You Can Have It All

Although it’s overused, I can’t help but turn to that lovely, succinct phrase that marks such a turning point in Jane Eyre:

Reader, I married him.

Actually, I married him twice: once on a bright Thursday morning at San Francisco’s majestic City Hall, and again on Saturday afternoon in the spring-green hills of the Marin Headlands.

Having two weddings was ideal for us. We didn’t have to choose between getting married in the City we love and having a wedding in a beautiful natural setting — we had both. We had both a wedding that took months to plan and a wedding that merely required an appointment made just two weeks prior. We had both a ceremony we wrote and one we simply showed up for.

It also helped me reconcile something that had bothered me in the lead-up to getting married: that the decision to get married and the commitment that marriage requires is intensely personal, while a wedding — the act of getting married — feels so public,  so loaded with expectations and trussed with tradition.


It felt real to get married at City Hall. It wasn’t an event, it wasn’t trying to live up to some fantasy. It was out of our hands and there was something very relaxing about that, particularly when we felt responsible for so much of our celebration in the Headlands.

To City Hall, we wore clothes we already owned. We went to Blue Bottle Coffee’s kiosk on Linden alley for breakfast beforehand, narrowly avoiding stepping in dog poop on the sidewalk  — a sure sign that we were getting married in San Francisco.


at Blue Bottle on our wedding day

It was wonderfully ordinary but also surprisingly special. City Hall has such a strong sense of permanence and of history. It’s seen a lot. It’s been a crime scene, and a monument to marriage as a human right.

It still makes me think back to February 2004, when people in love waited in long lines, came from miles away, to be married there. The country was at war and it seemed such a grim time, and yet at San Francisco’s City Hall, all these people had gathered to declare their love. It seemed like something John and Yoko would have loved.

Being married at City Hall felt like we were part of that history. We were married in the rotunda, surrounded by our families, and with a bust of Harvey Milk looking on.


Not every wedding venue is open to the public, and some locations may not continue to be a place you’ll want to visit (the cafe where my aunt and uncle had their first  date, for example, is now a McDonald’s on the grungy corner of Haight and Stanyan).

But I like that we can go back to City Hall — maybe in 30 years, you’ll be here with your kids, my dad said after our ceremony — and remember our first wedding. How after we were married, we walked up Hayes Street, the bouquet of daisies and ranunculus that my mom had made for me marked us as newlyweds, and had sparkling wine and burgers.


3 Responses to “You Can Have It All”

  1. Sarah Says:

    so sweet 🙂

  2. carlalazzarini Says:

    Wow. We did almost the same thing- for a lot of the same reasons. Got married in City Hall (on a Tuesday- lunch on Hayes St. afterward) and near the beach in Half Moon Bay the following Saturday! I almost could’ve written this myself. It’s that close. Thanks for sharing, and congratulations!!!

    • wholehog Says:

      Congratulations to you! I felt like what we chose to do what right for us, but probably different than what others would choose so it’s gratifying hearing that there ARE others out there who made similar choices.

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