How to Elope in San Franciso

Rodeo Beach Elopement

You’ve decided to elope! So often that is the most difficult decision for a couple to make. Everything is going to be cake from here. Literally on your wedding day. The next step is making all the plans! I’ve got everything you need to know to elope in San Francisco right here. Keep reading for all the nitty gritty details on how to Elope in San Franciso.

Why Elope in San Francisco

Couples from around the world choose San Francisco for their wedding or elopement. It is a beautiful and diverse city with a historical charm unlike any other on the Pacific coast. There is so much to do and see! It’s a city that doesn’t feel like a concrete jungle, preserving the natural beauty of the area. Founded in 1776, it has history as old as the country itself that you can see wherever you look. Not to mention amazing architecture, museums, and sights that everyone who visits them enjoy. 

With all that in mind, San Francisco is a great place to elope! There are no shortage of beautiful spots, and so much fun stuff to do. It makes it a great destination to elope to, or to run down to the stunning city hall and say your vows. 

Elopements still require planning!

While they require a lot less planning than a big traditional wedding, there are still important things to think about. Below are some things to consider when planning your elopement.

Dream up your best day

Your elopement is for you, so don’t hold back! Create the best day that you would possibly imagine. You only get to elope in San Francisco once, so go all out! This goes for everything from activities to who you want to attend. Do you want your parents there? Just you and your lover? Think about these things ahead of time, and make sure that all the things you want can happen.

Plan for people

Consider that San Francisco is a city, and a big tourist attraction, so think about how many people you want to be around whether you are planning activities, or your ceremony. Weekdays and sunrise are likely going to be your best bet for maximum privacy.

Book your vendors ahead of time!

When planning a destination wedding of any kind, hiring local makes the most sense. First, it supports the local economy of the area that you are going to. Second, local vendors are going to know the area better! They’re going to know the secret spots for the perfect photos, and which florals are going to pair best with your ceremony location.

Double check for process and permits

Wherever you plan to elope, make sure that you have everything you need for that specific spot. Many places, like national and state parks require special permitting for photos, let alone wedding ceremonies. Don’t get caught somewhere you shouldn’t be without the proper documentation. Nothing would dampen an elopement like a big fat ticket.

Plan your elopement like you would a traditional wedding

This is an important tip for eloping anywhere, not just San Francisco! While elopements do allow for a lot more flexibility, it’s still a great idea to have a timeline that you will loosely follow. This is especially important for vendors, as most of them don’t just have all day to go with the flow. Hair and makeup artists might have another job to get to, and dinner reservations won’t care that you were having too much fun at a particular activity.

Additionally, consider your photos! Talk to your photographer (check out my work here), about where to be for the best light at what time. The sun plays a big part in the type of images you get. Having a timeline to follow helps me ensure that I can get the absolute best photos on your wedding day.

Schedule awesome activities!

 You’re coming to San Francisco for a reason, I would bet you want to do some cool things while here. Make sure that you have what you want to do planned out, at least loosely. Some activities require planning ahead. Don’t show up somewhere needing a reservation that you didn’t know you needed. Create a list of all your ‘must-do’ activities, and do a bit of research about them to ensure you have a great trip.

Find a whole list of my favorite activities to recommend to couples right here (link to activities post when that is live)! 

How do you make it legal?

The first thing you need to elope is a marriage license! Because San Francisco is such a popular spot to elope, the city has worked to streamline the process. There are a few hoops to jump through, and all applicants MUST schedule an appointment to get their marriage license.

Here is a quick run-down of what you will need:

  • You and your partner will need to be present
  • A valid, unexpired photo I.D., otherwise you will need to bring a second form of I.D. such as a passport or birth certificate
  • Your application fee, currently $113, but subject to change

For a step-by-step guide on everything you need and how to go about it, check out this blog post

Where should you say ‘I do’?

There are so many BEAUTIFUL spots that you can elope in San Francisco. Below are a couple I love, but find even more here!

Lovers’ Lane Trail

This spot is perfect for couple’s looking for a quiet place among the gorgeous coastal nature in San Francisco. The trail is short and easy to walk, but feels like you’re way out in the woods. Check out the Wood Line art installation after you say your vows. 

Palace of Fine Arts

This stunning location is perfect for couples who love grand architecture. With a litany of locations to choose for your ceremony, and greek inspired pillars and landscaping, the Palace of Fine Arts will not disappoint.

Don’t forget accommodations! 

You don’t just need a place to get hitched, you also need a place to stay! As we’ve already discussed, San Francisco is a popular destination, so make sure you book your hotel EARLY! Don’t wait until a month before and find yourself stuck in a budget motel far away from everything fun. Here are a few spots I recommend.

Hilton San Francisco Financial District

Located right in the heart of it all, this Hilton hotel provides ease of access with the luxury we all expect with Hilton. Dine at the in-house bar and restaurant, and access their award winning concierge service to make the most of your time in the Bay area. Click HERE for more information.

Chateau Tivoli Bed & Breakfast

Who would pass up the opportunity to stay inside of one of the historic Painted Ladies? This B&B offers a luxurious experience that captured the heart of impressive figures such as Mark Twain! Feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you sip tea in the Victorian parlor. This popular inn has 9 rooms available for booking, so make sure you get your reservation early. Click HERE for more information.

Hotel VIA

This brand new, boutique hotel is right across the street from Oracle Park making it the perfect spot for a baseball obsessed couple who wants to catch the Giants play while they’re in town. The rooms are sleek and modern, many of them offering incredible views of the surrounding area. Click HERE for more information.

Hotel RUI

Located in Fisherman’s Wharf and right near Pier 39, this hotel offers accessibility to lots of great activities in the area. Make yourself at home in the airy ocean vibes brought to you by Hotel RUI. Click HERE for more information.

Bring me along!

Like we talked about above, hiring local vendors is so important to make sure that you have the best experience in the area! I love getting to take couples around the city and make their elopement perfect. Whether you’re saying your vows at City Hall, or an art museum, I’d be honored to come along. Check out more of my work right here

P.S. I’m ordained! For couples looking for an uber private experience, get two vendors in one when you bring me along. 

Whether you are ready to start planning, or have more questions, let’s get in touch! Click here to send me a message. 

Ashlynn Shelby

April 1, 2022

Hi! I'm Ashlynn. When you choose me as your photographer, I promise to extend everything I have into your experience and your photos. You deserve the best experience possible and that's what I plan on providing.
My blog is where I share love stories I've been a part of, and resources for couples planning their engagement , wedding or elopement. I hope you can find some helpful information here to help you plan your big day. 


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