Mahsa & Ali's SF City Hall Elopement
i met mahsa & ali in atlanta, georgia. mahsa had reached out to me about doing a model call i was advertising. fast forward a few months, i annouce that i'm moving to california this past summer & mahsa reached out to see if i could photograph her elopement in san francisco. i had no idea what their plans were, but i didn't care. i was getting to shoot an elopement in california and i didn't care what was involved. nothing was going to stop me from going. 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.
mahsa & ali had their first date in san francisco, so it was only fitting that they get married in the city where they fell in love! the couple stayed in the palace hotel in san francisco. thursday morning before they tied the knot, we did a first look shoot in the gorgeous lobby of the hotel. the palace hotel was the perfect location for getting ready. the rooms had giant windows that let in so much natural light. the palace also has gorgeous architectural details and beautiful chandeliers!! i arrived just as mahsa's hair and makeup was almost finished. ali was waiting in the lobby with his mom, dad and little brother. 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.
they took an uber to the famous san francisco city hall, and i drove my own car to the location. they was so much traffic that i actually missed their actual ceremony :( i was so devastated. we decided that from then on, we would uber together and leave my car at the hotel for the rest of the adventure. for anyone wondering how eloping at city hall works, it’s much easier than even i expected!
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. 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.
if you have fewer than 10 guests, i recommend one hour. for more than 10 guests, i recommend booking for 2 hours.
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!
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. 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. mahsa and ali'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 lunch on the embarcardo waterfront restaurant. 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 😉