San Francisco City Hall Wedding Cinematography and Photography

San Francisco City Hall is one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in SF. If you're planning a civil ceremony in the city, you picked the perfect spot. And if you're thinking about owning a small movie of your wedding, so that you’ll always have it to remember that big day, you've come to the right place. We're a wedding videography company and we will create beautiful and fun movie of your wedding. It’s what we love to do.

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This package includes one hour of videography. It's great for couples looking to focus on the ceremony. We will spend the remaining time on the details, guests and portraits. This package includes a 3-4 minutes highlights movie set to a song of your choice. 

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This package offers two hours of coverage by one videographer.
It's great for couples that are interested in pre or post ceremony coverage like getting ready (at a hotel) or some of the reception following the ceremony. This package also includes a 3-4 minutes movie.

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The combo 1 hour includes one cinematographer and one photographer for one hour of coverage. Your final product is a 3-4 minutes movie and all photos. Combo one hour includes a $100 discount.

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The 2 hour combo is great for a longer coverage such as an optional second location or more time spent taking photos/video in and around City Hall. The final result is a more complete, 3-4 minute highlights film and all photos. The combo two hours includes a $200 discount.

A few add ons to consider: Instagram 60 second video $350 - Raw footage $350 - super8mm film $500 - 4K Ultra HD upgrade $500 - additional coverage $500/hr



Hannah and Clinton had a very intimate wedding, just them two and one friend. They flew all the way from Florida. They got ready at Sir Francis Drake Hotel in Union Square and took an Uber to City Hall, the easiest and most convenient way to get there, since you don't have to park. They also hired Cynthia Gregory to officiate their ceremony. In general, hiring an officiant or even having a family member or friend officiate your ceremony is an excellent idea. It offers much more flexibility in terms of time and it makes the ceremony so much more personal. They reserved the Mayors' Balcony for the ceremony. It's actually one of three areas you can reserve. The other two are North and South 4th floor galleries. All of these areas offer an excellent and picturesque view. After the ceremony we took off to Crissy Fields to get some footage with Golden Gate Bridge in the background.  


Stephanie & Stuart chose the Rotunda for their ceremony. The Rotunda is the default area for most ceremonies. 
They got ready at the Clift Hotel in downtown SF where they also exchanged gifts. Afterward, they separately headed to City Hall where they did the first look. 
After the ceremony and family portraits, we went to Crissy Fields where we continued our photo and video shoot.  
Alltogether we spent about 3 hours filming. 


Mariel and Kyle, close friends of ours, chose the 4th floor gallery for their ceremony. Reserving your own space allows you to bring more guests and have them seated for the ceremony. They hired Tim Mills to officiate their ceremony. Tim has a great sense of humor and love working with him. 
Mariel and Kyle got ready at the Diva hotel, which is a very nice boutique hotel in downtown SF area. We picked a really nice and quiet area for their first look next to the lobby. 
After the ceremony we continued to Oakland where they had a traditional reception for all the guests. 


5 TIPS TO HELP PLAN YOUR CITY HALL WEDDING IN SAN FRANCISCO

You've already made one of the best decisions about your wedding - to get married at the most iconic and beautiful venues. Undeniably, City Hall is an architectural piece of art and it's one of the most gorgeous wedding venues in California, if not the US. So congratulations! But your journey is only beginning and we're here to offer you a few tips to make the process of planning your wedding easier. 

1 - Reserve your date. This one is obvious since you can't get married without a reservation
But keep in mind that City Hall has become so popular for weddings and elopements, that often times you may not be able to get your preferred date or time slot. You can make a reservation up to 90 days in advance, and i suggest you reserve your spot exactly 90 days in advance. 
Now, you have a few options for your ceremony location. You can choose between the Rotunda, 4th floor galleries or the Mayor's Balcony. My favorite is the 4th floor. It's spacious, it's offers the most light and it has the best backdrop. But just like the Mayor's Balcony, it's $1000 to reserve. 
It doesn't make sense to rent the 4th floor or Mayor's Balcony if you're bringing 3-4 guests, but if you have a large number of guests, you might want to consider it. You can actually invite up to 100 guests and have them seated (chairs are extra. 60 chairs max for 4th floor. 40 chairs max for Mayor's Balcony), remaining guests will be standing. Also, the space will be yours for one hour. Which is great since after the ceremony you can use the space for your family photos while the rest of your guests can mingle and sip some champagne (assuming you bring some). 

