Wedding Photographer San Francisco City Hall
Welcome to our San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer website. We are one of the most experienced professional wedding photographers at SF City Hall with over 1,200 marriages creatively photographed. The history and beauty of this affordable venue attracts couples from all over the world! Michael has over 20 years of photographic experience and will take you to the best spots to create romantic pictures. We want to be your wedding photographer!
San Francisco Wedding Photography at the Best Venue
We have photographed civil ceremonies and receptions all over the Northern California area, but San Francisco City Hall continues to be our most popular urban venue. At certain times of the day the natural light is amazing, but even when it's not, we bring our own professional lighting! Our knowledge of the building will help keep you in less crowded areas and ensures the ideal natural light depending upon the time of day. To see examples of our work, view our City Hall Gallery Page. For recent weddings click San Francisco Weddings. This section features our top 10 images from each event. We want to provide you the best San Francisco city hall wedding photography possible. To review our availability for your ceremony date, click the contact link and book a reservation. Whether you are planning an elopement or large event, we can provide you with exceptional yet economical coverage.
We love shooting civil ceremonies at San Francisco City Hall and would be happy to show you our bridal portfolios. Let us explain our affordable wedding packages by requesting a consultation. We will work within your budget to provide you with the most inexpensive prices and packages possible. We pride ourselves in making your day magical and fun. We will explore all 4 floors of this amazing building while creating beautiful images that you will cherish for a lifetime. Check out our Google+ Business page to see announcements and specials. To learn more about our unique and creative approach, please see some sample San Francisco City Hall Yelp Reviews below.
Top Rated City Hall Yelp Reviews
Kevin from Manchester England - "Mike and Toni were magnificent for our city hall wedding yesterday... Funny, knowledgeable, calming, generous, hard working and above all else fantastic photographers who know all the premiere spots in city hall for photos... You have to book these guys!"
Genevieve from San Diego, California - Mike and Toni were professional, efficient and amazing photographers! They helped us navigate the entire process, from checking in to the actual ceremony. Mike made sure we were on time, and even convinced the judge to let us get married on the Mayor's Balcony (gorgeous!!)"
Tracy from Palo Alto, California - "I was really impressed with Mike from the outset - he was responsive and effective in answering my many questions (and I had many!) and provided us with guidance on what to expect on our special day at City Hall. His expertise/guidance proved to be VERY helpful on our actual wedding day when we were able to be married on the Mayor's Balcony. Awesome!!! ... I am so glad we hired Mike, the photos will serve as beautiful reminders of our special day."
San Francisco Wedding Photography Tour
One of our most popular packages is the San Francisco Photo Tour. Many of our out-of-town wedding couples take advantage of this package, but it's fun for anyone! After your ceremony and photos around the building, we take you on a tour of the town and you can choose the greatest spots! If you are a newcomer to The City, we are happy to help you select prime locations to visit. We provide comfortable transportation and make it a fun and romantic adventure for the two of you. Some of the top locations we can visit include: The Palace of Fine Arts, Japanese Tea Gardens, Coit Tower, Baker Beach, the Presidio, Golden Gate Bridge, Ghirardelli Square, Crissy Field, The Botanical Gardens, and the Legion of Honor. We drive to each location and take beautiful wedding pictures and also let you wander around and enjoy. Want to ride a Cable Car? We will transport you to the prime place to hop on San Francisco's most famous icon and get a fun shot of both of you riding.
This package includes 4 hours of coverage and you keep ALL of the photos we take for $1,295. Many of our married couples ask us to expand the tour so they can discover even more quality attractions for picture opportunities. We are more than happy to do this and will take you to some of the less touristy, but still optimum spots. No matter what locations you choose, the San Francisco Tour Package is the best way to celebrate your nuptials in this "City by the Bay". Other top-rated picture spots include Twin Peaks, Pier 7, Fisherman's Wharf, Fort Point, North Beach, Lover's Lane, Union Square and Golden Gate Park.
Packages for Every Budget
We have an economical city hall package for every budget. If you don't find one that fits your needs, let us know and we would be happy to send you a custom quote. If you like the idea of incorporating San Francisco into your wedding photos, but don't want to spend as much time, we offer The Golden Gate Package at $995. This package offers 1 additional San Francisco location and 2.5 hours of coverage for a discounted price. You still receive all of the digital images photographed at your event, plus we include sample photos in Sepia Tone and Black White for your review. We also offer professional quality wedding albums and full wedding reception coverage if needed. To see a YouTube slideshow of a recent SF tour click: Wedding Photography Tour or review the video below!
Prime City Hall Ceremony Locations?
