Ring exchange on the Grand Staircase wedding ceremony
San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photographer

City Hall Ceremony on Grand Staircase

When you have your wedding at San Francisco city hall, the officiant usually gives you 2 choices for the ceremony location. These choices normally include the Rotunda or the Private Room. However, at this point, the private room seems to be rarely used. There are a few officiants who will offer other choices or no choices at all. This particular officiant in the photo above likes to do his ceremonies on the Grand Staircase. It's actually a quite difficult location to photograph the ceremony for many reasons. There is no room for the city hall wedding photographer to stand on the platform so inevitably you end up shooting either up or down at the bride and groom during the ceremony. As you can see from the photo, shooting down usually involves including tourists and other people wandering around city hall. The same problem exists if you shoot up at the couple, but it's also a less complimentary angle. Note: This officiant has retired and so weddings are no longer taking place on the Grand Staircase. Here is a list of the most common city hall ceremony locations ranked in order of preference from favorite to least favorite:

  1. 4th Floor North Gallery
  2. Mayor's Balcony
  3. Rotunda (default location)
  4. 4th Floor South Gallery
  5. Top of the Grand Staircase
  6. Middle Section Grand Staircase (the platform)
  7. Various Locations on the 3rd floor
  8. The Private Room

The Best San Francisco City Hall Ceremony Locations

As you can see from above, there are many locations for ceremonies at San Francisco city hall. Are there favorites among the wedding photographers? I think it is hard to say, because it depends upon the circumstances. If there is a reserved ceremony, 4th Floor North Gallery and Mayor's Balcony are the locations that are always used. I think one thing is pretty clear... The private room is not anyone's favorite. We actually love the default Location for Civil Ceremonies which is the Rotunda. We appreciate the privacy there and the walls give us something to bounce are flashes off of. We never really loved the Grand Staircase for ceremonies because of all the foot traffic passing by. It is a beautiful place in City Hall, but much better just for wedding pictures. We also love the 3rd floor for private ceremonies because there is less people walking by. There are so many options and San Francisco city hall, which is why it such an amazing place for weddings.