Photo Credit: Brandi Crockett
Santa Barbara is a sought-after wedding and elopement destination for good reason. From grand, star-studded affairs on the grounds of iconic resorts to intimate ceremonies in bougainvillea-draped gardens, there’s something inherently romantic about saying “I do” on The American Riviera®. Here, you don’t have to choose between the mountains, sea, and wine country. It’s all right in our backyard, so you can create the perfect blend of experiences to share with your nearest and dearest.
An impressive roster of local experts and service providers can help you make your dream day a reality, whether you opt to leave all the details in the capable hands of a professional planner or prefer to do it all yourself. You won’t have to dig deep to find the perfect fit, from top-rated chefs and florists to glam squads that create effortlessly elegant looks. An incredible pool of talented local photographers will ensure your big day will stand the test of time.
Where to begin? Here’s a rundown of answers to the most frequently asked questions about weddings in Santa Barbara.
Where can I get married in Santa Barbara?
The answer to your “where?” question will depend on your party size, budget, venue availability and preferences for style and setting. Beaches, vineyards, parks, gardens, resorts, ballrooms, historic adobes and courtyards are popular options. Our venue guide offers a comprehensive listing of venues that are open to weddings, with specialized guides on winery weddings, venues with accommodations and more.
Can you get married on the beach in Santa Barbara?
Indeed, you can get married with your toes in the sand! In the city of Santa Barbara, East Beach and Leadbetter Beach are your two options. While they do require permits, it’s an easy process through the City of Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department, which also manages the Cabrillo Pavilion at East Beach, a go-to for wedding receptions. To the south of the city, Butterfly Beach in Montecito is lovely for smaller beach weddings. Given the narrow stretch of sand’s popularity with locals, planners recommend mid-morning and early afternoon weddings here since you can’t reserve space. Summerland Beach is another one that doesn’t require permits—with epic sunset views, it’s ideal for small ceremonies.
How do you get married at the Santa Barbara Courthouse?
The 1929 Santa Barbara County Courthouse is revered as one of the most beautiful public buildings in the country. The historic landmark is a working courthouse, so you can get a marriage license and be married by a County Clerk in the Hall of Records on the same day (weekdays only). If you have a party of 15 or smaller, there are a number of locations on the lawns in front of the Courthouse along Anacapa and Figueroa Streets, where weddings are permitted at no cost—you just won’t be able to reserve these spaces, so a “go with the flow” attitude is needed. For something set in stone and more elaborate, the stunning exterior gardens are available for three-hour event rentals ($1,100). There are some limitations due to the public nature of the venue, and guest size is capped at 250. Learn more about weddings at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.
Can I get married in a vineyard in Santa Barbara?
Absolutely! Santa Barbara County is home to over 200 wineries spread throughout the Santa Ynez, Lompoc, and Santa Maria Valleys, and many vineyards welcome weddings. You can choose from rustic chic ambiance complete with barns and horses in the background, or channel Provençe or Tuscany at wineries with European-inspired grounds. Peruse our full venue guide to Winery Weddings in Santa Barbara County for a well-rounded list of vineyard wedding venues.
What documents do I need to get married in Santa Barbara County?
A California marriage license is required to get married in Santa Barbara County. If you opt to have yours issued locally by the Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder’s office (1100 Anacapa Street) prior to your ceremony, be sure to complete the online application before you arrive. To purchase the license after submitting the application, couples are required to appear together and show government-issued photo IDs. According to the County, requests submitted online will stay active for seven days. Marriage licenses are only issued Monday through Friday and they are valid for 90 days.
Once you have the license, a ceremony is required to make the marriage official. You can opt to be married by a Santa Barbara City Clerk in a civil ceremony outside the County Courthouse Hall of Records under a beautiful archway. Reservations are required, the fee is $104, and you can have up to eight guests, including children and photographers. You can also be legally married in a ceremony performed by a friend or relative if they have been appointed “Deputy Marriage Commissioner for a Day” by the County through a simple online application process ($51). And any other licensed officiant can be hired to perform the ceremony at the venue of your choice.
How can Visit Santa Barbara help me plan my wedding?
Visit Santa Barbara’s knowledgeable sales team can help you secure hotel room blocks for your wedding. We are also happy to provide complimentary visitor guides and maps to help your guests make the most of their time here.
What hotels in Santa Barbara offer hotel room block discounts for wedding guests?
All hotels are equipped to provide room blocks for your wedding guests, and oftentimes you can secure a discount based on the number of rooms required.
How do I book a hotel room block in Santa Barbara?
Many wedding groups select a variety of hotels to offer a range of price points for their guests. Please be aware that it is common practice for hotels to require a deposit or guarantee of the total rooms utilized, and you will be asked to sign a contract to secure the block. While each hotel will have different terms, the Visit Santa Barbara team can help you get started by sourcing your dates through our diverse local hotel network. All you have to do is complete our online RFP form to initiate the complimentary process.
Where should I go for planning tools and resources?
Visit Santa Barbara’s site is purely for informational purposes. When it comes to inspirational articles, practical wedding planning tools, and booking venues and vendors, we recommend Santa Barbara Wedding Style. Our local arts and entertainment weekly newspaper also publish the very helpful and comprehensive Santa Barbara Independent Wedding Resource Guide which gets updated annually.
What else can wedding guests see and do while visiting Santa Barbara?
What can’t they do?! Adventurous types will have their pick of hiking, biking, sailing, surfing, horseback riding and more. Foodies can treat their palates to taco trails, wine tours, craft beer crawls, farmers’ markets, artisanal coffee, fresh-off-the-boat seafood and then some. Arts and cultural experiences abound, and there’s plenty of pampering and wellness on the menu. Did we mention shopping? Check out our guide to Exploring Santa Barbara as a Wedding Guest for a detailed round-up of options that will keep your guests entertained and smiling.
Which Santa Barbara neighborhoods have wedding venues?
Each Santa Barbara neighborhood has a distinctive vibe and venues that embody that spirit:
- The Santa Barbara Waterfront is serene, with palm-lined beaches, grassy expanses, a working harbor and several ocean-view resorts.
- Downtown Santa Barbara offers a buzzy urban atmosphere with attractive cultural landmarks, restaurants, boutique hotels and charming paseos.
- The artsy Funk Zone is filled with urban wineries, surf shops and eateries, and is anchored by a few stylish hotels.
- The Presidio Neighborhood oozes with history, and venues range from open air paseos, cultural landmarks, courtyards galore and one distinctive boutique hotel.
- It doesn’t get more luxurious than Montecito, home to the estates of the rich and famous, plus beaches, polo fields and iconic resorts.
- Goleta is a laid-back blend of surf culture and agriculture, offering a robust network of hotels that run the gamut from budget-friendly and boutique to an expansive waterfront resort.
- Over in Wine Country, expect charming small towns, rustic-chic vibes, elegant wineries, rolling hills and vineyards for miles.