Allow me to be your trusted guide and photographer for your San Francisco City Hall wedding - one who will help you plan more than just great photos.
Our City Hall photography process is designed around making your wedding day seamless, stress-free and fun.
My commitment to helping City Hall couples is borne out in my exhaustive blog library - with an ever-expanding section dedicated solely to San Francisco City Hall weddings!
Let's get together and toast your story!
I'll guide you through the process of getting married in San Francisco's most beautiful building
Video by Soleil of Wedding Video Films
Learn how it works when you choose me as your SF city hall wedding photographer!
05. WHAT WILL WE RECEIVE AS PART OF OUR CITY HALL PHOTO PACKAGE?
All clients receive a curated, carefully hand-edited selection of images. They are delivered in a shareable, downloadable online gallery from which you can also purchase prints. More details about deliverables here.
06. WHAT SETS YOU APART FROM OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS?
Reliability, extensive knowledge of City Hall weddings, planning help, professionalism, consistency, vendor referrals, an unobtrusive, helpful presence on the day. I also prepare an editable wedding timeline just for you. For a quick n' dirty sample timeline, check out this article. We'll even zap background people from the romantic photos, which I haven't heard of any other photographers doing!
07. DO YOU USE FLASH AT SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL?
I love utilizing ambient light in my photographs, so try to preserve this as much as possible. I use top of the line cameras and lenses which work even in the lower lighting conditions inside City Hall. I like to keep things natural and true-to-life. The only exception is that I sometimes use flash for larger group portraits for Mayor's Balcony ceremonies and for wintertime sessions after 3.30pm.
08. HOW WILL YOU MAKE US FEEL COMFORTABLE?
Building a relationship before the wedding is crucial to helping you feel comfortable and relaxed – like we’re old friends. I make the wedding shoot fun and like to keep things moving. Read about 5 things I do to help you relax, feel good and forget about the camera!
01. HOW FAR OUT SHOULD WE BOOK WITH YOU?
You can book your City Hall ceremony a maximum of 90 days out with City Hall itself. (The exception to this is private area reservations which can be booked further out.) When it comes to booking a photographer, it’s good to lock in you have your ceremony confirmed to avoid disappointment. I don't take on ceremonies less than 3 weeks out.
02. HOW MANY HOURS' COVERAGE WILL WE NEED?
My San Francisco City Hall wedding photography coverage begins at 2 hours which is enough for 15 mins pre-ceremony, the waiting period before the ceremony (which lasts up to 30 mins on average), the ceremony itself (duh!), posed family portraits and photos of the two of you in City Hall and leaving the building. I recommend 3 hours so there’s time for a beautiful outdoor location, too.
03. WHAT ARE SOME GOOD PORTRAIT LOCATIONS?
There are so many! Here are some favorite SF photo locations. Many of the most iconic ones (Golden Gate Bridge, Palace of Fine Arts, the beaches) take a a while to drive to, so I also have ideas for places that are within 3 miles of City Hall - so you can enjoy the rest of your wedding day!
04. WILL YOU PHOTOGRAPH OUR WEDDING RECEPTION?
Yes! Please let me know if you have a larger reception the same day or another day. Planning a meal after your City Hall wedding? Check out my guide to restaurants here! If your reception event is several hours after your ceremony, I offer a unique split photography add-on.
Inquire about your date!
14. WHAT DO WE NEED TO BRING WITH US FOR OUR SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL WEDDING?
You need to bring your marriage license (unless of course, you are picking it up on your wedding day) and your government-issued ID. Make sure your entire name including any middle names, are spelled out in full. Some states mark the middle name with the initial. If that's the case, bring a passport or birth certificate too. If the language is not English, you will need to bring a certified translation. You may also choose to exchange wedding rings but they are not necessary.
15. WHAT SHOULD WE NOT BRING?
I would avoid bringing too much stuff in general. As it’s a public place, you will have to keep anything you bring in your hand at all times, or hand it off to a family member. You don't need an extra thing to worry about. Also, your photographer may well end up carting around your personal effects (to avoid them being in the pictures)! Looking for more day-of tips? Check out this article.
