This season has the least tourism, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

A Seasonal Guide to San Francisco Weddings

Busiest Weeks in San Francisco

  • Chinese New Year Celebration (February)
  • St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival (March)
  • Bay to Breakers (May)
  • San Francisco Film Festival (April)
  • San Francisco Pride Parade (June)
  • The San Francisco Marathon (July)
  • Castro Street Fair (October)
  • SantaCon (December)

San Francisco Weddings and COVID-19

Currently, San Francisco is slowly reopening to visitors. Many businesses are operating and serving at limited capacity. The Bay Area is abiding by all social distancing guidelines (facial masks, 6-feet physical distance, etc.) and requires visitors to do the same. Regarding wedding venues, it is best to check the capacity limits in advance before booking. For more information, visit the official City and County of San Francisco website.

Real San Francisco Weddings

Looking for ceremony ideas? Check out our galleries of real San Francisco weddings, where you can use filters to find inspiration by season, trending styles, and location.

Below are a few of our favorites.

Urban SF Wedding Inspiration Romantic Urban Wedding

SF City Hall Wedding Inspiration City Hall Spring Elopement

Same-sex Wedding Inspiration in SF Gorgeous Fall Wedding

Once you have some ideas for your ceremony, you can create a vision board to help conceptualize your wedding style and make it a reality!

Best Spots for Wedding Photos in San Francisco

Best Spots for Wedding Photos in SF From gorgeous ocean views to exquisite architecture, San Francisco boasts plenty of wedding photo ops. You can read your wedding vows in some of the most charming places throughout the San Francisco Bay area:

Is one of your wedding guests planning to propose to their significant other? Have them take a look at these top places to propose in San Francisco while they’re here!

LGBTQIA Marriages in San Francisco

LGBTQIA Marriage in San Francisco

San Francisco is called the LGBTQ capital of the world. From its annual San Francisco Pride Parade in June to its Castro Street Fair in October, locals often say that Pride is a year-round state of mind. You will find inclusivity in every neighborhood throughout the city. The Castro District, for example, is a thriving LGBTQ+ community in the Bay Area that boasts rainbow banners from the streetlights to honor the history and struggle for equality.

You can check out several organizations and monuments throughout the area, including the Rainbow Honor Walk and Pink Triangle Memorial, to learn about the city’s LGBTQ+ history. Marriage equality in California became legal in 2013, two years before its legalization nationwide.

How to Find Local San Francisco Vendors

Find wedding vendors throughout the San Francisco Bay area! Knock some to-dos off your wedding planning list by using our extensive list of pre-screened vendors. Here, you can filter options by price, venue style, wedding theme, and more.

San Francisco Wedding Guest Guide

San Francisco Wedding Guest Guide

Make sure your out-of-town guests make their travel and accommodation plans in advance! Here are some of the best neighborhoods to stay in and popular attractions to visit while in the Bay Area.

How to Get to San Francisco

Whether you’re traveling from out-of-state or another side of California, there are plenty of ways to enter the San Francisco Bay area.

Arriving by Plane: You will most likely fly on United Airlines since it is the leading carrier into San Francisco International Airport. The Bay Area has the following four airports:

Arriving by Train: The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has fast, electric trains that help visitors get from SFO to San Francisco without traffic. A roundtrip fare from the SFO airport to downtown San Francisco will cost $19.30.

Arriving by Bus: The San Mateo County Transit Agency (SamTrans) runs public buses from SFO to downtown San Francisco with the adult fare for $2-$5 one-way.

Arriving by Car: Planning to drive? You can take the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), also known as Highway 1, for a nice scenic route. Once in town, you can take advantage of apps like ParkMobile to find parking.

Although a large and busy city, you’ll discover it’s easy to get around. The Bay Area has several additional transportations available, including its classic cable cars, ride-sharing, taxis, and the PresidioGo Shuttle.

Best Neighborhoods for Out-of-Town Guests

Best Neighborhoods for Guests in San Francisco Each neighborhood in San Francisco has its own culture and charm. From shopping centers to art districts, it’s hard to choose just one! Check out a few of these popular neighborhoods in the Bay Area.

