Kids at City Hall Weddings

Assign a Baby Sitter

There are quite a few things to consider when bring your children to your San Francisco city hall wedding.    If they are  still a baby you may want to make sure that you schedule your wedding to work around their nap time.  The last thing you want is to have the ceremony occur right during their most grumpy time.   Make sure that you bring another adult or older sibling who can watch and entertain the baby if needed.  The preference would be to choose someone who can miss the ceremony in case the baby is crying.  If a family member is watching the baby they may be inclined to stick around during the ceremony which can be quite disruptive.

Involve Them in the Wedding Photos

Children seeing one of their parents getting remarried can experience some jealousy and fear.  It can be a big change in their life and they are liable to wonder how they fit in to the new family.  One thing you can do is to make sure to involve them significantly in the wedding photography portion of the day.  Include them in as many pictures as you can to make them understand that they are important and involved in the the couple’s new life together.  If possible, you may even want to try to include them in the actual city hall wedding ceremony somehow.  Maybe they can hold the wedding rings or the flowers.  Just don’t have them be a bystander like everyone else.  This is your chance to make them feel special.

Realize their Limitations

Even though we strongly recommend getting the little ones involved on your San Francisco city hall wedding day, it’s also important to understand that they will be tired at some point.  Make it part of your plan to have someone take the really small children home before they burn out.   You know your kids better than anyone and so you should be able to figure out when they are going to be ready to leave.  It is very important that you have someone who knows them well and can take care of them when needed.   Yes, you want to make sure your kids are involved and happy, but you also need to realize that your wedding day is about the 2 of you!  Make sure to set some time aside for you both!

Bride and Groom kissing daughter
Bride and Groom kissing daughter

Professional Wedding Photographers

I am going going to go out on a limb here and guess that you have rarely read one wedding photographer recommending another unless they were personally booked for your wedding date.  That is about to change….

City Hall Wedding Photography by Michael has been shooting weddings for many years and we have discovered that it is more important to make sure the couple finds the right photographer for them rather than trying to gobble up all of the business we can.  If after talking to the bride and groom and assessing the type of photographic styles they prefer it turns out we are not a match, we will tell them.  I would say something like:  “I am not sure we are the best city hall wedding photographer for you.”  Why do we do this?  We have plenty of business and would rather see the engaged couple work with an appropriately styled photographer for them.  One that matches their preference and vision for their wedding.

Versatile Wedding Photographer

So the obvious question becomes:  “Arn’t you versatile enough to adjust your style or demeanor to match your client?”   The answer to this question is, yes we are are.  However, if we sense that we are way off and have to completely change the way we approach your city hall wedding, then it is not fair to the bride and groom to mislead them.  More importantly, there are quite few  professional city hall wedding photographers out there that who probably will fit what you are looking for. After 10 years of city hall wedding photography we have met many of the top photographers and have come to respect and enjoy them.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them and often do.  We also receive numerous referrals from them as well.

San Francisco City Hall

In conclusion I would just tell you that the most important thing is that you hire a professional wedding photographer.  You have heard us say this before, but San Francisco City Hall, despite all it’s beauty, remains a challenging photographic venue.  Even for professionals it remains a lighting challenge.  Crowd control can also be difficult.  Obviously,  we would love it if you tried us first.  If we don’t think we are a match, we will tell you so and suggest a city hall wedding photographer who is!

 

Great SF City Hall Weddings in June

LGBT Weddings at City Hall

We had a very busy June at San Francisco City Hall.  We photographed 12 weddings of different cultures and from other countries.  It was an especially fun group of couples with all kinds of diversity and various nationalities.  6 of our weddings were Same-Sex.  The most we have ever photographed in a single month.  Some of these weddings wanted a very short coverage, just staying with the confines of San Francisco city hall.  Others opted for the full treatment and so we took them all over San Francisco on one of our popular photo tours.  We drove them around in our car and it became more than just a photo shoot….  We got out and enjoyed the beauty of the City by the Bay!  For the most part we got pretty lucky with the weather.  San Francisco can be very foggy in June, but we really only had one wedding where we had to make a slight change of plans because of the fog.  We often try to take out newly married couples to Fort Point when it is really foggy because the bridge is so close.  But this time even that didn’t work, we were practically under the Golden Gate Bridge but we still could not see it.  So we just took our couple to the Palace of Fine Art instead and got some great images there!