This is probably one of the more common questions that our clients ask. There are quite a few ceremony location options at San Francisco City Hall and all of them are incredibly beautiful. We definitely have our favorites, but not all are available unless you are willing to pay an extra $1,000 for a private ceremony on the 4th floor. If you look at the guidelines from the City Hall website, it's clear that your officiant actually has the right to decide where to perform your ceremony. Most of them give the choice to the couple, but limit the options to the Rotunda or the private room. It doesn't hurt to ask if it's possible to have your service at an alternative location, we have seen many marriage commissioners grant our bride and groom's request. Here is a list of the most popular places to celebrate your nuptials at city hall:
Rotunda - This is the default location for all standard city hall marriage celebrations. When you meet with your officiant before the wedding you will usually be given 2 choices for your ceremony location, either the Rotunda or the private room. Pretty much everyone chooses the Rotunda, which is located at the top of the Grand Staircase. The Rotunda is an excellent place to have your ceremony and you can expect a small amount of privacy. There is no guarantee, however, that total strangers won't walk in and watch your ceremony. Some city hall tourists even take photos!
Private Room - The other choice for a standard ceremony is the private room. For eloping couples who prefer privacy, this is the place to go. Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe got married in a private room at San Francisco City Hall! The room isn't particularly large so it is most appropriate for elopements. However, it does provide seats for your guests and a little bit of wedding related decor. We strongly recommend avoiding the private room on warm summer days, it can get very stuffy and hot. We have seen no evidence that there is any air conditioning in the room. The private room is located close to the County Clerk's office at room 168.
Grand Staircase - There are a few marriage commissioners who will offer you the opportunity to have your ceremony either at the top of the Grand Staircase or on the lower landing. Although this is a gorgeous location with unique architecture, it's not the ideal place to get married. The staircase is frequently loaded with tourists, wedding photographers and other married couples. From a photographer's standpoint it's difficult to get first-rate picture angles during the ceremony because of where we have to stand. However, if you love the stairs, then feel free to make it your ceremony place! Either way, we will take you there after the ceremony and try to get some nice shots if it's not too crowded.
Mayor's Balcony - There are 2 different ways to have your ceremony on the Mayor's Balcony 1. Pay $1,000 so you can have a roped off, private ceremony with complete privacy, chairs for your guests, and plenty of room. Or 2. Pay the standard fee and see if you can talk your marriage commissioner into performing your ceremony there! Some officiants will take you there if there are no events at the time. One of our favorite ceremony locations, the Mayor's Balcony is located on the 2nd floor directly across from the Rotunda. Statues of former Mayors George Moscone and Diane Feinstein overlook your ceremony from this excellent location. It can be a little dark on the balcony on a foggy or cloudy day, but we bring professional lighting so we can still get great images.
Fourth Floor Balcony - This is San Francisco City Hall's other private ceremony location. Also referred to as the Fourth Floor North Gallery, it's absolutely romantic and beautiful with incredible architecture. Similar to the Mayor's Balcony, you pay the price of $1,000 and they rope off the entire balcony and even set up chairs for your large event. On very rare occasions you might be able to convince an officiant to perform a standard civil ceremony here. Over the course of the 300 weddings we have photographed at San Francisco City Hall, we have discovered that certain marriage commissioners are willing to move your ceremony if there is some sort of disruption occurring in the Rotunda area. The 4th floor North Gallery is breathtaking and it's just another of the amazing options available to couples getting married here. If you happen to be a Shutterbug yourself, this location will wow you! This is probably one of the most highly rated ceremony locations among our brides and grooms. Click on this FAQ link for more helpful SF wedding photography tips.
Other Locations - Through the years we have explored the many corridors, passageways, and rooms in this building. For our clients that provide their own officiant, we are happy to help find a nice private location for the wedding ceremony. We can also recommend experienced professional marriage commissioners who we have worked with in the past to help with this process. If you are interested in including a "first look" in your wedding photography coverage, we have some optional locations for you to choose from.
Fun City Hall Wedding Photographer!
After over 20 years in the professional wedding photography business, we have learned that the best way to create lasting memories on your big day is to keep it light hearted and fun. We will do everything we can to make your special day wonderful. Having your wedding pictures taken should not be a job, it should be an amazing experience. We accomplish this by maintaining an easy-going style and not over-posing you. We will definitely be actively involved in making sure your courthouse wedding pictures turn out creative and amazing, but we do it in a light hearted manner without pushing you into difficult poses. Most importantly, WE have a wonderful time photographing you and it shows in your images! Read our Yelp reviews and you will notice the large percentage of clients that compliment us not just on the picture quality, but on the experience we provide them! We strive to provide our engaged couples with a combination of documentary style, photojournalism and some traditional portraits. To learn more about the History of City Hall on Wikipedia, including famous weddings that have occurred here, check this Wikipedia link. We are also more than willing to receive input from you regarding your personal photographic preferences. We want to know your own style and personality so we can make sure these things show through in your final digital images. Do you like mostly candid, photojournalistic, or traditional photos? Our Brides and Grooms often let us know some of their favorite poses and San Francisco locations and we are happy to accommodate them.
