Welcome to San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photography by Michael. We are one of the leading wedding photographers at SF City Hall with over 20 years of professional photography experience. Our 800+ weddings photographed helps us know the best locations to escort our newlyweds for romantic pictures and still avoid the crowds. We also serve as your personal San Francisco city hall marriage planner and walk you through the entire ceremony process to simplify your wedding day. Your fully edited wedding images will feature just the two of you with no city hall tourists or strangers in the background. Check out our Image Galleries to view recent wedding photos of happy couples posing in front of City Hall's amazing architecture. Throughout this website you will find details on how to book us. We also provide useful advice regarding how to get married at SF city hall. If you are looking to book a San Francisco city hall wedding photographer, our prices and packages can be found by clicking the link. We offer economical packages for elopements and more extensive options that include San Francisco photo tours. Website updated 11/22/23.
We have earned that trust by providing you with our best San Francisco city hall wedding photography since 2010 when we first started covering Civil Ceremonies here. You will find detailed high ratings and positive reviews about us throughout the internet including our Google Business Page and Yelp. We have won many awards and have had our SF city hall wedding photos featured on numerous websites including the San Francisco City Hall Event Department site and brochure. This same Events Department often refers us to important weddings and events at city hall.
Positive Reviews and relevant comments can also be found about us on Wedding Wire, The Knot and other wedding related websites. Recently we were chosen to be the wedding photographer at city hall that was officiated by Mayor London Breed. It was a great experience for all of us with the ceremony being performed in her office! Below is one particularly fun picture from that ceremony. To see more of this wedding, check out my recent blog post: SF City Hall Wedding with London Breed officiating. We had the honor of doing it again just a few weeks later in the Mayor's office. This ceremony was equally fun and was covered by my assistant Lilly James, with me helping out after with a city hall wedding photography tour for the newlyweds.
To schedule an appointment for us to be your SF city hall wedding photographer go to our contact page and complete our simple form. We will respond quickly with our availability and answer questions.
To see our City Hall wedding photography prices, whether you are planning an elopement or a larger marriage, we offer a wide variety of packages to cover your nuptials from start to finish.
To learn more about us check out our "About the Photographers" page. We provide details about our SF city hall photography team, some history, and also equipment information for those that are interested.
For help in planning your wedding we also provide our couples with great ideas and San Francisco city hall helpful hints regarding the entire marriage process. No obligation or cost for this service.
To see our Featured City Hall Gallery, plus many other city hall wedding photography portfolios check out our Gallery pages. We have a large assortment of diverse city hall weddings for you to view.
Optional professional custom made wedding albums and prints are also available with affordable pricing. Keepsake prints and wedding album images for your SF City Hall Wedding receive a second round of Photoshop editing. This includes the removal of strangers and other unwanted distracting items in the background. However, the vast majority of your wedding photos will NOT include people you don't know in the background. We either avoid including them in the picture frame or will take them out with Photoshop during post production editing.
As part of our full-service approach, we also include advice about how to work with other vendors to make your wedding day perfect. We are usually available for last minute or short notice bookings assuming we do not have a prior wedding scheduled. Photo printing and wedding albums can be requested anytime in the future. We store your important photographic image files for at least 7 years and usually longer (offsite back-up is for 5 years). We can usually access any past image files within 24 hours, even if it was from 10 years ago (long term storage).
San Francisco City Hall is our favorite place for photographing weddings because there is so much architectural beauty everywhere. The natural light in City Hall can be incredible, but even when it's not, we use professional photographic lighting to enhance your images. We have become adept and creatively blending the natural light with our off-camera lighting supplement to obtain amazing results. In addition, our vast knowledge of this spectacular wedding venue allows us to avoid the more crowded areas and ensures ideal lighting no matter what time of day.
