Planning an Elopement in San Francisco: Everything You Need to Know
San Francisco, also referred to as the Bay Area, is one of my favorite places to visit and photograph in California. It’s one of the best elopement locations in California and has some of the most unforgettable experiences for couples all around the world. San Francisco is known for the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, City Hall, small beaches, towering redwoods, and to-die-for Ghirardelli sundaes. As a San Francisco elopement photographer, I wanted to create a complete guide that covers where to elope, San Francisco elopement packages, marriage licenses and laws, and so much more!
Where to Elope in San Francisco
Below are just a few of the thousands of places to elope in San Francisco. Whether you’re looking for cliffside views or downtown vibes, San Francisco has it all.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore is about a 1 hour drive from the heart of San Francisco, but it’s so worth it if you’re wanting a location close to, but not as busy as San Francisco. Point Reyes is very similar to Big Sur. It’s known for its beautiful views of the coast, dramatic cliff sides, and famous lighthouse.
Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay is another breathtaking coastal stretch about an hour out from the heart of San Francisco. This stretch of land has dozens of hiking trails, lookouts, and beaches. There are also wildflowers and plants that will make your images pop. Plus, the fog in this area makes for some insanely epic pictures!
San Francisco City Hall
The San Francisco City Hall is one of the most beautifully designed pieces of architecture in San Francisco, and it’s the perfect spot for any indoor elopement. The San Francisco City Hall is known for its grand staircase, neutral colors, and beautifully marbling. This elopement location is quickly gaining popularity and should be booked in advance.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Golden Gate National Recreation Area is one of the largest urban parks in the world. It’s extremely diverse and actually holds a third of California’s plant species. With so many different areas to explore, you can’t go wrong choosing this area for your elopement. Plus, if you’re wanting to have your ceremony in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, this would be a great location to choose.
Mt. Tamalpais State Park
Mt. Tamalpais State Park is another place to elope in San Francisco that’s a bit further away from the actual city. With this location about 1 hour and 30 minutes away, it makes a great location to elope at if you want to avoid the crowds. Right on the coast, this park offers incredible views of the ocean and has a vast amount of rolling hills filled with lush greenery.
Muir Woods National Monument
Muir Woods National Monument is like a little piece of Redwood National Park, close to the heart of San Francisco. About 45 minutes from the city, Muir Woods is a great place to elope if you’re wanting to stay close to San Francisco but want to elope surrounded by nature and redwood trees that downtown can’t offer.
Baker Beach is the most popular beach in San Francisco. Baker Beach provides one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge in all of San Francisco. However, it’s only half a mile long, making it one of the shorter beaches out there. Due to the length and popularity of this beach, I recommend a sunrise elopement if you choose this elopement location.
Fay Park is a super small park in San Francisco, but it has some beautiful features. Secured behind a white fence, Fay Park offers two white gazebos for a small ceremony, and small paths filled with tiered gardens. It’s also located right by Lombard Street, one of the most famous streets in San Francisco.
San Francisco Botanical Gardens
The San Francisco Botanical Gardens looks like a garden taken straight out of Alice in Wonderland. With over 8,000 different types of plants, you’re bound to find the perfect backdrop for your elopement. It’s also a great spot for your elopement if you’re wanting something close to the city.
San Francisco Elopement Laws and Licenses
To elope in San Francisco, you’ll need to obtain a California marriage license. Check out this post to see exactly how to get a marriage license in California.
You will also need an officiant and two witnesses.
Also, if you decide to elope outdoors, you’ll need to obtain a location permit. Each location has different fees and processes for obtaining a permit. Always contact the park manager, special events coordinator, or corresponding office to get a permit.
Where to Stay for Your San Francisco Elopement
San Francisco is known for having some epic places to stay, whether that’s at a hotel, Airbnb, or campsite. Below, you’ll find a list of all my favorite Airbnbs in San Francisco. There are also thousands of 5-star hotels and campsites if you prefer something other than an Airbnb.
