San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photographer
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Wedding Photographers San Francisco City Hall

Welcome to our San Francisco City Hall wedding photographers website. We are one of the most experienced professional photographers at San Francisco City Hall with over 1,600 marriages creatively photographed. The history and overwhelming beauty of this affordable wedding venue attracts couples from all over the world! Michael has over 20 years of photographic experience and will take you to the best locations in San Francisco City Hall to create romantic pictures and special memories. In addition, we will gladly walk you through the entire ceremony check-in process to make your nuptials the best they can be. We want to be your city hall wedding photographer!

San Francisco City Hall - Best Wedding Venue

We have creatively photographed civil wedding ceremonies and receptions throughout the entire Bay Area, but San Francisco City Hall is definitely our most popular. Under certain most outside weather conditions the natural light can be incredible, but even when it's not we bring in our own professional photography lighting! Our vast knowledge of this spectacular building allows us to avoid the more crowded areas when necessary and ensures ideal lighting no matter what time of day. For recent examples of our wedding photography, view our City Hall Photo Gallery page. To view current individual weddings, click San Francisco Weddings. This section features our top 10 images from each event and in most cases many more photos are displayed. If you book us for your marriage, we promise to provide you with the best San Francisco city hall wedding photography possible. To check our availability for your civil ceremony date and time, click the Contact Link . We will respond to your email inquiry promptly and answer any specific questions or concerns you have. Whether you are planning an elopement or a larger family marriage event, we can provide you with exceptional photographic coverage of your town hall nuptials. Our award winning wedding photography style ensures your precious memories will be forever recorded, enabling you to relive your special day for years to come. We also offer professional custom made wedding albums to show your friends and relatives. You choose the photos and we do the album design and send you a proof to approve.

Many City Hall Packages to Choose From

We love photographing civil ceremonies at San Francisco City Hall and would be happy to show you some of our best bridal portfolios. Allow us to describe our affordable city hall wedding photography packages by setting up a professional consultation over the phone. We will work within your budget to provide you with the most inexpensive prices and packages possible with amazing quality. We pride ourselves in our ability to make your special day amazing. We accomplish this through our positive attitude and relaxed demeanor. Our goal is to make your city hall experience magical and fun. We will take you on a photographic tour of all 4 floors of this amazing building while creating beautiful images that you will cherish for a lifetime. Check out our SF City Hall photography Blog to see announcements and pictures from recent weddings. We will also share the latest news or events at city hall. To learn more about our unique and creative approach, please see some of our sample San Francisco city Hall wedding Yelp Reviews. We average a 5 star rating on Yelp! More important than the 5 stars are the review details themselves. We encourage our potential future brides and grooms to read some of the detail of the reviews because it will provide you with a better idea of how we treat our clients on their wedding day. We strive to not only provide you with the best photographic images, but also to make your marriage day special and fun. We do this by not over-posing you and keeping your photo session moving quickly, but also making it enjoyable. We receive as many compliments about our demeanor and friendliness as we do about our final results - the pictures! Our clients love us and send us an amazingly high number of referrals.

Top Rated SF City Hall Yelp Reviews

Kevin from Manchester England - "Mike and Toni were magnificent for our San Francisco 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!" (Yelp Review from 2017)

Genevieve from San Diego, California - Mike and Toni were professional, efficient and amazing wedding 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!!" (Yelp Review from 2012)


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! Mike also 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." (Yelp review from 2018)

San Francisco Wedding Photography Tour

One of our most popular and exciting packages is our San Francisco Wedding Photo Tour. Many out-of-town and international wedding couples take advantage of this package, but it's fun and memorable for anyone! After your ceremony and city hall interior and exterior photo session, we take you on a tour of the town and you can choose the greatest SF destinations to visit! If you are a newcomer to "The City", we are happy to help you select prime San Francisco landmarks that match your personal preferences.

