San Francisco Treasures: 7 Historic and Dazzling Ballroom Settings

The California Gold Rush brought people—and fortunes—west. Newly minted tycoons and industrialists flocked to San Francisco, anxious to show off their wealth, and by the turn of the century the city became known for its exuberant, extravagant architecture. Luckily, SF is still a treasure trove of these historic landmarks, hotels, and mansions—all of which offer spectacular ballroom settings for your wedding.

Beacon Grand

San Francisco, CA

Location: 450 Powell Street, San Francisco CA

Style: 21-story Gothic-style tower

Interesting Tidbit: Though you wouldn't know it from the original blueprints, upon its opening in 1928, the Beacon Grand (then known as the Sir Francis Drake) boasted a secret room. To this day, if you know who to ask, a key turned in an original 1928 elevator will take you to the "Prohibition Room," where illegal booze was stored for guests. And, if you look very closely at some of the lobby sprinklers, you might spot a couple of the peepholes that allowed the bellman to spy on any suspicious police sniffing around.

Event Space Highlights: The main event spaces, the Empire Ballroom and the Franciscan Ballroom, have a high-society, Age of Innocence ambiance. In the gold-and-ivory Empire Room, exquisite hand-painted murals turn the walls into works of art and three crystal chandeliers suspended from a vaulted ceiling painted with ribbons of gold leaf give the room a delicate amber glow. Located just off the mezzanine, the spacious and grand Franciscan Ballroom is an excellent choice for a formal wedding. It's a regal setting, featuring a 21-foot ceiling with intricate gold embossing, chandeliers, windows draped with blue silk curtains, and columns with carved gold capitals.

Notable Amenities: For those who have a yen for a panoramic 180-degree view of San Francisco, try the recently renovated Lizzie's Starlight Room on the 21st floor. It not only has a built-in dance floor, it features floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap around the room, making it seem like you're floating in the clouds.

Accommodations: 416 guest rooms.

Catering: In-house
Price: $ • $$

Fairmont San Francisco

San Francisco, CA

Location: Atop Nob Hill, San Francisco CA

Style: Iconic, turn-of-the-century landmark

Interesting Tidbit: As the first hotel to open after the 1906 earthquake, the Fairmont became the grand centerpiece of the city. Its recent centennial restoration not only revitalized the stunning turn-of-the-century design, it also added the state-of-the-art amenities you'd expect in a world-class landmark.

Event Space Highlights: Two of the most glamorous venues are the Venetian and Gold Ballrooms, both light and airy with elaborately detailed gold-leaf ceilings and crystal chandeliers. The Pavilion Room overlooks the Rooftop Garden, an ideal spot for ceremonies, while the Crown Room has one of the best 270-degree views in the city. And for something truly unique, consider the palatial Penthouse Suite, which spans the entire 8th floor and includes a swanky dining room, two-story library, billiard room, grand piano and breathtaking terrace.

Notable Amenities: You can opt for Presidential service, where each table has its own white-gloved waiter…or take it to the top with an elite event in the Penthouse Suite. For something casual, try a rehearsal dinner in the island-inspired Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar.

Accommodations: 592 guest rooms and 62 suites.

Catering: In-house
Price: $$ • $$$

Julia Morgan Ballroom at the Merchants Exchange

San Francisco, California

Location: 465 California Street, San Francisco CA

Style: Beaux Arts opulence

Fab Feature: The venue's quintessential San Francisco location, from the iconic cable cars outside heading up Nob Hill to its distinguished design pedigree from a trio of America's most renowned architects.

Event Space Highlights: The barrel-vaulted lobby, adorned with gold leaf and bronze, shines with an abundance of natural light from the curved glass ceiling. The striking bar and lounge also has gilded ceilings and carved stone fireplaces at each end. But the pièce de résistance is the Ballroom, with its handcrafted mahogany ceiling, classic columns, and tall arched windows showcasing the glittering cityscape.

Notable Services: Their experienced staff, who have a long history of choreographing events for U.S. Presidents, foreign dignitaries, and cultural legends, will bring that same expertise to customizing your special day.

Accommodations: Nearby hotels.

