The Journal

How to get married at Santa Barbara Courthouse

Quick reference of your options:

  • In-person civil ceremonies performed by a county clerk require an appointment. Make an appointment here.

  • A private ceremony with fewer than 15 guests is permitted; you must provide your own officiant and select one of the locations under “Step 2” below.

Wondering how to get married at the Santa Barbara Courthouse? Look no further! We have all the details you need to make it official at one of the most beautiful city hall locations in California.

A small wedding at the Santa Barbara Courthouse is a great way to get married the same day you obtain a marriage license; it’s also an excellent choice if you’re looking for an easy, unfussy way to tie the knot (even if you’re planning to host a fun reception for family and friends later on).

How to get married at the Santa Barbara Courthouse

A wedding at city hall is still a big deal! In fact, the intimate ceremony setting is a beautiful opportunity for candid, emotional photos with just the two of you (or your very small guest list) and some gorgeous portraits around the courthouse grounds.


Step 1: Understanding your options

The Santa Barbara Courthouse is now scheduling appointments for in-person civil ceremonies (during which you obtain your marriage license AND have your ceremony during the same appointment). You can reserve your appointment online. This is also an option if you have already obtained a marriage license anywhere in the state of California within the last 90 days.

Courthouse elopement


Step 2: Decide whether you want a civil ceremony or a private ceremony.

You have two options for getting married at the Santa Barbara Courthouse; the big differences are whether you want a weekday or weekend, how many guests you’d like to invite, who performs the ceremony, and the location of the ceremony itself:

  1. Civil ceremony // For a civil ceremony, the typical option is a 60-minute appointment, during which you get your marriage license and have the ceremony performed immediately thereafter. Alternately, if you’ve already applied your marriage license less than 90 days before your desired ceremony date, you can make a 30-minute appointment for just the ceremony to be performed. The ceremony is performed by a Deputy Marriage Commissioner (provided by the County Clerk-Recorder’s Office). The non-refundable appointment reservation fee is $23.

    For the civil ceremony, you are now permitted to have up to eight (8) people, including your photographer; see the county website for additional guidance on what is (and is not) permitted for civil ceremonies.

  2. Private ceremony with fewer than 15 guests // A private ceremony gives you a little more flexibility in terms of who will officiate the ceremony (you can choose your own officiant instead of having a Deputy Marriage Commissioner). You’ll need to obtain your marriage license ahead of time, but you can invite up to 15 guests, AND you’re able to pick a weekend date (weekends are not available for civil ceremonies).

    If you opt for a private ceremony, you’ll also need to secure your own officiant. We love working with Nanette McIntyre, Jon Ireland, Barbara Rose Sherman, and Patrice Handley!

    NOTE: You don’t have to obtain your license in the same county where you’ll be married; you can make an appointment at any County Clerk’s office in California.

    Ceremonies with fewer than 15 guests can get hitched at your choice of eight (8) exterior locations at the Courthouse, but these locations can’t be reserved (they are designated as A-H on the map below and are “first come, first served”).

    Larger ceremonies require reservations at the five (5) outdoor lawn spaces or the Mural Room.

Santa Barbara Courthouse wedding map

Step 3: What do I need to bring to get married at the Santa Barbara Courthouse?

This is information for a civil ceremony, or if you’re applying for your marriage license ahead of your private ceremony. Here’s what you need to bring with you:

  1. A valid state-issued form of ID (driver’s license or passport)

  2. Form of payment to cover the cost of the license and ceremony (and any additional location options you choose). Here is the basic fee info:
    – Ceremony appointment reservation: $23 (you’ll pay this in advance when you make the appointment)
    – Marriage license: $100
    – Confidential license: $111
    – Ceremony fee: $104

  3. Witness (this person also needs to bring their ID; no witness needed if you’re doing a confidential license)

  4. Rings (if you plan on exchanging them during the ceremony)

  5. Vows (optional!). The Deputy Marriage Commissioner is not required to let you read your own vows during the ceremony, but it doesn’t hurt to ask (some will allow it)! You can always read them to each other privately afterwards if it’s not permitted during the ceremony itself.


Step 4: What happens on the day of my appointment at the Santa Barbara Courthouse?

Parking is available on the streets around the Courthouse or in City Lot #7, which is the structure at 1115 Anacapa Street. Street parking is a limit of 75 minutes; in City Lot #7, the first 75 minutes in the city lot are free, and then it’s $2.50 per hour.

Once you’ve parked, check in at the Hall of Records on the corner of Anacapa and Anapamu Streets.

Santa Barbara Courthouse elopement photographer


Step 5: What else do I need to do to prepare?

These are all optional preparations to make your wedding day a little more special! For brides, a white dress (or jumpsuit, like Julia wore!) is always appropriate. We also recommend getting flowers! Fleur de Rye or Ella + Louie are our top suggestions for getting a bouquet and/or boutonniere for the ceremony (and photos afterwards).

Speaking of photos, that’s our other top recommendation for how to prep for your Hall of Records appointment: book a photographer! Even if you’re trying to keep everything low-key, which we suspect is the case since you’re going the courthouse route, it’s still a very special occasion and it should be commemorated with some beautiful photos of both the ceremony and the two of you together (and any family and friend photos with your guests!).

Sources //
County of Santa Barbara Clerk-Recorder
Santa Barbara Parks Division


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