Valentine’s Day at City Hall

Another fun Valentine’s Day at San Francisco city hall! For those of you who are unfamiliar, city hall has been staging a celebration on Valentines Day the past few years. They allow walk-ins to get married at no cost! You might have to wait a while, but its all part of the fun. They set up a Photo Booth and bring in pretty much all of the Marriage Commissioners to deal with the overflow.

Valentines Officiants waiting their turn
Valentines Officiants waiting their turn

Cute Places for Wedding Photography

To further enhance your Valentines Day wedding experience the County Clerk’s office sets up cute, Valentine’s themed Backdrops for photo opportunities. I think this is particularly important because if you are getting married on this special day, it is appropriate to have some wedding pictures that will remind you of the day. As San Francisco city hall wedding photographers, we would also photograph you around the building to take advantage of all that this destination has to offer. But I love the idea of getting a few shots in the giant Heart for example and in front of their many other decorations.

Multiple brides waiting to get married at SF City Hall
Multiple brides waiting to get married at SF City Hall

Fun Day at San Francisco City Hall

The other thing I need to mention is just the overall mood present this day among all of the workers in the County Clerk’s office and the brides and grooms. A positive mood is created for all to enjoy and I always look forward to being involved in it. In fact, this year I didn’t even book a wedding, but showed up anyway to be involved and to get a few nice photos for this blog.

5 Best Ideas for Your City Hall Wedding in 2019

If you are a San Francisco City Hall Bride-to-Be, you want the perfect wedding. I have been involved in over 400 weddings at City Hall since 2012 and created this guide just for you.

Idea # 1Treat your city hall wedding like you would any other wedding. City Hall is a formal venue. The elegance of this building lends itself to making your event fancy and at the same time fun. I can’t tell you how many times my city hall brides have been surprised when they enter the building and see so many formal dresses on others. Many feel that since their San Francisco city hall wedding is a so called “Civil Ceremony” that people will be dressed more casually. They soon find that brides will often go all out with their dresses and the grooms will wear tuxes. It works here because of the high class atmosphere at city hall. The other thing that frequently is left out is Flowers. Many of our brides do not bring a bouquet for the same reasons. They think of SF City Hall weddings as informal, so no flowers are purchased. From a city hall wedding photographer’s standpoint, I highly recommend flowers be included. Despite the obvious beauty of the building, there is one minor issue…. There is no color in the background at city hall, so adding some flowers provides some nice contrast and focus.

Idea #2 – Consider having a Reserved wedding at City Hall. For an extra $900 you can rent out either Mayor’s Balcony or the 4th Floor North Gallery and have a semi-private ceremony at San Francisco City Hall. The cost of $1,000 is actually a bargain in San Francisco for a wedding celebration. They can seat up to 60 people and you get a roped off private area to have your wedding for 1 hour.

Idea #3 – Book your city hall wedding Reception at a nearby Restaurant. There are a number of great places to eat walking distance from San Francisco city hall. Save money on transportation and have your wedding celebration at any one of them. It will be more convenient for your guests and will save you dollars! Some examples include: Soluna Cafe, Corridor, Jardiniere and Absinthe, but there are many more!

Idea #4 – Obtain your Marriage License the day before your city hall ceremony. Obviously it is much more convenient to process and receive your marriage license on the same day you have your civil ceremony and it normally works OK. However, as city hall wedding photographers we have witnesses many times where this procedure backfires on the engaged couple. One of the reasons relates to timing. If you don’t allow enough of it between the license processing and the actual wedding ceremony, you might end up feeling rushed. I believe a couple’s wedding day should be a celebration without too much time spent processing paperwork. The other issue that occasionally comes up are documentation problems. If you do not have the appropriate documents to process the license and your wedding is in 30 minutes, you have a big problem. However, if you do this the day before, it gives you a full day to fix any issues and it is one less thing to worry about on your wedding day.

Idea #5 – Hire a professional San Francisco city hall wedding photographer. OK, so you might have seen this coming since you happen to be reading a blog from a city hall wedding photographer. However, we would not be in this business if we didn’t strongly believe in what we do. I am not just talking about booking us for your wedding, I am encouraging SF city hall brides and grooms to hire any of the top wedding photographers out there. There are many good ones and all of them want to provide you with great memories. Don’t try to save money by hiring Uncle Steve to do you wedding with his really cool new DSLR camera (that he barely knows how to use!)

Checking in at the County Clerks office at San Francisco City Hall
The famous Grand Staircase at San Francisco city hall

City Hall Wedding Pictures

City Hall bride checks her wedding gown
City Hall bride checks her wedding gown

Another amazing bride and groom at San Francisco city hall.   Katie and Kyle reserved the 4th Floor North Gallery  to allow all of their guests to sit down in chairs.  They also roped off the entire side of the floor to allow the bridal party to have privacy from other weddings and tourists.  The cost for this is $1,000 for 1 hour of reserved time.  They did a traditional wedding procession with the bride being led into the ceremony by her parents.  The happy groom watching as they came in.  After a 20 minute ceremony and romantic vows, the couple was married!

Romantic moment during wedding vows
Romantic moment during wedding vows

The bride was very well prepared with a list of family photos that she provided us.  We love it when the couple can give us a predetermined list of family groupings.  It truly makes that part of the wedding go much fast allowing more time for bride and groom formal photos.  We began our shoot once we completed the family portraits, taking the couple around the building on what we call our “city hall photo tour”.  See below for some sample photos of our wedding photography shoot.

City Hall bride checks her wedding gown

Bride and Groom walking down the Grand Staircase
Bride and Groom walking down the Grand Staircase

City Hall North Gallery Image
City Hall North Gallery Image

Hallway Wedding Image
Hallway Wedding Image

We spent around 45 minutes going from floor to floor at San Francisco city hall and taking pictures at many of our favorite locations.  It was unseasonably warm for an early February wedding so we took it slow to keep our bride fresh.  We were also quite pleased with the lack of crowds for a Thursday.  Normally Thursdays are the second busiest day at city hall, but early February is a slower time here and we were blessed with no crowds and the opportunity to get some great images.  With both the bride and groom letting us know that they were athletic, we asked them if they would be willing to do a lift shot.  We wanted Kyle to pick up Katie and lift her high in the air in front of the city hall sign.  Here is the fantastic result!

Bride Cheering in front of the city hall sign
Bride Cheering in front of the city hall sign

We really enjoyed this wedding and helped this couple make memories for years to come.

September Weddings in San Francisco

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. Wedding Photography at Baker Beach on a clear day
  • 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.

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.  In the photo below you can see my photography partner Toni Bailey with one of our couples.

Toni with one of our couples
Toni with one of our couples

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!!

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