Where we take you

Some of the top destinations we can journey to include: The Palace of Fine Arts, Japanese Tea Gardens, Coit Tower, Baker Beach, the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, Ghirardelli Square, Crissy Field, The Botanical Gardens, and San Francisco's famous Legion of Honor. In addition to some formal photos at these locations, we can just follow you while walking through San Francisco downtown areas and take photographs in a documentary style. Want to ride a Cable Car? We will show you the best place to board San Francisco's famous icon and capture a fun shot of both of you riding or just hanging on. We prefer to do this at Ghirardelli Square because the Powell Street Cable Car turnaround is right there. The cable cars stop at this location while waiting to go in and load up with additional passengers. It may be the only place you can hop on for a picture and not have to worry about paying or being hit by a passing car. It is also possible to catch the California Street line and we can sometimes do that down by Market Street at the Trolley Car turntable. Here is a detailed list of San Francisco Photo Tour Locations available to you after your San Francisco Courthouse wedding. Other top-rated picture spots include Twin Peaks, Pier 7, Fisherman's Wharf, Fort Point, North Beach, Lover's Lane, Fort Mason, Sutro Baths, Union Square and Golden Gate Park.

SF Tour Details

This incredible package includes 4 full hours of photographic coverage and you retain ALL of the photos and digital files we take. The cost for this service comes to only $1,295. Many of our married couples request that we amplify the tour so they can unearth even more San Francisco attractions for better picture opportunities. We are more than pleased to do this and will take you to some of the less touristy, but still optimum SF destinations. 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". Your Jpeg images will be delivered to you by Dropbox or Direct Download from your convenient Photo Viewing Website. We also offer optional professional wedding albums to supplement this great package for the reasonable price of $425 for a 8X11 album with 40 photos therein! Other sizes and styles are available at a slightly higher cost.

Top Wedding Packages for Every Budget

City Hall weddings can be extremely economical for any budget and preference. This includes the wedding packages we offer, which we have also priced affordably with many options. If you don't discover one that fits your needs, let us know and we would be happy to send you a custom quote specific to your desires. We will build a package around your budget and time constraints. If you like the idea of incorporating San Francisco scenes into your wedding photos, but want to spend less time, we offer The Golden Gate Package. For an affordable price of $895, this package provides 1 additional San Francisco location and 2.5 hours of coverage. Many of our clients find this to be just enough professional picture taking for one day! You still receive all of the digital images photographed at your civil ceremony, plus we include sample photos in Sepia Tone and Black and White for your review. We even provide you with a few special effect photos just for fun! We also offer engagement portrait sessions with any of our packages for a discounted price. Check out our professional quality wedding albums and full wedding reception coverage. To see a YouTube slideshow of a recent SF tour click: Wedding Photography Tour or check out this recent San Francisco Wedding Tour Video.

Best City Hall Ceremony Locations?

This is the most commonplace question that our engaged couples inquire about. There are umpteen ceremony location options at San Francisco City Hall and all of them are fabulously magical. We have our preferences, but not all are available unless you are willing to pay an extra $1,000 (Still a bargain in my opinion) for a private ceremony on the 4th floor North Gallery or Mayor's Balcony. If you look at the guidelines from the City Hall website, it's clear that your Marriage Commissioner actually has the right to determine where to perform your ceremony. Most officiants give the choice to the couple, but limit the options to the Rotunda or the private room (newly renovated). It doesn't hurt to inquire if it's conceivable to have your ceremony at an alternative location, we have seen many marriage commissioners grant our bride and groom's request. However, in recent months it seems to be more and more rare. It periodically occurs when there are disruptions or other events in the Rotunda, but this is unforeseeable. With the 6 guest rule now being enforced, this throws another variable into the mix. Couples with larger groups may not be offered location options due to potential disruptions caused by large groups. When you first check-in with the County Clerk, they will ask your guest count. If you have over 6 guests, you will likely be told that your ceremony must take place in the Private room. I recently watched a City Hall Officiant delay the start of the ceremony because the extra people she asked to leave would not vacate the area. Unfortunately, the enforcement of this new rule varies somewhat depending upon the Marriage Commissioner. However, with city hall recently reopening to weddings after the long closure for the pandemic, I would expect these rules to be enforced even more. Here is a list of the most desirable places to celebrate your nuptials at San Francisco city hall:


