San Francisco Bay Area Meetings and Events

A grand afterparty in the Rotunda at San Francisco City Hall

The San Francisco Bay Area has a lot going for it when it comes to meetings and events. The northern California metropolis hums with excitement and energy, a diverse mix of different cultures, vital urban areas, and beautiful natural landscapes. Where else can you go in the US and have a super dense city and a remote feeling hilly coastline less than ten miles apart? Through its numerous airports (SFO, Oakland, San Jose), one can catch a flight to and from most of the important destinations in the world. Today we take stock of three different venues representing different areas of this region. We hope this helps you make the most of planning your San Francisco Bay Area meetings and events.

San Francisco: Fort Mason Center

The Golden Gate Bridge is arguably the most iconic thing about the Bay Area. But catching a glimpse of this technological marvel is mostly impossible in the city proper. So how about a venue that has the bridge and bay as a glorious backdrop? This former Army base in the Marina neighborhood was active during World War II. Fort Mason’s thirteen-acre campus features 12 different venue options from 500 to 50,000 square feet (75,000 total square feet), space big enough to hold a comic convention! (I attended the Small Press Expo here in the early 2000’s.) There is also a 437-seat theater, a 162-seat theater, and ample parking. In short, there’s space for pretty much any type of event you’d want to hold.

Fort Mason Center (from their website)

Marin County (north): Marin Museum of Bicycling

Located in the Marin County town of Fairfax, the Marin Museum of Bicycling houses an extraordinary collection of interesting bikes from 1868 to the present. Since Fairfax is the birthplace of mountain biking, the museum also houses The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. The fully accessible museum can also be a great venue for your next event. The indoor section can accommodate 80-100 people seated or 160 standing, while the outdoor spaces can hold even more folks. And whatever configuration you pick, you’ll get to check out some cool bikes!

From Marin Museum of Bicycling’s Website

East Bay: Claremont Hotel and Spa

Located on the border between Oakland and Berkeley, this impressive edifice of hospitality sits at the foot of the Berkeley Hills. Opened in 1915, The Claremont Hotel offers a commanding view of the bay. It has all the charm and class of the grand resort hotels completed in California around the turn of the 20th century. With 20,000 square feet of combined meeting space, both indoor and outdoor (including a secret garden!) The Claremont is also close to the commercial districts of Elmwood (Berkeley) and Rockridge (Oakland) with lots of shops and restaurants, and not too far from the Rockridge BART station.

Claremont Hotel by David Corby, used under Creative Commons license
A conference room in the Claremont Hotel, from their website

Incorporate a ferry into your event…

The Bay Area has tons of iconic modes of transportation, from the vision-of-the-future-in-1972 subway system known as BART, a fleet of historic streetcars, and of course, the Cable Car. But the Bay Area’s biggest asset is the water itself, so getting around by ferry has a special charm. (Fun fact: Ferry service was all but gone during the mid twentieth century. While unfortunate, the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989 helped bring it back.) And you can book special private cruises via Blue and Gold Lines, who can pick you up and drop you off at a number of bayside ports.

…or the Ferry Building itself!

The San Francisco Ferry Building sits at the foot of Market Street downtown. Opened in 1898, this terminal was the city’s major transportation hub. It survived two large earthquakes and years of neglect brought on by bridge and freeway building. When the controversial Embarcadero Freeway was removed after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the building was reconnected to the city. An extensive remodel was taken in the early twenty-first century, and now the Ferry Building is not just a place to catch a boat to somewhere else, but a destination in itself with lots of shops, restaurants, and offices. And you can rent out the Ferry Building for a special event! The Grand Hall can hold a grand event for up to 650 people, while the Port Hearing Room is perfect for a smaller meeting of up to 100 people. The outdoor plazas can be rented as well.

San Francisco Ferry Building’s Grand Hall, from their website

Why not think big and have your event at San Francisco City Hall?

Sometimes called “The People’s Palace”, San Francisco City Hall opened in 1915 and is a great example of a Beaux Arts building from the “City Beautiful” era. Its beautiful Rotunda can accommodate up to 660 people, plus there are multiple other spaces around the Rotunda that can be used for things like a gala or afterparty. We got to experience the gloriousness of this space at the end of Meeting Professionals International’s conference in 2022. Fun fact: City Hall was also featured in a James Bond movie!

We hope that you found this post informative and that it helps you to source for your next San Francisco Bay Area Meetings and Events. Want more info? Check out our post about Berkeley event venues. There is so much more to the Bay Area, California’s Wine Country, and beyond for meetings and events in this area of the country. If you need any help planning your next corporate meeting, event, or conference in the Bay Area, EJP Events is here to assist!

Luke and Rekhna: An Indian Wedding in Central Oregon

In the picturesque landscape east of the Cascades, amidst the breathtaking beauty of towering mountains and high desert greenery, a vibrant tapestry of colors and traditions unfolds as an enchanting Indian wedding in Central Oregon took place last fall. The air is filled with anticipation and joy, as family and friends gather from far and wide to celebrate the union of Luke and Rekhna.