2 - Hire a professional photographer and cinematographer 
This might sound a little biased given that we offer both services, but hear me out. Photos and video are going to be the ONLY two things that you can look back to and reflect on the memories of the wedding. Sure, you might snap a few selfies or ask one of the guests to take a few pictures, but lets face it, they won't look nearly as good as a professional artistic photo. And speaking of video, i've seen folks recording the ceremony on a mobile phone. Well i have a few things to say about that.
First, do you want your guests to enjoy the wedding or to film it?
Second, assuming you're okay with the image quality of your friends phone, how good do you think the audio will be? Here is an example of a professional audio recording vs on-camera audio.   

As you can hear, the acoustics is pretty good (or bad?), which makes it nearly impossible to capture good audio without good microphones. Not only that, but it's a public building and it hosts public events quite often. That means you will often hear people working, setting up lights and equipment for upcoming events. You will also hear people clapping and shouting, since there are multiple weddings happening at the same time on multiple levels of the building. So good audio is important!

3 - Make some plans for after the ceremony
Many of your guests will be coming from out of town or perhaps even from out of country. This would be a great opportunity to show them around and take them to a nice dinner. San Francisco offer a huge variety of reception places, and ways to get there. The most popular is the trolley bus tour, which will drive you and your guests around the city, before bringing you to your final destination of your choice. 
Some of the most popular reception venues
Epic Steak House
Argonaut Hotel
Wayfare Tavern

4 - Choose your transportation

Getting to City Hall is pretty easy, but it becomes a little bit complicated when you have a lot of guests. Let's break it down:
If it's just the two of you and perhaps one or two guests, don't overthink it. Get an Uber and don't worry about parking. 
Alternatively, get an old school Rolls Roys to arrive to City Hall in style. 
If you already have a car, you can park it in the Civi Center Garage.
Finally, if you have a large group of guests, staying in the same hotel, we recommend getting a shuttle. Logistically it's the easiest solution and you'll have a piece of mind knowing all of your guests will be on time. 

5 - Pick a nice hotel or Airbnb

What is a good place to stay in SF is one of the most common questions we get asked. And for several reason. For once, couples want a great view of San Francisco and they want to be within 10 minutes from City Hall. Luckily, there are plenty options in the city.
But what we found over the years, that's probably even more important, is the actual space. Granted, the views are important, but what if your room is tiny? And what if you have 5 bridesmaids and they all need makeup and hair done? 
And what if you wanted to do a first look at the hotel? Is the lobby a nice enough backdrop? 
What if you wanted to write your vows or exchange gifts? The list goes on... 
As photographers and cinematographers we realized that having a large room or a suite can have a positive effect on your photos and film and can also reduce your stress levels significantly. The last part hasn't been scientifically proved though. 

 

TIPS TO MAKE YOUR CITY HALL WEDDING STAND OUT

Our clients often ask, what can make our wedding stand out? How can we make our wedding film unique?

Well, after so many years filming weddings I can say that one of the choices that can make your wedding and your movie unique, is writing your own vows and/or the exchange letters.

Let’s start with vows

Without a doubt, writing your own vows will make your movie so much more personal. You have a chance to publicly state your intentions to love each other for the rest of your lives. You can share a story of how you met, how you fell in love, how you know he or she was The One, and the reasons you love each other. What makes him or her unique and so much more. These words and promises will forever remain a part of your memories if they are a part of your wedding movie.

There is one very important practical matter to take into consideration. Unless you reserve the Fourth Floor Gallery or the Mayor’s Balcony, there is no guarantee that the judge who will be marrying you will allow you the time to say your vows. This applies to how busy City Hall is on your particular wedding day. Some days are extremely busy and there is simply no time to exchange vows. 

Here is an example of a beautiful vows exchange in City Hall

 

So if you’re not planning to reserve the Fourth Floor Gallery or the Mayor’s Balcony, my other suggestion is to exchange letters. Exchanging letters is very similar to exchanging vows, except it’s usually done before the ceremony. It’s a very intimate and sometimes emotional moment, which, just like the exchange of vows, can make your wedding film personal and unique. 