Great Rotunda - This is the default location for all standard city hall civil marriage celebrations. When you meet with your officiant before the wedding you will usually be given 2 options for your civil ceremony location, either the Rotunda or the private room. Virtually every couple chooses the Rotunda, which is located at the top of the Grand Staircase by the elevators. Since you took the trouble to have your wedding here, you should take advantage of the beauty and not get married in a small private room. The Rotunda is an excellent place to celebrate your ceremony, but you can expect only a small amount of privacy because of elevator foot traffic adjacent to the set up. Some SF city hall tourists even take photos and we do our best to shoe them away! However, despite these warnings, ceremonies here are rarely significantly disrupted. The City Hall Rotunda is a wedding photography friendly area because of the walls surrounding the majority of the area. As a bonus, it provides us something to bounce our flashes off of to help create softer and more subtle light on dark days. It's also beneficial because the officiant does not have to deal with a flash going off right in their faces over and over again. The little bit of privacy afforded by these stern walls is also welcome.

Private Ceremony Room - The other option for a standard civil ceremony is the private ceremony 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 (not the same one)! 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 décor. The private room is located close to the County Clerk's office at room 168. Update: The private room has been completely redecorated and has now become a much improved ceremony option. In addition, beginning in May, 2019, couples showing up with more than 6 guests for their wedding will be moved to the Private Room to avoid disruption in the Rotunda area and/or Mayor's Office. The County Clerk is under strict orders by San Francisco city hall to not allow large and loud wedding parties within the confines of the Rotunda. If you show up with a large group of friends and relatives, expect your entire wedding party to be sent to this room for your nuptials. If your entire group doesn't fit, you will most likely have to choose people to not go in. With City Hall reopening as of June 15th, we expect that the 6 guest rule with be even more carefully enforced.

Grand Staircase - There are a few marriage commissioners who will offer you the opportunity to perform 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 quintessential place to get married. The staircase is frequently laden with International 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. It is also not feasible to try to keep the tourists away from the ceremony. There is always at least one tourist who is oblivious and will walk right through your ceremony. However, if you love the stairs, then feel free to make it your matrimonial location! Either way, we will escort you to the Grand Staircase following the ceremony and try to obtain some nice shots if it's not too congested. In recent months, we have seen this location being used less and less. I am pretty sure that the one officiant who really enjoyed this location has retired.

Mayor's Balcony - There are 2 different ways to have your ceremony on the Mayor's Balcony: 1. Pay a reasonable price of $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 coax your marriage commissioner into performing your ceremony there! Some officiants will take you there if there are no events at the time. You may also receive the option to go there if there are disruptions in the Rotunda. One of our favorite ceremony locations, the Mayor's Balcony is located on the 2nd floor directly across from the Rotunda. Statues of former Mayor's George Moscone, Diane Feinstein and Willie Brown 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 off-camera lighting so we can still obtain great images. Warning, your cell phones will normally not create very good pictures on the Mayor's Balcony because of the back lighting present. If you are lucky, you might even see the new Mayor, London Breed wandering though the area. Note: As of this writing, it has become rare to be able to have your Civil Ceremony in this location. If you are really interested in the Mayor's Balcony you can pony up a relatively cheap $900 more and have it all to yourselves!

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 and natural light. It's not uncommon for a couple to take a deep breath and gasp when they first walk on this floor. It really is breathtaking. Similar to the Mayor's Balcony, you remit the price of $1,000 and the event department ropes off the entire balcony and even sets up chairs for your ceremony. On very rare occasions you might be able to convince an officiant to perform a standard civil ceremony here. Over the course of our 600+ weddings photographed at San Francisco City Hall, we have discovered that certain marriage commissioners are prepared to move your ceremony if there is some sort of disturbance occurring in the Rotunda area. This includes Board of Supervisors meetings that often occur on Tuesdays. The 4th floor North Gallery is breathtaking and it's just another of the amazing options accessible to couples getting married here. If you happen to be a Shutterbug yourself, this location will wow you! The huge windows let in an abundance of warm natural light. Once the ceremony is over, it's a great place for some wedding photography with just the bride and groom or same-sex couple. One of the benefits of renting this area out is that after the ceremony, you have unlimited access to the Gallery for the remainder of the hour. This prevents other SF city hall wedding photographers from coming in and getting in our way. Click on this FAQ link for more helpful SF wedding photography tips.

