Getting married at SF City Hall is always a magical experience, but it’s also a bit like walking through a labyrinth with the goal being to come out on the other side as newlyweds. The whole process of getting the license, checking in and then waiting with two other couples for your turn with the marriage officiant can be confusing at best and overwhelming at worst. Now if you decide to have your wedding between Thanksgiving week and the first week of January, here’s a few things you should know to help you have an effortless experience.

  1. Book your license appointment and separate ceremony appointment now. Or better yet, yesterday. This is the busiest time of the year there, and many days will totally sell out of time slots for weddings. I always suggest making the two appointments a minimum of an hour apart. This way if they are running late, it won’t interfere with your ceremony appointment.
  2. You might not be getting married in the traditional rotunda location. Normally, the circular room at the top of the majestic grand staircase is where all of the weddings take place. From Thanksgiving to New Years, there is an enormous Christmas tree filling most of the room. It’s a pretty spectacular and unique tree, as these things go. Last year’s tree was covered in thousands of hand folded paper cranes. Some of the officiants will still perform ceremonies next to the tree, and some of them refuse to go anywhere near it. If your officiant will perform the ceremony near the tree, be prepared to have it very visible in your wedding pictures. I’ve had plenty of non-Christian couples who could never show their families wedding pictures with the tree in it, and the officiants will definitely work with you on that.
  3. In the event that the day you want to get married is already completely booked, don’t worry your pretty little head about it. Because San Francisco City Hall is a public building, it’s open from 8am to 8pm Monday through Friday. You just need to get your marriage license and show up with your own officiant. You can hold your wedding anywhere that the public is allowed. I have a few favorite spaces, and this option is used more than you would think. With so many couples walking around, nobody notices another ceremony!
  4. As a photographer, I’m going to be thinking about the light. The late Fall and Winter months get very dark by 4pm, so you might want to think about a morning wedding. Between 9 and 10 am is one of my favorite times to take pictures with the grand staircase, before too many tourists are photographing the huge tree at the top of the stairs. Which by the way, if you like a pretty holiday picture….you can’t beat this shot.
  5. If you play your cards right, your holiday wedding pictures can be fantastic for Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years cards and announcements. For those of you having November and early December weddings, make sure your photographer agrees to get at least a few prime photos to you to use for your cards. As long as I’m asked ahead of time, I’ll save room in my editing schedule to make sure they get some sneak peeks to print and send out. Some companies that you can check out to make your own cards and announcements are and