10 San Francisco City Hall wedding tips you won’t hear anywhere else

December 6, 2018
epic wide shot of couple getting married in city hall san francisco

You’re getting married at City Hall. You don’t want a lot of fuss and bother, but you do want great photos. Here’s my all killer no filler guide to getting awesome San Francisco City Hall wedding photos! This is a preamble-free post, so let’s get right to it!


  1. Don’t get married on a Friday – unless you specifically want the hustle and bustle. It’s a far busier day and it’s much less likely we’ll get the grand staircase to ourselves without a long wait, if at all. On Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings, the place is deserted, meaning more time to be creative!

two images showing couples on the grand staircase of city hall

  1. Make sure you get your license before the ceremony, not the same day if poss. It’s not the most wonderful thing to photograph, and you can save time and stress by doing this before your wedding day. Save our time for taking beautiful pics around City Hall and San Francisco after the ceremony.
  1. Allow for delays. Everything takes time at City Hall, from entering the building to waiting for your number to be called. Ceremonies rarely begin at your appointment time, commonly starting an average 30 minutes late. To avoid a stressful day, consider booking more time for photography than you think you’ll need.

bride walking grand staircase at city hall

  1. You only need one witness, so tell that person in advance so they know to head in to room 168 with you. Designating the person in advance can help speed things up when your number’s called and avoid any hurt feelings about who from your group you will choose! Your photographer can also be your witness.
  1. During your ceremony, look at each other, not the officiant. The best captures show the electricity and tenderness between the two of you, when you are looking at each other and in side profile to the photographer.

couple at city hall wedding ceremony looking at each other

  1. 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!
  1. Bring as few things as possible with you, and hand them off to a friend when we part ways with your guests. We’ll minimize the risk of having things go missing, and we will save time having to hide the bags behind me in every shot! There are no trash cans at City Hall.
  1. 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 given the wait times, and with driving, it’s parking that takes time. Lyft will drop us off right where we need to be!

how to get around during city hall wedding

  1. Make sure your guests have somewhere to go once the ceremony and formal photos are done. Communicate the plan to them in advance. Goodbyes will be quicker so we have more time for photos of the two of you.
  1. Entering the building takes time. You’ll be faced with airport-style security and there is often a long 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, not Polk and go through enhanced security including bag scanning.

new bag rules for entering san francisco city hall

And a bonus tip!

Usually, the rotunda is the best spot that’s available to get married. It’s the iconic spot! Ask if the 4th floor is available (I have a private gallery of a couple whose ceremony I photographed there – get in touch to see)! Usually this is only available to couples spending $1,000 to rent it privately. The light is absolutely incredible and there are hardly any passers-by! Avoid the private room option as it doesn’t share the fab City Hall architecture. The Mayor’s balcony is also a nice choice!

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

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!