Wanting a relaxed and intimate wedding, Sarah and Garett considered eloping, but living in San Francisco – a city with arguably the most beautiful and iconic city hall in the country – they decided a civil wedding ceremony made more sense to them. They chose to have a few close friends by their side at city hall before having more friends join them for celebratory drinks and dinner in the Mission District. And did we mention there were donuts involved? Donuts!

Special thanks to D.lillian Photography for sharing photos of the happy couple and their special day with us!

San Francisco elopement

Sarah, 28 & Garrett, 32

San Francisco, CA

Wedding Date: July 12, 2013

Number of Guests: There were 9 of us at City Hall and 40 of us at dinner

Wedding Cost: $4,000

Wedding Ceremony Location: City Hall

Wedding Reception Location: We had dinner in the private dining room at Beretta (a restaurant in the Mission district), and cocktails afterward at the private bar in The Armory Club (a vintage style bar, also in the Mission district).

ring shot groom's card for his bride groom's speech bride and groom in front of city hall bride and groom by the sea bride and groom cropped portrait

Why did you have an intimate wedding? 

Neither of us had ever wanted a big, expensive wedding. We both feel a bit uncomfortable with all eyes on us and we just wanted a relaxed, intimate moment to share our vows with only a few close friends present. We had seriously considered eloping, but we already live in a beautiful city with an iconic City Hall. It was great to stay local and have more friends join us after the ceremony for dinner and cocktails.

short lace wedding dress hanging up nude wedding shoes bride with her hair in rollers bride getting her make-up done bride getting her make-up done bride getting her hair done bride putting her dress on

What are some of the challenges that you faced planning an intimate wedding? 

It felt like there were fewer resources to help us plan. All of the “to-do” lists or planning tips on wedding websites weren’t very helpful because they were so traditional. Even creating invitations for our dinner was difficult because none of the templates fit what we were doing. It felt like we were just creating our own kind of event, which was awesome, but we didn’t have many places to look for inspiration – except for IntimateWeddings, which saved my life and made me feel normal. {Glad we could help, Sarah!}

bride reading card from her groom card from the groom

Was it difficult to pare down the guest list?

We both have a lot of close friends, big families and many people we care about. In order to keep it intimate we had to narrow it down, which was tough.

bride and groom at city hall groom dipping his bride at city hall B+W portrait of bride and groom at city hall bride and groom at city hall San Francisco City Hall couple portrait

Did you have any ‘issues’ with the small guest list from friends and family? If so, how did you address them? 

We chose not to have family present on our actual wedding day. We ended up having separate parties with each of our families to celebrate, and everyone was really understanding and supportive. If anyone had issues, they kept it to themselves.

groomsmen at city hall marriage certificate

What were the highlights of the ceremony?

We actually both loved seeing each other before the ceremony. It was great to meet at City Hall and to give each other a big hug and kiss before signing our marriage certificate, which is done before the ceremony. It felt very intentional, and solidified that this was a commitment we were entering into together.

city hall wedding ceremony bride and groom jumping for joy outside of city hall

What were the highlights of the reception? 

Friends’ toasts, all of the food at Beretta, grabbing Garrett’s face and saying “we’re married!”, dozens of heart-to-hearts, Garrett trying every kind of whiskey, wearing my leather jacket over my dress, the donuts we had from Dynamo Donuts, hugs, hugs, hugs…

bride and groom walking in the park groomsmen by the sea

What was the best thing about having an intimate wedding?

It felt very true to who we are. We try to focus on the things that really matter, and for us that was just getting to marry each other and party with some friends. It felt good knowing we weren’t spread too thin and that we were actually able to spend time with everyone there. Having an intimate wedding also allowed us to put most of our money and effort into our honeymoon – an incredible two weeks in Kauai!

bride and groom walking down stairs to the ocean couple portrait by the ocean bride and groom kissing by the ocean bride and groom oceanside portrait

What advice do you have for couples who are considering an intimate wedding?

Go for it! This is about you and your partner making a huge commitment. The day should reflect what is important to the two of you.

oceanside portrait


Photos: D.lillian Photography 

Venue: City Hall

Wedding Dress: BCBG

Bride’s Shoes: Classiques Entier

Groom’s Suit: J.Crew

Make-up and Hair: Maple&Moss

Rings: Etsy

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