For recent examples of our wedding photography, view our San Francisco city hall galleries. These image portfolios include detailed descriptions to help you find wedding samples that closely resemble your own marriage theme or plans. Most galleries feature our top 10 images or more from each individual event. This type of approach gives you a better idea of how your own wedding pictures will look since you are able to view the entire event. We feel that this is better than looking at a compilation gallery of all the best photos from hundreds of weddings. When making a decision about hiring a San Francisco city hall wedding photographer, always insist on seeing full individual wedding portfolios and not just a "greatest hits" compilation from multiple events. Portfolio wedding photos should include both artistic and photojournalistic examples. Also look for creative posing and fun images when searching for the best SF City Hall wedding photographers.
We offer a wide assortment of affordable SF city hall wedding photography packages to fit every need. We will work within your budget to provide the most inexpensive prices and packages possible. The highlighted link above will provide you with the details and pricing of each package, but here is a quick summary of what we offer:
Our goal is to make your wedding experience magical and fun. Each one of the packages above include taking you on a photographic tour of all 4 floors of this amazing building while creating beautiful images that you will cherish for a lifetime. Our Town Hall photography packages cover every size wedding possible, ranging from a smaller City Hall Elopement to larger reserved marriages with many guests. We will also create a custom package to fit your needs if our listed packages do not fit your schedule or specifications.
Check out our SF City Hall wedding photography Blog to see timely announcements and pictures from recent weddings and also learn the latest news or events at city hall. We work hard to keep this blog up to date with seasonal photo shoots and other relevant and helpful information. Our blog was recently ranked 8th out of the top 50 San Francisco wedding photography blogs by Feedspot (as of November, 2023). We spend a considerable amount of time keeping this blog up to date and relevant.
To discover 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 high ratings are the written review details themselves. We encourage our potential future brides and grooms to read some of the detail of the reviews to see how we treat our couples on their wedding day. In addition, our Yelp Page is a top ranked site on Yelp itself due to our relevant experience and high ratings.
Esther from San Francisco, California - "If you're looking for the best San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer, this is it! Mike has tons of experience with San Francisco City Hall weddings. We had lots of fun exploring and taking photos all over the building! Even though City Hall was busy, Mike did an amazing job and the pictures look like we had the entire building to ourselves! Mike is responsive, professional, and a pleasure to work with. I really appreciate all his help and guidance on our wedding day. I would definitely recommend Mike to anyone who wants gorgeous pictures and a hassle free wedding!" (Yelp review from 2022)
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)
One of our most exciting packages is our San Francisco Wedding Photography Tour. Many out-of-town or international wedding couples take advantage of this package, but it's fun and memorable for anyone! After your civil ceremony and San Francisco city hall photo session, we take you on a tour of the town and you can choose the greatest SF destinations to visit! At your option, we can provide you with comfortable transportation to the various photo locations in San Francisco. We are a local city hall wedding photographer and so we know our way around!
If you are a newcomer to "The City", we are happy to help you select prime San Francisco landmarks that match your personal preferences. We work closely with our engaged couples ahead of time to make sure the tour makes sense logistically and matches their needs. If you would like additional advice on how to book this photography package, feel free to call us or email. You can choose our 2.5 hour tour with 1 San Francisco location or our 4 hour tour with 3 local destinations. We also allow our clients to alter this package if needed on the day of the wedding in case of bad weather or other obstacles that may occur.
Some of the top photographic destinations we can journey to include:
Other places we go to less frequently are The Painted Ladies and the Japanese Tea Gardens. In addition to some formal photos at the locations above, 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 rolling 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.
Other top-rated picture spots that we can suggest include Pier 7, Fisherman's Wharf, Fort Point, North Beach, Lover's Lane, Fort Mason, Sutro Baths, Sutro Heights Park, Union Square and Golden Gate Park. Another great idea, if you have some extra time are the Botanical Gardens. Just be aware that there is quite a bit of walking involved and parking can occasionally be a challenge. In fact, if you choose the gardens as one of your locations we recommend taking Uber or a limo. Both Sutro locations may also require additional time since they are located at the far north end of San Francisco.
