You’re getting married at City Hall TODAY and you want some City Hall tips! Here’s my all killer no filler guide to getting awesome San Francisco City Hall wedding photos! Without further ado here are your City Hall tips!

City Hall tip 1

Relax, breathe and take it in. The moment will be gone TOO QUICKLY. This really is my most important tip, because nothing is quite as important as this. We’ll typically be working together between 2-3 hours and the ceremony is just 3-4 minutes! Savor every second and don’t worry about what’s going on around you during the ceremony. Random onlookers and tourists will be snapping pics, so let them!

two images showing couples on the grand staircase of city hall

City Hall tip 2

There was a rule change in mid-2018. Now, it’s not permitted for the photographer to accompany you into the office for your license-signing. However if you will be signing it on the wedding day this is a great time to photograph your rings and get some shots of the paperwork process happening outside the office.

City Hall tip 3

Allow for delays. Entering the building takes time. Waiting for your number can be a lengthy wait. Ceremonies won’t begin at your appointment time because of the other couples that also have the same time and possible late-running. Starting 20 – 30 minutes afterwards is average. I’ve never seen it start more than 45 mins late, so relax and don’t worry. They marry dozens of couples each day and it’s a very well-oiled machine.

model walking up grand staircase at city hall with lots of people in the background

City Hall tip 4

You only need one witness, so tell that person in advance so they know to head in to the office (room 168) with you. Designating the person in advance can help speed things up when your number’s called. Your photographer can also be your witness.

City Hall tip 5

During your ceremony, look at each other, not the officiant. The best captures show the electricity and tenderness between the two of you. Make sure your hair isn’t covering the side of your face that’s facing your photographer. Keep it swept back so we can see your beautiful face and all those emotions!

couple at city hall wedding ceremony looking at each other

City Hall tip 6

In May 2019 the rules regarding guest count changed. Now the 6-guest limit for the rotunda is enforced, but the amount of leniency varies between judges. Officially, the photographers/ videographers are included in the count.

City Hall tip 7

Bring as little as you can! Hand stuff off to a guest when it’s time for couples pics. We’ll save time having to put everything down and hide the bags in every shot! It’s a super warm building, so it’s advised not to bring coats and jackets – if you can brave being a little cold on your way to/ from City Hall.

City Hall tip 8

If we are going to other locations around San Francisco after your ceremony, the best way to get around is by Uber / Lyft. Public transit takes too long as does parking. Lyft will drop us off right where we need to be and the wait times are minimal in this busy area. A limo or friend-turned-chauffeur also works!

how to get around during city hall wedding

City Hall tip 9

Designate a destination for your guests to go after formal portraits. Communicate the plan to them in advance. Goodbyes will be quicker so we have more time for photos of the two of you.

City Hall tip 10

Entering the building takes time. You’ll be faced with airport-style security and there is often a line. As of early November 2018, anyone entering City Hall with backpacks, camera bags and packages must walk around the building and enter on Grove, the loading bay entrance. Enhanced security is in operation and this will likely be a permanent change.

new bag rules for entering san francisco city hall

And a bonus City Hall tip!

The rotunda is the iconic and default spot. But there are some other even more sought-after areas that are usually only available if you spend $1,000 to rent them privately. Ask if the 4th floor or Mayor’s Balcony are available. I’ve photographed several ceremonies where the couples tied the knot in a prestigious spot at no extra cost to themselves. There is no logic or reasoning I can fathom as to when the judge might say yes to your request, but it’s worth a try!

city hall wedding ceremony couple facing each other on mayor's balcony4th floor intimate ceremony at san francisco city hall couple saying vows

There you have it! Do you have any tips for a seamless process and getting amazing photos at City Hall? If so, leave them in the comments!

If you’re getting married at SF City Hall and are looking for a fun photographer that listens carefully and directs confidently, leaving you with at least a couple hundred cherished images of your wedding AND leaves plenty of time to head to other locations in and around San Francisco, get in touch to receive my free informational guide that will give you even more useful info, whatever you decide!

In a panic and need to ask a last minute question or get info directly from City Hall, or need to call them? Check out this page of their own dedicated info!

san francisco wedding photographer Zoe Larkin is a San Francisco-based wedding photographer specializing in San Francisco City Hall weddings.  Read more about Zoe’s SF City Hall services here. 

10 San Francisco City Hall on-the-day tips!

city hall tips

December 6, 2018


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