How to Get Married at Santa Barbara Courthouse

As a local photographer that shoots at the Courthouse frequently, here are some tips and advice on tying the knot at this historic landmark. First off, this is a great option for those seeking either a smaller wedding or elopement in Southern California, but can host large weddings as well. It’s a simple process (as easy as making an appointment online here), showing up and within 1 hour of your appointment time- it’s official! No big production, no stress- just you and your partner in one of the most iconic beach towns on the west coast. Furthermore, Santa Barbara is great for fine-dining, wineries, hotels, and shopping- making it a great destination hot-spot to wed.

Four Options on how to get married at Santa Barbara Courthouse

Civil Ceremony

Civil ceremonies are performed in a public area of the courthouse outside, officiated by a Deputy Commissioner of civil marriages. There is a guest limit of 8 guests and can be scheduled on weekdays (not available on weekends).

In order for the ceremony to be performed, you must obtain a marriage license beforehand. Book your appointment here for “Marriage License and Ceremony. If you have already obtained a marriage license within 90 days in CA, you can book your appointment here for “Ceremony Only.”

For civil ceremonies, report to Hall of Records located on the corner of Anapamu St. and Anacapa St. You will need both parties to be present, along with 1 witness. Make sure you have a government-issued form of ID (including your witness) and form of payment to cover cost of marriage license and ceremony. Aside from your witness, additional guests must wait outside of the Hall of Records during the marriage signing. Marriage signing takes about 15 minutes, followed by the 10 minute ceremony that will take place outside.

TIP: Your photographer can sign as a witness if it will be just you two eloping! I have signed countless marriage licenses by this point, so don’t be afraid to ask them.

Private Ceremony

Private ceremonies allow you to choose your location within the courthouse, such as the Mural Room or Sunken Gardens. You’re can bring up to 15 guests, have your own officiant and choose a weekend date. You must obtain a marriage license ahead of time. See more info here!

Exterior Gardens Ceremony

An Exterior Gardens ceremony can accommodate anywhere between 100-250 guests. These spaces include The Sunken Garden, Palm Terrace, Fiesta Stage, Bird of Paradise, and Rotunda Lawn. The fee to reserve is $1200 for a 3 hour window.

Note: You must provide your own seating. The courthouse does not supply chairs for an exterior gardens ceremony.

Mural Room Ceremony

A Mural Room ceremony can accommodate anywhere between 15-100 guests. The fee is $700 for a 2 hour window and is the only indoor option for a ceremony at the courthouse.

Best Time of Year to Wed at the Courthouse

Although California has great weather year-round, I recommend tying the knot between the months of April-October. There is less chance of rain and flowers around courthouse are in bloom. In regards to appointment time and photography, early morning or late afternoon provides best lighting of the day.


I always park in City Lot#7 located on Anacapa St. It’s free for the 1st 75 minutes, then $3 per additional hour.


Photography is allowed on property whether you have an appointment or not! You can shoot outside in/around the Sunken Gardens, as well as inside the courthouse- such as on their staircases and tower. Use of the surrounding streets make for great photo ops as well!

My most recent couple tying the knot at Santa Barbara Courthouse

Local Recommendations


Ritz-Carlton Bacara– the cream of crop! If you’re wanting luxury at its finest, don’t hesitate to book a hotel stay here! Great for those couples that want peace and relaxation slightly away from the hustle of Santa Barbara nightlife.

Hotel Californian– Trendy and modern, this hotel is located in the center of Funk Zone. Close to breweries, wine bars, restaurants, shopping and more!

PaliHouse– This is a great boutique hotel with so much charm! Located only 2 blocks from the courthouse and 3 blocks from State St. (the “Main St.” of Santa Barbara).


Loquita– A Santa Barbara favorite! This is an authentic Spanish restaurant, great for its tapas and seasonal paella! There is also a super cute bar inside great for pictures!

The Lark– This is yummy dinner spot located in the center of the Funk Zone! Great ambience and killer craft cocktails!


Rare Society– This is one of my favorite spots in the Funk Zone to visit for a celebratory drink post wedding. Great drinks and super photogenic bar for pictures!

Pali- House- A great wine bar that offers a wide selection of central coast wines and locally-sourced dishes. I’m a huge fan of their outdoor patio and wine tastings.

Check out another Santa Barbara Courthouse elopement of mine here!

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