Nestled in the breathtaking Marin Headlands of San Francisco, Hawk Hill offers a stunning backdrop for couples seeking a Golden Gate Bridge elopement experience! As a wedding photographer, I’ve had the privilege of capturing a love story or two played out against this enchanting setting.
In this blog post, I’m going to introduce you to Denise & Trevor who eloped here at Hawk Hill in mid-February 2021. They were surrounded by 12 of their closest family members in a memorable elopement wedding atop this awe-inspiring hill overlooking San Francisco Bay.
I was fortunate enough to photograph this memorable, joyful wedding set against a dramatic backdrop showcasing the San Francisco skyline.
Table of Contents
About the couple
Denise & Trevor met and live in San Francisco, so it made sense to have their elopement in the city that holds so many memories. In fact, they got engaged right here at Hawk Hill! They actually met in 2016 on a bike ride with a mutual friend. A couple years later, they left San Francisco temporarily to go traveling for a year and a half.
They returned and got settled in jobs in 2019 and also got engaged at the end of that year. This small wedding was the perfect way to usher in the new era of their lives as Mr and Mrs!
Originally, the couple were going to have a virtual ceremony conducted by the San Francisco City Hall clerk. (It was really the thing back in early 2021). I shared that due to the location, we certainly wouldn’t have Wi-Fi and may not have strong enough cell signal for a Zoom call. It would be better not to take any chances.
I made a suggestion that it may be preferable to have Denise’s sister ordained online to perform the ceremony. Simple, more personal, more meaningful and no tech to contend with!
It worked out so beautifully and made for the most stunning, emotion-filled photos. Plus, the ceremony was personalized to exactly what the couple wanted, which isn’t possible with civil ceremonies (the type we normally see at City Hall).
How to use Hawk Hill for your elopement
You will love these panoramic views from the Marin Headlands. As far as Golden Gate Bridge elopement venues go, Hawk Hill offers panoramic San Francisco skyline views, a sense of peace, and beautiful nature-filled backdrops.
Also, I might add, the fact that it’s relatively secluded – at least it was on this foggy February day!
This place just feels so wild, and indeed it is! You can even see the fall raptor migration or see if you can spot a mission blue butterfly. There’s also Battery 129, a military installation dating back to World War II.
It is simply gorgeous to elope right next to the Golden Gate Bridge, in the dramatic landscape of the Marin Headlands overlooking all of San Francisco and beyond. There is no ceremony site more beautiful than what nature has provided for us. I don’t know if the couple booked the spot, or just turned up there guerilla-style!
A word of caution. The Marin Headlands area can be extremely windy, to the point where it’s uncomfortable being outside. Be prepared for adverse weather, and think about how to work with the elements rather than against them! This could mean bringing layers, blankets for guests or scouting alternative, sheltered locations nearby if it’s just too cold.
Fog is also very common in the Marin Headlands! I’ve been to this area numerous times including recently to the nearby Battery Spencer on a scouting trip and I couldn’t see a thing! It was fogust, but wow. I’ve never seen wind like that in my life either.
Recommended photography locations
We began photography at 2pm at Battery Mendell (Google Maps location link). The fog was thick and made for the most delicious photos – ethereal, mysterious and super flattering (kind of like having a thin layer of vaseline on the lens like they used to do).
After some awesome time taking photos there, and with the couple nicely warmed up (both figuratively and metaphorically speaking), we drove over to Hawk Hill. I love to incorporate different locations while we have the opportunity on your wedding day. Our elopement packages begin at 3 hours… precisely because there is more to capture than ‘just the ceremony and a few family photos after’. We want to tell your story!
This is the Google Maps link for Coastal Trail Parking (which is a 13-minute drive from Battery Mendell). This is the parking location I recommend for Hawk Hill. Once parked up, it’s a 7-minute walk to the iconic Hawk Hill site.
There’s a screenshot below showing the route. It’s a distance of 0.76 miles and about 144 feet of elevation gain to the lookout point where you’ll want to have your ceremony. Just walk the path along Conzelman Road.
Ceremony at Hawk Hill
We took our time getting to the Hawk Hill ceremony location, as we hit a ton of photo spots on our way while guests also made their way up. By 3:15pm, it was time for the ceremony to begin.
The fog was actually potentially going to be a problem. When we arrived at Hawk Hill, it was fogged out. Completely. (I wish I’d taken a photo but this was early 2021 and I wasn’t quite the documentarian I am now. 😉) No bridge, nothing.
Then the most incredible thing happened! The fog cleared in about 2 minutes flat! It went from foggy to not just clear but actually sunny! If that’s not a wedding miracle, I don’t know what is.
Finishing up our time at Hawk Hill
It was beautiful. Like I always do, I captured many different vantage points including a little hill which allows me to get some wider shots higher up.
We went into family photos around 3:45 and were walking back to our cars around 4:15pm. The couple chose to have their small reception back in San Francisco at the incredible Foreign Cinema (the newly created Amate Terrace). I just published a blog post featuring photos from their reception event, with more photos and extensive info about weddings at Foreign Cinema!
I love that this wedding day was the best of both worlds – rugged natural beauty and being at the mercy of the elements; and a sophisticated urban soiree in a vibrant, fashion-forward dining establishment & Mission District institution.
These two definitely know how to plan a party!
I left them at 5:30, just after the champagne toast and everyone exchanging a few words. You know what’s crazy…? We got so much packed into just 3.5 hours, yet– here’s the really crazy part that you wouldn’t know from looking at the photos–it didn’t feel rushed!
What they did right
A few things that set this wedding apart so you can copy and paste for your own intimate Hawk Hill ceremony:
- We created a schedule that was not rushed. And we stuck to it!
- The couple prepared a lot before the big day. There’s always so much stuff needed, even for something as simple as an intimate elopement with no decor. Make sure you have everything you need, bags clearly marked, a point person designated, so nothing is left in the car!
- They scouted the location extensively (despite knowing it pretty well beforehand), with their guests and wedding day experience in mind.
- Denise went with absolutely stellar vendors for some crucial items: her dress, her bouquet and her hair & makeup. With a lower-cost wedding, it’s tempting to cheap out on some key items. That’s a false economy! There is so much less going on, so everything you bring is highlighted even more. Big, bright florals popped perfectly in the fog. Hair and makeup stayed immaculate despite the windy, water-logged air and happy tears shed. Her dress was not an afterthought, it really made the photos and showed Denise’s gorgeous sense of style and figure! It was also a nod to her Hispanic heritage as a proud Colombiana 🇨🇴! The dress is from the Venezuelan branch of a Spanish bridal design house.
And of course, they hired a great photographer! When you hire a wedding photojournalist, no moment is too small to be captured. The approach is more about letting the day unfold naturally and less about endless posing! Find out more about the photojournalistic style below:
This Golden Gate Bridge elopement location did not disappoint! It was a rollercoaster with the weather, but whatever happened the couple remained flexible and they rolled with it! As avid outdoors people, they would not let a bit of fog hamper their spirits.
And in the end, it turned out they had the best of both worlds with atmospheric fog and sweet sunshine too!
Photography: Zoe Larkin Photography
Venue: Hawk Hill, Marin Headlands
Florals: Ampersand SF
HMUA: Urban Beauty Loft
Dress: Jesus Peiro
Suit: Calvin Klein
Shoes: Bryr Clogs
Rings: Brilliant Earth
Photos from Hawk Hill, Marin Headlands elopement
About Zoe Larkin Photography
Looking for a Bay Area wedding photographer? You can learn more about my services at the links below:
Hoping I’ll be back at Hawk Hill soon, shooting your lovely intimate wedding!