This is another common question we receive from engaged couples when looking to book a wedding photographer for San Francisco city hall. Some couples want full coverage including bridal prep at their home or hotel and then have us come to the party or reception after the wedding. Others are just looking for candid coverage of the ceremony and a few wedding pictures around City Hall. We would be happy to consult with your personally to explore these options and help advise you on the best length of coverage to fit your needs and budget. Here are some of the factors to consider in making this decision:
These questions make for a great starting point for your wedding planning. We can discuss all of these things before your wedding and together come up with the best city hall wedding photography plan for you. We understand that financial factors also need to be considered in addition to the main points above. We will always work with your budget and help you with this all important decision. The main theme of this website is helping our future brides and grooms with all aspect of their city hall wedding and planning.
San Francisco City Hall weddings can be extremely economical for any budget. 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. We will build a package around your budget and time constraints. Please email us and give us the details of your wedding.
Our packages include ALL the digital images photographed at your San Francisco city hall civil ceremony. You also receive full reproduction rights to the photos, which allows you to print them or share on Social Media. Our new Maternity Package provides our clients with 2 photography sessions for the price of 1. If you are a pregnant couple getting married at San Francisco city hall, this is the package for you! To see a YouTube slideshow of a recent SF tour click: SF Wedding Photography Tour.
This is the one of the most common questions that engaged couples ask San Francisco city hall wedding photographers. We are happy to advise you on these important questions, especially given the fact that there are so many options to choose from. Let's discuss some of these possible locations at San Francisco City Hall and what makes them the best. We have our own preferences, but not all are available unless you are willing to pay an extra $1,000 for a private ceremony on the 4th floor North Gallery or Mayor's Balcony (a bargain price for San Francisco).
Here is a list of the most desirable places to celebrate your nuptials at San Francisco city hall. We can provide you with even more advice on SF city hall wedding photography locations if you email us or call. We are here to help!
Great Rotunda - This is the default location for all standard city hall marriage ceremonies. The Rotunda, which is located at the top of the Grand Staircase by the elevators is the place where thousands of weddings have been performed over the years. The good news is that ceremonies here are rarely significantly disrupted by others. As a bonus the walls surrounding the Rotunda provide us something to bounce our flashes off of to help create softer and more subtle light on dark days. Lighting the city hall ceremony site this way is 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.
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, city hall wedding photographers, and other married couples. This can make it challenging to obtain great pictures without others in the way.
At this point, it is an unlikely ceremony location, but I list it here because many weddings have been performed on the Staircase, especially on Saturdays! We suggest you save it as a magnificent spot for the photo session AFTER the ceremony.
Mayor's Balcony - There are 2 different ways to have your ceremony on the Mayor's Balcony: 1. Pay the reasonable price of $1,000 so you can have a roped off, private ceremony with complete privacy. Or 2. Pay the standard fee and see if you can coax your Deputy Marriage Commissioner into performing your ceremony there! Some officiants will take you there if there are no events at the time in the area. 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 city hall Rotunda. Statues of former Mayor's George Moscone, Diane Feinstein and Willie Brown overlook your ceremony from this excellent location. If you are lucky, you might even see the Mayor, London Breed wandering though the area.
4th Floor Balcony - This is San Francisco City Hall's other private reserved ceremony location. Also referred to as the 4th 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 City Hall Events Department will rope 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.
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 San Francisco city hall wedding pictures 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 San Francisco city hall wedding photographers from disrupting the photo shoot.
Other Private Ceremony 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, Willie Brown, the mayor at that time, 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. Many of our recommended private 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".
Last and definitely least is the so-called Private Room in the County Clerk's office. It is very private, but does not have much character. We assume that you did not come all the way to beautiful San Francisco city hall to get married in a small room with no windows. However, for those who want the ultimate in privacy, it's not a bad option.
Advice on "First Look" Locations - 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. A First Look can be a great addition to your wedding day elopement or full scale wedding. You can check out our Floor by Floor Guide to learn about superior places to do this fun and romantic introduction. We are happy to give you specific advice to satisfy your needs. Some of the places we suggest include the 3rd floor (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 smoothly and take all of the stress out of it so you can focus on each other. Talk to us in advance about some of our fun ideas for your First Look.
