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The Ultimate Guide to Eloping at San Francisco City Hall

On December 29th, at 10:40 am – I ran away with (my now-husband) Marcus to have the wedding of my dreams! Just the two of us, a bouquet of flowers arranged by yours truly, in the state I was born and bred in. Eloping at San Francisco City Hall has always been a personal ambition of mine because traditional weddings stress me out – like every other normal human being.

If you’re not about the pomp and circumstance of it all, I would absolutely recommend eloping at San Francisco City Hall to preserve the intimate nature of it all. If you’re not an American citizen – fret not!

It’s super easy (details below) and I’ll include information about documents/requirements to give you a quick look at what to expect. It’s basically the same process to fear not!

Background on Eloping in San Francisco

In 2014, Marcus and I met at a beer pong (BP) tournament in Beijing, China – where we lived at the time. It was love at first demolishment as I made quick work of him and his teammate to flex my Boston College BP expertise.

3 weeks later, I told him he was my boyfriend and he agreed to my terms and conditions. The ultimate love story <3

As fate would have it, he got a new job in London 3 months into our relationship – so I packed up my life in Beijing and followed a man I barely knew across the world. I knew in my heart that this was the man I’d been searching for in the furthest corners of the earth so I’d be damned if I didn’t risk it all for love! (vom)

In December 2016, he surprised me with a flash mob wedding proposal in the London Eye that I was completely oblivious to UNTIL I saw him on bended knee. I legitimately thought I was just caught up in a high-production-value YouTube video and TURN AROUND to see who was being proposed to at the end.

Why We Eloped in the US

Eventually, I gave in to a proper wedding – details to come – but another driving factor behind our elopement in San Francisco is the fact that foreigners have to ASK PERMISSION to get married in many EU countries and the United Kingdom. He’s German and I’m American so we were required to do the following:

laws about marrying a foreign national from outside the EU

For those who aren’t already in the UK, you’ll also have to apply for a Marriage Visa before you can come and do any of your other paperwork and this creates additional stress for an already stressful life decision.

Skip the faff and book yourself a plane ticket to San Francisco and do what you want with who you want.

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Logistics of Our San Francisco City Hall Elopement

You’ll have to book WELL in advance for an appointment (or wedding reservation) at San Francisco City Hall. We were lucky enough to get the LAST available appointment in 2016 on some random Thursday morning and I booked a month in advance.

Here’s the skinny about how to get your wedding reservation at SF City Hall:

  1. Ceremonies are available Monday-Friday starting at 9:00 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. every half hour.
  2. Reservations require a payment of $83 at the time of booking.
  3. The couple and no more than 2 witnesses should arrive at the INFORMATION DESK at City Hall, Room 168 for CHECK-IN 10 minutes before your appointment time (other witnesses shall wait in outside area.)** Note: This office is on the left side of the staircase towards the back after you enter the main entrance.
  4. The couple must bring:
    • A valid marriage license
    • Unexpired government issued photo identification in English
    • At least 1 witness. No more than 6 guests total* (includes witnesses, children, photographer, etc…).
  5. A certified copy of your marriage record will NOT be available for purchase until at least 10 business days AFTER the license is received from the person solemnizing the marriage. Same-day and expedited services for certified copies are NOT available.
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How to Get Married at SF City Hall:

Now the important details!!! DO NOT MESS THIS UP.

For Wedding Ceremonies:

  • The ceremony will NOT be performed unless you present a VALID marriage license to the commissioner at the time of your ceremony. If you are unable to do so, you will be required to make another ceremony reservation and pay the ceremony fee again.
  • The office does NOT perform wedding vow renewal ceremonies.

Marriage licenses are issued by prepaid confirmed marriage license reservation only.

  • If a marriage license has already been purchased, check the expiration date of your marriage license prior to making the ceremony reservation. The marriage license is valid for 90 days from the marriage license issuance date.
  • If you plan to purchase your marriage license on the same day as your ceremony reservation, you must make and pay for a marriage license reservation for the same day at least 30 minutes PRIOR to your ceremony reservation time. For example, if your ceremony reservation is 10:00 a.m., your marriage license reservation should be scheduled no later than 9:30 a.m.

** Find further information on the official website.

a couple kissing at their elopement in San Francisco City Hall

On The Day

On the day, we took a white Uber to San Francisco City Hall – bouquet in hand – and waited patiently for our names to be called.

The hall was filled with non-traditional wedding patrons – from goths to 50s pinups – and the environment was lively and filled with love! You could tell that every single person in the registration office WANTED to be there.

There was no one who wasn’t excited to be part of this major event for their friends or family.

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What Will Happen on the Day of Your Wedding at San Francisco City Hall

  1. First, you’ll apply (if you haven’t already) for your marriage license at least 30 minutes prior to your ceremony. They will ask you for passports/identification and you’ll have to fill out a basic form with your Social Security or your country’s equivalent.
  2. Next, your paperwork will be processed and then you’ll be called back into the office for your signatures and the signature of your witness.
  3. Then, you’ll have a 5 minute interview with the judge who’ll be marrying you; just to make sure it’s consensual and there’s no coercion.
  4. Afterward, you’ll wait in the hallway to be called – along with 2 other couples who are booked in the same hour slot – and then you’ll follow the judge to the main staircase to say your vows.
  5. Finally, the judge will say a few words and then you can say your vows. You’ll exchange rings (if you have them!) and walk out hand in hand, ready to take on the world as a team.

If you are marrying a non-US citizen, I would 100% recommend eloping in order to expedite the paperwork associated with any immigration processes you might be undergoing. It’s important to also remember that:

“A certified copy of your marriage record will NOT be available for purchase until at least 10 business days AFTER the license is received from the person solemnizing the marriage.  Same day and expedited services for certified copies are NOT available.”

For more information, click here.

Did you elope in San Francisco City Hall or anywhere else exciting?? Leave comments below to make recommendations for other international families and friends!

a couple getting married at the San Francisco City Hall