Written by Sarah Horn – Photographer
4th, 2020 was a date I had already expected to treasure for years to come. My baby brother (owner of Simpledevco) was finally getting married, and I was the lucky choice in charge of Wedding Photography!
I was certainly nervous to perform the daunting task of being the sole capturer of this incredibly special day.
This was technically the second wedding I had done principal photography for; the first was a beautiful elopement performed just off of a hiking trail in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Both weddings were relatively short notice (by which I mean planned in a few months instead of years) and low-budget, and I truly believe these types of weddings end up being more memorable than the polished, expensive weddings that an engaged couple’s acquaintances and extended family seem to expect!
There is something so special in the intimacy of a simple, close-family-only ceremony, and I always catch my breath both in the moment of capturing the day, and looking over the images afterward. I absolutely love doing wedding photography.
I am not a novice photographer by any means, but I do admit I used to shy away from the responsibility that comes with being the only wedding photographer on site.
In the past, I have let my fear of making mistakes stop me from experiencing and capturing these magical moments. However, it was a no-brainer for me to do the photography for Jordan’s wedding, as the attendee space for City Hall weddings is so limited that a family member needed to be the one documenting the day!
We had been told that City Hall was very strict about the guest limit: for the public civil ceremony, there are only six guests permitted to join the bride and groom.
So this type of wedding may not be for those who want to share the whole day with lots of people, but it’s GREAT for those who might prefer to keep the event small for whatever reason.
When I dove into research on SF City Hall weddings so that I knew what to expect, I found treasure troves of articles with tons of information and beautiful images.
This was also the moment I realized I was fully ready to make the brave leap into solo wedding photography. Every photo I saw looked like something I was confident I could create.
There is a style called “reportage photography” that essentially means that you shoot documentary-style; only candid shots.
In a fast-paced situation like City Hall weddings, where you must operate on the officiant’s timetable, reportage photography is key.
You are crucial in capturing these moments to preserve memories, and there isn’t always time to hold everyone up and check your camera settings. In my research, I felt encouraged by seeing imperfections in the images.
This stylistic choice operates on the belief that imperfectly capturing a fleeting moment is more important than posing for images, which can result in the appearance of stiffness, or worse, missing the moments that you’ve been hired to preserve.
back to the date! March 4, 2020. We were so lucky to have chosen this date instead of a mere week later, when America slowly (and then all at once) began to shut down.
There was certainly a palpable and shared feeling of nervousness to be in a big city, but we could not have imagined the magnitude of the shutdown that happened so quickly afterward.
In fact, we may have been even luckier in this early covid-19 era, because the civil ceremony we chose was among the crowd in the public Rotunda Area.
There are options for a private ceremony for a greater cost, but the bride and groom wanted to spend those funds elsewhere. It’s possible that our luck of having little crowding issues was due to the imminent panic that covid-19 so quickly caused.
The basics to expect at this type of wedding is as follows: there can be a lot of waiting, and guaranteed moments of hurrying! As the wedding photographer, I followed the bride and groom everywhere.
For us, there was about an hour after their check-in at the County Clerk office, so we took that time to wander the building and take some posed photos. Once we reached our appointed time with the Judge, he led us to a spot of his choosing to perform the ceremony.
We had heard that sometimes Judges “upgrade” couples to a location that usually is reserved for the higher-priced ceremonies, and our Judge was indeed so generous!
He led us to a location called the Mayor’s Balcony, where our brief ceremony was conducted. The entire to-do was over by around 2pm, and we headed home to prepare a fun dinner reception for a slightly larger group of family and friends.
According to the City of San Francisco’s official website, in-person weddings are still indefinitely suspended.
Virtual weddings can still be conducted with the staff, but the gorgeous location continues to be inaccessible until a safe time to re-open is reached. Until then, please enjoy my personal family memories, and I hope you give me us a call when we can follow YOU around when it’s your turn!