Although there is something about Pasadena’s City Hall that puts its visitors in awe, the real magic is in the courtyard. This is why it is one of the most sought after wedding venues in town. City hall may be a place to get business done, but on the weekends, and even some week nights, it provides the perfect backdrop for love and romance.
"City Hall is a special place, because it was one of the first places we went to before we started dating, when I knew that I liked her,” said Aaron Cho. He and his wife, Judith, wed last September, but for them it all began in the courtyard at city hall — twice.
The building, designed in 1927, was inspired by the architecture of the Italian Renaissance. The courtyard features elegantly shaped footpaths lined by beds of pink roses and large trees. At night, the courtyard is softly lit for pedestrians to enjoy once the hustle and bustle of the day’s work is over. The centerpiece of the courtyard is an elegant stone fountain.
Perhaps this is why, for almost 30 weekends out of the year, the space is used for wedding ceremonies and receptions. On the weekends, it is easy to find couples of all ages strolling along its paths hand in hand.
For couples to have the spot to themselves, however, they must be on top of their game and reserve the space at least nine months in advance, according to Richard Yee, principal engineer for the city of Pasadena. There are also number of permits that must be approved, which is probably the most challenging part of using the space. Permits must be obtained for police, set-up, noise level, heaters and alcohol, so it is important for couples to know exactly what they want before going to the city. Lee says that city employees work hard to make the process navigable for couples, but plans must be ready in advance to ensure the wedding day runs as smoothly as possible.
Couples must know in advance technical details, like their need for power and security or whether there will be a live band performing at the ceremony or reception. However, there are also fun decisions to make, such as whether the couple wants the fountain in full spray or not. The rates are charged by the hour and dependent upon whether the person is a Pasadena resident or not, but the space must be reserved for a minimum of four hours.
Details like these may take the fun out of the process, but it’s hard for a bride to have regrets once she walks through the rotunda into the courtyard that has been reserved just for her, her new husband, friends and family. It is then that the romance of the space takes hold.
After dating for two years, Cho decided to go back to where it began for them to ask his girlfriend to embark on another journey with him.
"Being proposed to at City Hall was perfect,” said Judith. “I was completely stunned and couldn’t have thought of a better place to get engaged.”
The couple considered having their wedding there too, but decided against an outdoor wedding in the California summer heat. Instead they opted to take their wedding pictures there, which is another popular use for the space. The columns and architecture make couples seem as if they have been transported to another country. In fact, photographers of all types are drawn to the sharp lines and flourishes of city hall.
“The setting is historic, romantic, beautiful and significant to our relationship,” said Judith. “It’s a very romantic place.”