We recommend writing your vows on a nice piece of heavy paper or in a bound journal or notebook. Definitely not on your smartphone or a hotel napkin :) 

We love filming letter exchanges in an intimate corner of City Hall, without anyone listening. 

Here is an example of a wedding with letter exchange.

 

One last thought is an exchange of gifts. This can be a very moving moment. Carefully chosen and highly personal gifts are very meaningful and can prompt an emotional reaction. Or a lighter toned gift can elicit laughter. No matter the gift, the exchange of gifts offers a chance for personal and meaningful moments in your wedding cinematography.

4K Ultra HD video for a City Hall Wedding

On a little bit technical side... our couples often ask us about 4K and Ultra HD coverage, wether it's a good investment and is it worth it? 
Well, the quick answer is Yes. 4K is a much higher resolution format that HD, you get much more detail in the footage, it appears sharper and overall looks better, from a technical point of view at least. Another way to look at it is if your wedding is shot by a 10MP photo camera or 20MP camera? Obviously with a 20MP camera you get better images. The most simple evidence is that you get a larger print size with a 20MP image. 
Same goes for 4K video. If you don't have a 4K TV now, chances are that you will have one in the near future. Most new TVs are 4K capable. 
Here are two examples of 4K videos. The first example is an actual 4K video, so make sure to switch that 4K button on and have a 4K compatible display to enjoy the quality.
The second is a 4K video scaled down to 1080p, just to show how much we can zoom into the footage without loosing any quality. 

 

OUR COMPLETE SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL WEDDING GUIDE

For those who dream being married at the classical, dreamy and beautiful City Hall of San Francisco, here are some of the frequently asked questions and useful tips that will help you in planning the wedding you’ve always dreamed of.

  • Where is the City Hall located?

    The City Hall is strategically located at 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, California 94102, and sandwiched between Grove and McAllister. It is wheelchair accessible so no need to worry about elderly guests or persons with disabilities (PWD’s).

  • How can I make reservations for our big day?

    The process is simple. You can either make reservations online or by going to the City Hall personally. Online reservations - For those who would want to book their reservations in the comforts of their home, you can do so by visiting Online Civil Ceremony Reservations. Payments may be settled via Visa or MasterCard only. Expect to pay an additional $5.00 convenience fee. Personal reservations - Reservations may also be made directly and personally at the City Hall either by one of the parties ora third person. San Francisco City Hall maintains the policy of “pay as you reserve system” so it’s best to bring some hard cash, but they also accept money order and debit card. Remember that these 3 are the only modes of payment accepted. Take note also that credit cards are not accepted.

  • What do I need to pay for in order to get married at the City Hall?

    There are various fees that couples need to pay before celebrating their marriage in this grand location. Couples need to pay for the marriage license and a fee for the marriage ceremony. a. Marriage license fee- $100 b. Couples may prefer any of the following places where they can hold their wedding ceremonies: i. Rotunda onsite ceremony or a private ceremony room fee- $77 ii. County Clerk office in the City Hall grounds- $220 iii. Mayor’s Balcony or on the 4th floor- $1,002 For more information in holding a ceremony at the Office of the County Clerk, Room 168, you may contact them personally at their phone number: (415) 554-6079 or by visiting www.sfgov.org/countyclerkor through email at county.clerk@sfgov.org. Others who are willing to shell out $1,002 for reserving the Mayor’s Balcony, you may directly contact the City Hall Events Department at (415) 554-6068.

  • Where should we process the marriage license?

    Proceed directly to Room 168, located on the first floor. You must arrive at the Information Desk together with at least 2 witnesses for check-in 10 minutes before your appointment. If you have more than 2 witnesses, they will be asked to remain in the waiting area.

  • What time and day of the week should I make my reservations?

    The City Hall is open for reservations Mondays through Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The City Hall accepts reservations for three weddings at a time; each wedding ceremony will be alloted 30 minutes max.

  • Can I make reservations on the wedding day itself?

    Yes. However, it best advisable that you obtain a marriage license and book your wedding ceremony with at least 1 hour interval.

  • Can I cancel or change our wedding date?

    Once reservations and payments are made, the time and date are no longer subject to change. So it’s best to finalize your wedding date so as not to put your money to waste should you decide to hold the ceremony on a different date.