Extended Wedding Photography

In addition to the many same-sex weddings, we also had some very long coverage city hall weddings in June.  Many of our clients ask us to take some pictures at their wedding celebration after the ceremony.  When it comes to San Francisco City Hall, we rarely do what would be considered a full scale wedding reception, but it is usually at a nice place to eat in the city.  We are more than happy to accompany you to your party and get some nice candid images of cake cutting, toasts, and dancing.  Whatever your celebration involves we will cover it and provide you with plenty of detail shots.  Our extensive experience with full scale wedding helps us in this regard.  We have photographed over 1,300 weddings in our long career.  Dealing with every possible situation has given us some great experience which we are happy to share with our clients.

June Wedding Photography at City Hall

June City Hall bride holding her train
June City Hall bride holding her train
June Couple doing the Dip!
June Couple doing the Dip!
Outside of San Francisco city hall
Outside of San Francisco city hall
June LGBT Wedding
June LGBT Wedding
Same-Sex Wedding Photography in the Month of June
Same-Sex Wedding Photography in the Month of June
Grooms leaving San Francisco City Hal
Grooms leaving San Francisco City Hal

 

City Hall Wedding Photography with a Smile

What makes each wedding photographer different?  There are many answers to this question and most of them revolve around Picture Quality, Style and Pricing.  Different clients are attracted to various styles and certain prices depending upon their budget.  Overall picture quality is hard to rank because it is so subjective.  Each engaged couple may like something different depending upon their individual tastes and background.  Obviously there are all kinds of budgets out there.  Some people have tons of money to spend on their wedding and others don’t even want to pay for a professional wedding photographer.  We see people at San Francisco city hall all the time with friends taking pictures using cell phones!  Again, there are many different opinions, finances and style preferences.  However, the one thing that everyone seems to like is a courteous, friendly and fun city hall wedding photographer.

Wedding Photography with a Smile

Ever notice how much easier it is to smile for the camera when the person taking the photo is smiling too?  Try it sometime. Take a photo of a friend or loved one and scowl at them or just act serious while asking them to smile.  Take some pictures and store them for future comparisons.   Now, take pictures a couple days later of the same friends or relatives, but this time when you take the picture and ask them to smile, be sure to be beaming yourself!  Save those pictures also and the compare the results.  What will you see?  The subjects in the second set of pictures with the smiling photographer will have more natural smiles and be more at ease.  The first group with the frowning  photographer will also be displaying smiles.  But look closely and you will a difference.  More strain and stress, but mostly more fake.  This especially works well if you know your subjects well and can easily identify when this friend or relative is faking it.

This is how we run our San Francisco City Hall wedding photography service.   We do everything we can to maintain a friendly  environment and remain upbeat.  But most of all, WE SMILE during the  photos.  Try it sometime, it works!!

Grand Staircase at City Hall

Everyone wants photos of the Grand Staircase at San Francisco City Hall.  It is the central theme in this amazing building and so consequently every bride and groom wants their photo taken  there.  Obviously this presents a massive problem…..  Not only do all 35 couples who get marred at city hall on a daily basis want there photo on the Grand Staircase, but the tourists love to hang out on the stairs and take their own photos.  It can be a huge challenge especially on Fridays to get a nice image with the Staircase not completely covered by other people.   So how do we as San Francisco city hall wedding photographers, handle this problem?

