I’m Zoe and I’m a San Francisco elopement photographer! It’s truly a pleasure to meet you, I’m so glad you found me!
By the end of this informative article, we will make sure we’re on the same page here and you’ll know whether I’m a photographer you want to reach out to for your upcoming San Francisco elopement.
A bit of background first: I’ve been photographing intimate weddings, elopements and City Hall ceremonies throughout the SF Bay Area since 2016. In 2021, was named one of the 8 best elopement photographers in San Francisco by Peerspace.
Introduction to Zoe Larkin as your San Francisco elopement photographer
👉🏾 Here’s a little video of me saying hello and that it’s lovely to see you around here! Get to know me a little by checking out the first video on my new channel!
What is an elopement?
Surprisingly, the word ‘elopement’ means different things to different people. But for the avoidance of doubt, let’s discuss what we mean here.
An elopement refers to getting married in a small or casual wedding ceremony, typically with just the couple and an officiant present. The definition has expanded to also include the presence of guests (though typically fewer than 20).
The days have gone when an elopement meant running away without telling anyone! Although, for some couples and many different reasons, an elopement may be secret.
Some call it a micro-wedding, others prefer a minimony, and, to others it’s just a small wedding or intimate wedding. An elopement might take place on the beach, in the forest, in a chapel, on the mountain-top, or at the courthouse.
What are the benefits of eloping in San Francisco?
If you’ve landed here because you’re looking for a photographer for your elopement, chances are you already have a good idea of the advantages of eloping! So, if you’ll indulge me, let me give you a little pat on the back!
With an elopement, you benefit because you can:
- Get married anywhere! No restrictive venue rentals!
- Lean on your vendors as they’re an integral part of your day
- Save your money on your future rather than splurge tens of thousands on one day
- Design something completely custom, free from the constraints of expected norms
- Have much more time for loved-up photos of you too together, way more than you’d ever get for a traditional wedding day
- Make it just about the two of you, stripping weddings down to what’s truly important. Two people promising themselves to each other for eternity.
18 more reasons coming your way at the link below:
I love elopements and consider them the highest honor of all to photograph.
What’s the typical flow for an elopement?
With elopements, the key difference vs. a traditional wedding is that you’re not getting married at a wedding venue per se – so you can design the day you really want.
Because you don’t have a lot of guests, you aren’t tied into a flow of ceremony followed by cocktail hour, family photos, then reception, dinner, dancing etc.
With elopements, photography coverage usually begins right at the ceremony site 15-30 minutes pre-ceremony. You could also have some getting ready covered, or your first look (when you see each other for the first time). More on this below.
Post-ceremony, there will be time for any guest groupings, should you have guests attending. Then, on to some eating/ drinking activity such as a picnic or toasting champagne. More ideas below:
Right at the end of the session, when the light is getting pretty, you’ll want to take some romantic photos as newlyweds! This is known as the couple portrait session.
One thing that is common across all elopements is the focus on portraits of the couple. Fun fact: larger wedding days of 8 hours or more, sometimes only allow for 10 minutes of portraits! There are just so many things going on, it can easily get bumped or rushed.
That’s really sad because the photos of you two – both candid and posed – are the ones you’ll want to frame and pass down the generations.
What are some good elopement locations in San Francisco?
- Palace of Fine Arts
- Baker Beach
- Lands End
- Lovers Lane, Presidio
- SF Botanical Gardens
- Golden Gate Park
- Crissy Field / Crissy Field Beach
- Ocean Beach
- Stern Grove
- Corona Heights Park
- Bernal Heights Park
- City Hall
I actually have a list linked below of my favorite locations for engagement shoots and weddings. This is also a treasure trove of elopement locations in San Francisco (as you can pitch up practically anywhere and get married!)
Ultimately, choosing where to get married is a very personal decision. It’s beyond my remit to dictate where your San Francisco elopement should be held, but I can offer input into your own ideas.
What are some important factors to consider when booking an elopement?
Choose your day wisely
100% choose a weekday! Wedding vendors will have high minimums for weekend dates during wedding season.
Picking a weekday (Monday to Thursday preferably) or having some flexibility in your date, can get you better deals and your choice of vendors.
For example, my pricing for Saturday and Sunday weddings during the months of May – November starts at 8 hours of coverage. That would be prohibitively expensive for the typical elopement. All other dates begin at 3 hours. SF City Hall packages begin at 2 hours.
Time of day
Another important factor to consider is the time of day. I would encourage basing your schedule around the sunset time. Finishing up proceedings about 30 minutes – 1 hour before the posted sunset time on any given day is optimal.
Plan for your stuff
One more quick factor that often gets overlooked is what you’re going to do with your STUFF. Without a venue to safely store things in, you risk belongings getting stolen and having to cart around boxes and bags filled with decor, booze, food, flowers, and clothing.
And trust me, something always gets left in the car.
I definitely encourage either being very light on the decor or having guests or helpers take care of the ‘stuff’ so you’re not the point-person dealing with the chaos day-of.
