San Francisco Elopement Planning Guide

Table of Contents

How to Elope in San Francisco

San Francisco, also referred to as the Bay Area, is one of my favorite places to visit in California. It’s one of the best elopement locations in California. San Francisco sits right right on the coast of California near the northern area, and offers some of the best views and experiences for a city elopement, which is why thousands of couples travel here each year to get married, and 25 million people visit each year. San Francisco offers the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, City Hall, small beaches, towering redwoods, and to-die-for Ghirardelli sundaes, everything you’ll ever need for your San Francisco elopement.

#1: Choose a Month to Elope in San Francisco

Fall

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. All around, it’s probably the best time to visit San Francisco, based on both the temperature and crowds.

Winter

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. The biggest piece of advice for an elopement in San Francisco during the winter would be to prepare backup plans. With the weather, you never really know what you’re going to get.

Spring

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. Wear something warm, and you should have no problem exploring the city on foot.

Summer

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. Keep in mind that during this time, San Francisco offers the most amount of fog, and the temperatures can be quite chilly.

#2: Choose a Place to Elope in San Francisco

San Francisco has a ton of elopement locations, most known for their gorgeous coloring and architecture. What’s so great about this beautiful area is the surplus of choices you have when it comes to choosing an elopement venue. From the famous piers to the gorgeous city hall, you can truly find it all in San Francisco.

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. The grand staircase makes the perfect background for any photo.

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.

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, and its green dramatic cliff sides. Its also known for its famous lighthouse that makes the perfect backdrop for any ceremony or photo.

Mt. Tamalpais State Park

Mt. Tamalpais State Park is another location that’s a bit further away from San Francisco. 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 the Redwoods 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. If you’re wanting towering redwood trees and miles of open land, this is the perfect San Francisco elopement location for you.

Baker Beach

Baker Beach is probably the most popular beach in San Francisco, but it’s no surprise why. 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

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 a great spot to elope if you’re wanting to explore the city shortly after. One of the best features of this park is that it’s 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.

#3: Research and Purchase a San Francisco Elopement Permit

Depending on the location you decide to elope, you may need a permit. More often than not, you’ll end up needing one, but it depends on the location. For example, all the locations I listed above do require permits in order to elope.

After picking your location, get in touch with the owner of the venue, or the coordinator of an outside area, and ask if you need a permit. Obtaining a permit is an easy process, as most applications and payments can be done all online.

#4: Hire Vendors for Your San Francisco Elopement

One great thing about San Francisco is the amount of creative people that live in the area, meaning that finding vendors should be an easy process. Hiring vendors will make your elopement planning process a breeze. I made sure to create a list of vendors that should be considered being hired for your elopement.

Elopement photographer

Did you know that there are photographers who solely specialize in elopements? I’m one of them! This is probably bias, but I believe that you should book your photographer as soon as you can. Photographers who specialize in elopements may have elopement packages that can help connect you with vendors, find secret “locals only” ceremony locations, and create timelines to help organize your day. 

Officiant

If you want your friends or family to be apart of your special day, having them become ordained officiants is a great way to involve them. It’s a super easy process and takes less than 5 minutes. I’m ordained as well! You will need an officiant since California isn’t a self-solemnizing state, but the good news is that there is a ton of officiants in San Francisco. To see a list, click here.

Florist

Some of the most unique and creative florists live in San Francisco. I have a few I love working with, but if you want to see a list yourself, check out this directory! Florists will help tie everything together on your elopement day. They know what florals and colors will look best with your dress, elopement location, and in pictures.

Hair and makeup artist

Again, there are so many talented hair and makeup artists within the area. If you’re not confident in your hair or makeup skills, I highly recommend a hair and makeup artist to help you feel the most beautiful and confident on your special day. To see a list of professionals within the area, check out this list.

#5: Book Your Flights and Lodging to Elope in San Francisco

Flights

In order to get to San Francisco, you’ll want to fly into the San Francisco International Airport. From here, you have the option of renting a car, using Uber, public transportation, or a ton of other methods of travel. Something great about San Francisco is that the airport is extremely accessible and they have a great public transportation system if you don’t want to rent a car.

Lodging

San Francisco and the surrounding area has a variety of different lodging options you can choose from for your elopement. From 5-star hotels and resorts to Airbnbs and campsites, you’re bound to find a lodging option that works best for you. If you’re looking for some absolutely incredible hotels, I recommend checking out Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Fairmont, and Mansion on Sutter.

If you prefer to camp for your elopement, San Francisco has a handful of campsites along the coast and near the city that are perfect for an elopement.

If you prefer to stay in an Airbnb, you have unlimited options to choose from. San Francisco has some of the coolest Airbnbs in all of California. you have the option of staying in the heart of the city or on the coast. You’re sure to find the perfect Airbnb for your elopement.

#6: Party After Your San Francisco Elopement!

Now that you’ve officially tied the knot in San Francisco, it’s time to party! If you stay within the area, be sure to check out the famous piers, massive candy shops, and amazing Ghirardelli sundaes. 

If you decide to honeymoon elsewhere, don’t forget to purchase a keychain souvenir. 

After returning, announce and tell your friends and family by throwing a large party, having a small dinner, or simply making a social media post. You have so many different ways you can both celebrate and announce your San Francisco elopement with friends and family.

San Francisco Elopement Packages

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 locations
    • 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 $2,500

Want more elopement inspiration? Check out this beach elopement at Sunset Cliffs, San Diego Elopement Guide, and more resources to help you plan your elopement!

Need help planning your SAN FRANCISCO elopement?

Snag your FREE elopement guide! The same exact one I send to all my couples, filled with tips and tricks about how to prepare for your dream elopement, whether it’s a sunny elopement in California or a cold elopement in Alaska!

A free guide all about how to elope, created by a California elopement photographer.
A free guide all about how to elope, created by a California elopement photographer.

Snag your FREE elopement guide! The same exact one I send to all my couples, filled with tips and tricks about how to prepare for your dream elopement, whether it’s a sunny elopement in California or a cold elopement in Alaska!

Brianna Parks, a California elopement photographer.

Hey there, I'm Brianna!

I’m a California elopement photographer who had a big traditional wedding, and I can’t tell you how many arguments there were about my day.

I was pressured to pick a certain venue, certain colors, certain guests, and it felt like I was spending thousands of dollars to play host at a party that had nothing to do with the connection between my husband and I.

Don’t fall into the trap society has constructed around big weddings. Instead, buy the plane ticket, get the wedding dress  dirty, and turn your stressed out wedding day into a carefree, adventure filled elopement experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Brianna Parks, a California elopement photographer.

Hey there, I'm Brianna!

I’m a California elopement photographer who had a big traditional wedding, and I can’t tell you how many arguments there were about my day.

I was pressured to pick a certain venue, certain colors, certain guests, and it felt like I was spending thousands of dollars to play host at a party that had nothing to do with the connection between my husband and I.

Don’t fall into the trap society has constructed around big weddings. Instead, buy the plane ticket, get the wedding dress  dirty, and turn your stressed out wedding day into a carefree, adventure filled elopement experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

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