This is where you see your future spouse for the first time on your wedding day! (Eeeeeeek!) Traditionally, you would try not to see each other from the night before (oh the anticipation!), but some couples even show up to City Hall together and get dressed in the bathroom. If you are getting ready at the same location, you can also send your fiance out earlier and change/do final touch-ups and meet them at City Hall. This way they see each other in their wedding attire for the first time before their wedding at the first look photo session. Whatever way you do it, it’s such an exciting moment you will want to remember forever!
If you are doing the first look at City Hall, I usually meet the couples 30 minutes before your first appointment (whether it is your marriage license appointment if you don’t have one yet or the ceremony appointment). That will give us enough time to do the first look plus some wiggle room if one of you is running late.
If you are doing it somewhere else besides SF City Hall, then let’s plan for a 30-45 minute shoot at the location plus the time to get to City Hall. (More on this exciting prospect of a different location below!)
Tip: There are so many feelings and thoughts running through your head on your big day! One tip to make your special moment less stressful is to be prepared for the little things that can pop up. Having a wedding day emergency kit can be a lifesaver! I suggest you pack one just to be safe. 🙂
If we are doing the first look at San Francisco City Hall, I like the 3rd floor because it’s usually the least crowded. We can also get the window shots done there before the wedding. The 4th floor is also gorgeous (my absolute favorite)! I like to go there after you get married for formal portraits though, so I usually save that for after! The grand staircase is also fun, but it’s not as secluded as the 3rd floor usually.
Sometimes, you just happen to see each other for the first time because you came separately. In that case, I try to set you up somewhere pretty, but it could just happen at the security line or in the hallway at the clerk’s office. Wherever you are, the first time you see each other is super special!
In addition to indoors, I have also had first look shots right outside SF City Hall. For example, I like the gates outside across from Van Ness. There is also a really cool big black door there. The trees outside right by the Polk Street entrance are also gorgeous!
Or, we could even choose somewhere else that is special to you two – this was taken at the Conservatory of Flowers. If you have a special place in San Francisco, let’s do it!!
Let’s say we are going to do it on the 3rd floor of SF City Hall. I will meet one person there at a certain time. (Don’t worry – I send specific info with time and where to meet in my prep email to my city hall wedding couples!) I generally say the other person should arrive 10 minutes after. I will first meet the person on the 3rd floor, make sure they are facing the right way, and then come meet you. We will go up together, and make sure you are ready to go (and I am ready to go with the correct camera settings). It’s a similar timeline/concept wherever we do it!
How you let him/her know you are right behind them is up to you! Cover his/her eyes, tap his shoulder, pinch his butt… get creative!
What if you are getting ready at the same place – or even arriving together!? It’s still possible. If you are simply staying at the same place, you can have your fiance go ahead and you can quickly get your dress/tux/suit on and make the finishing touches on any makeup you are planning on doing. If you are arriving together, couples get fully dressed at the bathrooms at City Hall. So arrive in your normal clothes, and change into your wedding attire in the bathroom.
This might sound all so complicated, but I promise it’s not. I will make it easy for you! 🙂
Are you coming with your kids to City Hall? Get ready for some heart-melting moments! Not only will you have the first look with your future spouse, but you also get to see your kids for the first time all dressed up! It’s the sweetest! It’s a different kind of first look, and it’s so so special.
Some people prefer to do the first look with each other first, then have someone else bring the kids later. It’s totally up to you! More tips on what to expect and tips on going to your city hall wedding with kids can be found here!
The first look literally lasts a few seconds. After that, I do like to give you some space to enjoy each other’s company. (Depending on how much time we have and if you need to get to your appointment.) Then, let’s take some photos when you are ready! After that, let’s go get you married! I know the building really well, so I can be your guide and take you to exactly where you need – to check-in for your ceremony, to the ceremony, and all over the building after!
If you have questions or comments about doing your first look at City Hall, then feel free to reach out to me! I’m happy to help make your special day a dream come true!
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