Serene Oasis in the Midst of Silicon Valley – If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown, the Serene Oasis House is the perfect place. Situated amongst a hillside, this stylish home is the perfect getaway for honeymooners or couples who want a peaceful elopement.
The Retreat & Hot Tub in Lush Garden – Similar to a villa in Bali, this retreat is equipped with a rain shower, tropical themes bedroom, and hot tub surrounded with luscious plants.
Woodsy Silicon Valley Cottage – This cottage is ideal for couples who want more of an “off-grid” experience just outside San Francisco. Filled with basic, yet stylish decor, this cottage is a nature-lovers dream.
Modern Airstream Retreat in the Woods – If you love outdoor showers, hammocks, and tiny homes, this modern airstream may be for you. Not only is it comfortable, but it’s an awesome place for indoor and outdoor pictures due to the amount of natural light.
Sea Cliff Abode – If you’re looking for a luxury experience, consider checking out this modern villa right on the cliffs of San Francisco. There’s tons of open light and lots of rooms, each with different character and designs.
San Francisco Weather
Fall is definitely the best time to elope in San Francisco. Believe it or not, but fall offers the warmest temperatures and the least amount of crowds (aside from the winter season). This is also a great time to visit if you want to avoid the thick, dense fog that San Francisco is known for.
Winter is a great time to elope if you don’t mind the brisk temperature. San Francisco is known for its very chilly wind and rain during this time of year. However, it’s the cheapest time to visit and offers the least amount of crowds.
Spring is a good time to visit San Francisco if you want to avoid the summer rush. Similar to fall, this is another great time for an elopement. While the temperatures aren’t as warm and linger around the 60s, it’s still a great time for an outdoor elopement.
Summer is definitely not a great time to visit San Francisco. This is the peak season, meaning millions of people travel all over the world to visit. The crowds and prices for everything is quite high. However, this means that there are numerous events and festivals to check out during this time. San Francisco also has the most amount of fog in the summer, and the temperatures can be quite chilly.
San Francisco Elopement Tips
#1: Plan for traffic. Make sure to have substantial time between activities. San Francisco is no joke when it comes to traffic!
#2: Be aware of high prices. San Francisco is one the most expensive places for tourists, right behind New York. However, there are numerous free and cheap activities to do for your elopement. If you’re wanting to save some money, don’t bother doing all the touristy things.
#3: Bring good walking shoes. Besides public transportation, many people in San Francisco walk. Make sure to bring a good pair of shoes if you plan on walking!
#4: Don’t expect privacy. San Francisco has a lot of people, so don’t expect to have an area to yourself for your elopement if you’re looking at having one within the city. There are tons of locations just outside the busy area that will provide you with the privacy you need.
The Best Things to Do for Your San Francisco Elopement
- Get a water massage (they’re amazing)!
- Split a Ghirardelli Sundae (the one touristy thing you MUST do. They’re to die for!)
- Drive on the Golden Gate Bridge and blast the Full House theme song
- Have a picnic in front of The Painted Ladies
- Grab some food in Chinatown
- Go hiking to see some incredible views
- Buy some sourdough bread at Boudins (also another touristy must do)
- Take a tour of San Francisco by boat
- Try their famous escape rooms
- Take a food tour
- Shop at a farmers market
Elopement Packages in San Francisco
I personally offer San Francisco elopement packages and elopement packages anywhere in the world (though I do specialize in California)! You can see all the information here.
San Francisco Elopement Pricing:
- 4 hours – 1.5 days of elopement coverage
- A hands-on San Francisco elopement planning experience with unlimited assistance
- personalized San Francisco elopement venues
- vendor recommendations
- permit assistance
- customized elopement timeline
- Online gallery with full resolution and printing rights
- 24-48 hour sneak peaks
- Travel fees to anywhere in California already included
- Starting at $4,000
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I’m Brianna, a California elopement photographer who inspires, encourages, and empowers couples to push traditional boundaries and create experiences they’ll remember forever.