Mission District: Home to dozens of boutiques, shops, and restaurants, this neighborhood is a great pedestrian area. You can also see beautiful outdoor murals in the area and relax in Dolores Park, a green space perfect for picnics.

Union Square: Need some retail therapy? This town has plenty of shopping spots, restaurants, and art galleries. You’ll also find a nice strip of fine hotels here, including The Grand Hyatt and Westin St. Francis Hotel.

Haight-Ashbury: Take a walk along this eclectic street to find a colorful row of Victorian houses and boutiques. From tattoo parlors to consignment shops, the energetic vibe of Haight-Ashbury makes shopping all the more fun.

North Beach: While there’s no actual beach here, visitors enjoy the delicious cuisine of the strong Italian-American community here. You can also visit Grant Ave., a strip lined with bars and music clubs.

Financial District: Also known as the Embarcadero, this waterfront town offers breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay. You can visit Pier 15, a beloved destination for families, and the Ferry Building Marketplace, a ‘foodie haven’ full of wine bars, restaurants, and farmers’ markets.

10 Fun Things to Do in San Francisco

Fun Things to Do in San Francisco There’s more than meets the eye with this eclectic city. With nearly 26 million visitors every year, the San Francisco Bay area has tons of rich history, cuisine, and natural beauty to explore. Here are 10 fun things to do and see while in San Francisco.

  1. Join a City Guides Walking Tour: From the flower power movement in the 1960s to the birth of Silicon Valley, the hills of San Francisco have plenty of stories to tell. A City Guides Walking Tour is a great way to learn about the city’s history, neighborhoods, and diverse culture.
  2. Visit a museum: Are you a fan of history, art, or science? San Francisco has dozens of must-see museums, including the California Academy of Sciences, Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD), and The Walt Disney Family Museum.
  3. Attend a music festival: Jam out one of San Francisco’s many music festivals. The city is a great place to catch live shows, especially jazz and blues performances, which reigned here in the 1950s and ‘60s.
  4. Taste Bay Area cuisine: If you’re a foodie, come experience some of San Francisco’s amazing dishes! Visit the Boudin Bakery & Cafe to order the city’s beloved sourdough bread or grab local ice cream at the world-famous Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop.
  5. Go on a bar crawl: San Francisco has some of America’s most awarded brewmasters and mixologists. Check out amazing craft brews, cocktails, and beers at several breweries throughout the Bay Area, including Martuni’s and Bartlett Hall.
  6. Spend a day at Pier 39: From arcades and restaurants to comedians and magicians, the Pier is a great place for families to spend the day. Here, you’ll also see the resident sea lions.
  7. Catch a Ride on a cable car: For just $8, you can take a ride on these iconic cable cars around the city. You can also stop at the Cable Car Museum to learn about their history and see antique cable cars on display.
  8. Hike the Muir Woods: This National Monument is great for an out-of-town, kid-friendly excursion. The Muir Woods are known for their redwood trees and cooling temperatures from the Pacific coast, perfect for walking the trails.
  9. Take a stroll through Golden Gate Park: This 1,000-acre park has over 7,000 kinds of plants to see and explore. You can also check out museums inside the park, including the California Academy of Sciences and San Francisco Botanical Gardens. Despite the name, the Golden Gate Bridge isn’t near this park.
  10. Visit Wine Country: About an hour and 45 minutes outside of San Francisco, wine country could make a great day trip for your wedding guests! From Napa Valley to Sonoma County, the most celebrated vineyards in the world are home to culinary scenes, shopping spots, and outdoor adventure. There are a few experiences here, such as tickets for a Sonoma Food and Wine Tour, that couples can add to their wedding registries.

With this complete guide to San Francisco weddings, you can plan your wedding in confidence. From wedding SVG ideas to customized invites, Zola has everything you need to prepare for your special day.

Sources: SF County Clerk | SF Official Website | San Francisco Travel Association