City Hall Approved Wedding Photographers
Our photography studio has been added to San Francisco City Hall's approved "Featured Vendor" list. We have submitted the necessary paperwork and meet all of the insurance requirements that permit us to photograph private city hall events. Our many years of successfully photographing weddings and events at this popular venue has helped us to be added to this list. We were also a major contributor to the event marketing brochure and have been asked by the event director to contribute pictures for 2017. What does all of this mean for you? Just the knowledge that you have chosen a well established, top rated wedding photographer that you can rely on with tons of experience and credibility. In addition, if you are planning a Saturday wedding at City Hall (and certain weekday events), you are only allowed to use approved vendors due to insurance liability issues. We have forged professional relationships with many of City Hall's special event coordinators and often receive important information that assists us in navigating the entire matrimonial process. We specialize in photographing weddings at this premium venue, we don't just do it on the side. Last year alone (2016) we photographed 78 out of our 90 local weddings at San Francisco City Hall! 2017 is looking to be even better!
Local Knowledge of San Francisco
As a SF native, I started my business right here in this town over 20 years ago. I was born here, and graduated from the University of San Francisco receiving a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) a few years later at this popular urban school. Yes, that's correct, a real live San Francisco native (and proud of it). As our City Hall business has expanded, I find myself spending more and more time exploring this beautiful city. It's fun discovering new neighborhoods and checking out the bars, restaurants and shops. Some of the places I would strongly recommend exploring include the Haight/Ashbury district, Nob Hill, Noe Valley, The Castro, South of Market and the Marina District. North Beach is a favorite of mine and I love dropping into many of it's amazing eateries and having some Fresh Pasta or Cioppino. Some of our clients enjoy taking a walking tour of these areas and we photograph the experience. It's a very natural way of having your wedding photos taken while exploring Fisherman's Wharf or any other part of San Francisco. As a Bay Area native, I am also happy to acknowledge that I am a Warriors, Giants and 49ers fan!
If you choose our "San Francisco Package", my local knowledge will lead you to the most beautiful spots in this town and the ideal times to travel there for traffic and quality of light. See below for details on this popular photography package. To learn more about having your wedding at this famous venue, check out these Huffington Post San Francisco City Hall articles. We are a full service wedding photographer and offer our customers engagement sessions, formal bridal portraits, pre-wedding shoots, and studio photography. Your final photos will combine photojournalism and traditional posing to ensure you receive everything you need from your shoot. Our service is open to all regardless of race, creed or national origin. We are a same-sex, gay/lesbian/LBGT friendly wedding photographer. If you are looking for a short cut to all of our important pages - review our City Hall Wedding Site Map.
Top 5 Reasons to Get Married in San Francisco
Why do people from all over the world come to "Everybody's Favorite City" to get married? There are so many reasons to visit this beautiful town, but is it really a good destination wedding locale? Yes! Fantastic weather, incredible views, historic sites, art work, and so much more. San Francisco really is one of the highest rated wedding destinations so let's explore some of the main factors engaged couples consider when making this all important decision.
1. Wide Variety of Reception/Event Locations - San Francisco, with it's many restaurants, clubs and hotels, offers a multitude of unique places for a marriage reception/celebration. If you love gourmet food, SF ranks as one of the foremost areas in the country to experience culinary delights. A fine restaurant offering your favorite food is the perfect place to invite guests to celebrate your big day. There are even a few potential reception locations that are walking distance from city hall, we are happy to help guide you with recommendations for these local spots. Soluna Cafe, Jardinière and Absinthe are some of the preeminent locations close to City Hall. Many of the City's clubs and large pubs also offer fantastic wedding reception locations and are located in our historic districts. Yes, some of the hotels can be rather expensive, but many offer antique charm or modern amenities at a reasonable cost.
