We worked with a great couple last week and I wanted to talk about it while it was fresh in my mind. Yuan and Tracy chose our Golden Gate package which provided them with 1 additional San Francisco photography location after we finished at City Hall. They choose to go to the Legion of Honor and we drove them there. One of the things I offer couples who choose this location is the chance to take a quick photo of the Golden Gate bridge in addition to the Legion of Honor. This is because it so close by and easy to access with just a short drive. In fact, if it is a nice day, you would actually walk to the second location. We often take couples to the 17th hole at Lincoln Park golf course to get the bridge picture, but this time we went to Lands End. What a great place to get a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge! Also present at Lands End are nice walking trails and beautiful tall trees. The Lands End location is not walking distance away however. Update: With the road being under construction next to Lincoln Park Municipal Golf Course we have been taking all of our couples to Land’s End for the Bridge picture. Not sure how long it will take for the construction to be completed, but until that time we will not be taking our couples to the 17 Hole. It doesn’t really matter, however, because the Lands End view is spectacular.
City Hall Photography Tour
Before we embarked upon our journey to the Legion of Honor we of course needed to complete our wedding photography tour at San Francisco City Hall. It was very important to Yuan and Tracy to get a shot of their entire wedding party in front of City Hall’s famed Grand Staircase. Fortunately, they booked a later ceremony (3:00 pm) and thus city hall was starting to clear out shortly after we were ready to start their professional wedding photography. This is something to keep in mind when planning your wedding. If possible, choose a ceremony time NOT in the middle of the day when things are the most busy. We suggest 9:00 am and 3:30 pm. After completing some smaller family combinations, we took everyone down to the bottom of the Staircase including the Bride and Groom. We managed to have some moments where the staircase became relatively clear of tourists and other weddings allowing us to get a clear shot! See below to check out their image. Very luck to capture an image like this with no other people in the background. No Photoshop needed!
Once we recorded this all important photo, we took the couple around the building to take more formal wedding photography. The shot at the top was done in the 2nd floor hallway. We always like to do some fun shots with our brides and grooms to get them warmed up. We also wanted to figure out if they were interested in doing some more fun photos or preferred to keep it more simple. We ask our clients to let us know the style of wedding photography they want.
The package that Yuan and Tracy choose provided them with 2.5 hours of coverage with that extra location already discussed above. This is the least expensive of our Tour Packages. Once we completed their wedding photography we took them to the San Francisco location of the reception, Jardiniere. Note: Unfortunately Jardiniere is no longer in business. Such a great food destination for our couples, it is a shame it closed. Fortunately, there are a number of good places to eat in the Hayes Valley area close to SF City Hall. One of our favorites, Absinthe, is highly recommended and caters to wedding parties! It is also walking distance from your wedding at City Hall.
We have been photographing weddings at San Francisco City Hall now for nearly 12 years and have learned some interesting ideas and helpful hints throughout this time. I thought it would be instructive to share some of these thoughts with our readers to help engaged couples planning on getting married at San Francisco City Hall.
Hire a Professional Wedding Photographer – OK so it is probably no surprise that I started with this hint since I am a City Hall Wedding Photographer. However, this is not strictly self-serving. I would highly recommend that you hire ANY of the top wedding photographers that specialize in City Hall weddings. Why? Because the top 10 or so photographers will not only take wonderful photos of your ceremony and formal shots, but they will also guide you through the process. Over these 12 years I have watched other photographers work with their clients and all of them are happy to help. Conversely, when I see couples without a photographer, they appear confused and keep doing the wrong thing with regard to activities such as the County Clerk ceremony check-in. Having a helpful professional there to guide you just takes one more stressful thing away to worry about on your wedding day.
Dress up and Bring Flowers – We often find that brides and grooms are surprised when they see other couples wearing formal attire. Many of them are disappointed that they didn’t do the same. I think people that are unfamiliar with SF City Hall don’t realize that people actually have formal weddings there because of the beauty of the venue. But the biggest issue we see is brides not bringing a bouquet for photography. The only negative thing I would ever say about City Hall is that the colors are all very monotone. So even though our photos come out gorgeous with the amazing backgrounds and architecture, SO much is added simply be mixing in a splash of color. It also gives the bride something to do with her hands!