16. WHAT SHOULD WE WEAR FOR OUR SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL WEDDING?
I personally favor something elegant but modern - jumpsuits, vests, fascinators, bustiers, bow ties, smoking jackets, tweed, fur, velvet, lace. A classic wedding dress or suit is timeless and remains the most popular choice, but there is no need to be constrained by tradition.
The only fashion style to avoid is anything too casual. A dressed-up, statement look that represents you as a couple is the way to go.
17. WE'RE WORRIED ABOUT DELAYS AT CITY HALL, WHAT CAN WE DO?
Delays are commonplace at San Francisco City Hall, but your photographer can build enough buffer time into proceedings. To prepare for delays, you can make a firm plan with your photographer, and ask about the fees for overtime coverage. 2 hours is sufficient which is why my packages begin at 2 hours.
18. WHERE DO WE GO FOR COUPLES PORTRAITS AFTER OUR CEREMONY?
Anywhere in San Francisco! I strongly recommend getting some photos done in an outdoor location somewhere in the city. I have a couple of articles that might be helpful. Firstly, my guide to wedding and engagement locations all around San Francisco.
Secondly, I have a guide to some cool photo spots that are less than 3 miles from San Francisco City Hall. If you wanted to keep to 2.5 hours of coverage instead of 3, some of these places may be suitable.
19. SHOULD WE HAVE A WEDDING RECEPTION THE SAME DAY AS OUR SF CITY HALL WEDDING CEREMONY?
This will probably depend on what makes sense for your specific group and family. Are folks flying in especially, or would it be easy enough to get everyone together again? How formal of a reception event you are looking to host? Would you prefer your reception to be a full day event in itself?
For more casual events (a relaxed brunch, a chill restaurant, a bar), I personally think on the same day is best. Then your photographer can tag along to cover at least the first 30 minutes or so before the food comes.
For a more formal or larger event, it can make more sense to do it on a separate day. For my complete guide to the hippest San Francisco restaurants to host a reception after City Hall, check out my article here.
20. WHAT'S THE BEST WAY OF GETTING TO CITY HALL AND TRAVELING AROUND?
I have a separate article on this topic here. There are a few things to bear in mind as it’s a super busy area, and is accessible by many different transit options. There are transportation ideas for every budget, style and guest count.
21. WHAT WILL THE PICTURES BE LIKE IF CITY HALL IS SUPER BUSY?
A skilled photographer will be able to guide you to places that obscure the fact that the building is busy. Many will also Photoshop distracting elements, like I do. But there is a limit to what smart positioning and post-production can do. Sometimes, especially during the ceremony in which we cannot direct people, others may be visible.
22. WHAT'S THE BEST TIME FOR PICTURES AT SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL?
The best time of day I would say is as early as possible. The building has stunning light early in the day and it’s largely free of people. 8am is when the doors open, so that’s my number 1 recommendation as to when to start the photography. After this time, the chances of getting a clear Grand Staircase shot diminish.
The other opportunity is when the ceremonies are winding down for the day, the latest being at 3.30pm. The quality of light can be darker depending on weather and time of year. Later photos may have more orange tone.
23. HOW DO WE KNOW HOW MUCH PHOTOGRAPHY COVERAGE TO BOOK?
This is something you can discuss with your photographer who will help you draw up a detailed timeline. Your photographer will give you a realistic idea of a timeframe. Some couples want to pack as much as possible in. Others would rather prioritize an unhurried experience. Read more about creating your San Francisco City Hall wedding timeline here!
24. HOW DO WE FIND AND BOOK A SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER?
There are many photographers around, but few that specialize in City Hall weddings. Even fewer that make images that are authentic, modern yet timeless, fresh and full of life. Google and Instagram are good places to start. There’s plenty of snooping to be done, including Yelp reviews, social media, and their blogs.
Expect an experienced San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer to guide you through the process and act almost as a planner for your City Hall wedding!
