The City by the Bay is known for its physical beauty and the myriad settings it can provide—the wind-swept coastal bluffs, green mountain peaks, and sparkling city skyline are hard to top. You’ll hardly need additional decoration when surrounded by such stunning landscapes and architecture.
San Francisco is home to some of the world’s most renowned chefs and signature cuisines, and its food scene sets the trend for restaurants nationwide. Your guests will be wowed by the selection of produce, seafood, meat, and cheese—all of which are grown locally or produced by regional artisans and sure to please any type of palate.
Historically significant as a gateway to the East and later known for its laid-back vibes, San Francisco has long been a destination for people from all walks of life. The cultural and ethnic diversity makes for a rich selection of food, music, art, and celebrations, and the city’s supportive LGBTQ community creates a welcoming atmosphere for all weddings.
With world-class art museums, science centers, music venues, public parks, sports teams, street festivals, and distinctively charming neighborhoods—not to mention iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge—San Francisco offers a wealth of activities to amuse your guests.
It’s time to turn your eye toward what you and yours will wear on your wedding day. The search for the dress is, of course, the first piece of this puzzle. This isn’t any old frock: you’re looking for the most flattering, fabulous gown of your life. So how do you know what will work? Will there be a magical, “yes, of course!” moment, or more of a gradual understanding of what you want to don before walking down the aisle? Perhaps now is the time to introduce an important player: your local bridal shop. San Francisco’s sartorial experts are primed and ready to help you find what’s right. Get your bridesmaid game in order while you’re there so you can begin to see your vision come together (cue your happy dance). If the shop of your choice can help with a great suit, so much the better—the men in your wedding deserve something striking, too. Next, it’s time to get down to the bling. You and your partner are both going to need wedding bands, so head to a wedding ring and jewelry shop to choose adornments that suit you both. This might be a good time to pick up fun little extras, like thematic cufflinks or that pair of diamond studs you’ve had your eye on (that “something new” is a great excuse). Now that you know you won’t be showing up naked to your own wedding, you can let the rest of your worries fall by the wayside.
You’ve already hired a fabulous local photographer to put your wedding day on the books, so now concern yourself with how to look super-smokin’ in those precious photos. Feeling great about your appearance will boost your confidence in front of the camera and show off your I’m-so-in-love glow. But for the love of Adonis, don’t take on more tasks in the run-up to your wedding: San Francisco hair and makeup experts will help highlight your gorgeous self and take the pressure off your blow-drying skills on your wedding day. Visit your salon several weeks before the wedding to decide whether you’ll go coiffed or au natural when it comes to your tresses. Similarly, your makeup pro can help select a shade of lipstick that will go the distance and give you a Angelina-esque pout. (Note: we suggest a waterproof mascara in case that first look tugs hard on your heartstrings.) To smooth out any last rough edges, take a little time off the week before your wedding and slip into a local spa for a facial and a killer manicure. Now that you’re slaying your wedding look, all those last-minute details will seem so much less consuming—and your reflection much more so.
Let’s be serious: the real essence of a wedding day is the ceremony. This is the time to capitalize on your unique personality as a couple, whether that means an elegant, formal ceremony in City Hall, a free-spirited, outdoor “I do” with the Golden Gate glistening in the background, or a heartfelt vow exchange at any of the other San Francisco wedding venues out there. After all, a ceremony that is truly reflective of who you are as a couple—with room for meaningful words, songs, or participation from family and friends—will last in your memory longer than what was printed on the cocktail napkins. Your first step in planning a personalized ceremony is to seek out a San Francisco wedding officiant with whom you really connect. Consider how important your choice of music will be in setting the tone as well; go romantic with a string quartet or mellow out with an indie guitarist. There are so many talented Bay Area musicians, it’s simply a matter of finding one that speaks to your style.
San Franciscans are lucky to have so many talented and diverse event professionals in their midst. As a first step towards creating the reception of your dreams, secure the help of one of the talented San Francisco wedding planners who can streamline choices while keeping your vision and budget on track. The reception is really where you can let your creativity run wild, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box and incorporate details that reflect the best of San Francisco’s cool, laid-back style. Love the ‘60s? Indulge your taste for classic cocktails and vintage tunes with a specialty bar service or a great vinyl-spinning DJ. Or maybe you’re all about farm-to-table dining? You’ll have no shortage of mouth-watering options in a city built for foodies; the local caterers here really know how to cook for a crowd. Revel in the options: take advantage of the city’s unique urban feel, its killer cityscape, or its infinite waterfront views, or its...the list goes on. Whatever your style, the City by the Bay has everything you need for a showstopper of a wedding reception that’s all your own.