Other Bay Area County Clerk Marriage Ceremony Locations - In addition to photographing weddings in San Francisco, we also service other Civil Ceremony locations at the following Courthouses throughout the Bay Area. These include City Hall's in Martinez, San Rafael, Oakland, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Ramon, Fairfield, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa. These Northern California locations can also process your marriage license and you can still have your wedding at San Francisco city hall. Not all County Clerk's in the Bay Area are properly set up to perform civil ceremonies, so be sure to check before you go. You can usually obtain a marriage license at these locations, but not necessarily have your ceremony performed. Click on this FAQ link in the menu above for more helpful San Francisco city hall wedding photography tips. We happy to help advise you on your Bay Area options.
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 whether you are eloping or have many guests. 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 beautiful, 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! We strive to provide our couples a combination of documentary style, photojournalism and some traditional portraits. To check out our elopement wedding photography for LGBTQ Couples, click the link.
We want to know your own style and personality so we can make sure these attributes show through in your final digital images. Just recently we were almost done with a shoot, and I asked the couple if there was anything else they wanted us to do. They quickly mentioned that they wanted a photo sitting on the Grand Staircase looking up towards the Rotunda. The fact that they mentioned it (and that we asked) guaranteed that we obtained that meaningful image for them. 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 recently photographed a wedding where the groom's parents (who were in attendance) had also been married at San Francisco city hall many years ago. They wanted to duplicate a photo that they loved from way back then. It was fun figuring out where the shot was taken and then making it happen for them. We can also give you great advice on how to determine the best wedding photography style to suit you. This website has quite a bit of information or we can help you personally with this decision. One of the ways we make your day more enjoyable is to not over-pose you. This keeps your San Francisco City Hall photo session moving quickly and efficiently. More importantly, it keeps the couple feeling relaxed and engaged in the photo session. This style ensures that you will receive candid wedding photos in addition to traditional.
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 helped us to be included on this list. We are periodically called upon by the City Hall Events department to handle reserved weddings and other special events. We were recently chosen to photograph a wedding that was officiated by former Mayor Willie Brown and current Mayor London Breed. We were also a major contributor to the City Hall Event Department marketing brochure and had been asked by the event director to contribute pictures. We were selected by San Francisco city hall for this honor because of our recognized expertise in photographing weddings here.
What does all of this mean for you? Just the knowledge that you have chosen a well established, top rated SF city hall elopement photographer that you can rely on with tons of experience and credibility. In addition, if you are planning a Saturday wedding (and certain specific weekday reserved events), you are only allowed to use approved vendors due to insurance liability issues. The key contacts we have established in both the Event Department and the County Clerk's office helps us receive advance knowledge of potential issues and events. We specialize in photographing weddings at this premium venue, we don't just do it on the side.
As a SF native, I started my business right here in this town over 20 years ago. I was born in San Francisco 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 wedding photography 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 (after your wedding of course).
Some of the places I would strongly recommend checking out 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, Pizza or Crab Cioppino (Try my favorite place, Sotto Mare on Green Street for amazing 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. As a Bay Area native, I am also happy to acknowledge that I am a Golden State Warriors, Giants and 49ers fan! To learn more about the History of San Francisco City Hall including famous San Francisco weddings that have occurred here, check our FAQ's link.
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. 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. It's a good way to see everything on the website at a glance.
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? With it's fantastic weather, incredible views, historic sites, art work, and so much more, San Francisco really does have it all. if you need useful tips to help planning your wedding at SF City Hall, we offer a free email based service, click the link to find out more. With our 20 years of San Francisco wedding photography experience, we can be a great asset to assist you with planning. We are happy to provide this advice as a community service at no charge to the customer. 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 or elope.
