One Common Mistake at SF City Hall Weddings (and How to Avoid It)

Planning a wedding at the iconic San Francisco City Hall is a dream for many couples. With its stunning architecture and rich history, it’s no wonder so many choose this location for their special day. However, as a wedding photographer who frequently works at this venue, I’ve seen a common mistake that can cause unnecessary stress and frustration: not giving yourselves extra time. Today, I’ll explain why it’s crucial to plan for extra time and how you can avoid any last-minute rushes on your wedding day.

Why Extra Time is Essential

San Francisco City Hall is not just a beautiful building; it’s also a federal government facility with strict rules and security measures. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Appointment Timing

You are required to be at the County Clerk’s office 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment. This rule is non-negotiable. To ensure you’re not late, I always recommend arriving 30 minutes early. While you can’t check in earlier than 15 minutes before your scheduled time, it’s better to wait than to risk being late. The building itself is gorgeous and offers plenty of people-watching opportunities, so your time won’t be wasted.

2. Security Measures

Entering City Hall is similar to going through airport security. There’s a security check-in that can take some time, especially if you’re not prepared. Many people forget they’re carrying items like pocket knives or mace, which are not allowed and will be confiscated. To avoid any delays, leave these items at home or in your car.

3. Parking Challenges

For those driving in, finding parking can be a significant challenge. The only viable option is the underground parking garage (Civic Center Parking Garage), as there’s zero street parking available. The garage can be easy to miss, so plan to arrive at least 45 minutes before your appointment to ensure you have enough time to find the garage, park, walk to City Hall, and get through security.

View directions and parking garage location from SF City Hall Events

Important note: In May, the parking garage can fill up quickly due to graduations at the nearby Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. It’s wise to give yourself even more time in May (and sometimes early June) and have a backup parking plan in mind.

Tips for Out-of-Towners

If you’re visiting from out of town or out of state and staying in a hotel or Airbnb, I recommend using Uber or Lyft to get to City Hall. Plan to get dropped off 45 minutes before your appointment. This will give you ample time to navigate security and find your way to the County Clerk’s office without any stress.

Directions and Maps

Once you get through security, you might need some help finding the County Clerk’s office. Don’t hesitate to ask a sheriff for directions; they’re usually very helpful. The sheriff at security that you meet at the entrance is the perfect person to ask.

For public civil ceremonies, you’ll check in at the County Clerk’s office. For private ceremonies, head directly to your designated location, such as the fourth floor or the Mayor’s Balcony.

We’re also working on providing a detailed map of City Hall to make navigation easier. This will be available on our guide page soon.


Giving yourself extra time is the best way to ensure your wedding day at San Francisco City Hall goes smoothly. Arriving early not only helps you avoid unnecessary stress but also allows you to fully enjoy the beauty and ambiance of this historic building. Whether you’re driving in or coming from out of town, planning ahead and allowing for extra time will make your special day that much more enjoyable.

Remember, it’s always better to be early and relaxed than to be rushing and stressed. Happy planning, and I look forward to capturing your beautiful moments at San Francisco City Hall!

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