With so much to see and do in the Bay Area, there’s no excuse for not welcoming your guests with a cultural or recreational experience the day before you say “I do.” The laid-back, “anything goes” mentality that runs rampant in this city makes it the perfect place to host a rehearsal dinner with a twist. Plan a guided tour of your favorite collection at one of the impressive art museums (cue the SF MOMA or the picturesque Legion of Honor), ending with cocktails and appetizers in the courtyard. Or charter a group boat ride around the bay to show off the spectacular sunset views, followed by dinner in a waterfront restaurant. Of course, you can always stick to a classic rehearsal dinner format and let the food do the talking (it’s easy in a Michelin star-studded restaurant scene like San Francisco’s): Reverb offers a private dining option to add to their exceptional New American menu, and Bar Tartine dishes out Hungarian plates with distinct Japanese influences that will prime your guests for the other beautiful union to come tomorrow (hint hint, that’s you!). Whatever you choose, your out-of-town guests will appreciate getting to experience a bit of the city, and you’ll no doubt cherish the time deliciously spent with your closest friends and family before your big day.
The end of the night can be a blur (for more reasons than one). Incorporating a day-after brunch into the festivities assures enough time for proper goodbyes—not to mention another excuse to indulge in San Francisco’s killer food scene. Wind down the eventful weekend with a leisurely al fresco brunch rooftop-style: Foreign Cinema is a classic pick, or honor the city’s Latin American heritage with the help of El Techo de Lolinda’s vibrant menu. We’re also low-key in love with Plow, and hard-pressed to consider brunch complete without a stack of their lemon ricotta pancakes on hand. Of course, we’ve got a few more suggestions up our sleeves; check out our recommendations below for local spots with scrumptious spreads that can help you plan brunch for a crowd.
It’s easy to think of your invitation as a few pieces of paper informing folks that you’re getting hitched, but here’s an insider tip: your invite sets the stage for your whole wedding, and it’s worth the extra effort to do it right. Connect with a local invitation and paper goods boutique to get started with your design. Whether you go printed or calligraphy, highly ornate or minimalist, it’s ideal to have a San Francisco professional on your side to take you through this process. Make it a gift for your guests by including all sorts of helpful gems, like a stamped RSVP card, a loose idea of the day’s schedule, and some hints about how to dress and what kind of food and beverages they’ll expect. When your friends open their mailboxes and pull out your invitation, they’ll be wowed by your effort and attention to detail (and if they’re not, well, there’s no accounting for poor taste).
As seen in neighboring entrepreneur-land Silicon Valley, the pervading ethos in the San Fran area is that making things from scratch is often preferable to what already exists in the mass market. Take advantage of this “maker” community and give your wedding guests some truly local, small-batch goodies in a fully stocked welcome bag upon their arrival. To help jump start their mornings, include samples of ground beans from caffeine masters Blue Bottle Coffee or Ritual Roasters. In addition to necessities like the weekend’s itinerary and a handwritten welcome note (kudos if it comes on local stationery from Union Street Papery), tuck in tickets to ride the famous cable cars to ensure guests get a peek at the city’s best sights. Package it all in a canvas tote printed with a city map to kill two birds with one stone, and consider yourself the host(ess) with the most(ess).
Continue the concept of “locally inspired, locally sourced” with wedding favors that remind guests why the City by the Bay is so special. Keep it sweet with artisanal chocolates, toffee, or caramels from local confectioners Poco Dolce, Tcho, or Ghiradelli. You might also consider making a donation to an important charity, such as Save the Bay or the SF Aids Foundation in lieu of a tangible gift for your guests. For even more inspiration, check out our guide for incorporating A+ wedding favor ideas into your reception that will serve as the perfect high note upon which to end a memorable evening.
Since this hip city is a frequent stop on folks’ “must visit” list, the job of entertaining your guests in between wedding festivities should be a snap. All you have to do is suggest a few of the endless activities your guests can pursue to make their trip really count. If time permits, a day trip to Muir Woods, just a short drive north into Marin County, never disappoints with its stunning “cathedral” of redwood trees. For families, the hands-on Exploratorium science museum is a truly unique learning experience for investigating how the world works. Beyond its natural and cultural treasures, San Francisco is also a big sports town: catch a game with the Giants baseball team (the 2012 and 2014 World Series’ winner) or the ‘49ers football team. For more great ideas on what guests can do while in town, check out 7x7.com.
