San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photography

No doubt that San Francisco City Hall is one of the most magnificent venues to get married at. If you are planning an intimate wedding and need a creative San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer, we have a number of options to offer.

 

The information I've put together on this page is offered to couples who value creative photography, believe in a teamwork and want to understand how to have the most efficient City Hall wedding photography session possible.

 

This info should be useful for those who already booked the date and for those who haven't.

 

WHY SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL?

 

We love working with the couples who looking for epic wedding photography backgrounds only San Francisco City Hall can offer. That's why we we want to share our knowledge to make sure our talents are full taken advantage of.

 

Those couples who are interested in the best possible wedding experience should get some prior understanding on what is currently happening at City Hall.

 

THE GOOD NEWS

 

The San Francisco City Hall is still the same welcoming and magnificent building that offers breathtaking wedding photo opportunities to couples who invest some time in the research. It may well be the best possible option for an intimate weekday wedding.

 

BUT?

 

It's tricky to work in City Hall today as it is packed with local and international tourists, multiple wedding parties, and other photographers.

 

The county clerk office is not always capable of handling a large number of weddings as the entire schedule depends on volunteer deputy marriage commissioners who are often in their retirement and can be slow at times in processing the paperwork.

 

All this may greatly affect the feeling, the schedule, the experience and of course the results of your wedding photography session.

 

The good news is that with careful planning you can still avoid most of these problems and have a great San Francisco City Hall wedding .

 

We've written an in-depth article on how to get married at City Hall but below are few things to consider.

 

GET MARRIED IN THE MORNING

 

Most issues can be managed. Simpy avoid Fridays and try to schedule the earliest possible Ceremony time slot (currently 9AM). This will eliminate 99% of the potential issues. You will not depend on other couples who are late. Your photo session will not be affected by another photographer who is desperately trying to photograph a 100 people group shot on the staircase. You will get access to any portion of the City Hall you want and you will get a Rotunda as your ceremony spot 99.9% of a time. There is also a much lower chance that City Hall will be undergoing a special event setup (often starts around 1PM).

 

RENT MAYOR'S BALCONY OR THE 4TH FLOOR

 

Another option that helps a lot with getting great photography results would be renting an event space at City Hall. You can book a 4th floor (North or South) as well as Mayor's balcony. You and your wedding party will instantly get a private area. Renting a space combined with having your own wedding officiant will result in the most relaxed and intimate experience for both you and your party. I've written articles on both Mayor's balcony as well as about 4th floor gallery weddings and included image sample s. Feel free to browse to get an idea.

 

OR GET MARRIED IN THE AFTER-HOURS

 

Okay, there is one more thing you can do: you can get married in the evening. A little known secret is: San Francisco City Hall is open until 8 PM. Also, anyone can marry you. All you need to get is a "marriage commissioner for a day" license for your friend via County clerk office. This way you won't even need to hire anyone to officiate your wedding.

 

San Francisco City Hall gets quiet, calm and empty after 5 PM. It's a time when most of the couples are long gone from the building and organized tours are finished. On winter days, when its get dark outside earlier, City Hall dome lights are on and the backgrounds are absolutely gorgeous.

 

NONE OF THE ABOVE WORKS?

 

The truth is, most of the couples have limitations on dates and the time of the day that works for them and their families. Often these days are Fridays and most convenient time is early to late afternoon.

 

And while these time slots are most problematic in terms of photography, we know how to navigate the busy City Hall schedule, work around the crowds and other couples. Here are some of the packages we offer.

 

LETS GET SOME IDEA ON SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS

 

THE ROTUNDA

 

The Rotunda is the very heart of San Francisco City Hall located just above the main staircase. It is where the majority of public wedding ceremonies take place. Photo opportunities here are amazing! Rotunda’s coolest perks? It is filled wit soft light plus there are beautiful crystal chandeliers. It is standing right opposite from the Mayor’s Balcony which means that great photo backdrops are guaranteed.

 

read more & see samples...

 

MAYOR'S BALCONY

 

Mayor’s Balcony is a fantastic vantage point from where you can capture the most beautiful snaps of San Francisco City Hall. That’s exactly why wedding photographers love it so much! Book a ceremony here and you will get gorgeous views of the ornate marble walls, the grand staircase and the Rotunda. Without a doubt, it offers the most elegant backdrops for the bride and groom shots. Its unique feature is the iconic golden railing which can really stand out in your wedding photos.

 

read more & see samples...