Catering: In-house
Price: $$ • $$$

The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square

San Francisco, CA

Location: 335 Powell Street, San Francisco CA

Style: "Grand Dame" elegance

Fab Feature: This turn-of-the-century landmark is home to several of the finest historic gilded ballrooms around, while also possessing more modern venues with jaw-dropping panoramas from its contemporary Tower Building.

Event Space Highlights: The St. Francis Suite, originally a residence in the 1900s, presents an elegant foyer, library, study, and the East Room, with carved ceiling and fireplace—all overlooking Union Square. There's also the jewel-box Borgia Room, an awe-inspiring intimate space (and once the hotel's chapel), boasting an extraordinary cathedral ceiling. And then there's the Colonial Room, a fabulous setting for your ceremony, replete with hand-painted murals and balcony seating that was the place for bands during the jazz era.

Notable Amenities: In addition to over 10,000 square feet of distinctive event spaces and several wedding packages, their highly skilled team will help you design your perfect affair. Wedding-night accommodations are included (for the newlyweds), and you earn reward points that can be used towards your honeymoon.

Accommodations: 1195 guest rooms and suites.

Catering: In-house
Price: $$ • $$$

Marines' Memorial Club and Hotel

San Francisco, California

Location: 609 Sutter Street, San Francisco CA

Style: Stately landmark

Interesting Tidbit: Located in the heart of Union Square, this popular destination built in 1926 has been dedicated as a "living memorial" to the U.S Marines, with a lobby/arcade displaying military artifacts dating as far back as 1775.

Event Space Highlights: The elegant Commandant's Ballroom features a 20-foot ceiling, iron chandeliers, and gilded alcoves with gold-leaf stencil work. The adjacent Heritage and Regimental Rooms provide cozy spaces decorated with antiques, fireplaces, and views for your ceremony and cocktails. Or, you can start in the Crystal Lounge, sparkling with chandeliers and bay vistas, then segue to the rich charm of the Crystal Ballroom.

Wedding Package Perks: The Library and Museum on the 11th floor is open seven days a week, so your guests can see some of the paintings, sculptures and memorabilia…and the lobby itself has unique, photo-worthy backdrops, including the centerpiece WWII ship's bell from the USS San Francisco.

Accommodations: 138 guest rooms and suites.

Catering: In-house
Price: $ • $$

Great American Music Hall

San Francisco, California

Location: 859 O'Farrell St, San Francisco, CA

Style: 1907 Rococo glamour

Interesting Tidbit: Ray Charles, the Grateful Dead, Bonnie Raitt, and other music icons have all headlined at this fabulous venue.

Event Space Highlights: Standing beneath marble columns, ornately gilded balconies and an elaborate frescoed ceiling, it's easy to imagine this building's allure when it first came on the scene in 1907 as a flashy French restaurant and San Francisco's grandest nightclub. Couples getting married here use the stage for the ceremony, with their "audience" seated in chairs on the dance floor. Once the knot has been tied, the rows of chairs are removed and the Hall and balconies are open for the next phase of celebration.

Notable Amenity: They'll put the name of your company, your group, your families, or a special message on their marquee—haven't you always wanted to see your name in lights?

Accommodations: Nearby hotels.

Catering: In-house, BYO
Price: $ • $$

Asian Art Museum

San Francisco, CA

Location: 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco CA

Style: Beaux Arts splendor

Interesting Tidbit: Built in 1917 and used as the city's main library for decades, this amazing, four-story, columned building was transformed into a museum by the internationally renowned architect who turned an old Paris metro station into the award-winning Musée D'Orsay.

Event Space Highlights: The lobby's central archway leads to the Grand Staircase, a dramatic spot for a ceremony with guests looking on from the Loggia above. This airy arcade, with its barrel-vaulted decorative ceiling, is perfect for cocktails, allowing guests to explore and admire the world-class exhibits. Follow with a reception in Samsung Hall, where rows of columns, enormous windows, and a huge bronze chandelier set an opulent tone.

Notable Amenities: There's so much beautiful art and architecture here that you don't have to add much to the dazzling surroundings. Even the serene Peterson Room, with its Oriental rugs and décor, takes "bridal room" to a whole new level.

Accommodations: Nearby hotels.

Catering: Preferred list
Price: $ • $$ • $$$

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