It’s almost impossible to find a bad meal in San Francisco—the area is brimming with talented chefs (you could be blinded by the city’s multitude of shimmering Michelin stars), multicultural influences, and access to top-quality ingredients not found anywhere else in the country. For haute cuisine, try long-standing favorites Boulevard in the SOMA district or Gary Danko in Fishermans Wharf. To expand your culinary repertoire, sample authentic Chinese dim sum at Yank Sing or Vietnamese food at Slanted Door, where your meal comes with a great view of the twinkling Bay Bridge lights. One thing’s for sure: it’s a crime to let your guests make the trek to the City by the Bay without indulging in the epicurean magic that’s always at work here. To avoid such criminal behavior, make a few suggestions to your guests with the help of Eater’s 38 essential San Francisco restaurants or check out our own well-researched favorites below.
When choosing hotel recommendations for your guests, comfort as well as centrality should be among your top priorities. Luckily, the list of excellent San Francisco wedding accommodations is long. Put up your guests in style at one of the city’s many luxurious hotels, like the Mark Hopkins InterContinental where the Top of the Mark rooftop bar offers incredible views. For a budget-friendly option, try Chancellor Hotel or Hotel Beresford in the heart of downtown. Reserving room blocks for your guests will score you some serious hosting points—just be sure to offer accommodations that come with a range of price tags. To get your research started, take a look through our suggestions for a sweet spot to stay in San Francisco below.
Bay Area couples seriously luck out when it comes to the plethora of jaw-droppingly gorgeous backdrops available for an engagement session. Bring your camera to the edge of the world with Cliff House, Seal Rocks, and the vast Pacific as your sublime background. For a different vibe, create your own woodland fairytale and surround yourself with the towering trees of Muir Woods. To celebrate your San Fran love, snap some pics on a cable car or within view of the Golden Gate Bridge. No matter which setting you choose, San Francisco wedding photographers will have tons of local inspiration to bring out the beauty of your romance.
Think outside the box when it comes to planning your bachelorette party—it’s easy in a colorful city like San Francisco where diverse activities abound. Cater to the mindful bride with a zen-inspiring yoga retreat, channel your beachy vibes with group surfing lessons, or throw caution to the wind and dance the night away at one of the city’s popular clubs. This is the time to seize that quirky sense of adventure and take advantage of San Francisco’s unique flavor for a ladies’ night to remember. Before you dive head first into the planning process, be sure to check out some of our favorite bachelorette party ideas to spark your creativity.
Grooms-to-be looking for a weekend of male bonding can easily find something that fits the bill in San Francisco. Swanky cocktail lounges, cigar bars, local breweries, and music venues of all styles cater to those seeking a night on the town, while kayak or bike rentals, hiking, and golf courses (within the city!) provide daytime exertions. For the best of both worlds, how about Mission Bowling Club, a bowling alley with a full restaurant, innovative craft cocktails, and plenty of brews? Read on for even more tips on how to throw down with your dudes SF-style.
Where would we be without the immensely talented pool of San Francisco wedding vendors? Their passion for planning, commitment to their couples, and incredible ingenuity is what makes the local wedding scene as remarkable as it is, and it's the unique team behind every wedding working together that makes each event an affair to remember. Their combined experience and expertise is second to none, and we want you to benefit from it while assembling your dream team of vendors. Check out our Spotlight Series for in-depth Q&As with the best of the best in the industry, and make sure to read the articles they've contributed to Borrowed & Blue for the most reliable wedding tips and tricks, straight from the source.
Even more than other big cities—perhaps due to its gorgeous climate or its fun-loving citizens—San Francisco loves to play host to events and festivals year-round. That being said, it’s important to consider the calendar carefully when choosing your wedding date to be sure that you aren’t competing with a major happening that will close roads, increase traffic, or book up hotels, restaurants, and transportation. Here are a few noteworthy annual events to keep in mind, but play it safe by doing your own research for any date.
When planning something as complex and significant as your wedding day, sometimes you just want friendly experts to step in share some pearls of wisdom. Lucky for you, we know people (we’re sitting right here—wink wink). And we’ve got your back: insider tips, exhaustive research, and inspiring takes on all aspects of the planning process, compiled here specifically with your wedding location in mind. You’re just a few clicks away from wedding planning peace of mind...You’re welcome! (No thank-you note required.)
Check out some other useful local online resources to get you acquainted with all-things San Francisco, from travel guides to the local restaurant scene to great local wedding blogs run by our friends in the industry: