Delighted to share today this beautiful Stern Grove wedding! Stern Grove is a pretty iconic San Francisco location, but in case you aren’t familiar – here’s the backstory!
According to Wikipedia, it’s been the setting of the famous Stern Grove festival for over 80 years! The 33-acre recreational site is administered by SF Recreation and Parks.
Stern Grove is located in the Sunset District of San Francisco. It couldn’t have been a more perfect setting for Erin and Ben’s intimate wedding.
The musical connection is the first perfect reason. These two don’t have regular blood running through their veins – they have music.
Secondly, it’s practically their backyard! They bring their cute dog Abby here all the time for walkies.
Erin and Ben live in the Outer Sunset on Arguello. In fact, when we took a trolley ride they made sure to raise the roof passing Arguello!
Stern Grove is an amazing and wise choice for nature-loving San Francisco couples. The adjacent Trocadero Clubhouse is part of the estate. It’s a gorgeous, small Victorian building with a distinctive lemon-yellow exterior.
Together, the entire property particularly suits couples that value simplicity. It’s a great budget-friendly option that’s also absolutely beautiful. It boasts a pond, trails, a meadow, plus proximity to the Stern Grove amphitheater aaaand lots of parking.
Reservations start at just a few hundred dollars and go up from there. Sure, there are a few hoops to jump through and some rather strict procedures. But when you get this as the result – is it really a hardship?
I don’t know of many other San Francisco wedding venues that can offer so much for so little.
Erin and Ben put SO many thoughtful touches into their wedding at Stern Grove. They utilized both the outdoor grove area and the Trocadero Clubhouse.
About the couple & how they planned their wedding
Together for 8 years, Erin and Ben decided to tie the knot.
They both come from the nightlife industry which was how they crossed paths all those years ago! They now work in event production – Erin at Dolby and Ben at the JCC.
The couple first reached out to me with news of their wedding plans about 9 months before the big day. I was stoked because, as a relative newcomer to San Francisco at the time, I’d never visited Stern Grove.
In her first contact, Erin described her wedding vision:
“We’re definitely going for simplicity, no frills – just our very closest family and friends, and our maniac pup. We’re both long time SF residents, music industry folks, with a deep love for the city and its culture – we’re so excited to have our ceremony here!”
I accompanied the couple to a scouting visit a few months before the big day. Abby came too!
Though she didn’t get to be part of the wedding, I captured a few shots of her at our scouting-turned-engagement session!
In December 2019, Stern Grove tightened up the restrictions concerning viewing the property.
Viewings are now on Tuesdays only, between the hours of 4 – 6pm. They are by appointment only. Read more on their permits page.
It was a real pleasure working with this super chill couple. Above all, they wanted a relaxed, intentional day ahead of their larger wedding reception. That would take place the following day at Mezzanine (ideal for a music-loving couple!)
This day was all about celebrating with a small handful of the people closest to them.
I think the ethos resonates with a lot of people looking at Stern Grove as a wedding venue. It doesn’t invite the over-the-top blow-out weddings. Rather: pared down and full of meaning.
Order of events at Stern Grove wedding
Erin and Ben had me working with them for 5 hours. The tiny guest count meant they could transition from one activity to another fairly quickly.
Still, they were careful not to cram their day, instead allowing time for moments to happen!
We started out with one of my favorite parts of the day – getting ready. All the nerves, the anticipation, the EXCITEMENT!
I took a mostly candid approach for this part, but I am also a sucker for details! Did someone say flatlay?
The Trocadero Clubhouse has two decent getting ready rooms. Natural light isn’t great, but we made it work. The key ‘getting ready’ moments could also be replicated on the front porch. This would only work if you were having a first look!
Erin and Ben didn’t want to see each other until the ceremony. So we made sure their paths didn’t cross until Erin walked down the gorgeous, rug-festooned aisle!
Next up was the ceremony. Music was performed by their friend, guitarist Travis Hayes. Another friend, Brian, officiated.
One of the couple cried during the poignant ceremony, despite trying unsuccessfully to fight back the tears!
The couple and the family stayed with me for family formals immediately outside the Trocadero Clubhouse in good light.
The other guests sipped refreshments inside the Clubhouse and nibbled on charcuterie from La Mediterranee.