Elaborate floral decorations adorn the venue, while the aromatic scent of Indian delicacies mingles with the crisp mountain air. Against the backdrop of nature’s splendor, the bride and groom, draped in resplendent attire, embark on a lifelong journey together, surrounded by the warmth and love of their loved ones.

We look forward to another Indian wedding in Central Oregon.

Who gets tipped at a wedding and why?

man pouring champagne on glasses for a wedding toast. this type of worker is one who gets tipped at a wedding
Photo by Rene Asmussen on

Who gets tipped at a wedding is a common question in wedding planning. It used to be you could just say, “Tip anyone you would tip normally,” and everyone knew what to do. However, this gets complicated when you factor in vendors such as DJs, photographers, and florists that not all of us use in our everyday lives. (Well, maybe if you are a celebrity…) Using a little knowledge of history, common sense, and principles of fairness and equity, we’ll try to tackle this question.

A little tipping history

While tipping predates the Civil War in the U.S., it became more prevalent in post-Reconstruction America. When it became no longer legal to enslave humans and pay them nothing to work, companies such as Pullman hired Black workers and paid them low wages, expecting them to work for tips to make up the bulk of their income (via USA Today).

As Rakeen Mabud mentions in an article on the Forbes website, “Former slaves…were exploited by employers who offered them no-wage jobs with the promise of tips. Tipping, therefore, was explicitly used to avoid paying black Americans for their labor in this period.”

CBS News continues, “Surprisingly, in those early years, many considered tipping undemocratic and therefore un-American because of its roots in the aristocracy. ‘Tipping, and the aristocratic idea it exemplifies, is what we left Europe to escape. It is a cancer in the breast of democracy,’ wrote William Scott in 1916. But the railway and restaurant industries fought for using tipping as their employees’ full wages, to exploit their African American labor force, and they won.”

Today, we have what are called “Tip Credit” exemptions in US laws such as the FLSA, that allow certain classes of workers to be paid a minimum wage as low as $2.13 (!!!), and to earn the rest of their wage through tips. Thankfully, some areas have adopted minimum wage laws that start minimum wage at $14.75 or better (hi, Portland). However, even a higher minimum wage doesn’t quite cut it when you look at this table from MIT showing what a living wage should be for a household with 2 children — for example, that’s between $27 and $48 in Multnomah County, depending on how many adults are working in the household. Simply put, tips really help if your hourly wage doesn’t cut it.

OK, so knowing the above, we’ve accepted that the history of tipping is pretty awful. Also knowing that while we continue to live in and agitate against this inequitable system, it’s up to us to take direct action and figure out who gets tipped at a wedding, to make it a better situation. So we should absolutely tip folks who work at a wedding, because not only are they working hard, they’re under so much more pressure since they are not just making dinner or creating space, they are doing so for such a timeless and special occasion. By tipping, we’re also directly helping people, and making up for some of the inequities in a system that we have the privilege to affect. That being said, if you absolutely do not have the ability to tip*, you shouldn’t feel bad, and nothing bad is going to happen to you. There are alternatives to cash tips that we’ll go over later in this article.

Yes, you should still tip anyone you would tip in your daily non-wedding life

So who gets tipped at a wedding? Let’s start with the easy answers: Anyone who you would tip in normal, non-wedding life. Do you go out to eat? You tip the waiter, and maybe in your food delivery app, you give a gratuity to the kitchen staff. Do you drink in bars? You tip the bartender. Do you stay in hotels? You tip the people who carry your stuff or bring things to your room, and those who clean up after you. None of this changes just because you’re having a wedding. Do you tip your hairstylist? Of course you do. Do you tip when you go to the department store, and a makeup artist helps you choose makeup and sometimes, even applies it on your face? Yes, all of these tips that happen in normal life, should also happen at your wedding.

And anyone who offers an above-and-beyond customized service

In addition, let’s think about people who offer specialized labor or a customized service. When you go to a karaoke bar, you might tip the KJ for finding you that special song you wanted to sing, and moving you up in the queue because she knows it’s your birthday. Similarly, a wedding DJ who goes out of their way to customize your wedding playlist, gets to know your likes and dislikes, and watches the crowd to tailor the music in order to get the most people dancing — this person is deserving of a gratuity. The words gratuity and gratitude are related – use tips to show how grateful you are.

Exceptions to who gets tipped at a wedding: Bad service, business owners, and when it’s already in the contract

Let’s be real, tips add up. When you are already spending so much money on the wedding, it’s always good to look for safe places where you can skip the tip. One is if the vendor provider is a business owner. Although they will definitely appreciate, and certainly not turn away, a tip if you give them one, they normally are not thinking of themselves as who gets tipped at a wedding. This is because, as an owner-worker they are presumably (hopefully) paying themselves a living wage or better. (If you are a business owner and you are NOT paying yourself a living wage, there’s a book for you!)