Timing is Everything at City Hall

We have quite a few different techniques for getting the important Grand Staircase wedding photo.  Our most effective way of handling this is to just keep our eyes on the staircase as we take our brides and grooms around the building.  If we suddenly see the staircase clear of people, we change our  pattern and head straight down to it as soon as we can.  Many times when we do this, the staircase is already loaded with people again by the time we get there.  Mostly, though this technique works great.  We have discovered over the years that people tend to walk around city hall in large groups so when one group descends on the  Grand Staircase another smaller group may go in a different direction.  The idea is to be ready when the small group is nearby and the large group has left.  You can see from our photos that we are quite successful getting this shot at our various weddings

Late night Staircase Image
Late night Staircase Image

The image above was taken at a time which also illustrates the importance of timing at city hall.  We set this image up at around 5:30 pm and it was our final shot of the day.  The other technique for getting the Grand Staircase shot is doing it very late in the day after people leave.  So this teaches us that if the staircase shot is very important to you, book your wedding late in the day.   The last ceremony time is 3:30.  Book that one and by the time you get married and we complete our city hall photo tour it will probably be around 5:00 pm.  A very good time to take photos of the staircase with less people around!

City Hall Staircase shot from above
City Hall Staircase shot from above

San Francisco City Hall Events

We always talk about how great San Francisco City Hall is for weddings and of course Wedding Photography.  There are so many iconic locations to shoot here, most notably the Grand Staircase, Rotunda and Mayor’s Balcony.  Wonderful backgrounds for wedding photography with amazing early 1900’s architecture.  However, were you aware that there are times that you will arrive at city hall to get married and some or all of these places are not available and roped off?  This is the big secret that The County Clerks office never tells you when you sign up to have your ceremony at city hall.  Brides and grooms are frequently surprised when they learn that the  most beautiful background in San Francisco is unavailable on their wedding day.  Why?  Because an event has been scheduled at the same time as your wedding!

San Francisco Events

San Francisco just happens to be one of the favorite places on the West Coast for companies to schedule their special events.  In addition, local entities such as the Opera House, The Symphony and even Google love to have their events in San Francisco.  Guess what is one of the most popular event locations for elegant events?  Yes, San Francisco city hall!  There have been times that we as wedding photographers have walked into the building ready to shoot a wedding only to see hundreds of people milling about wearing fancy clothes.  Half of the building can be closed off and they provide you a narrow path through the mess to get to the Clerk’s office to have your ceremony.  The fact is, SF City Hall does not guarantee you access to the whole building when you reserve your ceremony time.  The only thing they promise you is that you will have a legal marriage.  Nothing else is promised, but of course full access is implied.  So what does a bride and groom do to avoid this happening to them?

Scheduling is Everything

Through the years I have attempted to find a good web page that is kept up to date and lists city hall events in San Francisco.  I have never found one that is actually updated.  Most are just blank pages and some show past events.  Thus, the only thing an engaged couple can do is try avoid scheduling their wedding on the prime event days and times.

Days and Times to Avoid Booking

  • Fridays should be avoided, but if you have to, make sure it is early morning only.  The Staircase can often be closed all day or they start setting up late in the afternoon.  The building hosts music and some form of entertainment almost every Friday at Noon.
  • Thursdays, especially after 3 pm.  This day of the week is also quite popular for events.  Sometimes if San Francisco city hall is going to have an all day event on Friday, they will start the set up late on Thursday.
  • In general, any day of the week after 3 pm .  Even though it is rare, there are events early in the week.  If city hall schedules them, it will most likely be in the evening or late afternoon.

The tough part of all of this is that the late afternoon times are some of the best for wedding photography and no crowds.  So we often recommend that people book  the last ceremony of the day because city hall starts to become less crowded late in the afternoon.  For me, the best times and days of the week overall are Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons.  There is  a small risk of an event, but overall the experience is usually good on these days late.

San Francisco Wedding Photographer

This blog post is a little bit marketing oriented, but I decided to post it based upon considerable feedback I have received recently.  Quite a number of our city hall wedding photography clients have acted surprised that we also photograph large full scale weddings.  In fact, we were recently told that we missed out on a potential wedding because one of our city hall clients had no idea that we had experience with large formal weddings.   The fact is we have been photographing San Francisco and Bay Area weddings for over 20 years.  Our experience with City Hall photography has certainly helped us with our knowledge of some of the best places to take our bride and grooms.