There was just time to chug a beer! Using the shotgunning technique. That’s right, I just linked to the Wikipedia page for ‘how to shotgun a beer’.
Then on to couple’s portraits which is another fave part of the day for me. Look what magic we captured! This is just a taster. I included more a bit further down this post!
A few more drinks with friends before the party bus was away! Erin and Ben hired a San Francisco cable car from Hornblower. They decorated with a cute ‘just married’ sign.
Being on the trolley led to some excellent pictures, as everyone was so in-the-moment. It was super easy to get great candids.
We stopped off for portraits of everyone near Ocean Beach. Everyone loved hamming it up once it was their time to vogue!
I left the group after we arrived at Del Popolo, the couple’s fave pizza place! I have no doubt they partied into the night ; )
Erin and Ben’s friends are really important to them. They wanted to retain a personal aspect to their Stern Grove wedding by honoring their friends’ talents at the wedding.
Aside from friends Travis and Brian being part of the ceremony, the couple also included a few more personal touches.
Day-of coordination was provided by a friend, Crystal. Erin’s florals were provided by another friend, Theresa.
This wedding ran mostly on wine. And that wine also had a personal connection to the couple.
Their friends in Paso Robles, Iron Oaks Winery and Know Your Roots are the wineries/ labels they were proud to support.
In Erin’s job at Dolby, she tinkers with top-of-the-line sound equipment all the time.
In fact, their wedding was the first ever to be recorded on Dolby’s new app, Dolby On! One of Erin’s bride tribe, Kristal, was in charge of the phone that recorded the ceremony.
The couple sported awesome pins that were, honestly, so them. A friend did the illustration of the couple (which also features Abby – as did Ben’s socks!!) All in all, Erin and Ben’s wedding details were super thoughtful.
Unique features of Stern Grove for weddings
Marriers book this place for its excellent location, cultural significance, affordable price tag and oh – its incredible beauty.
It honestly has so much to see, and if you haven’t already been there, it is worth arranging a scouting visit.
The mature trees (mostly eucalyptus, redwood and firs) make for the most awe-inspiring wedding backdrop.
The max capacity for weddings at Stern Grove is 120 seated or 140 standing.
However, be warned! Multiple brides on Yelp have commented that trying to fit just 100 – 105 guests in the Clubhouse for a sit-down meal was extremely challenging.
You WILL need some kind of day-of coordinator, or an extremely helpful family who do not mind getting their hands dirty. 😉
The reason being, you are the ones responsible for cleaning floors, bathrooms, stocking toilet paper, collecting trash and taking everything down at the end of the event.
This is no doubt due to the low price point, and it being run by the San Francisco parks dept. Makes total sense, really. But don’t forget to factor this in to your Stern Grove wedding planning.
You can book Stern Grove/ Trocadero Clubhouse exactly one year before your wedding date. Be warned – there are tales of couples competitively camping outside the door to secure their date!
Also bear in mind the Stern Grove festival which takes place in the neighboring amphitheater on Sundays in June, July, and August.
It’s a super pretty spot! If you want to go check it out and walk around the grounds, you don’t need to wait to go inside the Trocadero Clubhouse. It’s a public park and can be accessed anytime.
Venue Stern Grove Trocadero Clubhouse
Photography Zoe Larkin Photography
Day-of coordination Crystal Hazen (friend)
Floral design Theresa Jacobson
HMUA Dreamcatcher Artistry
Nails Glitz N Glam
Musician Travis Hayes
Transportation – Hornblower Cable Cars
Attire Floravere | Chookhare
Shoes Al’s Attire
Engagement ring – family heirloom
Wedding rings Riverdale Forge | A Jeweler’s Place
Wine Iron Oaks Winery | Know Your Roots, Paso Robles
Catering La Mediterranee | Del Popolo
Favors (enamel pins) Nanosaur | The/Studio
Officiant – Brian (friend)
About Zoe Larkin Photography
Looking for an experienced, fun wedding photographer with a candid approach to documenting your day? You can learn more about my services at the links below. Hoping I’ll be back at San Francisco’s Stern Grove soon, shooting your lovely wedding!
Spot the unicorn when you hover over any image on this page =)
More images from the wedding