Avoid City Hall Crowds – Yes, it really is possible to have your wedding at San Francisco City Hall and not have other weddings and tourists everywhere. How do we avoid this? You just need to pick your spots. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days to get married and by far the least crowded. Mondays are great also. Some clients tell me, “But we can’t get married in the middle of the week, it needs to be Friday to accommodate our friends and family”. Well if you have ever been in City Hall on “Crazy Friday”, you wont be using the word “accommodate” and “Friday” in the same sentence. Ask your friends and family, they might surprise you. Also, if you really want to have the place to yourself, get married early morning (9:30 am slot) or later (3:30 pm slot).
Consider a Reserved Ceremony – Obviously one of the big draws to having your nuptials at San Francisco City Hall is the low cost. Under $100 to get married in this beautiful historic building. However, the rules state that you should only bring 6 guests. Yes, most people ignore these rules, but you are still limited and the more people you bring the more others are disrupted. Note: The County Clerk’s office is now strictly enforcing the 6 guest limit rule. Brides and grooms arriving at city hall with 7 or more will most likely be sent to the Private room for their ceremony. Reserving the Mayor’s Balcony or the 4th Floor North Gallery only costs $1,000 and pretty much guarantees you privacy and 1 hour of no crowds. Get married on a Friday, who cares now! You have your own space, they rope if off, and even set up chairs for your 40 +guests. In addition, your photographer now has at least one location to get great shots with no worries of tourists in the photos.
UPDATE: I was looking through this blog post and realized that I forgot one very important suggestion to enhance your city hall wedding. Bringing props! In recent months it has become a bit of a trend. Brides and groom have been bringing “Thank you” signs to use on their gift responses. The obvious sign saying: “Just Married” is another popular idea. But we have seen all kinds of different signs made from different materials. Some are homemade while others are obviously store bought. Just another very good and fun idea to enhance your city hall wedding!
Kissing in Front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
I am a rare breed, an actual San Francisco native. I was born in the city and lived there for many years with my family. Our neighborhood happened to be the famous Haight Ashbury District and I lived there in in the 1960’s during the Hippie era. I remember walking through the Pan Handle and literally stepping over Hippies lying in the streets as I walked with my classmates to school. It was quite an experience and a different time. We used to play outside by ourselves with no fear. I could walk home from school by myself and we didn’t think it was any big deal. As a young adult I attended the University of San Francisco, which was walking distance from where I lived as a child. So what does any of this have to do with wedding photography in San Francisco? Keep reading to find out….
San Francisco as Inspiration
The San Francisco community fancies itself as an art society. People here are very in touch with their “right brain”. What does this mean? Right brainers are focused on creative pursuits and art. San Francisco inspires artists to create. It’s hard to define, but I just know that many of the best San Francisco wedding photographers are concerned with providing their clients with more than just traditional images. They want to use San Francisco as a backdrop for amazing creative and historic images. It is easy to do here, because the city offers so much. Having grown up here, I find myself very much in tune with the beauty and history all around us. We love taking our clients to beautiful places like The Palace of Fine Arts and the Legion of Honor. We want to show our couples different aspects of living in San Francisco through wedding photography. When we take couples on a photo tour of the city, we talk about the lifestyle and also show examples. When it comes to San Francisco, it is more than just the beauty, it’s the culture and the history. I know it may be over reaching a little bit, I truly think that many of our brides and grooms like to feel the whole San Francisco persona.
Christmas at city hall in San Francisco
San Francisco Landmarks
The city has so many amazing landmarks and historical locations to take our couples. The Grand Staircase in the photo above is one of these San Francisco Landmarks. Tourists flock to see it and take pictures of it. It makes for a great wedding photography background as you can see. On any given day, you will find many San Francisco residents enjoying the beauty and elegance of these places not only in city hall but outside. This is part of the San Francisco lifestyle, a very easy going pace when compared to other large cities. Hanging out in Golden Gate park, spending time by the Painted Ladies or just walking on Baker Beach. These activities are all part of how people live in the City by the Bay. The fact that I grew up here makes me even more motivated to show visitors what a fun place it is to live. It certainly is a great place to be a wedding photographer.
Experiencing the San Francisco lifestyle
We look forward to sharing our vision of San Francisco with all of our clients, brides and grooms or engaged couples whether they live here or are visiting from other countries.