Other Ceremony or "First Look" Locations - Through the years we have explored the many corridors, passageways, and rooms in this unsurpassed building. For our customers that provide their own officiant, we are happy to help find a nice private location for your wedding ceremony. A few years back, the mayor took great pains to restore all of the hallways and windows of the building. Now there is a multitude of great locations throughout city hall for pictures. We can also recommend experienced professional marriage commissioners who we have worked with in the past to help with this process. A few of our recommended officiants use the same robes worn by city hall's own marriage commissioners. This can be a benefit because tourists and other wanderers will steer clear of your ceremony because they think it is being performed by a City Hall officiant. It makes your private ceremony appear more "official". If you are interested in including a "first look" or "reveal" in your wedding photography coverage, we have some optional locations for you to select from as well. We can find you a private ceremony location on the 3rd floor of city hall (south side) usually, but there are many other picturesque locations that are viable. We will also help set up the reveal (First Look) for your convenience and fun. We will make it go very smooth and take all of the stress out of it so you can focus on each other. For more information about alternative ceremony locations, email us and we can show you some sample photos of the proceedings and backgrounds available.

Fun SF 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 things light-hearted and fun. We will do everything we can to make your special day marvelous. Having your wedding pictures taken should not be a hassle, it should be an amazing and fulfilling experience. We accomplish this by maintaining an easy-going style and not over-posing you. We will be actively involved in making sure your courthouse wedding pictures turn out creative and amazing, but we do it in an upbeat manner without pushing you into complicated and intricate 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 itself! We strive to provide our couples a combination of documentary style, photojournalism and some traditional portraits.

To learn more about the History of San Francisco City Hall on Wikipedia, including famous San Francisco 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 attributes show through in your final digital images. Do you like mostly candid, photojournalist, 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. We also ask each client if there is anything specific that they would like us to photograph as we walk around city hall. Many brides and grooms choose the Grand Staircase, but we occasionally get surprised with their selected photographic locations and that's a great thing! If you would prefer to just leave it all up to us, that is fine too.

City Hall Approved Wedding Photographers

Our photography studio has been added to San Francisco City Hall's Event Department approved list of photographers. We have submitted the necessary paperwork and meet all of the insurance requirements that permit us to photograph private SF Courthouse weddings and events. Our many years of successfully photographing weddings at this popular venue has allowed us to be included on this list. We were also a major contributor to the City Hall event marketing brochure and have been asked by the event director to contribute pictures for the most current version. 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 San Francisco City Hall (and certain weekday reserved 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. This includes frequently receiving advance notice about upcoming special events at city hall that could help us avoid problems photographing your marriage. We specialize in photographing weddings at this premium venue, we don't just do it on the side.

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 with a BS Degree and then finally 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 (SOMA) and the Marina District. North Beach is a favorite of mine and I love dropping into many of it's amazing Italian eateries and having some Fresh Pasta or Cioppino (Try my favorite place, Sotto Mare on Green Street for amazingly fresh fish). Some of our clients enjoy taking a walking tour of these areas and we photograph the experience Paparazzi style. It is a very natural way of having your wedding photos taken while exploring Fisherman's Wharf or any other part of San Francisco. If you are walking around Union Square check out Maru Sushi a tiny little hole in the wall with the best Oysters in town! As a Bay Area native, I am also happy to acknowledge that I am a Golden State Warriors, Giants and 49ers fan!

If you choose our inexpensive "San Francisco Package", my local city 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 (regardless of the fog!). See below for details on this popular photography SF tour package. To learn more about having your wedding at this famous venue, check out these Huffington Post San Francisco City Hall articles. Your final images 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, culture or national origin. We are a same-sex, gay/lesbian/LGBTQ friendly wedding photographer. If you are looking for a short cut to all of our important pages - review our City Hall Wedding Site Map. Most of our most important pages can be found there.

Top 5 Reasons to Marry 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, it certainly is! 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 the all important decision of where to get married.

