San Francisco City Hall Elopement Photographer: Emily Takes Photos

Today is something of a full circle moment for me. One of the first weddings I ever featured on APW, five years ago now (FIVE YEARS AGO OMG), was a sweet simple wedding shot by a wedding photographer who was just getting started: Emily Takes Photos. I said in that post, “If I could only have one lofty goal for this website, it would be that I would help make small and simple weddings fashionable again.” When I wrote it, it was honestly me just saying the craziest thing I could think of, but it’s turned out to be somewhat prescient. Except the “I” became a “we” with the amazing APW staff, and one of those people in the “we” turned out to be Emily, of Emily Takes Photos.

Now, if that wasn’t full circle enough, as of today, Emily has decided to shift her business model a bit, and refocus on exactly where she started: small and simple weddings. Today, in honor of Emily’s birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY EMILY, I will get drunk with you tonight!) she’s announcing that Emily Takes Photos is going to focus more on San Francisco City Hall weddings.

For the uninitiated, San Francisco City Hall is one of the most beautiful places you can get married in the United States, and you can do it for just $174. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful buildings all over the world in the past few years, and San Francisco City Hall still takes my breath away, in a very literal, visceral way, every time I walk into it. It’s where we got our marriage license and contemplated equality, and it is inexorably tied to the marriage equality movement in the United States, which makes it all the more special for me. APWers come here to get married from all over the country, and funnily enough, the first San Francisco City Hall wedding we ever featured on APW was shot by Emily (as was yesterday’s city hall wedding). So, I’m thrilled that Emily is now providing one-stop shopping for San Francisco elopement photography (not to mention her experienced hand guiding you through the whole process if you throw caution to the wind and book a plane ticket out here to get hitched). That, and her work is stunning. You can see her full wedding gallery here, and her city hall gallery here. So, without further ado, Emily herself.


Dear APW,

I am in love with San Francisco City Hall. For starters, the building is magnificent, with gorgeous detailing all over the place. The light is pretty much perfect all the time in there. There are a ton of fun places to shoot inside the building (and outside, too!), which means you can get a lot of awesome photos in a short time. That alone would be enough reason to want to shoot there, but there’s something about the weddings that happen there that holds a place in my heart.

I love the simplicity of city hall weddings, whether it’s just you, your partner, and a judge, or a bigger group with all your loved ones. The whole process of getting married there seems so unfussy to me, which I think puts more focus on the actual marriage, as opposed to the wedding itself. They feel as how I’d imagine my grandparents‘ or great-grandparents‘ weddings felt: simple, but filled with love and giddy excitement. Even the judges get giddy. I’ve been told by a couple judges that after days of hearing depressing court cases, performing marriage ceremonies is one of the best parts of their jobs. I especially love when there are lots of couples getting married, one right after the other, as I think the excitement in the building multiplies exponentially! Seriously, take a Friday afternoon and walk around there. Have a seat outside the County Clerk’s office and watch as all the couples file in and out, grinning like crazy, waiting to be married (extra fun for spotting wedding outfits!).

I’ve decided to shift more of my focus to city hall weddings (though I’ll still shoot a handful of big weekend weddings each year, because nothing can replicate a full-scale Team Practical party!). Tons of you come to San Francisco to get married at city hall each year, and not only do I want to be there to celebrate with you, I want to make it as easy as possible! To get you started, I’ve written a post about How To Get Married At San Francisco City Hall, to answer the most common questions about both civil and private ceremonies. I even put together a city hall wedding dress roundup (though really, part of me just wanted to shop online during work hours!). To keep it super simple, I’ve tailored three different photography packages for city hall weddings that’ll cover everything from the two of you eloping to larger events (for reals, you can have a full-scale wedding at city hall, but it feels like SO MUCH LESS WORK than other venues). Packages start at just $500 for your real-deal tiny elopement, and go up to $1,500 for something more like a tiny wedding in a rad place.

I want to help make this process of getting married as simple as possible, so when you look back on the day, all you’ll remember is the joy and the love. Because really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Yours (as ever),


Ladies and gentlemen, let’s do this thing. San Francisco City Hall (and Emily Takes Photos) is waiting. Get in touch with Emily, and make the magic happen (and throw stressful wedding planning to the wind). And also, do me a favor. It’s Emily’s twenty-ninth birthday today, so hop over to her blog and tell her happy birthday. Your APW staff thanks you. We promise to hoist a drink in your honor later tonight.

**Final Note: Last year I spoke at CoLab, a photography and small business owners workshop that was Emily’s baby. This year she’s doing a one-day, super affordable version of that same workshop on May 19 (a week and a half from now). So! If you’re a photographer or small business owner who’s just getting started, or needs a kick in the pants, go sign up NOW. Through Sunday, May 12, mention APW and pay $250 instead of $350 (or $450 for two from the same studio). Emily is my go-to lady for telling me I have to charge what I’m worth, and talking me off any and all business-related ledges, so I can’t recommend a better woman for kicking you in the pants.**

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  • Emily, your work is always STUNNING and authentic! Also, happy birthday!

  • Viv

    Love this idea! SF City Hall is such an amazing space, it’s hard not to get a gorgeous shot there! Happy birthday Emily!

  • I am a little sad I did not know about you/this wasn’t an option when my Dad got married. But I am happy for everyone else!

  • This makes me want to elope to SanFran So. Much.

    • One More Sara


    • DO IT!

      • Fun fact: The first time I brought up eloping with my partner, he said he’d prefer a wedding with family and friends. After showing him these pics (he’s a sucker for architecture), and discussing what a wedding would really cost, he’s now thinking elopement.. . .Stay tuned :-)

    • RJ

      Me too! And I’m single!

  • Class of 1980

    It always seems like there is so much light in there, but it’s a soft light.

  • This makes me wish I could teleport across the country. :( Oh, well. Anyway, yay for being birthday sisters! Happy Birthday!

    • Yay! Happy birthday to you, too!

  • Steffany

    I got married at SF city Hall last year! It really is awesome. These pictures are amazing, as usual Emily!

    • Thanks Steffany!!

  • sarah

    Happy Birthday Emily!!!

    See you at city hall next week! We can’t wait :)

    • Thanks Sarah! I can’t wait!!!!!