  • How many days would the marriage license be valid?

    It is valid for 90 days reckoned from the date of its issuance.

  • Can we hold our wedding ceremony on the weekend?

    Definitely yes. For couples who opt to hold their weddings in the evening or on a weekend, kindly contact the Office of Specail Events, Room 495, at (415) 554-6079 or by checking them online.

  • How many days in advance should we consider in making reservations?

    For those who wish to hold their wedding at the Rotunda, reservations may be made up to 90 days before your preferred date. Weddings to be held on the private Mayor’s Balcony may be reserved up to a year in advance. Friendly reminder: Avoid booking your weddings on popular dates such as Valentine’s Day because these dates may no longer be available as they book up immediately.

  • What are the essentials that we need to bring on the wedding day itself?

    It’s your big day! Relax, breathe and just smile but never ever forget to bring any legal photo identification (ID’s), your marriage license, cash or money order to pay all necessary fees (for those who will book on the same day), 1 witness and maximum guests of 6.

  • Is a witness necessary?

    It depends. If you obtained a Private Marriage License, no witness is necessary. For those who secured a Public Marriage License, the presence of a witness is mandatory. Unfortunately if you do not have any witness, the City Hall cannot and will not take part in your ceremony as a witness.

  • Can I rely on my photographer to act as our witness?

    Definitely, certainly, absolutely and positively YES. We have done the same favor for our past clients, and we will willingly do it again if we are asked to. It’s an honor and privilege at the same time.

  • How Many Guests Can We Invite?

    The maximum is up to 6 guests for wedding ceremonies to be held in the Rotunda or a private ceremony room. For reservations made in the Mayor’s Balcony, the place can hold up to 100 guests. It is recommended that you provide chairs and tables for your guests. Coordinate with the Office of Special Events for a smooth-flowing ceremony.

  • Where is the ceremony held?

    Commissioners determine the place where ceremonies are to be conducted. The usual places are the rotunda, if available or sometimes the 4th floor. Unfortunately, specific requests for the famous rotunda or any other area in the City Hall cannot be acted upon favorably as they cannot assure availability. For those who paid a whopping $1,002 fee, ceremonies are held either in the Mayor’s Balcony or on the 4th floor. Privacy is guaranteed on these areas as they are cordoned and roped off from the public during your wedding celebration. Both spaces can hold up to 100 guests and it is available for one hour.

  • What’s the best location to hold the wedding?

    There are 4 locations in the City Hall to host your wedding event: a. The Iconic Rotunda (most popular) Most couples prefer this location, and you couldn’t blame them because this is a magically exquisite and beautiful spot inside the City Hall. However, specific requests to hold your wedding here cannot be availed of as the commissioner has the final say about this. The only downside to this elegant spot is the fact that it is next-door to the elevators and administrative offices, thus expect it to be crowded most of the time. Couples are allowed a maximum of 10 minutes for the ceremony and photo-taking. b. The typical Private Ceremony Room (mainly for private ceremonies) The Commissioner, instead of choosing the rotunda, may conduct your wedding at this room. The advantage of this location is that privacy and intimacy of the wedding ceremony is guaranteed as the room is occupied only by you and your 6 guests. c. The Mayor’s Balcony. This is a charming place to hold your wedding ceremony, but it comes at a price. This is available during weekdays, and the spot is yours and your guests to enjoy for two hours. Although it comes at a steep price, the advantage of it though is the fact that it promises you exclusivity and privacy. Weekday ceremonies should be conducted before 4:00 p.m. d. The Fourth floor Monumental Archway This is one of the best places to hold your wedding as it is one of the private wedding spots where you can hold your ceremonies. The area is roped off to guarantee private and intimate celebrations. A word of advice: Book the Northern Side of this location to avoid the blinding sun. For weekday celebrations, make sure to start the same prior 4:00 p.m.

  • Can I book the place on weekends or weekday after hours?

    Yes. The entire City Hall can be yours, but it may cost you a lot. The best thing about it though is that you get what you pay for as you’ll get a chance to keep the place at your disposal. The whole City Hall is secured and guarded with a number of metal detectors. This wedding option is available only during Saturdays. Your big event should begin before 3:00 p.m.. It is inclusive of two hours time in the Rotunda, and you can invite as many as 200 guests.