A couple comes in out of the rain at San Francisco's City Hall on Thursday Feb. 14, 2019. (Victor Tence/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Rain doesn’t dampen Valentine’s Day wedding celebrations at SF’s City Hall

Superstition says that rain brings good luck on your wedding day.

At least 83 couples climbing the steps of City Hall Thursday were betting on it.

City Administrator Naomi M. Kelly and County Clerk Diane Rea welcomed couples from around the world Thursday who celebrated Valentine’s Day by tying the knot at City Hall.

This was the third year City Hall expanded its available staff of marriage commissioners and set up additional facilities to accommodate a surge of couples hoping to be wed on the most romantic holiday of the year.

The rain didn’t dampen the excitement of the couples.

“It doesn’t bother me, nothing is stopping me today. It could be snowing, it could be a storm, and it wouldn’t stop me,” said Daniel Wemiz as he gestured to his fiance.

Even on a normal day City Hall is filled with roving bands of bridesmaids, photographers and couples precariously balancing court documents and bouquets, with over 36 weddings taking place there per day on average.

Even so, Valentines Day nearly triples that rate. This Thursday there were 83 confirmed reservations and more walk-ins expected, according to the County Clerk’s office.

“It’s such a lovely time of year to be able to open it up and bring more marriage commissioners in to accommodate more couples,” said Rea.

The North Light Court room, typically a large echoing space, was commandeered for the day with bright red paper hearts fastened to velvet ropes. They guide couples towards tables staffed with County Clerk’s Office workers, wearing coordinated outfits in Valentine’s Day red, ready to assign them to a ‘volunteer marriage commissioner.’

The additional facilities are crucial to maintaining a smooth flow for the rest of the building, explained Rea. “With all the additional ceremonies it would be chaos down there,” she said.

Available marriage commissioners are expanded from the typical five per day to 20.

Now operating into its 27th year, the volunteer marriage commissioner program is among City Hall’s most popular services.

The program currently has 54 commissioners and waiting list so long that officials declined to provide an estimated wait time. They only take on additional volunteers when a spot is vacated, and some commissioners have been marrying couples for over 25 years.

John Pleskach isn’t surprised commissioners stick around. He himself has dedicated at least two hours each week to marrying couples for the last 11 years, and estimates that he alone has officiated over 7,000 civil ceremonies.

“It’s so much fun to be around people when they are so happy, I get a little bit verklempt right here (motions to his throat) you know?” Pleskach said. “And sometimes when I’m doing my ceremonies I can feel the chills going down my legs, it’s a really wonderful thing.”

When asked about advice for newlyweds, Pleskach offered this: “have fun, enjoy yourselves and really just have fun together.”

Pleskach is currently not married, but would like to be. When that day comes, he can’t imagine himself declaring his love anywhere else but City Hall.


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Shad Ruffin and Cindy Chen wait to be among the first couples to be married by a marriage commissioner in the North Light Court at City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (Victor Tence/Special to S.F. Examiner)

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