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 indulge in culinary delights. A fine local restaurant offering your favorite food is the perfect place to invite guests to celebrate your big day. Many possess large private areas to entertain a large number of guests all together. There even exists 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 and Absinthe are some of the preeminent locations close to SF City Hall and both have facilities to accommodate your large guest count. Many of the City's clubs and large pubs also offer fantastic wedding reception facilities and are located in our historic districts. Yes, some of the hotels can be comparatively expensive, but many offer antique charm or modern amenities at a reasonable cost. Most recently the SOMA and NOPA districts have become well known for great food and atmosphere. North Beach is also a favorite spot of mine for wedding receptions, the Italian food and authentic Pizza are fantastic! Check out Tony's Pizza and Original Joe's for down home Italian food! They both have small private dining areas for your small wedding reception or party. Sotto Mare is another favorite.


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. Certainly the most famous. It's economical, beautiful, and has amazing architecture to appreciate while you recite your nuptials. On average, 35 people are married there every day and we love taking pictures at sf city hall. In addition to this famous landmark, you can also have your ceremony at The Palace of Fine Arts, Sea Cliff, Twin Peaks, The Legion of Honor, The Presidio, Golden Gate Park or San Francisco's Cliff House 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 is no surprise that "Baghdad by the Bay" is one of the foremost elopement destinations for couples from all over the world. Many couples also would rather have their engagement photos done in San Francisco and even at city hall! Land's End or The Golden Gate Bridge are also phenomenal backdrops for your marriage ceremony or engagement portrait session.


3. So many things to do in San Francisco! - SF is one of the top ranked vacation destinations in all the world (universe?). It offers all of the things a big city normally does, plus it has it's own unique small town charm. Many couples 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 Broadway shows. Check out the Curran, Orpheum or Golden Gate Theaters for some of the preeminent live entertainment available. If you go to the right places, you can often find good deals. For history buffs, SF has many old landmarks including City Hall (of course), 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 to see some of their own culture in a different setting. Check out the Russian restaurants in the Richmond district for some amazing food. 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" or "San Francisco" wedding photography tour packages. These packages allow the couple to explore locations throughout the City after their town hall wedding. Now with new Chase Center operating, SF now becomes a top location for major concerts and events that need a large indoor arena. It is also the home of the Golden State Warriors basketball team!


4. Central Location - One of the uncommon things about the SF Bay Area is it's proximity to so many recreational and vacation locations. If you love the ocean, you are just minutes away from some stunning beaches including Baker Beach, Lands End, Stinson Beach, and Pacifica. Baker Beach in particular overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge and is also one of our favorite wedding picture spots! A 3.5 hour drive puts you in Lake Tahoe where you can snow ski, gamble, fish, swim, water ski, 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". The capital in Sacramento is just a little over an hour away and offers historic "Old Town" and other interesting things to see and do including a Railway Museum. It is hard to beat Northern California for the diversity of leisure activities it offers. Am I leaving anything out? Definitely! It's all here in San Francisco, nothing really compares

5. Greatest California Climate - Yes, it is considered good luck to have it rain on your wedding day, but the truth is most people would prefer sunny and warmish weather. San Francisco is famous for it's fog, but in general the rain is predictable and infrequent. It rarely rains in Northern California from June through October, offering you many options for your ceremony location and reception. The mild climate provides you with a perfect opportunity to receive beautiful wedding photos both inside and outdoors. Even if it is foggy, this can create a unique atmosphere for your wedding photos. Yes, the Golden Gate bridge might be partially obscured by fog, but that is how it often looks in reality! For those of you curious about earthquake issues, city hall was extensively retrofitted following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. In fact, it has been said that this might be the safest SF building to be in during an earthquake because the whole foundation has been mounted on rubber. During the retrofit, they used hundreds of rubber and stainless-steel insulators to cushion the base. In the event of a major earthquake these insulators provide enough movement to cushion the shaking, but don't allow too much movement, which helps things stay together!

Guide to SF City Hall Wedding Process

From the emails we receive, it became apparent that there exists considerable confusion and stress regarding the entire wedding process from beginning to end at San Francisco City Hall. We thought it would be advantageous to provide a thorough wedding guide and also throw in a few brief recommendations to help you navigate the matrimonial process in this grand building. For an even more detailed step-by-step guide, please go to: How To Get Married at San Francisco City Hall. You can also check out our page for free city hall wedding planning. NOTE: City Hall is now offering virtual weddings through the use of video conferencing technology in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. All you need is a County Clerk marriage license and a cell phone. The license can also be obtained virtually.


