Getting Married at City Hall: A Practical, Magical Day

Entrance to San Francisco City Hall

As Mr. Scout and I approach our wedding anniversary, we look back on the day we said our “I dos” and the weeks leading up to it. Soon after we started dating, we knew we wanted to tie the knot, but we didn’t want the big ceremony and reception we envisioned when we were younger. We just wanted to get hitched, and getting married at city hall made perfect sense to us. Not only was it a practical choice, but the day turned out to be magical. If you’re wondering why a couple would get married at city hall, what getting married at city hall was like, and how we made our city hall wedding day magical, read on.

Why Get Married at City Hall?

San Francisco City Hall (Outside View)

Quick & Painless

This may sound insensitive and all-business, but there was less emotional build-up, and the job got done. Don’t get me wrong, I cried tears of joy — I just wasn’t as nervous. All we needed was a valid marriage license and a ceremony reservation through city hall, a qualified witness, and our unexpired government-issued photo IDs.

Budget-Friendly

It was much less expensive than a formal wedding. The marriage license was $113, and the ceremony was $95. We were able to save money for necessities like moving in and luxuries like honeymoon travel.

Intimate

It was just between me, Mr. Scout, and our witnesses. Our city hall allowed us to have a small party of up to 6 that included a photographer or camera person, a witness, family members, and friends.

Beautiful Venue

I hadn’t been to our city hall before, but I’d looked it up on the internet. It turned out to be much more impressive in person than the photos could do justice online.

Warm-Up

It ended up being practice for a formal wedding later. Our family wanted a show despite our brief courtship, so a bigger ceremony and reception were planned, but we always remember our city hall wedding day.

What Getting Married at City Hall Was Like

Ring ceremony at San Francisco City Hall

It was short and sweet. After getting ready in the morning, a family member (who was also our photographer) drove us to city hall while the others followed. When we arrived, we all went through security and were escorted to an office where Mr. Scout and I stood in line, answered questions, presented our documents, and completed paperwork. We waited in a corridor until we were called and got married by a judge under the rotunda at the top of the steps. We remember being present and taking it all in, smiling, looking into each other’s eyes, and reciting our vows. Our photographer took pictures at every point of the way. We were there for about an hour and a half.

How We Made Our City Hall Wedding Day Magical

Vision board for wedding at San Francisco City Hall: city hall, dress, bouquet, child's tuxedo t-shirt, cupcakes, child's cartoon dress, newly weds at the rose garden, "glass" slipper

Record the Day

As mentioned, one of our family members was our photographer. He wasn’t a professional, but he was great at taking photographs, dependable, and had stamina! Not only did he take pictures of us at city hall, but he took pictures of me getting ready at my apartment and me and Mr. Scout at The Rose Garden and The Palace of Fine Arts, too. And all he wanted in return was a sushi dinner!

Dress Up, Doll Up, and Accessorize

I was able to find a brand-name dress — new with tags — on an internet auction house website for $65. It was a white satin mermaid dress with tulle underneath and polka-dot mesh shoulder straps. Mr. Scout rented a snazzy suit. I also found a pair of clear, sling-back heels that resembled glass slippers. A family friend did my make-up and my hair in a low bun, and another one made me a pink peony bouquet and Mr. Scout a pink rose boutonniere.

Add Other Unique Touches

We asked our wedding party or helped them to coordinate their attire with ours. So the women wore black dresses with white polka dots, the men wore black and white suits, and the children wore cartoon versions of dress wear.

Book Lunch & Order Treats

Our special day concluded with a change into more comfortable clothes, a nice lunch at a family restaurant near the beach, and a dozen gourmet cupcakes.

Plan But Know When To Stop

Because we wanted to tie the knot soon, we only had about six weeks to plan. So we brainstormed, made a to-do list, and checked it off as we went along, starting with the essentials and ending with the details. I excitedly gathered clippings from magazines and created a vision board of our big day. It was easy to add more things to the list, but we aimed to do nothing and get enough rest the day before. We were grateful to have family members who made suggestions for friends who could take our photographs, do my hair and make-up, and make our floral accessories. It also helped to not let minor mishaps get in the way of our day and leave room for spontaneity.


Getting married doesn’t have to cost a fortune to be an amazing experience. Do you know anyone, who got married at city hall, too? Were they in the moment and able to absorb everything? Did it save them money to do other things? Did they have fun?

Published by Scout

Saving Materials & Money, Balancing Life & Leisure, and Enjoying the Simple Things. Health, Food, Money, Home, Travel, and Music.

10 thoughts on “Getting Married at City Hall: A Practical, Magical Day

  1. Love this! Nowadays weddings seem to be so showy that they sort of take away from the essence of the ceremony, which is a union of two souls pledged together forever! This definitely hones in more of that, along with the beauty of family and friendship as well!

  2. This sounds more and more appealing as I get older. I love the intimate feel, not to mention the huge cost savings.

  3. Scout, thank you for sharing your lovely wedding day occasion. I think small intimate weddings are more meaningful than more formal gatherings.

  4. I love this post. I did a beach wedding with just me and my husband and my kids. It was wonderful. We almost did a city hall wedding. San Francisco has a beautiful city hall.

  5. Beach weddings are a wonderful way to connect with all of your loved ones and nature – such a beautifully organic experience. Thank you, Rosita 🙂

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