 

THE 4TH FLOOR

 

The 4th Floor Galleries are visually intriguing! The color palette is comprised of soft, natural shades of ivory, white, and grey. To make it even more picture-perfect, you can add some vibrant colors! Vivid bouquets, floral arrangements and bridesmaid dresses will create wonderful contrasts. Here, you can easily seat 60 guests and the chairs are forming a natural aisle for your big entrance. Additionally, there is also ample space for live musicians, small table for cupcakes, champagne, weddings gifts, etc.,.

 

read more & see samples...

 

THE GRAND STAIRCASE

 

The impressive marble staircase is the centerpiece of San Francisco City Hall and its most photographed feature. Its extraordinary beauty will strike you as soon as you walk into the building. Exuding regal elegance and timeless style, this architectural masterpiece is often compared to the iconic staircase at the Opera de Paris.

 

And even if there are other people in the background , a skilled photographer can still make a few amazing shots.

 

read more & see samples...

 

THE 3rd FLOOR AND THE FAMOUS WINDOW

 

The 3rd floor is probably the most peaceful area in the building an excellent place to escape the crowds and busy areas and to get awesome portraits by the famous window.

 

read more & see samples...

 

THE MAIN DOOR

 

Trained in Paris at the famed Ecole de Beaux Arts, Arthur Brown Jr has designed San Francisco City Hall meticulously and with incredible attention to detail. One of the most striking features is the main entrance itself. Bedecked with intricate ornaments in gilded bronze, the iconic "City Hall" signage makes one of the most recognizable photo backdrops.

 

read more & see samples...

 

THE COUNTY CLERK OFFICE

 

You are allowed to take your wedding photographer inside County Clerk Office. This means getting a few extra photo opportunities.

 

The photographer can then make a photo of you signing or holding your marriage certificate. Or capture the moment when you are talking to the judge who is about to marry you.

 

This space may seem un-photogenic to an inexperienced wedding photographer. However, a professional who has photographed hundreds of weddings at San Francisco City Hall will know exactly which moments to capture.

 

CITY HALL ELEVATORS

 

City Hall elevators are exuding luxury and romance of bygone eras. Even the marble hallway with gleaming silver elevator doors looks gorgeous!

 

But the best photos can be made while the doors are open and the bride and groom are standing inside. We always try getting a shot inside these beautiful time capsules assuming we are alone.

 

 

No doubt that San Francisco City Hall is one of the most magnificent venues to get married at. If you are planning an intimate wedding and need a creative San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer, we have a number of options to offer.

 

The information I've put together on this page is offered to couples who value creative photography, believe in a teamwork and want to understand how to have the most efficient City Hall wedding photography session possible.

 

This info should be useful for those who already booked the date and for those who haven't.

 

WHY SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL?

 

We love working with the couples who looking for epic wedding photography backgrounds only San Francisco City Hall can offer. That's why we we want to share our knowledge to make sure our talents are full taken advantage of.

 

Those couples who are interested in the best possible wedding experience should get some prior understanding on what is currently happening at City Hall.

 

THE GOOD NEWS

 

The San Francisco City Hall is still the same welcoming and magnificent building that offers breathtaking wedding photo opportunities to couples who invest some time in the research. It may well be the best possible option for an intimate weekday wedding.

 

BUT?

 

It's tricky to work in City Hall today as it is packed with local and international tourists, multiple wedding parties, and other photographers.

 

The county clerk office is not always capable of handling a large number of weddings as the entire schedule depends on volunteer deputy marriage commissioners who are often in their retirement and can be slow at times in processing the paperwork.

 

All this may greatly affect the feeling, the schedule, the experience and of course the results of your wedding photography session.

 

The good news is that with careful planning you can still avoid most of these problems and have a great San Francisco City Hall wedding .

 

We've written an in-depth article on how to get married at City Hall but below are few things to consider.

 

GET MARRIED IN THE MORNING

 

Most issues can be managed. Simpy avoid Fridays and try to schedule the earliest possible Ceremony time slot (currently 9AM). This will eliminate 99% of the potential issues. You will not depend on other couples who are late. Your photo session will not be affected by another photographer who is desperately trying to photograph a 100 people group shot on the staircase. You will get access to any portion of the City Hall you want and you will get a Rotunda as your ceremony spot 99.9% of a time. There is also a much lower chance that City Hall will be undergoing a special event setup (often starts around 1PM).

 

RENT MAYOR'S BALCONY OR THE 4TH FLOOR

 

Another option that helps a lot with getting great photography results would be renting an event space at City Hall. You can book a 4th floor (North or South) as well as Mayor's balcony. You and your wedding party will instantly get a private area. Renting a space combined with having your own wedding officiant will result in the most relaxed and intimate experience for both you and your party. I've written articles on both Mayor's balcony as well as about 4th floor gallery weddings and included image sample s. Feel free to browse to get an idea.

 

OR GET MARRIED IN THE AFTER-HOURS

 

Okay, there is one more thing you can do: you can get married in the evening. A little known secret is: San Francisco City Hall is open until 8 PM. Also, anyone can marry you. All you need to get is a "marriage commissioner for a day" license for your friend via County clerk office. This way you won't even need to hire anyone to officiate your wedding.

 

San Francisco City Hall gets quiet, calm and empty after 5 PM. It's a time when most of the couples are long gone from the building and organized tours are finished. On winter days, when its get dark outside earlier, City Hall dome lights are on and the backgrounds are absolutely gorgeous.

 

NONE OF THE ABOVE WORKS?

 

The truth is, most of the couples have limitations on dates and the time of the day that works for them and their families. Often these days are Fridays and most convenient time is early to late afternoon.

 

And while these time slots are most problematic in terms of photography, we know how to navigate the busy City Hall schedule, work around the crowds and other couples. Here are some of the packages we offer.

 

LETS GET SOME IDEA ON SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS

 

THE ROTUNDA

 

The Rotunda is the very heart of San Francisco City Hall located just above the main staircase. It is where the majority of public wedding ceremonies take place. Photo opportunities here are amazing! Rotunda’s coolest perks? It is filled wit soft light plus there are beautiful crystal chandeliers. It is standing right opposite from the Mayor’s Balcony which means that great photo backdrops are guaranteed.

 

read more & see samples...

 

MAYOR'S BALCONY

 

Mayor’s Balcony is a fantastic vantage point from where you can capture the most beautiful snaps of San Francisco City Hall. That’s exactly why wedding photographers love it so much! Book a ceremony here and you will get gorgeous views of the ornate marble walls, the grand staircase and the Rotunda. Without a doubt, it offers the most elegant backdrops for the bride and groom shots. Its unique feature is the iconic golden railing which can really stand out in your wedding photos.

 

read more & see samples...

 

THE 4TH FLOOR

 

The 4th Floor Galleries are visually intriguing! The color palette is comprised of soft, natural shades of ivory, white, and grey. To make it even more picture-perfect, you can add some vibrant colors! Vivid bouquets, floral arrangements and bridesmaid dresses will create wonderful contrasts. Here, you can easily seat 60 guests and the chairs are forming a natural aisle for your big entrance. Additionally, there is also ample space for live musicians, small table for cupcakes, champagne, weddings gifts, etc.,.

 

read more & see samples...

 

THE GRAND STAIRCASE

 

The impressive marble staircase is the centerpiece of San Francisco City Hall and its most photographed feature. Its extraordinary beauty will strike you as soon as you walk into the building. Exuding regal elegance and timeless style, this architectural masterpiece is often compared to the iconic staircase at the Opera de Paris.

 

And even if there are other people in the background , a skilled photographer can still make a few amazing shots.

 

read more & see samples...

 

THE 3rd FLOOR AND THE FAMOUS WINDOW

 

The 3rd floor is probably the most peaceful area in the building an excellent place to escape the crowds and busy areas and to get awesome portraits by the famous window.

 

read more & see samples...

 

THE MAIN DOOR

 

Trained in Paris at the famed Ecole de Beaux Arts, Arthur Brown Jr has designed San Francisco City Hall meticulously and with incredible attention to detail. One of the most striking features is the main entrance itself. Bedecked with intricate ornaments in gilded bronze, the iconic "City Hall" signage makes one of the most recognizable photo backdrops.

 

read more & see samples...

 

THE COUNTY CLERK OFFICE

 

You are allowed to take your wedding photographer inside County Clerk Office. This means getting a few extra photo opportunities.

 

The photographer can then make a photo of you signing or holding your marriage certificate. Or capture the moment when you are talking to the judge who is about to marry you.

 

This space may seem un-photogenic to an inexperienced wedding photographer. However, a professional who has photographed hundreds of weddings at San Francisco City Hall will know exactly which moments to capture.

 

CITY HALL ELEVATORS

 

City Hall elevators are exuding luxury and romance of bygone eras. Even the marble hallway with gleaming silver elevator doors looks gorgeous!

 

But the best photos can be made while the doors are open and the bride and groom are standing inside. We always try getting a shot inside these beautiful time capsules assuming we are alone.

 

San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photographer | Continued

Featured City Hall Weddings

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Quick City Hall Locations Diagram

follow links to specific galleries

SF City Hall locations | Complete Diagram
  • County Clerk Office – Most couples will have to register there before the ceremony. Except those who are bringing their own wedding commissioner.
  • The Rotunda – A place where most couples with 6 guests will marry
  • The 4th-floor gallery – (and Mayor’s balcony – not shown – located above the camera position) are the private areas that can be rented for a fee.
  • The Grand Staircase – Most couples would want to have a picture taken there.
  • Mayor’s Balcony – (located behind the camera view

City Hall Photography FAQ

  • WE HAVE MORE THAN SIX GUESTS, WILL THIS BE A PROBLEM GETTING A ROTUNDA CEREMONY?

    For years City Hall didn’t care much how many guests couples bring. However, in May of 2019 City Hall started to enforce the 6 guests limit and couples who bring a bigger party risk getting married in a small chamber located near the county clerk’s office. It’s a nice little room but no match for the Rotunda. If you have a larger group, I highly recommend renting a space at City Hall.

  • WE CAN ONLY BOOK CITY HALL CEREMONY 90 DAYS IN ADVANCE, CAN WE BOOK YOU EARLIER?

    Yes, you can book us before making a reservation with City Hall. All you need to do after that is to make sure to log-in into the City Hall’s booking page exactly 90 days prior to guarantee your time slot. Alternatively, you can bring your own officiant – this way you will not need to make any additional arrangements with San Francisco City Hall.

  • CAN YOU BE OUR WITNESS?

    Yes, we will be happy to act as your witness. Just ask.

  • HOW MANY PHOTOS WILL WE RECEIVE?

    While the quantity of the photographs is less important than their quality, we typically deliver 120-150 images per hour of the coverage time. We delete only images that are obvious duplicates and/or images with bad facial expressions, eye blinks, exposure test shots, etc., However, if clients choose us not to delete these files, we will deliver even more photos.

  • WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GET MARRIED AT SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL?

    On Fridays, City Hall can be very crowded. If you want to enjoy empty City Hall and get the most out of your photo session, please schedule your Ceremony on Tuesday’s or Wednesday’s mornings. City Hall is fairly empty around lunch break as well (except Friday). There is a little trick to get completely empty City Hall on a weekday but it involves some level of creativity. I also recommend checking our availability first, before making a ceremony reservation.

  • WHAT ARE THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS AT SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL?

    We don’t have favorite spots. We know each spot advantages and drawbacks. The easiest location would be the 4th-floor gallery as it provides even and soft light. Overall we consider good coverage to be a combination of images taken at different locations while working closely with a couple and establishing a connection. We don’t just give orders, we talk, share ideas and even planning ahead.

    Here are some samples from 4th floor galleryMayor’s Balcony, The Great Rotunda and the Front Entry.

  • WE ARE TRAVELING FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY, CAN WE GET MARRIED AT CITY HALL?

    Yes, San Francisco City Hall will perform your marriage ceremony as long as you have valid passports. Your marriage certificate will be shipped to you after 2 weeks (you must complete online form & postage fees apply).

  • HOW AND WHEN DO WE GET THE PHOTOS?

    Our typical turnaround time is four to six weeks unless clients request rush processing. Clients will have 30 days to download the images from a secure online gallery and will be responsible for the photos after delivery. We recommend making multiple copies on USBs and hard drives but we also offer professional backup options.

  • DO YOU HAVE THE CITY HALL PHOTOGRAPHY PERMITS?

    Overall, City Hall does not require a permit for standard Rotunda weddings. However, the event department requires proof of business liability insurance. We have all current paperwork on-file including. We personally know the staff of both County Clerk Office and the Event Department which makes it easier to coordinate between our clients and the City Hall.

  • WILL OUR PHOTOS BE EDITED?

    Our clients receive color corrected full-size digital images as a part of this package by default or request raw files instead. Images will be ready for printing and will retain natural light and tonal range. We will color correct the images and adjust many of the parameters to achieve a uniform look for the entire gallery. Editing decisions will be based on many factors such as weather, lighting, skin tones, age, etc., Clients may also request “special” editing of the entire wedding such as B&W conversion, however, this must be requested in advance.

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