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Featured Wedding - Reserved Ceremony

Reserved Ceremony at SF City Hall

A few times per year a wedding stands out that we select to be a "Featured Wedding". With this particular San Francisco city hall wedding photography session, it was the bride that really made the shoot fantastic. We loved the formal wedding gown and veil, but more importantly it was her personality that came through in the pictures. As you go through these photos realize that most of the great poses and expressions were created by her. We like to take credit for amazing SF City Hall photo shoots, but the truth is, the couple also makes a big difference. The affection they showed for each other was obviously genuine and I think we did a good job capturing it in their wedding photos.

To receive more details about these San Francisco city hall wedding images, scroll down below the gallery. We provide detailed information and background on this fun and amazing San Francisco city hall wedding. This can be a reminder for any engaged couples looking for a wedding photographer. Remember that you will only get out of your wedding pictures what you put into them. We all share the responsibility to make sure your San Francisco city hall wedding pictures come out great! Obviously, it is primarily our job to deliver great images, but your participation makes a big difference!

City Hall Bride and Groom smiling while posing for camera
Gorgeous backlight for bridal photography at SF City Hall
Full length photography image of the Grand Staircase at city hall
San Francisco city hall bride contemplates her bouquet - wedding photography
Dramatic lighting - wedding photography at SF City Hall
Click for Access to this Featured Gallery - Reserved Ceremony

Reserved Weddings on the 4th Floor of SF City Hall

One of the options brides and grooms are faced with when they make the decision to marry at San Francisco city hall is whether or not they want a "reserved" wedding ceremony. Reserved weddings differ from civil ceremonies in that they allow the couple to have a large number of guests in a private area. These reserved weddings take place in a designated area that provide privacy to the entire party. Not only are many guests allowed, but they even get to sit down in comfortable chairs to watch the bride and groom get married. Civil Ceremonies limit the guest count to only 6 and the couple are usually not allowed to say their own vows. Some Marriage Commissioners allow personal vows, but they have to be super short. (Note: If you want to do perform personal vows, talk to your City Hall marriage commissioner prior to the ceremony.) Here are some great tips for choosing the best wedding officiant.

The other big difference is that Reserved weddings allow the couple to have privacy during their ceremony. The reserved area is roped off which prevents tourists and strangers from wandering through your ceremony. This should not happen during a civil ceremony either, but there is that chance and I have seen it occur. Of course, you do pay a premium for all of these benefits and that price is $1,000. I know that sounds like a lot of money, but if you compare it to other San Francisco venues it's a relative steal! Just don't forget that you also have to hire your own officiant as San Francisco city hall does not generally supply officiants for Reserved Weddings. I have seen some exceptions, but they were for emergency situations. Plan on paying between $250 to $350 for a wedding officiant for your city hall reserved wedding. We are happy to recommend some to you. We know quite a few and most of them wear the judges robes that you see at City Hall Civil Ceremonies.

4th Floor or Mayor's Balcony? Which Should you Choose?

This is a tough decision for the bride and groom. In fact, if you polled the leading San Francisco city hall wedding photographers I know they would have a hard time deciding on which they prefer. There are good things about both locations and few minor drawbacks for each one. I personally tend to prefer the Mayor's Balcony because there are more angles to obtain great photos from. In addition, I can usually position myself as the wedding photographer so I minimize strangers showing up in the background. This is also possible on the 4th Floor North Gallery, but it is a bit more challenging. It is possible to position the ceremony in a different direction in both locations, if you have a major problem with seeing strangers in the background. In both cases, the others are pretty far away, but you will see them if they are there. This is something you should discuss in advance with your San Francisco city hall wedding photographer. Most reserved ceremonies take place in the same spot, but this can be changed if you plan in advance and notify the City Hall Events Department.

Mayor's Balcony

  • Central Location with Amazing Views of the Staircase and Rotunda
  • Balcony gives the bride and groom a special regal feeling
  • Relatively easy to secure from strangers wandering through
  • Has it's own mini staircase which allows the bride and groom to walk in for the ceremony
  • It's a little dark with not much supplemental lighting - Can cause photography issues
  • Background of ceremony can show strangers and tourists, but is mostly avoidable

4th Floor

  • Amazing natural light from the huge bay windows
  • Slightly quieter due to higher floor location - away from the sounds
  • Very easy to rope off and secure - no wandering strangers can sneak in
  • A bit better for live music due to it's relative contained area - less competing noise
  • Bay window on other side can cause problems for inexperienced wedding photographers due to excessive backlight
  • People on the other side often try to watch ceremony and this can be distracting and they get in the pictures sometimes.
  • More private than any other City Hall Wedding ceremony location - one of my favorite things. the only people that can see you are others on the 4th floor.
  • If you opt for music, it seems to sound a little better here.