Posts in guide
Megan & Alex

When I talk to others about their job and what kind of work they do, i realize that i can’t even consider what i do as work. Of course there are some intense days, there are days when you emotionally and physically tired, but at the end I realize that I’m around happy people who are enjoying a very special day and my job is really to capture that day for them. I’m their guest with a camera. I’m their friend who knows how to take photos. And yes I really enjoy smaller wedding like this one where it was close family and closest friends, while Lucy stood for the groom’s best man.

As a result this San Francisco City Hall wedding was filled with intimate moments during and after the ceremony. How often do you get to photograph a cute dog inside the City Hall? Not very often.. so i took full advantage of that. Lucy played her part perfectly - posing, giving high fives and barking her congratulations to the newly wed

Melanie & Andrew SF City Hall Wedding

Mel and Drew lived , went to school next to each other without actually knowing it. They bumped into each other and were introduced at a few parties, but nothing more happened. They continued living their lives. They kept bumping into each other at friend’s parties or events. They kept talking and texting over some period of time and then on July 4th Drew asked Mel on a date. They had dim sum, went to City Lights Books, then walked throughout Chinatown and North Beach and along Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. They went to Lou's Jazz Hall and listened to live music, then took a cab to the Mission District and enjoyed fireworks from the roof top of Lolinda El Techo (then known as Medjool's) and walked back together through a sea of illegal fireworks as police sirens echoed the Mission streets.

Then while on vacation in Paris Drew proposed to Mel.

Melanie and Andrew get hitched on the 71st wedding anniversary of Melanie's grandparents with friends and family.

SF City Hall Photo favorite vendors/partners

After working at SF City Hall for many years you build relationships, you get to know other vendors. I’ve done my homework on all the vendors I recommend. I would stand 100 percent behind this list. I’m hoping it’ll help you when you’re planning your SF City Hall wedding.

Flowers

  • http://solambiance.com . Oxana, the owner of Solambiance is outstanding. First time I worked with her was many years ago for my own personal project. She came recommended to me through a videographer. Since then she’s my to go florist - whether it’s for clients or myself. She is very creative with her bouquet and has an overall good sense what goes well with what. On top of that she’s one of most dependable and responsive people I know

Hair/Makeup

My 2 favorite studios. Both great in their own mind. For a photographer working with the right makeup/hair stylist is the key.

  • https://www.tripletwist.com/ - Mei is extremely patient, soft spoken, very attentive and detailed. She styles, while her husband Robert takes care of administrative part. Every single bride I recommended Mei to sang her praise. And of course the results were amazing.

  • https://www.bunbunbridallab.com/ - Felicia runs her studio so well. She’s the main stylist and the administrator. She is very well organized and very friendly. All brides love her as she makes them feel like she’s known them for a long time. And of course her results speak for themselves. She has an IG page that shows before and after.

Music

This is my personal favorite since I’m also a musician at heart and occasional playing now.

  • https://www.corellitrios.com/ - Midori is the heart of Corelli Strings and she can put together any ensemble you’d like for your wedding. She only works with great musicians. I’ve watched them perform at wedding on many occasions. They are not only fantastic musicians, they truly enjoy playing. On top of that Midori is very responsive, reliable and is a great person to work with

Videography

  • IQVideography - I’ve dedicated the whole Blog Post to my favorite video studio. Alex is not only a very talented videographer, but great business partner and a friend.

Why and How to Hire a Videographer for your City Hall Wedding

I get it - you’re having a small SF City Hall wedding. Maybe it’s just the 2 of you or maybe you have only your close friends and family attending. If you’re looking at my page then you’re considering getting a photographer, but that’s about it.

As a photographer who shoots in San Francisco City Hall on weekly basis, I see so many opportunities to capture the moments on video. And i do my best to do this as a photographer and at times do short videos for the couples. But that’s not the same as having an actual video of your day. The videographer will have a lot more material to work with the more time you give him. But even with 1 hour that footage is priceless.

It’s no wonder MTV, then YouTube took off. While I love photography and try to capture the mood, the environment, people, video takes it to a new dimension. I believe it stands complimentary to photography. It doesn’t replace photography, Take a look at some videos shot at San Francisco City Hall by our favorite video company - IQVideography.

Which brings me to the point ..

How to find and hire a really good reasonably priced videographer for your SF City Hall Wedding.

General guidance:

(And of course this applies to non City Hall weddings).

  • Watch their work - does it feel right to you? We all watch lots of movies and music videos now. Does it evoke emotions in you, do you feel the joy of the moment, is it visually pleasing? I see a lot of videos that are impersonal. They are focusing more on the surroundings as if afraid of the couple. I’m sure couples want to capture the vibe and environment of the place. Or I see videos where i don’t know here the wedding is taking place. Could be parents’ backyard. I can’t tell. Good videographer captures it all.

  • Does the style of videography fit with what you have in mind? I know it’s all about the taste. Does the music go well with the visuals? Angles, compositions, color… they can be good, but it’s not what you envision a wedding video should look like

  • Quality - does it feel like the video could’ve been shot on an iphone by a friend? Is the video shaky? Now maybe it’s their style. But unless you want to get dizzy watching your wedding video I wouldn’t recommend it.

  • Ask around - i’m sure i’m not alone who feels that with all the technology we don’t talk to each other as much as we should. Ask your friend, co-worker, someone who recently got married for a recommendation. Ask your wedding planner or a photographer. Yes, you can ask me or any other photographer you’re considering for your wedding. Once you get a name, go to first 3 steps and review their work. At the end it’s your decision

I have to say that I’m extremely lucky to know and have worked on many occasions with IQVideography. They fit all 3 criteria I’ve described above. To prove my points see the videos below.

Brittany & Dustin by SF City Hall Photo

We all know that City Hall gets busy and even when officiants try their best to be on time, things can run a bit late. But that wasn’t the case for Brittany & Dustin. Everything went smooth from the moment they checked in to the Clerk’s office. No wait time.

As we were coming up the Grand Stairwell for the ceremony, the stairwell was practically empty. I politely asked a few people to hide behind the columns so i can take a nice wide shot of the couple on the Grand Stairwell. I personally love clean stairwell shots, when the attention is drawn to the couple with the stairwell going up.

After the ceremony we headed to the 4th floor which was clear for us. Even though we can take group shots in various area, I really enjoy doing group shots on the 4th floor due to all that natural light that comes through the windows.

And of course as I always once we are done with the serious and fun shots I wanted to experiment a little - the couple had their own little pose/sign they wanted to do and I decided to take it next level.

Kristine & John by SF City Hall Photo

Our first wedding on 2019 was Kristine and John tying the knot in beautiful San Francisco City Hall. It was pretty quiet after the holiday rush. Kristine and John brought their 7 months old son Al and it was just the 4 of us wandering around the City Hall.

The wedding session turned more into a family session and I wanted to make sure I leave them with a great collection of photos with the 3 of them. The more i do this, the more I realized it’s not the fancy, artistic shots that matter to a lot of couples. It’s these true moments where the family is captured our this special day. I feel we accomplished it quiet well.

San Francisco City Hall Wedding Information by SF City Hall Photo

SF City Hall Wedding Walkthrough


Fourth Floor, SF City Hall, Rosey Bouquet

SF City Hall Photo began in 2015 as an affordable and high-quality photography service for couples getting married inside the iconic downtown building. After spending so much time in and around the structure, we thought we should share some tips and suggestions for making your San Francisco City Hall wedding even more enjoyable, and perhaps alleviate any confusion you may have about how the entire process works.

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Civil ceremonies take place Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 3:30pm. You must first make a reservation online to schedule an appointment for your marriage license and your marriage ceremony.  Payment for both services is due upon making the reservation, and is $107, and $86 respectively.  

Whenever possible, we recommend getting your marriage license on a day other than your ceremony date. However, if your license and ceremony appointments are on the same day, make sure to schedule them at least one hour apart.


      Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio got married at SF City Hall in 1954!

The County Clerks Office in room 168 is where you will check in and handle your paperwork.  You'll receive a ticket before being asked to wait in the hallway until your number is called. Getting through the office is generally a breeze, however, it's always wise to arrive early in case their are delays.  

Once your number is called we go back inside the clerk's office and meet the person who will be marrying you that day. Interestingly enough there are more than a dozen volunteer officiants who rotate during the week. We have had the pleasure of working with almost all of them and, very similar to us, they love what they do.

After greeting and handling paperwork, you will be asked if you are exchanging rings and given the choice of where you would like the ceremony to take place: private room or the Rotunda. The idea of a private room may sound appealing but in reality is a rather drab, windowless box which doesn't allow for stunning images. The Rotunda is the place to be.

You too can be a deputy marriage officiant for a day!

Another thing to keep in mind is the length of the ceremony itself. If you elected to use a city-appointed officiant the ceremony itself lasts no more than 5 minutes. You will also not be allowed to exchange your own vows. A private officiant is something to consider if you would like to share your own written vows with your partner.

After choosing your location you both will be asked to show your identification and sign the marriage license. One witness (Two Max) needs to be present to sign the license as well as the decorative certificate City Hall provides for newlyweds. If your wedding is a low-key affair with just the two of you we can happily act as an official witness and sign the corresponding documents, just let us know.


Finally, the paperwork is settled and you are asked to head upstairs to the Rotunda to wait for the beginning of your ceremony. Typically there are at least 2-3 other couples getting married by the same officiant, so while you may be the first or last, it is best to go straight to the Rotunda forthwith to avoid any delays and potentially lose your place. We can help usher the rest of your party upstairs so everyone can watch this magical moment.

Local Merchant Spotlight: PALOMA

When we have free time after a wedding at City Hall we like to explore the surrounding areas. I happened to find an amazing store right at the edge of Hayes Valley called PALOMA. The owner and resident master craftsman Larry is not only friendly, he let me hang out inside the shop the whole afternoon just watching him work on things. His specialty is hand-stitched leather goods from wallets to travel bags. The selection of material is amazing and he will walk you through the entire process. I ended up getting a new leather tote bag that is buttery-soft and a wallet. Check them out sometime.

PALOMA 112 Gough Street SF, CA 94102 415.666.2269

How to Get to and From San Francisco City Hall

It's easy to get wrapped up in all of the details of your wedding day. From finding the right dress to the perfect pair of cuff links, every little thing matters so much. But when you are all dressed and ready what is the best way to make it to the City and City Hall without causing undue stress and hardship on yourself and your guests.

Here are some tips to try and alleviate this confusion.

Public Transportation (BART, Muni, etc.)

If you have a morning ceremony it can get very, very busy on the commute into the city. If you are driving from the East Bay or the Peninsula the drive can easily become a two-hour plus nightmare if you don't leave very early. If you can take BART in we highly-recommend this option as you can exit at Civic Center and walk to City Hall in less than ten minutes. No worries about finding a parking space, or feeding the meter. You can arrive at City Hall early and change in one of the private bathrooms they have. Yes it is decidedly less romantic than driving away into the sunset but you can't beat the practicality.

Private Transportation (Your car)

Well if you know San Francisco traffic during the week then you know trying to get into the City from 7am to around 11:30am can be really bad. Even if we have a shoot at 10am, we still leave the house before 6am to cross the bridge before traffic gets insane. I know this sounds a little silly, arriving hours before the shoot and just sitting around. In fact, we like to arrive early as we can snag parking at a cheaper rate (more on this later), grab a leisurely breakfast, and double-check gear and appointments all before 8am. I have seen firsthand what it is like to get to the toll crossing before 6am and breeze through, and go 15 minutes later when it seems like every commuter in the Bay is trying to get across the bridge. Those few minutes can mean a difference of over an hour in commute time.

Car Service (Uber, Lyft, etc.)

I love to be driven around. It's so carefree and helps me to relax. Taking an Uber from your hotel to City Hall is one of the best and most convenient ways to get to your ceremony. You don't need to worry about parking fees and feeding the meter, you just get dropped off in front and you are good to go. If you are staying in the City proper, this is one of the best ways to get to City Hall.

The Best Wedding Photography Locations in San Francisco Part One

While we are well-known for our work at San Francisco City Hall we want share some of best locations in San Francisco to take wedding photos. This is Part One of an ongoing guide.

The Palace of Fine Arts.

The Palace of Fine Arts and a surprise cameo on the bottom-left by a Swan.

The Palace of Fine Arts and a surprise cameo on the bottom-left by a Swan.

I would venture this is the most-photographed public location in San Francisco for couples, families, and any possible occasion in-between. Everyone stops here to look at the lovely lake, marvel at the Swans and Ducks, and take some beautiful photos underneath the dome. You can make a circuit around the entire place in 15-minutes, stopping along the journey to take all different kinds of photos. While weekends tend to be the busiest, we also shoot here during the week when there are fewer crowds and we get a better chance at getting the perfect shot.

Fort Point

The Golden Gate Bridge as seen from Fort Point.

The Golden Gate Bridge as seen from Fort Point.

Less than ten minutes away by car we have Fort Point. Tucked away beneath the Golden Gate Bridge on the San Francisco side this location offers a million-dollar view of the Bridge and the Marina. On weekends the Fort is open to the public and you can photograph along the corridors and even the roof. Amazing light at all times of the day but it can get really windy. Also there is no elevator to the top so be prepared to walk up all those stairs to the top and back down again.

Maiden Lane

Maiden Lane near Union Square is a great place for a quick shoot.

Maiden Lane near Union Square is a great place for a quick shoot.

Located in the heart of Union Square, Maiden Lane is an approximately two-block long street tucked away in between the hustle and bustle of the City. On afternoons there are outdoor tables where you can relax and have a coffee while doing some great people-watching. While the street is short, it is great as a backdrop for portraits. Timing is hit or miss here as they don't always have the place cleaned up and there can be cars, but we are good at working around that.

Until next time, stay tuned for Part Two!


guideThe StaffComment
Best Eats near SF City Hall

Lovely ceremony complete, beautiful wedding photos taken, what could possibly follow such wonderful moments?

Food!

I'm feeling a little guilty here. Not only do we offer the best Wedding Photography service at City Hall, we are also great at suggesting places to grab a quick bite. It's just not fair to our competition. To set the bar even higher we have compiled a list of our local favorites for you to peruse.

GREENS $$

This is an all-vegetarian restaurant located in the Fort Mason complex in the Marina District. Great views and the food is wonderful. Plenty of parking too.

Foreign Cinema $$$

A truly special place and one of the most famous restaurants in the city. Reservations are indeed a must. For a romantic wedding day dinner it really doesn't get any better. And the weekend brunch is one of the best in the city.

OFF THE GRID $

If you happen to be getting married on a Friday during lunchtime the selection of gourmet food trucks at Off the Grid is impressive. And they are all parked right in front of City Hall! From Senor Sisig to Korean BBQ, all of your cravings are covered. There are usually tables set out as well so you can people watch during the busy lunch hour.

5A5 Steak Lounge $$$

For those looking for a bit more, 5A5 easily serves one of the best steaks in the city.  From its unique atmosphere to its attentive staff 5A5 is a wonderful place for any meal. 

Hill Stone $$$

There has been more than once occasion where we actually drive the bride and groom directly from City Hall straight to a celebratory cocktail. The bar program at Hillstone is exceptional as well as the food. No one in the city does classic American comfort food like this place. Reservations recommended.

Picnic on Third $$

A little gem of a place in SOMA, Picnic on Third offers a new lunch menu everyday from Monday through Friday. Past standouts have been traditional Jamaican oxtail stew with rice and peas, and incredible roast meats. They also offer a Happy Hour menu after 3pm. Weekend brunch is a sight to behold, they do not accept reservations.

Garaje $

Another funky casual place in SOMA, Garaje specializes in beer and burgers. It can get a little crowded after 5pm but the line moves quickly and there are two-levels for seating. Cash only.

Brenda's $$

There is no food suggestion list for us without name-dropping Brenda's. There is always a line unless you arrive early (8am or so) but the staff moves things along at a brisk pace and before you know it you are sitting down to Beignets (try the flight of 4) and some delicious gumbo. Just three blocks from City Hall this is a great place to grab breakfast or lunch.

Swan's Oyster Depot $$$

A true San Francisco landmark. Emerson loves this place. Seating is along a long counter and the wait can be over an hour during peak times. But if you can get inside there is no better place to get fresh chilled seafood and chowder. Everything is good on the menu and remember it is cash only. No dinner service here, just lunch.

Osha Thai $$

While there are several OSHA locations scattered across the city, we are decidedly loyal to the Tenderloin location. It stays open the latest and if you ask nicely they will make their Thai Fried Rice with purple shrimp paste just like they do back home in Thailand. Delicious and authentic, what more can you ask for?

Molinari's $

A North Beach institution. This Italian deli has been around for decades and serves some of the best sandwiches in the city. No sitting inside but they do have a few tables in front you can hopefully snag to eat your meal and watch the passerby.

 

guideBoris PolisskyComment
When is the best time to book my ceremony appointment?

This post is in response to a question we get all the time: when should I schedule my ceremony appointment?  Of course, there really is no "perfect" time to photograph at City Hall,  our goal is to simply find the ideal balance between light and people. Other things to consider are guests, availability of friends and family, and any plans you may have for immediately after your ceremony.

Since City Hall is indoors, it relies on sprawling windows as its main source of light.  These windows diffuse the natural light, resulting in pockets of flattering light throughout the building.  Earlier appointments have the benefit of brighter ambient light, but there is still plenty of lovely light later in the day. If you are considering going to an additional location after your ceremony we do suggest having your City Hall ceremony start by 2pm at the latest. This will allow sufficient travel time to the next location after we are done at City Hall. We are happy to provide transportation for up to 3 people for these on-location shoots and can return you to City Hall afterwards.

Below is a picture of City Hall on a Friday at noon. This performance is a part of a series on cultural heritage taking place for the next 5 months at City Hall.  From the picture you can see the majority of spectators are tourists, who typically enjoy perusing throughout the building around lunch time.

Keep in mind that City Hall is also a fully-functioning government building.  It hosts  UN council meetings, protests and rallies, the Giants and Warriors championship parades, and a number of other city functions.  There is typically a press release on the official San Francisco City Hall site stating if there will be any kind of closure or event taking place. It is a good idea to check this calendar against your ceremony date to make sure there is no conflict.

The ceremony itself is generally quite short. Rarely do they last more than 5 minutes. Therefore, consider what you'd like to do afterwards (besides shooting with us of course!), i.e. are you planning lunch/dinner? Have you made reservations/arranged transportation?  Remember, a little preparation beforehand will save a lot of stress on your big day.  Also check out our article on food for ideas on great places to eat near City Hall.

All this being said we have to say that there is no bad time to take pictures at City Hall. Morning, mid-day, or late afternoon all have their own unique characteristics of light and we utilize them to full effect. Book with confidence knowing we will use this light to create the best possible images for you.









guideBoris PolisskyComment
Must See's in SF City Hall

With such great natural light, San Francisco City Hall offers stunning backdrops for photographers and visitors alike.  This article highlights five great spots for taking pictures, and to helps provide people with a sense of familiarity with the building prior to their visit. 

 

* NOTE - NO PARTICULAR ORDER *

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1. FRONT OF CITY HALL

A true must-have for anyone getting married at city hall.   This sign is located above the middle door of the main entrance on the Polk Street side, and offers the perfect cover to any photo album.  This spot is relatively easy to access and usually doesn't require a wait (Except when protests or demonstrations are commandeering the front steps!)

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2. GRAND STAIRCASE

The grand staircase leading to the rotunda is one of the first things you'll see once you pass security and enter the main building of City Hall. 

This is arguably the most difficult location to photograph since there are often dozens of people trying to get the same shots.  However, with a little patience and luck, great shots await.

3. GOVERNOR'S BALCONY

Staring out at the rotunda  and the vast beauty of City Hall, the Governor's balcony is a perfect location for couples and group shots alike.  While sometimes difficult to secure unattended, it highlights the architectural beauty of City Hall.

4. THIRD FLOOR WINDOWS

These windows are an absolute must for couples visiting city hall.  Not only does everyone have a blast here, the photos turn out incredible.  Further, since most people avoid exploring the upper levels of city hall, these hallways are usually empty.

5. FOURTH FLOOR

In order to truly appreciate the magnificence and grandeur of San Francisco's City Hall, one must venture up to the fourth floor balcony.  Here you'll fine beautiful light for group and couples shots alike.  

* TREE GARDEN *

Technically not inside of City Hall, the trees lined up outside the front entrance make for even more great photo opportunities.  Living above a massive underground parking lot, these trees offer a great spot for people to capture SF City Hall in a different light. 

A Perfect San Francisco City Hall Wedding

SF City Hall Wedding Walkthrough


Fourth Floor, SF City Hall, Rosey Bouquet

SF City Hall Photo began in 2015 as an affordable and high-quality photography service for couples getting married inside the iconic downtown building. After spending so much time in and around the structure, we thought we should share some tips and suggestions for making your San Francisco City Hall wedding even more enjoyable, and perhaps alleviate any confusion you may have about how the entire process works.

IMG_6852.jpg

Civil ceremonies take place Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 3:30pm. You must first make a reservation online to schedule an appointment for your marriage license and your marriage ceremony.  Payment for both services is due upon making the reservation, and is $107, and $86 respectively.  

Whenever possible, we recommend getting your marriage license on a day other than your ceremony dateHowever, if your license and ceremony appointments are on the same day, make sure to schedule them at least one hour apart.


      Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio got married at SF City Hall in 1954!

The County Clerks Office in room 168 is where you will check in and handle your paperwork.  You'll receive a ticket before being asked to wait in the hallway until your number is called. Getting through the office is generally a breeze, however, it's always wise to arrive early in case their are delays.  

Once your number is called we go back inside the clerk's office and meet the person who will be marrying you that day. Interestingly enough there are more than a dozen volunteer officiants who rotate during the week. We have had the pleasure of working with almost all of them and, very similar to us, they love what they do.

After greeting and handling paperwork, you will be asked if you are exchanging rings and given the choice of where you would like the ceremony to take place: private room or the Rotunda. The idea of a private room may sound appealing but in reality is a rather drab, windowless box which doesn't allow for stunning images. The Rotunda is the place to be.

You too can be a deputy marriage officiant for a day!

Another thing to keep in mind is the length of the ceremony itself. If you elected to use a city-appointed officiant the ceremony itself lasts no more than 5 minutes. You will also not be allowed to exchange your own vows. A private officiant is something to consider if you would like to share your own written vows with your partner. We enthusiastically recommend the services of San Francisco-based officiant Mark Hespeth

After choosing your location you both will be asked to show your identification and sign the marriage license. One witness (Two Max) needs to be present to sign the license as well as the decorative certificate City Hall provides for newlyweds. If your wedding is a low-key affair with just the two of you we can happily act as an official witness and sign the corresponding documents, just let us know.


Finally, the paperwork is settled and you are asked to head upstairs to the Rotunda to wait for the beginning of your ceremony. Typically there are at least 2-3 other couples getting married by the same officiant, so while you may be the first or last, it is best to go straight to the Rotunda forthwith to avoid any delays and potentially lose your place. We can help usher the rest of your party upstairs so everyone can watch this magical moment.

Helpful Links

ONLINE RESERVATION SYSTEM

Fee Schedule

County Clerk Office: General Info, Marriage

County Clerk Office: FAQ