Marriage License - This appointment is for obtaining the Marriage License within 6 months of your actual wedding. Your witness does not need to be present and the document is not signed (witnessed) 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 is really not needed and your money could be better spent elsewhere. The main goal at this meeting is to make sure you bring the proper documentation which includes a legal form of current identification. The County Clerk will not allow you to get married or procure a marriage license with expired ID's. For more info about the process of getting started go to our guide for San Francisco city hall weddings. Update: The County Clerk's office no longer permits any type of photography or videography during the Marriage License meeting inside the room. We can still take photos out in the hallway by the Clerk's office. Also, stay tuned because the Clerk's office may start limiting photos in the hallway soon for safety reasons.

Ceremony Check in - This occurs approximately 5-10 minutes before your scheduled wedding ceremony. Bring your witness by nobody else, because they won't be allowed to enter the office due to Covid concerns. This includes your professional wedding photographer, we are also no longer allowed to record the signing of the license or take pictures of you checking in.

Officiant Meeting - When the County Clerk calls your number, it's time to go meet your city hall marriage commissioner. This occurs usually 10-15 minutes before the actual ceremony. The Deputy Marriage Commissioner will sit down with you and ask questions about your ceremony preferences. One of the things the officiant will ask the couple is by what name would they like to be called. NOW is the time to make sure you bring in your witness! Again, no family and friends (unless they are serving as your witness), 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. Many of our brides and grooms chose a person of significance to them in their lives like a grandparent to sign. Occasionally our eloping couples ask us to sign the marriage license and we are honored to do so and happy to oblige. There is no extra charge for this elopement service.

Marriage 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 do not need to bring your whole family in with you. If you do bring them in, they will be asked to leave in most cases. No video or flash photography is allowed during the license signing, but feel free to take pictures using the natural light. As mentioned, we can serve as your witness if needed. In reality, this part of your wedding day is what takes place at your scheduled ceremony time. The actual ceremony will take place a little later, usually in the Rotunda.

City Hall Marriage Ceremony - Once the marriage license has been signed, bring your family and friends to the Rotunda or private room so they can watch you get married. This is a good time to mention the fact that the ceremonies at city hall do not actually take place at the time you reserved. I think this is one of the big misunderstandings among couples and causes some frustration with their guests. In most cases, the ceremony will actually occur about 20 minutes after your scheduled time.

As mentioned elsewhere on this website, the County Clerks office is now enforcing the 6 person maximum guest regulation. Couples with more than 6 guests will have their nuptials moved to the private room. If you are within the 6 guest rule, then the likely place for your ceremony is the Great Rotunda. The Rotunda is located at the top of the Grand Staircase in the small enclosure between the elevators. City Hall marriage ceremonies generally take less than 5 minutes to perform. You will only asked to recite standard civil ceremony vows. You can ask your officiant to provide you with a copy of the vows prior to your ceremony if that helps you with reciting them. There are no restrictions on where your guests can stand during your nuptials. Feel free to take your own pictures if you are a guest. Just try not to completely block your city hall wedding photographers!

Why Hire a Professional Wedding Photographer?

Getting married in San Francisco? Have you ever asked yourself: "How do I find the best city hall wedding photographer near me?" Do I even need to hire one? With the advent of digital cameras many people are opting to have their friend, associate, or relative handle the photography at their wedding. Often the reasoning for making this decision is the promise of quality photos from "Uncle Bob" who has a really expensive camera and knows how to use it. Bob may be available for a discount, but do you really want to take that chance? The main goal, of course is to save money by not hiring a professional wedding photographer. However, is this really what's important when it comes to choosing who will record your precious memories for prosperity? The answer is a very strong no. These days, virtually all modern digital cameras can beautifully capture sharp and well exposed images, but that isn't enough! Obviously, saving dollars is important, but are you willing to take the risks involved just to get good deals on photography? We frequently see couples have their photos done with a guest's cell phone! Most importantly, remember that after the wedding all you have left are the pictures. You spend all of this money on preparation, guests and the venue, but then skip the professional photographer. Let's examine some of the more important reasons to hire the best San Francisco city hall wedding photographers. One other thing to note, we receive inquiries from couples who had a friend take their wedding pictures and want us to redo them.


