Sonoma County Clerk-Recorder’s Office
Photo by Will Carruthers
In late 2021, billionaire oil heiress Ivy Getty’s wedding made San Francisco’s City Hall a briefly infamous wedding venue. The timing (mid-pandemic), location (a few blocks from the poverty-ridden Tenderloin), expense (somewhere in the six-figures) and guest list (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi officiated and other political elites are rumored to have attended) of Getty’s wedding all understandably rankled the public—or at least a lot of Twitter pundits.
But, what may have been lost in the discourse is that the venue is more frequently used as the location for weddings on the cheap. If you’re down and out, just pay a reasonable fee, file some paperwork with the right city office, ask a friend to officiate and, hey presto, you’re legally bound together!
I’ve attended three friends’ ceremonies on City Hall’s marble steps. At 21, for instance, I photographed my roommates’ wedding before they made an unsuccessful attempt to elope to Canada. None of these modest ceremonies prompted Twitter debates about wealth taxes, but they were sweet and memorable.
Now living in Santa Rosa, visits to the Sonoma County Clerk-Recorder’s Office frequently bring back these fond memories for me. If you’re not familiar, the employees of the Clerk-Recorder’s Office are charged with documenting births, deaths, property transfers and, yes, weddings.
For just $82 and a little bit of paperwork, you and your partner can have your very own marriage license, party not included. (For an additional $16, you can have a Confidential Marriage License to match a James Bond-themed ceremony.)
If you’re not ready to get hitched, but you are looking for a pick-me-up, swing by the Clerk-Recorder’s Office (585 Fiscal Dr. #103F) next time you’re in Santa Rosa. You may just catch a couple celebrating their nuptials with family and friends in the charming wedding venue near the office’s double doors. — W.C.