2. Amazing Ceremony Spots - Let's start with S.F. City Hall, this old historic building may well be one of the most popular locations to get married at in San Francisco. It's economical, beautiful, and has amazing architecture to gaze at while you recite your nuptials. In addition to this landmark, you can also have your ceremony at The Palace of Fine Arts, Sea Cliff, Twin Peaks, The Legion of Honor, The Presidio, the Cliffhouse, or Golden Gate Park to name just a few. If you are looking for a religious ceremony, you also have many beautiful options. The city offers everything from 100+ year old churches to modern Cathedrals. Churches such as: Saint Mary's, Saint Dominic's, St. Ignatius, Grace Cathedral, Old Saint Mary's, and Saints Peter and Paul Church are just a few of the choices available. It's no surprise that "Baghdad by the Bay" is one of the foremost elopement destinations for couples from all over the world. Many couples also choose to have their engagement photos done in San Francisco and even at city hall!
3. So many things to do! - San Francisco is one of the top ranked vacation destinations in all the world. It offers all of the things a big city normally does, plus it has it's own unique small town charm. Many love to venture out to Fisherman's Wharf to grab a bite to eat or take a boat trip to Alcatraz. For entertainment, San Francisco has many full sized theaters offering major plays and shows. Check out the Curran, Orpheum or Golden Gate Theaters for some of the preeminent live entertainment available. If you are interested in history, SF has many old landmarks including City Hall, The Bank of California Building, Foreign Cinema, Mission Dolores, Saint Patrick's Church, and the Palace Hotel. Eloping couples visiting from other countries love to explore places like China Town, North Beach and Japan Center. Take a walk around Telegraph Hill and explore Coit Tower or take a ride on a Cable Car. If you like sports, we have the San Francisco Giants, the 49ers and the Golden State Warriors. There is something here for everyone! One way to explore some of these spots is to book our "Golden Gate" Package.
4. Central Location - One of the unique things about the Bay Area is it's proximity to so many recreational locations. If you love the ocean you are just minutes away from some beautiful beaches including Baker Beach, Stinson Beach, and Pacifica. Baker Beach in particular overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge and is also one of our favorite pictures spots! A 3 hour drive puts you in Lake Tahoe where you can snow ski, gamble, fish, swim or just enjoy the beauty of one of the world's largest lakes (ranked 28th by volume). One of the world's greatest wine countries, the Napa Valley, is less than an hour's drive and is home to some amazing places to eat and wine taste. If you love the Redwoods, two of the world's most famous groves are within driving distance from "The City by the Bay". It's hard to beat Northern California for the diversity of leisure activities it offers. Am I leaving anything out? Definitely!
5. Greatest Climate - Yes, it's considered good luck to have it rain on your wedding day, but the truth is most people would prefer a sunny day. San Francisco is famous for it's fog, but in general the rain is predictable. It rarely rains in Northern California from June through October, offering you many options for your ceremony location and reception. This also provides opportunities to have beautiful wedding photos to help remember your big day. For those of you curious about earthquake issues, city hall was extensively retrofitted following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Don't forget to hire a professional San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer!
Guide to Your City Hall Wedding Process
From the emails we receive, it becomes apparent that there exists considerable confusion regarding the entire wedding process from beginning to end at City Hall. We thought it would be useful to provide a quick wedding guide and also throw in a few brief suggestions to help you navigate the matrimonial process. For a more details step-by-step guide please go to: How To Get Married at City Hall.
Marriage License - This appointment is for obtaining the Marriage License. Your witness does not need to be there and the document is not signed at this time (except by the bride and groom). You will need your ID's and your right hand (to raise). Some brides and grooms request photography for this portion, but it's really not needed and your money could be better spent elsewhere. However, if photos are important to you at this time, we are happy to oblige. For more info about the process of getting started go to our guide for city hall weddings.
Ceremony Check in - This occurs approximately 10 minutes before your scheduled wedding ceremony. You don't need your witness at this point either, nor do you need to bring your whole family into the County Clerk's office with you. This meeting is purely to have the County Clerk check your documentation for completion and to give you your ceremony number. If you bring family and friends in at this point, they will likely be asked to leave. Your wedding photographer will accompany you in to the office to document this brief meeting.
Officiant Meeting - When the County Clerk calls your number, it's time to go meet your city hall marriage commissioner. This occurs just minutes before your ceremony. The Deputy Commissioner will sit down with you and ask you questions about your ceremony preferences. NOW is the time to make sure you bring in your witness! Again, no family and friends, this is not the wedding. They have recently become much more strict about this and will sternly ask your guests to leave the office if they come in. We like to photograph this part because it helps document the importance of the event and it is also nice to have a photo of your witness.
License Signing - At the officiant meeting (see above) the marriage license is signed by your witness. This is probably the first photo-worthy event up to this point. Again, you don't need to bring your whole family in with you. If you do bring them in, they will be asked to leave. No videography is allowed during the license signing, but feel free to take pictures as long as you don't use flash. We can serve as your witness if needed.