  • Posing the couple - The best city hall wedding photographers will have romantic ideas on how to pose the bride and groom. In addition, they will know the most advantageous angles and backgrounds to make the couple look amazing. We see many amateur wedding photographers taking pictures at city hall and although they are certainly obtaining quality images from a technical standpoint, it becomes pretty apparent that the posing and lighting are pretty basic by comparison.
  • Professional Lighting - City Hall can be very tricky in terms of lighting. Some floors have light coming in from the ceiling which can cause horrendous shadows and "raccoon eyes". An accomplished professional will bring advanced lighting equipment to supplement the available light. The use of off-camera lighting can create dramatic images with great impact. the Mayor's Balcony often has terrible back-light making it almost impossible to create a good photograph without supplemental lighting. We see many people trying and failing to obtain good pictures with cell phones on the Mayors Balcony. Definitely a challenge!
  • City Hall Crowd Control - One of the huge benefits of hiring a professional photographer with experience at city hall is taking advantage of their mastery of crowd patterns. There are certain times in the day where it is best to avoid places like the Grand Staircase. In addition, if it happens to be one of those days where an event is scheduled, your city hall photographer will know where to take you to avoid the crowds, but still provide you with breathtaking images. Extensive city hall wedding photography experience cannot be substituted for. We can also help manage the day when the County Clerks runs way late, allowing us to change the way we handle the procedures and still manage to get the same amount of pictures or even more!
  • Help with your Big Day - Certain aspects of the marriage process at City Hall can be baffling. The check-in and marriage license procedures often throw couples off. Your professional wedding photographer is happy to walk you through the entire process. This will make your special day less stressful allowing you to have fun and not worry about the small details. Let your experienced professional wedding photographer do that for you.
  • Technical Safety (back ups) - Ask your amateur photographer friend about their image file back-up system. Chances are they do not have one! If they are using a cell phone, it most certainly is not being backed up in a safe way. I personally have a triple back-up procedure for all of my image files and this includes off-site back-up which will protect you in case of fire. Most professional wedding photographers have a similar process. The last thing you want is for your wedding memories to be lost forever! Hard drives crash and USB drives can easily be lost, don't let this happen to you! We recently had a bride and groom tell us that their brother's amateur photographer acquaintance lost their wedding photos simply because he misplaced a Flash Drive! "It's in the house and he hopes to find it some day!" No thank you!
  • Compare Yelp Wedding Reviews - With a pro photographer you can check to see how Yelp rates them. It is particularly important to actually read the various client reviews. 5 star ratings are great, but it is also vital to understand the style and history of the professional photographers you select. Yelp provides this type of information and much more. I would also take the time to read the wedding photographer's responses to both good and bad reviews. Their response will often tell you quite a bit about their personality and how they deal with customers.
  • Wedding Photography Experience - Yes, I realize that this is sort of an obvious reason, but I wanted to explain some of the specifics. What I am really referring to here is SF City Hall experience. Namely, the ability to roll with the punches and barriers that often come our way. For example, we recently had a wedding interrupted by a fire alarm that caused the evacuation of the entire building. Despite some nervousness from the couple, we were able to keep calm and make sure that we got back in line to get married with minimal delay. Our unsurpassed knowledge of the entire marriage process helped us navigate this potentially difficult situation. In addition, our ability to handle the adjustments needed when city hall has a major event scheduled can be very beneficial to a couple who is unfamiliar with the building. We are aware of alternative photography locations within city hall and will escort you there when needed. As mentioned previously, there is also a concern revolving around lighting. Unless you are familiar with the subtle nuances present in the building, you can really make some large mistakes covering a wedding here.

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 circumvent 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 civil ceremonies have, it is not uncommon to see hundreds of people milling about on Fridays. Add summer tourists 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. Monday normally brings more business related visits to city hall and so there is a bit more foot traffic around the building. We will work with you and the crowds to provide you with the best memories captured on "film" possible. We don't let crowds get in our way and we know how to make the most of the space available! The percentages in the Info-graphic below are not meant to be exact representations of crowd capacity. They are meant to help you compare each day to the other and ascertain the weekly pattern.

