How to Get Married at the Santa Barbara Courthouse

Planning Resources

Are you thinking about getting married in the Santa Barbara Courthouse?

Santa Barbara is a quaint town in Southern California. It’s just an hour and a half north of Los Angeles and five hours south of the Bay Area. And getting married at the Santa Barbara Courthouse is just one of the many draws to this beautiful city. It’s a vacation destination for many celebrities. For example Oprah, Steven Spielberg, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Costner. Santa Barbara offers Spanish-style architecture mixed with rich history, stunning views, one-of-a-kind experiences, and delicious food! In this blog post, we’ll dive into the ins and outs of getting married at the Santa Barbara Courthouse so you’ll learn everything you need to know about saying “I do.” there.

Table of Contents


Overview of the Santa Barbara Courthouse

The Santa Barbara Courthouse is one of the stable and most well-known wedding venues in all of Santa Barbara County. Completed in 1929, the building is a Spanish colonial style. The architecture is one of the many reasons couples opt to get married here. In addition, the simplicity and easy process of booking this venue. For instance, even Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker wed here in 2022.

In recent years, it has been a popular place for domestic destination elopements and small weddings. It’s the perfect place to say “I do” for couples who want to celebrate their love and start a honeymoon adventure exploring California and beyond.

The courthouse is still fully active and offers a wide variety of spaces sure to fit any size wedding or elopement. The courthouse is open from 8 am to 5 pm daily and even offers free tours if you want to learn more about its history.

Types of Ceremonies

There are 3 different types of ceremonies that you can reserve at the Santa Barbara courthouse. Check out the table below for the quick and dirty info. The big difference between the options is whether you want to get married on a weekday or weekend, the number of guests, the officiant, and the location.

Type of CeremonyGuest CountLengthAvailabilityCost
Civic Ceremony830-60 minutesWeekdays 9 am – 3:30 pm$104
Private ceremony1560 minutesWeekdays 9 am – 3 pm$104
Exterior Garden Ceremony2503 hoursMonday-Saturday 7 am- 4 pmstarting at $1200
Mural Room Ceremony1002 hour10 am to Noon (Saturday and Sunday only)Noon to 2 pm (7 days a week)2:30 pm to 4:30 pm (7 days a week)starting at $700

Civil Ceremony

Option 1 is a civil ceremony. For civil ceremonies, each appointment is booked for 60 minutes. During your appointment, you get your marriage license and after that have the ceremony performed. You can also book a 30-minute ceremony if you’re bringing a marriage license from another country. The ceremony is performed by a Deputy Marriage Commissioner (provided by the County Clerk-Recorder’s Office.) And the non-refundable appointment fee is $23. A total of 8 eight guests including your photographer can only be booked Monday-Friday.

Private Ceremony

The second option is a private ceremony. You can book private ceremonies on weekends and you can choose your own officiant or have the Deputy Marriage Commissioner. You need to obtain your marriage license beforehand. Only 15 guests are permitted for these ceremonies. There are spots along Anacapa St. and Figueroa St. where you can have your ceremony however it is first come first served so you cannot reserve any of these spaces ahead of time.

Garden and Mural Room Ceremonies

Ceremonies with larger than 15 guests require the 3rd option which is a reservation for a courthouse garden wedding or the Mural Room. 

When booking the exterior Garden it includes 5 different spaces: the Sunken Garden, Palm Terrace, Fiesta Stage, Bird of Paradise, and Rotunda Lawn. This is booked at one space with up to 250 guests in total. The Mural room on the other hand can have up to 100 guests and can be booked for 2 hours at a time. 

Santa Barbara Courthouse wedding map.

The spots labeled with the letters A-H are all first come first served for private ceremonies. Of course, you are welcome to take photos in other parts of the courthouse.

What to Know Before Getting Married at the Santa Barbara Courthouse

Try Booking the First or Last Ceremony of the Day

As with many other beautiful buildings in Santa Barbara, the courthouse house can get crazy busy. Not only are there ceremonies going on throughout the day but regular business and tours. Booking the first ceremonies allows you to have the grounds almost completely to yourself and at the end of the day most people will have left and you can explore with minimal crowds.

Plan for Parking or take Rideshare

Parking is available in City Lot #7, directly across from the Courthouse on Anacapa Street and there is also some other street parking. But, I definitely would recommend taking a rideshare if possible.

Marriage Licenses are first come first served

While you can book both your marriage license and ceremony together you can also just walk in and get your marriage license. So, be sure to plan ahead and get your marriage license the day before if needed.

It can be crowded at the Courthouse

As I mentioned before, it can be crowded at the Santa Barbara Courthouse. Lots of people get married here, it’s a full-functioning courthouse and government building, their daily tours, and anyone is welcome to walk the grounds. So, it’s important to have patience and plan for more time than you might initially think.

Frequently Asked Questions about Getting Married at the Santa Barbara Courthouse

What items do I need to bring?

For civil ceremonies or if you’re applying for your marriage license here’s what you need to bring:

  1. A valid state-issued form of ID (driver’s license or passport)
  2. Fort of payment
  3. At least one witness for a public marriage license (this person also needs their ID)
  4. Rings
  5. Vow Book (while the Deputy Marriage Commissioner that is marrying you is not required to let you read your own vows some will! And you can always read them privately after if they don’t.)

Can we play music if we book the Garden?

No amplified sound is allowed. Soft acoustic music is permitted.

Can we bring food and beverages?

Food or beverages are not allowed for ceremonies.

Is an officiant provided?

An officiant is provided for civil ceremonies only. If you wish to book any of the other ceremony options be sure to plan ahead and book/bring your own officiant or friend to officiate.

It is super easy in California for someone to become ordained!

Ideas for Having a Full-Day Wedding at the Santa Barbara Courthouse

Get Ready at a Hotel or Rental House Nearby

Santa Barbara has some of the best hotels and unique places to stay. I would recommend some hotels like Hotel Californian or Drift Hotel Santa Barbara. There are of course tons of hotels in Santa Barbara and many of them also offer smaller sites that can host your reception party with your friends and family. 

Or if you’re looking for something a little more honey check out La Palmera Vacay. This little house is a great option especially if you’re planning a courthouse wedding just the two of you or a few family members and friends. 

Some other cities nearby that might be great options are Monetcito or Ojai. For Montecito, I would recommend staying at the Montecito Inn or Rosewood Miramar Beach. 

Consider a First Look

First looks are a great way of getting even more portraits and photos of your day. Since you’re already doing things a little differently don’t be afraid to go against the grain and “tradition” and have a first look. Even if it’s just the two of you first looks can be so fun to finally see the dress or the whole look together. Trust me even if it’s just the two of you there can still be a lot of emotion.

Rent a vintage car for the Day

Renting a vintage car is such a fun way to do something different and obviously get from place to place in Santa Barbara without worrying about parking. Redempta Rentals is local to SB and has a few great options that you can rent for your day. Another site I would also check out is Drive Vinty. That site is basically like Turo but for vintage cars so you can easily look at the cost per hour and if there is a driver included.

Celebrate with Family and Friends at a Local Restaurant

If you’re getting married at the Santa Barbara courthouse there’s a good chance is a small intimate affair. The day doesn’t end once you say I do but enjoy at some delicious restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara or Montecito. Some restaurants that would be a great option for this are The Lark or The Pearl.

If you had a larger wedding there are some great places to hold a larger reception like Mar Monte Hotel or Loquinta. Check out this blog post for even more suggestions! Either way, you can go wrong with a small celebration and just soaking in all the love for the day.

Explore Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara from art and culture to outdoor recreation to delicious world-class food and wine there are endless things to do and explore. So, whether you want to relax on the beach, kayak through the Channel Islands, or hop from winery to brewery you’ll find something that is exactly your speed.

Meet Your Santa Barbara Wedding Photographer

Santa Barbara elopement and wedding photographer

Hi, I’m Torez. I’m a Bay Area native who has a special place in her heart for Santa Barbara which is why I love being a Santa Barbara Wedding Photographer. From the rich history to the beautiful landscapes. It’s a southern California hidden gem. I’d love to show you around some of my favorite spots and capture your memories! I’m an absolute hopeless romantic and I watch all of the rom-com and corny Hallmark movies without any shame. And I cry at every single wedding I go to.

I help all my couples through the planning process. You don’t have to keep track of all your wild ideas. Any time you have an idea, you can pop into your inbox and send me a message. It’s super easy! And I’ll be there to make you laugh, guide you through the whole process, and make things easy and fun. I love to meet couples where they’re at whether that’d be being silly and candid or maybe more serious and posed. Let’s capture you being you and having fun!

Some Other Blogs Post You Might Like

Hi I'm Torez, a die-hard romantic and San Francisco-based wedding photographer with years of experience capturing love stories against the backdrop of our charming city. From intimate City Hall ceremonies to epic coastal elopements, I've seen and photographed it all. I know the ins and outs of navigating wedding planning in San Francisco like the back of my hand - from selecting the perfect location that aligns with your love story, to creating the dreamiest wedding timeline that lets you enjoy your day to the fullest. And guess what? I'm sharing all of that expertise right here with you.

Leave a Reply