1. Wide Variety of Reception/Event Locations - San Francisco, with it's many restaurants, bars, 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 all of your guests together. There are even a few great reception locations that are walking distance from city hall. We are happy to help guide you with reception recommendations for these local spots. Absinthe is one example of a wonderful restaurant close to SF City Hall and has facilities to accommodate your large guest count. Located in Hayes Valley, this place pretty much specializes in city hall wedding receptions. The walk there can also be a fun experience for the newlyweds.
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 and also much safer then before. North Beach is also a favorite spot of mine for wedding receptions, the Italian food and authentic Pizza are fantastic! It's also a safe neighborhood to wander about at night. 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 as is The North Beach Restaurant. Any of these locations would be a good option for your Wedding Reception.
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, 25 couples are married there every day. 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 San Francisco 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 now the home of the Golden State Warriors basketball team after they moved here from Oakland!
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 within driving distance from San Francisco City Hall. If you love photography, there are many great picture opportunities at these destinations as well.
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, San Francisco 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!
From the emails we receive, it became apparent that there exists considerable confusion 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. We are experts in City Hall wedding procedures with over 700 weddings under our belt and want to reduce your stress level. The first thing you need to do on your wedding day is arrive at the building on time. Here are directions to San Francisco city hall to help with that first step. Once you have arrived, please follow the step-by-step instructions below:
How to Obtain Your Marriage License - This step may be prior to your wedding day or the same day, but before the ceremony. The Appointment for obtaining the Marriage License needs to be made within 3 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). 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 or when you meet with the officiant to sign it. In addition, they now limit you to 1 witness. Yes, 1 witness even if you brought 2, which is another Covid-19 precaution. This also means that wedding photographers at San Francisco city hall are not allowed to take pictures during this meeting either.
Ceremony Check in - This occurs approximately 5-10 minutes before your scheduled wedding ceremony appointment. Bring your witness but nobody else, because they won't be allowed to enter the office due to Covid-19 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. I was trying to sneak a non-flash picture from far away last month and my flash went off by mistake! I was spoken to by the County Clerk receptionist. Your city hall wedding photographers will be present at this time to help guide you through this process if needed. We are here to help with this whole process and can give you valuable advice to simplify the process.
Marriage Commissioner Meeting - When the County Clerk calls your number, it's time to go meet your San Francisco city hall wedding officiant. 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. You can also bring in a child or baby to this meeting if needed. They just want you to keep it to one person if possible.
San Francisco City Hall Marriage License - At the officiant meeting (see above) the marriage license is signed by your witness. 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 videography is allowed during the license signing either. 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. The County Clerk now requests that you only have one witness come back in the office to sign.
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 you can see, the scheduled time is actually when you meet with the officiant.
Wedding Guests and Family - The County Clerk's office seems to be becoming a little more lenient with regard to enforcing the 6 person maximum guest regulation. We have seen Marriage Commissioners allow some pretty large groups to get married in the Rotunda area. The Rotunda is located at the top of the Grand Staircase in the small enclosure between the elevators.
Ceremony Details - City Hall marriage ceremonies generally take less than 5 minutes to perform. You will only be 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 currently restrictions on where your guests can stand during your nuptials due to Covid-19 concerns. They will be asked to stand outside the ropes that surround the ceremony location. Feel free to take your own pictures if you are a guest.
Another common question frequently asked of us is if it is necessary to obtain a San Francisco city hall photography permit? The answer is no, you do not need one for the type of pictures we are taking in the building. There are other reasons that you might need a permit, including professional film making and taking pictures in the park square out in front of the building.
The above steps were meant to be a general quick guide, to view the more detailed SF city hall marriage process, go to our page called: How to Get Married at San Francisco City Hall. This provides step-by-step instructions to help make your day easier and stress free. You can also check out our page for free city hall wedding planning. We have loaded this website with as much helpful information as possible to assist engaged couples navigate the entire marriage process at San Francisco city hall. Whether you are planning an elopement or larger wedding, we are here to help.