01. IS A SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL WEDDING FOR ME?
A City Hall wedding is one in which efficiency is prioritized over personalization. It’s known for being a quick and easy route. There are a lot fewer moving parts than a regular wedding. City Hall weddings can also be much cheaper!
The kinds of people who are drawn to City Hall weddings tend to be those with a more practical bent, and who do not like the idea of being the center of attention. The planning process is typically much simpler and can take as little as a couple of weeks for a civil ceremony.
02. HOW MUCH DOES A SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL WEDDING COST?
A civil ceremony costs about $200 at the current time. It’s $110 for the license (it can be less, as each county sets their own price) plus $90 for the ceremony. This includes the officiant. You may choose to add on extras: wedding attire, a photographer/ videographer, florals, HMUA, transportation and a nice meal.
03. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT OPTIONS FOR SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL WEDDINGS?
The two main options are civil ceremonies and private area rentals. Civil ceremonies take place in the rotunda, at the top of the stairs.
The private area rentals take place on either the 4th Floor North Gallery or the Mayor’s Balcony. Within the private rentals category, there is also the option for a full City Hall buyout during the weekend or evening. There are different guest counts and rental costs associated with each. I’ve outlined the options in full on this post.
04. IS IT WORTH RENTING A PRIVATE AREA, AND IF SO, WHICH?
It is worth it if you have more than 10-15 guests, would like to exchange personal vows, have your own officiant, or would like a little more privacy or sense of occasion (whatever your guest count).
You also get to control when you start, and say your own vows. You can add a musician and florals on plinths, both of which elevate the event tremendously. Though the price tag is higher than a civil ceremony, a private rental is pretty unbeatable for a San Francisco wedding.
As to which area, 100% go for the 4th Floor North Gallery. It's simply stunning, with oodles of natural light = best photos. The Mayor’s Balcony is also beautiful with more of a central location overlooking the staircase but it is noisier and much darker.
05. WHAT IS THE ACTUAL WEDDING CEREMONY LIKE AT SF CITY HALL AND HOW LONG IS IT?
The Civil Ceremony lasts about 3 to 4 minutes. It can be even shorter if you choose not to exchange rings. The vows that you will be exchanging are available in full here.
No personalization is permitted unless you are having a private ceremony. If you're doing a private ceremony, you'll have the space for an hour, about half of which is the ceremony and the other half is the posed group photos.
06. WHAT CAN WE ACTUALLY EXPECT TO HAPPEN ON OUR SF CITY HALL WEDDING DAY?
On the day, you’ll need to check in 15 minutes before your booked ceremony time. Try to be the first to check-in for your timeslot! After checking in first with the information desk, you’ll wait in the corridor for your number to be called out. This time you’ll go and meet your officiant. As of June 2021, photographers are not permitted to accompany couples into room 168 (County Clerk's Office).
Want to know what happens next? Check out this in-depth article about the typical timeline for a San Francisco City Hall wedding day.
07. CAN YOU CHOOSE WHERE TO GET MARRIED AT SF CITY HALL?
Currently, the only option for the civil ceremony is the rotunda. There used to be private room, but that doesn't seem to be used since pre-pandemic. civil ceremony. But a lot of people don’t know about this other option.
08. IS AN OFFICIANT PROVIDED FOR SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL WEDDING?
Yes, a city-appointed Deputy Marriage Commissioner is provided for all civil ceremonies as standard. These folks are all volunteers, sometimes retired City judges. No officiant is provided for private area rentals, but I can let you know my recommendations if you're interested.
09. SHOULD WE GET FAMILY FORMALS AT OUR CITY HALL WEDDING?
This is an essential part of your wedding gallery! These formal photos need to be planned out in advance. It takes longer than most couples realize and can be rather draining, so we want to get through the list as soon as possible.
I recommend keeping lists short, and getting only the photos you really want. Here's my comprehensive guide on how to compile your family photo list.
10. WHY IS THE GUEST COUNT SO LIMITED?
The official guest count is 6 people for civil ceremonies, however it hasn't been strictly enforced since City Hall opened back up again. I've seen 25+ guests being welcomed in but I do recommend following the official rules.