Our San Francisco wedding experience has taken us all over the city and to many of the churches and venues available.  Some of our favorite places for ceremonies include Saint Ignatius Church  and the beautiful North Beach Church, Saints Peters and Paul.   We have photographed multiple weddings at these amazing and historic San Francisco Catholic churches.   Other Favorite venues of ours include The Bently Reserve and the Italian Athletic Club a North Beach favorite!

Once the wedding is completed there are so many great places to take our couples for some of the best wedding photography locations in Northern California.  As our regular readers know, we love to take out clients to The Legion of Honor, The Palace of Fine Arts, Russian Hill, Baker Beach and so many other fantastic San Francisco destinations!

Engagement Portraits City Hall Wedding

Many of our San Francisco City Hall wedding couples like us to photograph a formal engagement session prior to their marriage.  We can make a package for any couple that includes a San Francisco engagement session at any of the popular city locations.  Our most popular location continues to be The Palace of Fine Arts, but there are many others.  We take our couples to Russian  Hill, North Beach and the Legion of Honor to name just  few.  Believe it or not, we even sometimes do our sessions at San Francisco City Hall!

Engagement Session in Marin County

Our most recent engagement shoot occurred in Marin County at Cavallo Point close to Sausalito.  This was a fantastic location for the session especially with it’s unique angles to the Golden Gate bridge and the view of San Francisco.  In the image below, we placed our future bride and groom on  the Break Water with the bridge in the background.  It was about 1 hour before sunset when we set this up.

Golden Gate Bridge from Cavallo Point

Golden Gate Bridge from Cavallo Point

From this angle we found a great looking cliff that was right up against the San Francisco Bay.  We placed our couple up on the cliff and took a series of images of them with a few different suggested poses.

Engagement portrait session overlooking San Francisco
Engagement portrait session overlooking San Francisco

We finished up our shoot in the bar at the Cavallo Point Lodge.  A very cute bar and one of our couple’s favorites. It turned out that this bar was one of their favorite stopping points over the past few years.  So what a great place to finish up the session.   We look forward to photographing their San Francisco City Hall wedding in May of 2018.  To see more images of city hall weddings and engagement sessions click on our City Hall Gallery Link

Cavallo Point Lodge bar
Cavallo Point Lodge bar

 

City Hall Weddings are Affordable

Great Wedding Value

San Francisco City Hall Weddings are a great value!  Where else can you have access to an amazingly beautiful Wedding Venue for under $100?  Yes, it is true!  It only costs $83 to have your wedding in the Rotunda area in city hall and the County Clerk even provides a free Wedding Officiant to perform your ceremony.  They call these officiants Deputy Marriage Commissioners and they dress up in robes and look like judges.  The fact that they are all volunteers is unknown to many, but it is part of the reason that you can get married in this building for such a great price.  Many of the other venues available throughout San Francisco can cost thousands of dollars and still do not match the beauty of City Hall.  The obvious downside of City Hall weddings is that you have to share the building with the general public, but even this is not such a terrible thing.  In this wedding photographer’s opinion, it can be part of the fun.  The only problem comes when City Hall schedules a special event on your wedding day.  This is rare and the building is so large, you can go to other places and still have a nice wedding ceremony even if a large event is set for your day.

Convenient Wedding Receptions

A big part of the expense of any San Francisco wedding is the reception.   When you book a wedding you generally need a venue that can supply you with both a place to get married and also somewhere to eat.  The exception to this is if you get married in a church.  Obviously, if you are planning on a church wedding, this article doesn’t apply.   What many of our City Hall clients like to do is schedule their city hall nuptials in the Rotunda and then book us for wedding photography after.  Meanwhile, their guests gather at one of the many nearby restaurants that specialize in city hall wedding receptions.   There are many fantastic  places to celebrate and all our walking distance away from San Francisco city hall.  We have mentioned these eateries in other blog posts, please refer to Places to Eat Near City Hall for more details.