The other situation is where gratuity is already included in the contract. But be careful! “Service charge” and “Gratuity” are not always interchangeable. It’s up to you (or your wedding planner) to ask vendors who add service charge (most likely a caterer or a hotel), whether or not that service charge goes to the staff. If it doesn’t, then it would be customary to give tips to hotel or catering staff at the end of the night.

One last situation is if you’ve received overall bad service. I’m not talking about if one guest’s impossible/illegal request wasn’t met (I’m thinking of that one wedding guest who asked me to chill and serve her own wine that she brought from outside the venue. Uh, no.), but overall bad service where it seems like everything went wrong — late or missing staff, important instructions such as dietary needs not followed, diagrams or timelines given well in advance not followed, etc. In this case you should feel fine about reducing or eliminating gratuity for the affected services. But please do give tips for those who did show up and give their all.

Ways to show appreciation without tipping

For those vendors who aren’t being tipped, there are still lots of ways to show appreciation. Offer a sandwich tray with ice-cold sodas during setup, for the floral and rental setup crew. In my experience, those folks do a lot, but rarely get tipped. After the wedding, you can write your vendor a thank-you note and include a coffee gift card, or send a bottle of wine (unopened, please) that is left over from your reception.

And if they did a good job, you should write that vendor a nice review on a site like Yelp, Google Maps, or TheKnot. (Pro tip: Copy and paste your review on as many sites as you can. More ideas include WeddingWire, LinkedIn, and Facebook.) Your vendor will love you forever, and a good review that could lead to future business is worth far more than a $50 handshake.

Finally, don’t forget to write your vendors a thank-you note if they did a good job. It’s a little thing that does mean something, especially if you cannot tip someone.

Your wedding planner is your intermediary

This seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it? But this is a perfect example of a service a wedding planner provides for you, in order to remove stress and fuss from the events leading up to the wedding. Your planner can look at your vendor list and help you figure out who gets tipped at the wedding and exactly how much. Once you and your planner determine what tips will be arranged, you can place these amounts (usually cash) in sealed envelopes with the name of the vendor for your planner to hand out (or not hand out, based on service) at the end of the night. You and your sweetie and all your friends and family won’t have to deal with all of that.

Need a cheat sheet? Here you are!

Feel free to download this PDF with a quick checklist of common vendors that one would tip at a wedding. Who Gets Tipped at a Wedding Checklist

*As most wedding expenses are non-mandatory, my stance is that few people planning weddings fall into this category. Just as if you can afford to go out for dinner, you can afford to tip; so if you can afford to host, for example, a wedding with a budget of $30,000 or more, you can afford to tip your wedding vendors. To host a wedding at this budget level or higher in the US and think you can’t afford to tip, in my opinion, means you didn’t plan correctly. Smaller weddings on shoestring budgets are exempt from my blanket judgement.

An Unforgettable Thunder Island Wedding: Shannon & Ryan

It’s no secret that one of our favorite wedding locations is the Columbia Gorge just east of Portland. Here is where the Columbia, the mightiest river in the west, literally cut through a mountain range on its way to the Pacific. The steep mountains that form the “walls” of the Gorge are supremely photogenic. And the staggering number of waterfalls add to the natural beauty. We were so excited that Shannon and Ryan asked us to assist with their Thunder Island wedding planning.

Last fall we had the opportunity to help out Shannon and Ryan with their ideal Columbia Gorge wedding. Held on Thunder Island, once the site of the “locks” that gave Cascade Locks its name. The locks here are no more, as the construction of the Bonneville Dam moved the locks downriver. Now what is here is a peaceful island with a spectacular backdrop of water, mountains, and the Bridge of the Gods.

Shannon and Ryan met during a camping trip in college. They love the outdoors, so much that their engagement session involved rock climbing at Smith Rock in Central Oregon. So an outdoor wedding was definitely in the picture for them. The weather on their wedding day was almost perfect: ample amounts of sun and warmth, though a wee bit breezy. But it’s the Gorge, wind is to be expected!

The reception was held indoors at the Pavilion at Thunder Island. An example of the couple’s unique touch was an audio guest book that guests would record their greeting via a vintage rotary phone.

It was a lovely wedding and we were happy to help.

For more about Shannon and Ryan’s Thunder Island wedding, check out this post on Taylor Denton Photography, and this post at Brides and Weddings.


A wedding couple says their vows under a wooden arbor at Thunder Island, Cascade Locks, Oregon.


More Columbia River Gorge Weddings!

For more reports from our Columbia Gorge Weddings:

And if you need ideas for venues in the Gorge, whether it be for your Columbia River Gorge wedding, a family gathering, or intimate meeting or retreat, check out our venue guides: