Our San Francisco City Hall Wedding

. . .  . .I just thought I’d share a few more photos from our wedding day and tell a little more of that story.  I absolutely love weddings, and through wedding photography, I’ve been lucky enough to get to go to all kinds of beautiful parties and events.  When it came time to get married myself, I always wanted to do something really intimate, and luckily Mark felt the same way.

We live in San Francisco and decided that City Hall was the perfect place to go.  Couples from all over the world come here to get married and it’s in our backyard.  I’ve also loved each and every City Hall wedding I’ve shot over the years.  Their process is simple – you sign up for your date online and you’re good to go.  The building itself is gorgeous and weatherproof (even on a rainy day, the interior is well lit and you can take beautiful photographs) and the civil ceremony there is actually quite romantic.  {Text below in case you’re curious – I couldn’t find it online ahead of time.}  It suited us perfectly. The ceremony was intimate and just about the two of us – we even did the Jewish tradition of breaking the glass after (we asked forgiveness not permission) in keeping with Mark’s background.  After City Hall we went to Quince for a long dinner.  I wore a pretty dress by Amy Kuschel and had my hair and makeup done.  Mark got a new suit.  In short, we made the day really special by doing the things we cared about.

We had one of Mark’s dear friends, Cheshire Issacs, who also happens to be a professional photographer takes photos for us, and our witnesses snapped a few shots too.  I’m so glad we didn’t “ban” them from doing so as I see suggested in so many places these days.  I love the professional shots, but I also love the “snapshot” feeling of the pictures they took and I’m so glad to have them too.  Anna at Loop Flowers did my bouquet and she made boutonnieres for our witnesses, and Shauna of Fox and Doll did my hair and makeup.

xx {L}

If you’re looking for it, here’s the text of the civil ceremony vows at San Francisco City Hall:

We gather in the presence of these witnesses for the purpose of uniting in marriage __ and ___.  The contract of marriage is most solemn and is not to be entered into lightly, but thoughtfully and seriously with a deep realization of its obligations and responsibilities.  Please remember that love, loyalty, and understanding are the foundations of a happy and enduring home.  No other human ties are more tender and no other vows more important than those you are about to pledge.  Please face each other and join hands.

Do you ___ take ___ to be your lawful wedded wife/husband (spouse/spouse)? Do you promise to love her/him and keep her/him in sickness and in heath, for richer and for poorer, for better or for worse and be faithful to her/him as long as you both shall live? [REPEAT]

Place the ring on her/his left finger and repeat after me, “I give you this ring, in token and pledge of my constant faith and abiding love.  With this ring, I thee wed.” [REPEAT]

Now that you have joined yourselves in matrimony, may you strive all your lives to meet this commitment with the same love and devotion that you now possess.

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you Husband and Wife [or Spouses for Life].


What ya gonna wear?

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To get ready for wedding?  Now I am not in the business of pushing brides to get more stuff that they don’t need for their weddings, but I am in the business of making your day look really pretty.  One thing I always tell my couples is that if we’re shooting you while you’re getting ready, try to keep the area where that’s happening clean.  More often than not, the bridal parties will dump their duffle bags and assorted snacks all over the hotel suite where the primping is happening.  The more clear the areas can stay, the prettier your pictures will look because there won’t be clutter in the background.  I need to add this tip — brides, pick out something pretty to get dressed in.  I think this might be the last thing I’d personally ever think about because I am prone to dressing in my ratty bathrobe.  But getting ready pictures can be gorgeous & with a little thought behind your “dressing gown,” even lovelier.  There are a lot of vendors for this sort of thing, but I was digging around the interwebs for some finds that I haven’t seen before & came upon these three lovely options on Etsy.  The upper left is a vintage hot pink dressing gown that I liked color-wise, and it looks like it has a nice soft feeling that would photograph well.  I was also drawn to the subtly vibrant (is there such a thing?) floral patterned robe (the bottom image).  But my favorite is the vintage Pucci set – it looks so glamorous.  Ladies – I’d put on your pretty heels for the dressing portion of the day too (or at least for a few shots).

behind the scenes – wedding photography tip #1, a series

……….I thought I’d start a little series about the things we see as photographers “behind the scenes” that will hopefully make your wedding planning a little easier.  I know there are a zillion blogs out there that will tell you the perfect place to get a stripey straw, and others that will tell you have to save money, etc.  I’m not trying to get into that space.  Instead, I thought I’d share our perspective on what little things can contribute to great wedding photos and can make your focus a little easier.

The first thing I’ll suggest is the “first look” session and/or getting all your formal shots done before the wedding starts.  Now, I am suggesting this with the caveat that if you have always had your heart set on a traditional “the first time my guy/gal sees me is at the ceremony” vision for your wedding day, this is probably not the suggestion for you.  I firmly believe that every couple really should do what feels right for them.  This suggestion is really for the people who aren’t tied to an idea about this or who are on the fence about whether to do a first look.

Every couple we’ve done this with has been really happy that they went in this direction.  They loved doing the first look for a lot of reasons, but the big ones were

– it took away some of the stress of the day.  The couple had a moment before the ceremony started and before everyone arrived to be together and to reflect on what they were about to do.  It calmed the couple’s nerves about cold feet too.

– it helped the flow of the day — because the majority of the portraits were taken before the ceremony, the couple and their bridal party were able to attend their own cocktail hour and be present for their entire day.

– the couples felt like they really had some quality time together on their wedding day.  We usually schedule them to be well in advance of everything starting, so there’s some real time to just be together while we step back and capture little moments.

Anyway, it’s something to consider and by no means a requirement!  What do you think?  Would you do a first look?

Getting crafty with glitter, glue & crepe paper

That I am a pinterest addict is well documented around these parts.  So when I was tasked with “making a little something special” for a friend’s baby shower, I took to the internets and found this awesome crepe paper flower tutorial through my favorite addiction & thought I’d give this project a try.  Please click through to that link for full instructions.


In short, you need card stock for the backing, crepe paper for the flower petals (this stuff goes a long way people, I had no idea, but one roll is about 80 feet, and you can get about 1 flower a foot, maybe slightly less), glitter, glue (I found this cool glitter glue by Crayola but any old glue will do) & buttons.  I took out a  paper plate and made a pile of glitter and a pile of glue.  I started by making the glitter buttons (basically put some glue on top of the button & smooshed it into the glitter pile) & let those dry.  Then I cut out circle backings for the flowers (not too perfect & about an inch & a half all around).  Then I made the petals out of crepe paper and started to assemble the flowers.  To do that, I first dredged the edges of the paper in a little glue & dipped it into the glitter.  I also put a glob of glue on the backing to give the petals something to really stick to.  I did 2 layers of petals, and once those were on there, I put a big old glop of glitter glue in the middle and stuck the button in there.  Finally, I put a square of mounting tape on the back so that these can be stuck to a lapel or a dress as a boutonniere.


They are far from perfect on close inspection, but from a not-too-far away place, they are really quite lovely, if I do say so myself.   It took me about an hour to make 10 flowers, but it got a lot faster once I got going.  I normally don’t post my crafting projects on here, but I thought this one was especially cool, and could be a really easy way to add a little DIY flavor to a wedding.  I could totally see this looking really cool for groomsmen for something a little different, or if you really had some time on your hands, I love nothing more than a whole bunch of coordinated guests & these could double as a favor/something for everyone to wear.


Overall, I’d rate this project as follows:

-Degree of difficulty: 0 (this was super easy to make look really good)

-Time consuming: 7 (it’s kind of on par with decorating sugar cookies, not fast but not prohibitive)

-Wow factor:  10 (just my opinion, of course!)


Here’s some shots of how mine turned out:

San Francisco City Hall Wedding Tips

I am just a huge fan of San Francisco City Hall weddings. You just can’t beat the setting — gorgeous Beaux Arts building right in the middle of San Francisco. Weddings there just have the city chic feeling & are such a lovely way to do a wedding on a budget. Here’s some shots from a recent wedding we shot there. Along the way, we learned a few tips for City Hall brides & grooms to be. The busiest days are Mondays and Fridays — since City Hall does weddings only during the week, the days that bookend the weekend fill up fast & Fridays even more than Mondays. The city’s website says that you’re limited to a small number of observers & this didn’t seem enforced at all — there’s just too much going on. I think you’d have trouble if you tried to bring 25+ people, but going a few over their limit didn’t seem to raise an eyebrow. There is a lot of standing around & waiting — you wait to find out who is going to do your ceremony & to fill out the paperwork. Then you go & wait for your turn for the ceremony. They give you a little number — be sure to take a picture of it quickly as they take it back when it’s your turn. No posing with it afterward. You do get to pick where you’d like the ceremony to happen, so it’s worth going ahead of time & scouting the possibilities. You see it all in terms of bridal style — couples in jeans on a lunch break to full wedding gear to cute H&M dresses. Love that you can just do your thing. From the photographer’s perspective – try to spend some time shooting pics outside as well as inside — both are just too gorgeous not to miss.

I’m not a techie (not even sure how to spell that)

but . . . I do get *really* excited by photography equipment.  Permit me to dork out here for a minute, but I may have just found the solution to one of my biggest problems & perhaps yours too.  I usually cannot deal with a “point and shoot” camera because it doesn’t have manual controls.  When I travel or decide it’s a nice day to have my camera along, I either drag out my big professional camera or decide it’s too heavy to carry when I’m not working, and then I rely on my cell phone if something catches my attention.  My clients complain they’d love to be able to take pictures of their kids & talk about how point & shoots don’t do the trick.  I agree – they really don’t work.  SO, you can imagine my excitement when I learned that Canon has come out with a pocket-sized camera with manual controls!!  I couldn’t be more excited & just ordered one.  I’ll have to let y’all know if it’s as cool as it sounds.  As they say, the best camera is the one you have with you . . .

Holiday card season & what to wear

I know it’s only early September, but it’s time to start thinking about holiday cards if you’re considering getting some professional shots done this year to grace your seasonal greetings.  If you’re thinking about family photography & you have little girls, I just have to make another plug for Sparrow Hills, an Etsy store that specializes in outfits for little girls that look amazing in photographs.  The patterns are fun & bright & sooo sophisticated but youthful at the same time.  I’ll just stop talking about them & show you — pictures are worth a thousand words:

Whatever will the kids wear?!

One of the first questions I’m asked about family photography is “what should the kids wear” and I give my usual suggestions — something that’s an “outfit” – try to stay away from t-shirts with slogans/words printed on them and anything really era-specific (like crocs for shoes & things like that).  But if I was styling your shoot, I’d recommend getting putting your girls in something from Sparrow Hills — which is hands down, the most adorable maker of children’s clothes I’ve seen in ages.  It’s currently being sold on Etsy (I’ve included a link above) & you can also find a fan page on Facebook.  The clothes all have a sophistication that’s usually lacking in kids clothes & I’d even like some of them to come in my size.  I adore Sparrow’s fabric choices too.  Alas, they really are just for kids.  Check it out.  And if anyone in the Bay Area falls in love with these clothes the way I have, Elle will do a photo shoot for you at 50% off . . . You know where to reach me — elle.photographer@yahoo.com.

(The pic on the left is from Sparrow Hills — it’s a sampling of just one of zillions of darling looks.)

Lets hear it for the boys!

Preston Nesbit is quite possibly the best hair & makeup stylist in San Francisco — ladies if you don’t know Preston, book immediately before he becomes too famous.  He writes a great blog about hair & makeup called “i am a glamorous boy.” In a recent post, he’s shared his tips and tricks for helping men look their best when being photographed.  Without further ado, here’s a link to Preston’s post . . . because sometimes the boys need a little help too.