Inexpensive City Hall Wedding Photography

This is one of the key features of city hall wedding affordability.  One of the major expenses of any wedding is the professional wedding photographer.  The best photographers in San Francisco can run anywhere from $2,000 up to $6,000 for full wedding coverage.  These same wedding photographers offer their services to City Hall brides and groom for a fraction of this cost.  Many San Francisco City Hall photographers have discount pricing that starts at $500.  Yes, you are only getting them for an hour or 2, but that is really all you need.  The most experienced professionals will take you on a tour of the building and follow that up with the chance to be driven around  San Francisco for more photos.   A fantastic opportunity to work with some of the most accomplished wedding photographers in the Bay Area at this very picturesque venue!

Here are a few samples of the types of photos you can get at this amazing venue.

North Gallery Dance Dip Image

North Gallery Dance Dip Image

City Hall Grand Staircase Image

Best City Hall Wedding Photography

What are some of the best ways to approach City Hall wedding photography?

  1. Challenging Lighting. One of the trickiest things about taking pictures at San Francisco city hall is the lighting.  Depending upon where you are in the building the lighting can either be amazing or extremely tough to deal with.  For example, the Mayor’s Balcony is difficult because just about any angle shooting away from the balcony towards the rotunda involves heavy back lighting.  The Mayor’s Balcony is not only fairly dark, but everything around it is bathed in natural light.  We often see amateur wedding photographers attempting to shoot their subjects by the railing with out any lighting and ultimately they will mostly just get silhouette images or blown out backgrounds.  Another challenging place to shoot is in the Rotunda area where the city hall ceremonies occur.  The predominate light in this area is from overhead.  So if you shoot in almost any direction your subjects will have “raccoon eyes”.  If you are taking pictures in the Rotunda, position yourself with your back to the Mayor’s Balcony and you will get some nice light.  If you have flash, use it!
  2. Crowd Control.  We jokingly refer to this as crowd control but there is some truth to this city hall wedding photography challenge.  The fact is that San Francisco city hall is a public building.  Every single person in the building has the same right to be there as you.   Yes, even if you are getting married!  The best way to handle this simply is to go where people aren’t.  It sounds simple, but virtually every non-professional wedding photographer we see ignores this advice.  They spend the whole photography session on the Grand Staircase as though this was the only place in all of city hall for wedding photography.  The fact is, there are 4 floors that ALL have great backgrounds and architecture to explore.    As you take your couple around the building, keep your eye on the Staircase so when it clears off, you can run down and get some pictures.  Meanwhile, you might find that there are some very nice other locations to photograph.
  3. Leave the Family Behind. We often see amateur city hall wedding photographers taking their whole wedding party around the building with them when shooting the bride and groom.  This is not a good idea for several reasons.  Most importantly, it will make your couple inhibited as they pose for their city hall wedding pictures with an audience. Inevitably, some of the relatives with shout out suggestions and make comments.  This is distracting to the photographer and the subject.  The other issue is that the family and friends will get in the way of your backgrounds.  You will spend more time trying to move the group then actually posing the couple.  Ask the Wedding Party to either wait in the Mint Cafe or just in a neutral area somewhere.  It will make your city hall wedding photography session go much smoother.
  4. Timing is Everything.   I understand that not everyone can control the timing of their San Francisco city hall wedding photography session.  There are many factors that get in the way, most importantly the time of the wedding ceremony.  Also many couples are restricted because of work schedules and can not choose the best days of the week.  However, if some of these things ARE in your control, then by all means choose the best times of the day and best days of the week.  Avoid Fridays if possible because of extreme city hall crowds.   Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem to be the best days of the week for less people.  If you have control of your booking time, then try for early times or late.  There will be less people and especially tourists at those times.