Ceremony - Once the license has been signed, bring your family and friends to the Rotunda or private room to watch you get married. City Hall marriage ceremonies generally take less than 5 minutes. There are no restrictions on where your guests can stand during your nuptials. The closer the better, just try not to block the wedding photographers!
New Package Added! Ceremony Only Coverage
Due to customer demand, we have decided to add ceremony only coverage. This means that if you want us to only handle your City Hall wedding ceremony, we now provide you with a economical package that will save you additional dollars! For this package, we meet you at the County Clerk's office prior to your event and accompany you for check-in and license signing. Then we follow you up to the 2nd floor and cover the entire ceremony. We even will take you to one other location within the building to get a few nice formal shots! The price for this new package is $495 and we call it the "Ceremony" Package. This is also good for couples who want their marriage ceremony documented for legal reasons.
Best Day to Avoid Crowds at SF City Hall
Without a doubt the most common question we are asked is: "What is the best day of the week to get married at city hall to avoid the crowds?" There are actually 2 parts to the answer because the time of the day also matters. Most people would assume that Friday is the most crowded and they would be correct. Fridays are the days with the largest amount of reserved ceremonies on the Mayor's Balcony and the 4th Floor North Gallery. Since reserved ceremonies do not have the 6 person restriction that the standard city hall weddings have, it's not uncommon to see hundreds of people milling about on Fridays. Add the fact that there are more tourists on Fridays and you have a recipe for what we call "Crazy Friday." Thursday's are not much better, but definitely preferred over Friday because there seems to be less tourists. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the slowest days at city hall followed closely by Monday.
As mentioned previously, the time of the day can be just as important as the day of the week. Peak times on most days are between 12:30 and 2:30 pm. If you can book the final ceremony of the day at 3:30 pm, City Hall will start to clear out once your ceremony is complete allowing you better access to some of the most beautiful areas like the Grand Staircase and the North Gallery on the 4th floor. Early morning times also work well to avoid crowds. People often ask us about the optimum time for optimum light and it really depends on the circumstances. Because of the fog, the natural light is unpredictable, but we have found that no matter what the weather conditions there are plenty of exceptional photo options at city hall. We always bring professional strobe lighting and umbrellas to improve the quality of light when needed.
City Hall Wedding Tips - November, 2017
How to get married at City Hall in the month of November - One of our slowest months normally due to the Thanksgiving Holiday, November is the time that we start booking lots of wedding for Christmas at City Hall. If you are planning on getting married under the beautiful (and somewhat famous) Christmas tree, now is the time to book your wedding! The dates in December fill up fast.
Artistic Beginnings - About Michael
I started photography at the age of 13 shortly after my father passed away and I inherited his Nikon camera. My mother, Laura Odegard is an accomplished Bay Area artist and her work inspired me to try to find my own creative talent. My mom, a true San Franciscan, was painting Victorian homes in the 1960's during the "Hippie" era in our Haight/Ashbury neighborhood. Looking back at all the art books I scribbled in (and ruined) as a child, I remember how disappointed I was that I couldn't draw like her. Obtaining my dad's camera was just the thing to help me find my artistic outlet. He was such a gifted photographer and I thought to myself that this is something I can do! Right away I started taking photos of everything around me including people. Of course many of the photos were photojournalistic in nature, but I later started learning more about professional posing and how to make my subjects look their best.
Then in Junior High I made a friend named John Pugh who eventually became a very famous mural artist. From an artistic standpoint, John did everything well. He could draw, paint, and he was adept with a camera. He introduced me to the idea of photography as art and not just a fun way to record events. I remember going over to his house one morning and he showed me his black and white photography darkroom. Once I saw the magic that occurred in that room, I was hooked for life! I immediately tore my parents garage apart and built my own darkroom. I used the skills I learned in the Darkroom to help put myself through college. I was a professional photographer for the Sports Information Department at USF and the Photo Editor for the school newspaper, "The Foghorn". Both positions were paid and both required Darkroom work.
There was always something about portrait photography that particularly inspired me. Like any good photographer, I enjoyed taking vacation scenery landscape photos, but I was always more drawn to photographs of human subjects. Through High School and College, I asked girlfriends to model for me so I could practice my craft. This constant practice assisted me in becoming a better picture taker, especially portrait work. Why did I choose wedding photography instead of many of the other areas I could have pursued? People always seem to be happy at Weddings and even though there is some stress involved, it usually is easily overshadowed by the joy felt by everyone involved on this special day. I love being part of it! To review more details about Michael and Toni, please go to our "About the wedding photographers" page.
201 Spear Street, Suite 1100
San Francisco, CA 94105