Getting married in San Francisco? Have you ever asked yourself: "How do I find the best San Francisco city hall wedding photographer near me?" Do I even need to hire a professional? 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 for having a friend or relative take your wedding pictures 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 posterity? The answer is a very strong no. However, once you made the decision to hire a professional, it is equally important that you choose the right one for you. Don't sell yourself short just because you are planning a City Hall Elopement and think it is a smaller affair. Continue to read below for helpful tips on how to make this all important evaluation. For more information about evaluating city hall wedding pictures, check out this link.
These days, virtually all modern digital cameras can beautifully capture sharp, properly exposed images, but that isn't enough! Obviously, saving dollars is important, but are you willing to take the risks involved just to obtain good deals on photography? We frequently see couples have their photos done with a guest's cell phone, which can only result in unprofessional images. Most importantly, remember that after the wedding all you have left are the pictures. You spend all of this money on preparation, wedding dress, guests and the venue, but then skip the photographer.
One other thing to note... we have received inquiries from couples who had a friend take their wedding pictures and now want us to redo their photos professionally. Have you really saved money in this situation? This can be a real problem for many. I have also been asked on occasion to try to save ruined photos that another family photographer took by editing and repairing them. What if your photographer friend doesn't back up your wedding image files? There are many issues that an amateur photographer may not think about.
Thus, I thought it would helpful to provide this guide below to assist with this challenging choice. So let's examine some of the more important reasons to hire the best San Francisco city hall wedding photographers.
The truth is, we feel like we can provide you with amazing wedding images no matter what day you decide to have your San Francisco city hall wedding. However, 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 crowds?" Most people would assume that Friday is the most crowded and that is definitely true. 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 or visitors and you have a recipe for what we wedding photographers call "Crazy Friday." Thursday's are definitely better, but 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 don't let crowds get in our way and we know how to make the most of the space available!
The time of the day you get married is equally important! Peak crowd times on most days are between 11:30 am and 2:30 pm. If you can book the final ceremonies of the day, which occur at 3:00 and 3:30 pm, City Hall will start to clear out shortly after your ceremony is complete. Since there are no other couples getting married after this time, there are less people in the building. Once your late afternoon ceremony is complete, you should have better and 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 at 9:00 am also work well to avoid crowds. With no civil ceremonies in the morning before 9:00 am, there tends to be a lot less people in the building just before and after that time. Just understand that none of these techniques are fool proof, but they do give you better odds of quieter, less crowded San Francisco city hall. 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. This being said, we can obtain amazing photos for you at this historic venue any time of the day.
People often ask us about the optimum time for premium 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. I think most San Francisco city hall wedding photographers agree that there is always a great place to go in the building to obtain great photos. In addition, we always bring professional remote strobe lighting to refine and improve the quality of light when needed. The key factor in our lighting is the use of Off-Camera flash. This provide softer light with more dimension if balanced properly.
When the sun is shining brightly outside, the 3rd and 4th floor offer some amazing natural light photographic opportunities. As mentioned above, we also bring 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. Even the Famous Grand Staircase benefits from professional lighting. Depending upon the time of day, the light in this location can come from directly overhead, which can create distracting shadows and "Racoon Eyes."
Winter is just about here and the days are getting shorter with Daylight Savings time. With November comes shorter days and less light in City Hall in the late afternoon. Depending upon you wedding day schedule, we may try to move the city hall photo tour ahead of the ceremony if that works for you and your guests. This is just to give us more time to shoot in the building with great light. The nice thing about November is that the fog is mostly gone. This gives us more confidence that we can pull off great Golden Gate Bridge shoots with no obstruction caused by the weather. However, if you are still worried, we will provide alternatives if the fog becomes an issue. We will always make sure you still receive amazing photos around the City By The Bay regardless of the current weather. If you plan on doing one of our famous San Francisco Photo Tours, be sure to allow enough time for the outdoor part when booking your ceremony time. We recommend trying to book your ceremony no later that 2:00 pm. We usually have a lot of availability in November because so many people either go on trips for Thanksgiving or are waiting for December for the Christmas tree to be put up at city hall.
SF City Hall Wedding Photography by Michael
201 Spear Street, Suite 1100
San Francisco, CA 94105