Steph & Alex’s San Francisco City Hall Elopement
About a month before their elopement, Stephanie emailed me and asked if I was available to shoot her San Francisco California City Hall elopement. As an Idaho gal, I have DREAMED of shooting in the infamous San Francisco City Hall. Most people think of mountain tops when they think of adventure elopements, especially in California. But the most amazing thing about California as an adventure elopement photographer, is that you don’t have to choose between city vibes and nature. San Francisco has amazing city views and architecture, but in just minutes, you’ll also find beaches, mountains, cliffs, and lush forests. Rather than choose between city or nature, Stephanie and Alex decided to capture all that San Francisco has to offer.
We started their elopement weekend with an adventure session at Point Reyes National Seashore. (Just a note: you DO need a permit to shoot here and you can obtain a permit here!) Whenever I work with a new client, I do encourage shooting before your wedding! Whether you hire me for engagement photos, your rehearsal dinner, or a few portraits, I love having the opportunity to get to know my couples before the wedding day. Getting a feel for how I shoot helps YOU so that you feel relaxed on your wedding day so you know that you have nothing to worry about. I direct my couples 99% of the time without any fear of being bossy and helping you feel your best and most confident!
After shooting at Point Reyes, we woke up the next morning at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Stephanie and Alex were kind enough to book me a room in the same hotel they stayed in, which made their elopement morning seamless. The Palace Hotel was the PERFECT location for getting ready. The rooms had giant windows that let in so much natural light. I always encourage that if you are booking a hotel or Airbnb for your getting ready morning, pick one with as much natural light as possible. The Palace also has gorgeous architectural details throughout and so many perfect locations for portraits!
I arrived just as Stephanie’s hair and makeup was almost finished. The two of them were calm as can be, getting ready together in the same room. As much as I love first looks, there is something so intimate and sweet about couples who spend their elopement morning together. The atmosphere was so calm and relaxed, with zero jitters or nerves. Stephanie’s best friend arrived just in time to help her put on her jewelry and last minute touches. Then we were off!
We took an Uber to the famous San Francisco City Hall, the four of us squeezed into a tiny car. We arrived a few minutes before their reserved time slot. For anyone wondering how eloping at City Hall works, it’s much easier than even I expected.
How to Elope at San Francisco City Hall:
- Decide how many guests you want to invite! Prices vary based on how many hours you want to reserve City Hall and how many guests you have.
- Pick a date by visiting the calendar on the SF City Hall Events’ Page. Visit here!
- I typically recommend eloping on a weekday, as your vendors will have the most availability AND you will have more privacy. City Hall is open to the public, so it’s likely to be very busy on weekends and you’ll have more guests in the background of your photos on a weekend.
- You can choose to reserve either the Mayor’s Balcony OR the Fourth Floor Gallery for your elopement ceremony. You can also decide to reserve either location for one or two hours with privacy in either location.
- If you have fewer than 10 guests, I recommend one hour. For more than 10 guests, I recommend booking for 2 hours.
Stephanie and Alex picked up their official marriage certificate and were legally pronounced married! They chose not to hold their ceremony in the space because they shared their personal vows privately without friends or family present. Once they obtained their certificate, we were free to roam City Hall. We took family portraits with the family they invited to be a part of their legal commitment to one another. I have gotten a lot of questions about what it was like to shoot in City Hall. Although there were definitely moments where tourists photobombed us, each wedding “group” took their turn in front of the stairs. Some waiting was involved to nab our “spot”, but we waited our turn and took their family photos as fast as possible to allow the next group their turn! Patience is key!
Once family portraits were finished, we were able to walk around City Hall. As a California elopement photographer, I honestly couldn’t have imagined a more perfect place. Each nook and cranny felt like it had endless potential. The light that filtered through all the incredible stained windows was gorgeous. And the beautiful marble hallways created gorgeous leading lines. The light that streamed through the enormous windows also created the most flattering warm light that was so stunning. Even in the middle of the day, the light was immaculate. City Hall might be my favorite location I’ve ever photographed an elopement. I felt so inspired by this gorgeous space. Every detail was perfect and I could have spent hours here.
Stephanie and Alex’s clean, modern, and timeless vibe also matched the interior of City Hall so perfectly. I loved their all white/cream details in their outfits. They POPPED against every background. Stephanie’s silk gown also reflected light so beautifully. She was truly the star. These two are so in love and so easy to shoot. We laughed as we wandered all the hallways, exploring together and stopping wherever I saw something I loved to take photos!
After portraits at City Hall, we headed to their elopement dinner. Although their priority for the day was to hire me just for photos at City Hall, Stephanie and Alex invited me along to their elopement day lunch. I got to sit at the table with their closest friends and family. It was so kind of them to include me in all their events all weekend long. I felt like I truly became one of their friends and immersed in their world- which is my FAVORITE part of being a wedding and elopement photographer. To me, taking photos is so much more than just showing up with a camera and telling you to look cute when I take your photos. I truly hope to step into every wedding day and get to know you and your people. The more I can break down that wall between your guests/me so you feel comfortable with me, the more authentic our connection will be. And your photos will be better for it. Added bonus: you gain a lifelong friend. Once I’m your photographer, you’re stuck with me forever 😉
Thank you Stephanie and Alex for making all my dreams come true in San Francisco as a California elopement photographer!
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