September is underway in San Francisco and it is one of the most beautiful times of the year. San Francisco residents tend to call the time period between early September and mid October “Indian Summer”. I will skip the technical explanation of why the fog is so thick during the summer and starts to gradually go away in September, but for those interested check out this link about San Francisco Weather . The most important thing to know is that September is a great month to explore the city and head to the beaches. If you happen to be getting married at San Francisco City Hall or anywhere else in the city for that matter, you owe it yourself to have your wedding photographer take some outside pictures. For those couples who were worried about trying to visit the Golden Gate Bridge during the summer, feat not! By mid month, there will be very little fog along the coast and the bridge will be as bright and beautiful as ever! Fall winds will make the air super clear also, leading to some amazing photo opportunities.
September Photo Opportunities in San Francisco
Everyone always thinks about the Golden Gate Bridge, but what other great locations become more visible in September minus the fog? Here is a list of recommendations for places in San Francisco to visit in the fall months:
Baker Beach – We tend to avoid Baker Beach during the summer because of the fog. It is the most risky place to take our brides and groom that time of the year because the view is from the Ocean looking in. Since the fog tends to roll in from the water, the bridge is often covered from that angle, but still visible from the Bay side. But in September with the fog mostly gone, The Golden Gate bridge can look spectacular from Baker Beach.
The Marin Headlands – This view is actually not in San Francisco, but it is a quick trip across the Golden Gate bridge and just like Baker Beach, is on the ocean side. Here are some photo examples of this angle to the Bridge along with others: Favorite Places for Golden Gate Bridge Gazing
Lands End – This is one of my new favorite places to look at the bridge. It includes a nice short hiking trail and some amazing scenery. For more information regarding this spectacular view point, click the Lands End Link provided.
To summarize, September is an amazing month to be in San Francisco! Take advantage of this great time and explore this beautiful city.
I wanted to update this post from last year because I have some new photos to add to it. I still love this first one (see above) because it is so classic! One of our favorite City Hall Weddings from last year! We photographed the wedding of Steve and John with only 1 guest…… Their 5 month old little girl. We met the 3 of them in the hallway directly outside of the County Clerk’s office to assist them with their Ceremony check-in. After a brief meeting with their officiant we all headed up to the Rotunda to celebrate their marriage. One of the most fun things about the ceremony was that the Deputy Marriage commissioner volunteered to hold the baby while John and Steve exchanged wedding rings! This great idea helped create this classic photo that they will remember for the rest of their lives. I just love how the baby is looking right at the ring exchange of her new dads!
Dad with daughter just before the city hall ceremony
Once the ceremony was completed and the marriage sealed with a kiss, we took the happy couple around the building to take some photos. We incorporated their daughter into some of the early photos, but it wasn’t long until she had fallen asleep in her baby stroller. We took advantage of this lucky break to get some really nice poses of the couple, taking them on a tour to many of our favorite picture spots. We ended our shoot at the city hall sign out in front of the building. Perfect timing as the baby woke up and joined the couple for a posed shot in front of San Francisco City Hall.
Same-Sex Grooms posing with the Rotunda in the background city hall sign with baby
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. 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 scene. We photographed 6 weddings this year during the Christmas season and each one had it’s own unique feel. The primary reason for this Blog post is to just display a few photos from one of our larger weddings this Christmas 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!
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.
We spent over 1.5 hours at San Francisco city hall touring around taking photos and having fun. 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.
Once we completed our 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.
We had quite a crazy week at city hall! Besides photographing 5 beautiful couples in only 4 days, we also had to deal with record temps! On Friday San Francisco hit the 103 mark which was an all-time record. We were lucky enough to have booked a wedding on that day and got to experience the incredible heat. Fortunately, City Hall is slow to heat up and also slow to cool down. Often the day of the heat wave, the building never gets up to unbearable temperatures, but watch out for the following day! If the famous San Francisco fog doesn’t roll in, the building will heat up like an oven. All of that concrete and marble tends to hold on to the heat, but the whole process takes a while. Thus, we really had our hottest shooting day at City Hall the following days after the heat wave.
I have to say that our couples all handled the heat very well and were good sports. Some of the guys with their tuxes were clearly suffering a bit, but they never let their bride see any extreme discomfort. We purposely tried to keep our normal shooting pace slow, to keep everyone cool. I have a tendency to walk fast through the building, but not this week! It was a relief on Thursday to leave city hall and head out to the Palace of Fine Arts. We had a feeling that once we got there, it would be cooler given its proximity to the Bay. We were not disappointed when we were greeted by a nice cool breeze.
With so many weddings this week to talk about, I will end this post here, but promise to pick it up again tomorrow and talk about some of our other couples for the week. Thanks for listening!