Infographic chart related to SF City Hall Crowd Issues during the Week

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 12:00 and 2:30 pm. If you can book the final ceremony of the day at 3:00 pm, City Hall will start to clear out once your ceremony is complete allowing you more private 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. Again, be aware that later ceremonies can sometimes coincide with city hall events. When there is a special event in the building, they often start to close off the Grand Staircase around 4:00 pm. There are a number of factors that must be balanced in order to make a good decision on the best ceremony time and day of the week for SFCHWP. NOTE: At this point in the post pandemic world, city hall is not scheduling any events. This could change in the near future.

San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photography Lighting

People often ask us about the optimum time for the best photographic light in the building 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. It is important to understand how the building changes under different lighting conditions. We always bring professional strobe lighting and umbrellas to refine and improve the quality of light when needed. When the sun is shining brightly outside, the 3rd and 4th floor offer some amazing natural light photographic opportunities. Of course we always have our professional external lighting equipment to help things along. We bring high-end off camera flash that helps create soft directional light and adds drama to your city hall photos. If you compare our lighting techniques to photos taking with on-camera flash, the difference is incredible. In addition, this type of lighting helps in some of the darker areas like the Mayor's Balcony.

San Francisco City Hall Wedding Tips - September, 2021

SF City Hall is now fully open to the public and for weddings. This follows Governor Newsome's announcement that California would be "fully open" starting June 15. However with the Delta Variant now a looming threat, masks are once again required for all, regardless of Vaccination status. There is some confusion regarding bride and groom mask wearing during the ceremony. We find that it varies depending upon the officiant. Most seem to be OK with the couple leaving masks off during the 3 minute ceremony. In addition, we have mostly been successful with allowing our couples to be photographed with masks off, but they need to wear them in between photo tour locations. Civil ceremonies are now being scheduled until 3:00 pm each day with only 2 each half hour. This represents a recent change to the ending time of 1:00 pm. So it is nice that they have expanded the schedule to some degree. However, this is still less ceremonies then before the Pandemic so we suggest if you are hoping to have your wedding here that you try to schedule something soon. We are very excited to be back to shooting weddings at this amazing building.

For more information about weddings and the Coronavirus click the link

Artistic Beginnings - About Michael

I started photography at the age of 12 shortly after my father passed away and I inherited his Nikon professional rangefinder camera. For those of you unfamiliar with the term "rangefinder" it refers to an older style of pro camera where you did not look through lens, but through a separate viewfinder. Focus was done by bringing together a split image in the center of the viewing screen. My mother, Laura Odegard is an accomplished SF 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. I frequently look back at those portraits I took many years ago and realize how far I have come, but also how much fun I had back then.

In elementary school I made a good 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 our garage apart and built my own professional photography darkroom. I purchased a Beseler 23c Enlarger, the chemicals and trays and began printing my own photographs. 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. I had always wanted to run my own business so instead of majoring in photography I decided to become a Business Major at the University of San Francisco. Towards the end of my education at USF, one of the couples who lived in the dorms asked me to photograph their wedding. This was the start of my long career in wedding photography. The combination of business background and hands-on photography experience served me well as I opening my own studio. I would strongly recommend to any aspiring professional wedding photographer to consider majoring in Business and not in photography. You can learn all about photography by reading books and attending workshops. Working for other photographers is also a great way to learn the craft. Many well established pro wedding photographers will allow you to assist them at events while working as an intern allowing you first hand experience in the craft.

There was always something about portrait and wedding 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 portrait taking 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 is easily overshadowed by the joy felt by everyone involved on this special day. I love being an integral part of it! To review more details about your wedding photographers, please go to our "About the wedding photographers" page. If you are interested in a career in wedding or portrait photography, Michael also provides mentoring and training programs. To learn more about our photography training click the link. Our privacy policy can be found by clicking the link.



SF City Hall Wedding Photographer by Michael

201 Spear Street, Suite 1100

San Francisco, CA 94105

415-307-5309

mike@cityhallphotos.com

Copyright 2021