Have a plan B (or hold your plans loosely)
Elopements are mostly guerilla-style. No permit, no booking, no reservation. However, if you have the possibility of purchasing a permit, I always recommend doing so. It’s kind and respectful to pay toward conservation costs.
For other couples, we just show up and hope no one kicks up a stink. However, it’s always a possibility.
That’s never been too much of an issue in my experience, but I always do my best to manage expectations so you are not disappointed if asked by a park ranger or city official to move along. I play along as just a ‘friend with a camera’.
Having a Plan B helps you feel more prepared. It also ensures plans go efficiently so we’re not in a panic if your idea didn’t pan out as expected. You may need a Plan B for location (if you rock up to the spot and there’s already a wedding happening there; and weather (what happens if it’s raining or there’s a heatwave?)
For more on having a solid rain plan for your San Francisco wedding, check out the article below:
Does the price rise if we add more guests?
If you choose me as your photographer, I would be happy to work with you for your San Francisco elopement regardless of how many guests you have. My pricing does not rise simply because you choose to add more of your favorite people to the fun!
Does the price rise with more time / locations?
I don’t put an arbitrary price on the addition of a location (or two, or three…). Instead, you’ll pay for my services based on my minimum package with additional time available in half-hour increments.
So, you can choose how many hours you want me to be there. This alone determines the price. This could be the entire event or, as with most elopements, a portion of the day.
I’m happy to go at the pace you’d like, and can also make expert suggestions as to what’s realistic in the timeframe. I have very straightforward, a la carte pricing – no actual ‘packages’ with indecipherable photographer-speak that you need a degree in marketing to understand.
Do you offer assistance with planning our elopement?
Most definitely! As I’ve been photographing elopements and intimate weddings in the Bay Area for over 5 years, I’ve come to know a thing or two. I’m happy to share my knowledge with you. My specialty has always been small weddings from day one.
The thing about elopements is that even with the best will in the world, a dedicated independent wedding planner is sometimes just not within the budget.
Or, you’re not sure whether hiring one would be necessary given the simplicity of your event.
While I don’t replace a wedding planner, I do see the coordination of the photography as my job. As so much is centered around the photography aspects, I’m basically your photographer/ day-of coordinator.
I see our working relationship as a collaboration and it’s most definitely a two-way street. Rather than tell you the way to do things, I seek to understand your needs so I can offer a solution that fits.
The more we communicate, the better informed I can be on your priorities, values, plans, and even your insecurities and worries. No problem is too small – I love to offer insight and generally be a problem-solver! Believe me, I’ve seen it all.
Couples come to me with a firm idea of what they want and usually some sort of plan already in place. I don’t offer any packages or services beyond photography (and a bit of planning thrown in). I help you bring your own unique, personal wedding plans to life through my guidance and vision.
Do you offer bundled services and add-ons as well as photography?
The couples I work with love picking out the most meaningful, beautiful places and details to them. They typically have their own ideas for their elopement, avoiding the idea of a full-service package deal.
If you hire me as your photographer, you can bet that I will focus all my energy on getting the best photos for you – I’m not scrambling day-of to find contractors to provide hair, make-up, flowers, and officiants as part of my services.
That’s best left to someone that specializes in providing those services in their own dedicated business. There are many excellent wedding vendors in the Bay Area. I’ll be happy to refer out to those that I know cater to smaller orders.
My couples tend to be very creative and particular in their vision – you want to choose your own location. More than that, your elopement is an expression of your unique values and your style. I’d never put you in a box!
You are less concerned with having a jack-of-all-trades do it for you – that’s why you’ve booked one of the best elopement photographers in the San Francisco Bay area!
You’re more interested in authentic expression. And you want a photographer that sees that. You take pleasure in the details as the elopement vision comes to life. This is your first creative act as a married couple.
Who would I be dealing with as I plan my elopement?
The service I offer is a premium one. I am the one you’ll be dealing directly with for all your planning questions.
I pride myself on my quick response times and the fact you have access to me personally, not an independent contractor paid by the hour who lacks knowledge and experience in the field.
This is a huge part of the value you’re getting when you book me! Concise, clear, and professional communication whether by video call or email. And ongoing access to my brain as your wedding day approaches.
Who would be photographing my elopement?
I have two options for the photography – you can choose me as the premium choice or have one of my associates shoot your elopement at a lower price point. It’s your choice as to which option you’d like to go with (subject to availability). Everything will be confirmed via contract.
You can read more about the associate photographer program on my team page. There’s even more info about what an associate photographer actually is at the link below:
How many Bay Area elopements have you photographed? Can we see full galleries?
There’s some crossover with weddings, elopements, City Hall ceremonies – but to put a number on it, well over 100.
You can view the recent galleries at the link given in the pricing guide, which you’ll have to reach out to receive. It’s password-protected for the security of my past clients.
How do we get pricing and availability information?
Please contact me via the form on this page. Seriously, it would make my day! If you’ve made it this far, then it must be a match made in heaven 😉
There is no better match than someone who is dedicated to their craft and has spent years honing their skill as a San Francisco elopement photographer. So, what are you waiting for? I’d love to hear from you!