By Laurie Jo Miller Farr
Wedding photography venues with a knockout view are easy to come by within San Francisco’s seven-by-seven square miles. Plan ahead by contacting these venues for a bridal photography shoot, even if you’re not planning the actual wedding or reception on site. Some locations are managed by the city’s recreation and parks department and require a permit. Others may allow photography on the grounds only when an event is booked with them.
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San Francisco City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
Mobs of paparazzi waited outside to score the money shot of a newly married Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio as they exited the building on January 14, 1954. This is where the superstars chose a civil ceremony under the stunning Beaux-Arts dome and elegant marble staircase of City Hall. Still exceedingly popular as a venue where as many as three weddings take place every half hour on weekdays, a couple can have up to six guests including their photographer. Follow in Marilyn’s footsteps across town to Saints Peter and Paul Church in North Beach’s Washington Square, where the celebrity couple posed following their City Hall nuptials.
2107 Lyon St.
San Francisco, CA
Historic and beautifully rustic, the 1895 Swedenborgian Church in Pacific Heights is a hidden jewel that brides and photographers love for its indoor and outdoor photo opportunities, including the chapel and secret garden. Behind iron gates, a brick fireplace, coffered ceiling and exposed wooden beams overhead set the intimate mood of a charming interior. Evening weddings lit by flickering candlelight are particularly photogenic. Walk down a winding path through the garden, where a cozy Mediterranean-style parish house features two fireplaces and a library for still more lovely angles.
Presidio Officers’ Club
50 Moraga Ave.
Main Post, The Presidio
San Francisco, CA 94129
Surrounded by the Presidio’s fragrant eucalyptus forest, one of San Francisco’s oldest buildings is beautifully restored as “San Francisco’s living room” where a massive stone fireplace under soaring ceilings is a magnet for a photo shoot. Sweeping views down the grassy lawn to San Francisco Bay complement the courtyard for outdoor settings. For the nuptials, right next door at Our Chapel of the Lady, sunlight is filtered through the trees behind the altar window that features stained glass. Couples may also take a look other picturesque Presidio event options: the authentic Log Cabin or the Golden Gate Club where Golden Gate Bridge views are framed by the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Related: CBS SF Bay Area’s Wedding Guide
Legion of Honor
100 34th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94121
The combination of stunning Greco-Roman architecture, fine art treasures, and priceless Golden Gate views of bay and bridge make the Legion of Honor a very special wedding venue. This three-quarter-scale version of the Palais d’Honneur in Paris features “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin in its palatial courtyard surrounded by a striking symmetrical colonnade playing on light and shadows. Indoors, up to 400 guests can be accommodated in the Rodin Galleries, where even more fabulous art treasures provide for a truly glittering event. Outdoor spaces on the spacious grassy Balustrade Lawn are also popular with photographers, with or without a wedding booking.
Palace of Fine Arts
3301 Lyon St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
You may have to share the moment with other shutterbugs, fashion stylists, fiesta de quinciñeras groups, and engaged couples who have scouted this Marina District spot as one of the city’s especially memorable and romantic open air settings. One of the most photographed locations in San Francisco, this century-old urban temple is a monumental neoclassical rotunda modeled after Roman ruins, complete with reflections on its own lagoon and, of course, white swans. After sunset, illumination creates a special atmosphere for skilled photographers.
1090 Point Lobos
San Francisco, CA 94121
Hold the ceremony here or host a post-wedding reception overlooking breaking Pacific Ocean waves at this edge-of-the-world landmark restaurant perched on the bluffs. Don’t underestimate the beauty of a western facing sunset across the expansive horizon seen from the Cliff House private terrace. If you’re heading here for an outdoor photo shoot, take care not to tackle the dangerously tricky footing along the uneven walls of Sutro Bath ruins at Lands End, but do wander up through Sutro Heights Park for a backdrop of trees, statuary and Ocean Beach.