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Helpful Hints

Helpful Hints for your City Hall Wedding

We have learned many things over the past few years while photographing San Francisco City Hall weddings. As time goes by, we find ourselves providing a considerable amount of advice to our couples with intent of making the whole process easier and more enjoyable. With this in mind, we decided it would be useful to share some of our expertise and provide some helpful hints. We are also happy to answer any specific questions you might have regarding any of this information so feel free to email us if your question is not answered below. As noted elsewhere in this website, we provide free wedding planning for any of those who want it. There is no charge for this service and you do not need to book us for your wedding photography. For those who want to avail themselves of this type of service we ask that you please email us at mike@cityhallphotos.com.

  1. Allow plenty of time on the day of your wedding to get to S.F. City Hall. Instead of having breakfast or lunch at home, have at in the City Hall cafeteria! The food is great and it gives you just a little more cushion in case things run late. Unexpected city traffic, parking problems and special events are just a few of the things that can make you late to your own wedding. If you arrive too early, you can check out some of the historical information about San Francisco City Hall while you wait for your ceremony time. Avoid stress on your wedding day and plan things out! We have seen more than our share of late brides and grooms on their wedding day. It is especially important to be on time if you have a 3:30 pm ceremony scheduled. The County Clerk's office closes shortly after this final ceremony time and so if you are too late, you risk all of the officiants going home. We have seen it happen before and literally had to chase down an officiant one time because we was leaving the building and there was nobody else left to perform the ceremony.
  2. If you plan on bringing lots of guests ask them to wait by the stairs (see note below). This is preferable to having them all follow you to check-in at the County Clerk's office. We definitely notice a rise in the stress level of our brides and grooms when they have to deal with everyone in that small space outside of the clerk's office. The noise level can be crazy and if things are running behind, it just makes the whole process more complicated. Just bring your witness and your wedding photographer. There will be plenty of time for your guests to join you and watch your ceremony. It's also important to educate your guests in advance. Let them know that they won't be missing anything by not following you both to the ceremony check-in. Following this advice also makes it better for other brides and groom checking in by cutting down the crowds in this small space! Note: Effective May of 2019, the County Clerk will no longer allow more than 6 guests at your ceremony. There has also been some talk that when City Hall reopens after the Pandemic is done, family members will NOT be allowed anywhere near the Check-in.
  3. Be sure to bring water bottles, protein bars or other favorite snacks. City Hall weddings often run late, especially in the afternoon. Conditions in the building can often be hot with a lack of air circulation so it is important to keep hydrated. Protein bars or some sort of snack food is also advised for similar reasons. Assuming you are going to hire a professional wedding photographer, it's also a good idea to bring some comfortable walking shoes. This will help with all of the walking you will be doing to each photo location. Most wedding photographers will give you plenty of time to change back into your dress shoes. Other items to bring to any courthouse wedding include safety pins, tape, and a sewing kit.
  4. The best days to have your civil ceremony are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Fridays are by far the busiest days followed closely by Thursday. 9:00 am ceremony times are usually not too crowded and we also like the later times. After 4 pm, people start to slowly clear out of City Hall, but there is a slight risk of tour groups and events helping you celebrate your civil union. Overall we still like the late times best! If you book a 3:30 ceremony and it runs typically late, you wont be getting married until closer to 4:00 pm. By the time we are ready to take your photos, most of the people will have cleared out of San Francisco City Hall! This will make your whole matrimonial experience more enjoyable and less stressful. Just beware of special events that occasionally shut down portions of the building in the late afternoon.
  5. To really experience this famous city, consider booking one of our SF Tour Packages. This will allow you and your new spouse the opportunity to see some of San Francisco's most famous sites. Our packages are affordable and we will provide the transportation! We know our way around the city and are happy to provide you with a quasi guided tour! We are not experts, but have learned quite a bit over the past 10 years. All of this while having your wedding photos taken in the locations of your choice.
  6. Brides, if possible bring a nice bouquet to your SF City Hall wedding. Flowers provide a nice splash of color to the background and will enhance your wedding pictures. It also gives you something to do with your hands! City Hall is beautiful but could use a little more color! Lots of grays and whites, so it is nice to break it up with color.

San Francisco City Hall Newlyweds walking down the Grand Staircase

Best wedding photography locations include north facing windows with natural light.

SF City Hall Professional Wedding Photographer - Bride's blue dress

Groom kissing hand during San Francisco wedding

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