Christmas at San Francisco City Hall is always a wonderful time. The place is always very busy and the giant Christmas tree becomes the center point of this great wedding venue. Wedding photography at San Francisco city hall is made so easy during this time of the year, because almost everyone wants pictures in front to the tree. For the past few years the tree has been decorated with Origami which makes for a very unique look. In addition, when evening comes the light reflects off of the Origami and creates patterns on the walls at city hall. It’s a pretty amazing and unexpected scene. This year, the tree is decorated in a more standard way, but it still looks amazing. We are scheduled to photograph 7 weddings in 2023 during the Christmas season and we are very much looking forward to it. 2023 has been an incredibly busy year for us and this will be an amazing cap to one of our best years ever. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to look at this wedding from the past during the holiday season.
We started our formal shoot on the 3rd floor because city hall was pretty crowded and we were having trouble finding places without people in the background. This particular wedding was on a Friday which is definitely one of the most crowded days of the week. We have learned over the years where and when to take our brides and grooms once things get crowded. The 3rd floor is one of those places! A lot of city hall newbies don’t even know about the 3rd floor and how beautiful the lighting is there. This makes it an ideal hideaway to utilize on busy Fridays. Especially during the Christmas season. The plan is always to make our way to the other locations, but we do it when we see that things are slowing down in that particular area. San Francisco city hall wedding photography requires that you keep track of where the best places are to go to avoid the crowds, especially on Fridays when it is most busy.
Once we completed our time on the 3rd floor, we headed back down to the Christmas Tree to get a few nice shots. Again, there were people everywhere and virtually no room to photograph the couple in the traditional place facing the Rotunda. Fortunately, we have alternative angles into the tree that is off to the side. Even though it’s a pretty obvious angle, many photographers without experience at city hall don’t know about it. We were able to get some fairly private images in front of the tree before moving on to our next location. I also prefer this side of the tree, because the lighting is usually better. I can use my off-camera flash more easily on the side than I can from straight on.
We spent over 1.5 hours at San Francisco city hall touring around taking photos and having fun with the newlyweds. We managed to get all of the shots that most people always ask us about including the Grand Staircase and the 4th floor North Gallery. This, despite the fact that City Hall had scheduled 7 reserved weddings that day, which usually brings a large number of people into the building. We were lucky to walk up to the beautiful North Gallery just when one wedding was ending and another was about to be set up. Sometimes this can be the only time to take pictures on this incredible floor! Timing is everything, but it also pays to keep watching for the right moments.
Once we completed our San Francisco City Hall photo tour, we drove the couple to Fort Point to get some professional wedding pictures with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. The couple’s family also showed up at Fort Point allowing us to include them in many of the photos. It was a fantastic way to end our day with beautiful weather and a clear view of the bridge with no fog.
Update: The County Clerks office has now changed Christmas ceremonies to the 3rd floor instead of in front of the tree. Brides and grooms can still take plenty of pictures in front of the Christmas Tree after the ceremony. Part of the reason for moving the ceremony was for religious or cultural reasons. Not everyone wants the Christmas tree in the background and this allows people to choose!