Photographers, videographers and children count towards your guest count.
11. WHAT DO THE GUESTS DO DURING THE COUPLES' SHOOT?
We need guests to be out of the way during the couples’ photoshoot. I recommend the couple completely focusing on each other free of distractions, and I'll be working very hard and quickly to get the best shots.
I recommend having a firm plan that guests are informed of in advance so they know to leave the building at this time.
12. CAN WE HAVE A WEDDING PARTY AT OUR SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL WEDDING?
You can have bridesmaids/ groomsmen at your wedding if you have a private area rental. 100 guests are permitted (though some may be standing depending on the specific space).
13. WHAT'S INVOLVED WITH PICKING UP OUR MARRIAGE LICENSE?
Picking up the marriage license is simple and is available from any county in California. You will need to make an appointment online to obtain the marriage license. The license must have been issued within 90 days of the wedding date. It can be picked up on the wedding day but I would not recommend this.
If it has to be the same day as the ceremony, I recommend at least 2 to 3 hours before.
All the City Hall blog posts together in one place! View sample images, planning tips & tricks for a smooth and effortless San Francisco City Hall wedding day!
"As fairly introverted people who shy away from cameras, I knew there may be hope for us! Zoe proved to be spectacular at what she does. She made us feel at ease with the camera and after not too long, we stopped noticing its presence as much and just acted like ourselves. We took pictures all over inside and outside the building with her guiding the way, always checking in and asking us for input."
"All the couples she has photographed looked so natural and so in love"
Heather and Jason
"Easy to work with, on time, great communicator, funny and wonderful coach"
"I knew after our first Zoom meeting that she was the one! She conveyed empathy, professionalism and good listening skills. I knew that she would be able to capture not only our most intimate moments, but also the beautiful architectural backdrop of SF City Hall. She knew where all the best spots were. All her prep work, and helpful articles, in helping us know what to expect and processing any concerns really paid off. Our photos were absolutely stunning."
Allison and Carlo
"If you follow Zoe's advice from her blog you will have an incredible wedding"
"I received a sneak peek at our wedding photos this morning and have not stopped crying or staring at them all day. I started wedding planning with no idea what I was going to do. When looking at San Francisco City Hall, I stumbled upon some gorgeous wedding photos. They were natural, not stiff and posed, bright and cheerful, and unique. Of course, they were Zoe's. I also stumbled upon Zoe's helpful city hall tips. This was our manual when planning our wedding."
Laura and Mike
"We didn't even feel like pictures were being taken of us"
"I can't emphasize enough how enlightening her website is for planning a wedding especially at City Hall. While her articles and posts are helpful, her photographic work truly speaks for itself. We were drawn to City Hall because of the grandeur and sheer beauty of this historic building. Zoe's work captures that grandeur but it is juxtaposed with the intimate love between a couple. Our edited gallery is filled with one beautiful photo after another."
Ashley and César
"She makes you feel welcome and valued throughout the whole process"
"We found Zoe on Instagram because we were looking for a photographer who had experience with city hall weddings; we also prioritized photographers who worked with ALL kinds of couples, couples who look like us. Her portfolio revealed itself to be both classic yet modern, artsy and professional. Zoe was our first choice and she did not disappoint. She also delivered earlier than expected, with more photos than promised, with high quality.
Jake and Omar
"She made us feel at ease and able to just enjoy the moment"
"Honestly I would have been happy to pay her just for her blogs. She was super helpful to us on the day with tips and reminders. It was like having a friend there who knows everything about City Hall weddings and also takes awesome photos.
And oh man are the photos beautiful! We got a great mix of pictures capturing the grandeur of the venue, intimate moments with each other, and the laughter shared with family.
Shreyas and Quinn
"Within a few minutes of Zoe showing up, it was like we had been friends with her for years"
"She was able to capture our love, silliness and tenderness in a way I didn't think could ever be possible from someone we had recently met. She sent a preview set that night which was extremely appreciated when you're eloping and everyone wants to see what happened. Three weeks or so later the rest came. They were perfect.
I know there are a lot of 5 star photographers out there. There is no one like Zoe."
