Where we iron out the who, what, where, when and how
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You’ve got three options here: a private ceremony, a civil ceremony or public ceremony. A private rental is a dedicated time and space for you to have a short ceremony. Often, you’ll be located on the Fourth Floor Gallery or the Second Floor Mayor’s balcony. You can use an officiant of your choice or ask for one from the city.
A Civil Ceremony is a dedicated time and held on the second floor at the top of the stairs where you’ll be assigned an officiant.
A public ceremony is not a reserved space or time. Instead, you will bring your own officiant and we will find a quiet location to get you married.
The cost to hold a civil ceremony at San Francisco City Hall will currently set you back about $200. It’s around $110 for the license (it can be less, as each CA county sets their own price) plus $90 for the ceremony. This includes the officiant. This is just the cost of the licenses and ceremony - if you’d like a private ceremony, then space rental starts at $1,000. Additionally, this doesn't include the cost of add ons like: photography, videography, flowers or hair and make up.
If you chose to go with a civil ceremony, you can expect to check in with the County Clerk before your appointment time. Once you're checked in, they will take you back to the office to fill out a few forms and have your witness sign the marriage license. Photos aren’t allowed in the Clerk’s office, but I am happy to be your witness! After that, your officiant will bring you out to the rotunda. Oftentimes you’ll go up to the second floor at the top of the grand staircase and your ceremony will begin! Civil ceremonies will last anywhere between 4-6 minutes. After, we will head to an open space to capture some family photos and then explore city hall to get you some gorgeous couples portraits.
The biggest factor for booking a private ceremony is how many guests you might have. For Civil Ceremonies, you’re allowed 6 guests or less (including your photographer). This is the biggest factor for wanting a private ceremony, where you have a dedicated space that allows up 100 people.
The second factor is how personal you’d like to get. Civil ceremonies are very short and don’t leave much room for a unique experience. You’ll want to book a private ceremony if you’d like to do your own vows, want music, want choice of location in city hall, and want more privacy.
Lastly, if you’d like privacy - the public and civil ceremony options don't have any room for intimacy. One thing to remember is that City Hall gets really busy. They have multiple weddings every hour. So, if you have a large group or just want a space to yourself, then I’d book a private ceremony.
Currently, no. The majority of civil ceremonies happen in the rotunda or at the top of the grand staircase. If you want control over location, consider a private ceremony where you bring your own officiant.
If you can grab the first time slot of 9AM that is the best time for photos at City Hall. You beat the crowds and you get the best lighting. If you’re unable to get the early morning slot, I recommend grabbings a slot later in the day. If it's Spring and summer you can fo 4:00PM, if it fall and winter, you can grab 3:00PM. Those time slots are still less busy and allow for nice afternoon light.
City Hall is a historic and ornate building, so dressing up is totally okay! I’ve seen everything from full tuxedos and wedding gowns to suits and jumpsuits. I would use your wedding as an excuse to get dolled up! One thing to note, even through San Francisco is notoriously cold, City Hall can get really warm - especially on the fourth floor!
You’ll need to bring your marriage license, unless you are picking it up on your wedding day, and your government-issued ID. If you have rings, don’t forget to bring those either!
Public transportation is always an option, but I encourage you to drive or grab an Uber/Taxi. You’ll be wearing nice outfits and carrying rings, I want you to be as safe as possible going to your wedding. There is an underground parking lot right in front of City Hall that you can park at hourly. Street parking is available, but a lot of it is limited to 45-minutes or an hour.
I’d plan for at least 2 hours. I like to work quickly to navigate the crowds and get you the most creative and beautiful photos. But sometimes we need to wait for certain areas. I would plan for about an hour for your ceremony depending on how fast you are processed and then about an hour of photos. Most of my clients and I work together for about 90 minutes.
Hey! I'm Shannon!
I'm a Bay Area Wedding and Portrait photographer serving clients for the last 6 years. I love documenting the moments worth celebrating. From wedding to days, to building a family, I'm there.
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