Christina and Michael
"Thank you for giving us the most beautiful wedding photos I could have ever imagined!"
"A whole year in the making, Zoe met us at City Hall and helped us navigate our day! It was clear she was very organized and professional, she helped us capture our excitement and the process of eloping. She knew exactly where to go to get the best images and the best lighting! Zoe made the whole day fun and easy. Our family and friends couldn't believe how beautiful the photos were and how Zoe made it look like we had the whole of City Hall to ourselves."
Cassie and Mark
read the guide now - no email or download required
Everything I've learned after photographing hundreds of weddings at San Francisco's palace of the people is contained within this frequently-updated guide.
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The most iconic building in san francisco
At the heart of my work is a connection to the couple I'm photographing. I learn about your shared values, personality quirks and unique interaction style.
We've navigated hundreds of couples through the process and have learned a lot about the intricacies of working at San Francisco City Hall.
I've built a network of local vendors whom I know by reputation (online stalking) or by working with them in the past. Happy to share!
I'll provide you with an editable custom timeline that outlines photography coverage ideas and an idea of what to expect on the day so you're booking the right amount of coverage.
Time may be short but you still want gorgeous photos with natural light. I can give you ideas for amazing photo spots that are less than 3 miles from City Hall plus other more iconic locations around San Francisco.
It's our passion to serve and provide value. One way I do this is through my City Hall blog library which has info on every aspect of getting married at San Francisco City Hall, as well as example images from previous clients.
I like to arrive early so I can scout out the building on that day and give you a heads-up if there's anything you should know. I do this for your peace of mind.
You get all the keepers that are carefully selected, curated and edited by our dedicated photo editor to ensure a refined, cohesive flow to your final gallery. The number is never arbitrarily capped.
San Francisco City Hall ceremonies
Up to 2 hours of coverage.
Extra hours (in half hour increments) $400 / hour.
Starting at $2,000
Inquire about your date
with zoe as photographer
PRICES VALID FOR MONDAY - FRIDAY WEDDINGS, EXCLUDING HOLIDAYS.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY SERVICES INCLUDE EDITED HIGH-RESOLUTION FILES.
SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL CEREMONIES
Starting at $1,500
Inquire about your date
Up to 2 hours of coverage.
Extra hours (in half hour increments) $350 / hour.
With Associate Photographer
we offer optional add-ons
Choose your own adventure - à la carte pricing
ENGAGEMENT PHOTOGRAPHY, A SECOND PHOTOGRAPHER, WEEK-OF SNEAK PEEK, FINE-ART ALBUMS, SELF-SELECT PRINTS & WALL ART AS A LA CARTE ADD-ONS.
WE OFFER AS STANDARD FOR ALL COUPLES:
-Your own customized Photography Planning Document
- recommendations from our extensive vendor network
- At least 65 hand-edited high resolution images per hour of photography (usually 80+)
- Full gallery delivered within 6 weeks
- online gallery for viewing, sharing, downloading & purchasing prints
- Print release for all your images
Contact us about your City Hall ceremony! 👇
We take on a limited number of weddings. we book strictly no more than 18 months out and no less than 3 weeks out. No exceptions.
We'd love to respond to every inquiry, but during busy times we are only able to respond to inquiries that would be a good match.
With love & gratitude, Zoe
Planning is the key to a successful City Hall experience!
I have many tricks up my sleeve for getting photos in the areas you are most drawn to!
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Jen & Jeff
From San Francisco, CA
Megs & Chad
From Calgary, Canada
Jake & Omar
From Phoenix, AZ
Welcome! I couldn't be more thrilled that you're here! We are a team of San Francisco-based wedding photographers that help you relax and savor your wedding day.
We blend an unobtrusive approach to capturing images with a directive, practical way of working.
The end result? Efficiently-captured posed photos of all your people, plus all those darling couldn't-be-anticipated in-between moments!
We love the realness and the whimsy of love.
Our goal is to create personal images with an intimate feel - images that evoke emotion and transport you back to the moment.
In short, our images make memories last forever.
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