Photo Credit: Kevin Steele, Courtesy of Santa Barbara Sailing Center
Santa Barbara has always been a popular destination for elopements and “micro-weddings.” Couples seeking the perfect place to tie the knot will find an array of attractive venues for intimate ceremonies. Whether it’s just the two of you, or you’re inviting a small number of guests to witness your nuptials, Santa Barbara offers countless picturesque backdrops, exquisite dining options for celebratory feasts, and many memorable places to spend your wedding night.
Read on for a guide to top elopement venues and more tips for planning an elopement in Santa Barbara.
Where to Elope in Santa Barbara
The number one elopement venue in Santa Barbara is the 1929 Santa Barbara County Courthouse. 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 outside of the Hall of Records on the same day (weekdays only). Reservations are required and you can have up to eight guests for the civil ceremony. If you have a party of 15 or smaller, you can also use one of the approved lawn locations in front of the Courthouse where weddings are permitted at no cost.
With 100 miles of stunning coastline, saying “I do” with your toes in the sand is a dream that can easily be made a reality in Santa Barbara. If a more remote beach is your vibe, consider booking a stay at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara and let the staff handle all of the details for a ceremony on the sand just steps from the luxurious resort. For a classic Santa Barbara beach background, the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort helps couples stage elopements and small ceremonies on East Beach, right across the street from the hotel. Summerland Beach and Butterfly Beach are two other idyllic seaside locations for an informal exchange of vows.
Ocean-loving couples can also elope at sea. Private charter companies like Santa Barbara Sailing Center, Sunset Kidd, and Celebration Cruises will take you on a cruise to remember with a variety of vessel sizes and styles to choose from.
Parks are another go-to outdoor environment for scenic elopements imbued with serenity. Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden in downtown Santa Barbara has a lovely koi pond as well as a gazebo. Occupying 230 acres above the Mesa neighborhood, Elings Park offers a variety of locations for elopement ceremonies with ocean views. Chase Palm Park is quintessential Santa Barbara with its palm-lined Cabrillo Boulevard backdrop, and Franceschi Park is perched above the city in the Riviera neighborhood with sweeping views. In Goleta, Stow Grove County Park features a redwood grove dating back to 1876 and Lake Los Carneros is a tranquil ecological preserve teeming with birdlife.
If you want a countryside atmosphere, you’re also in luck. Santa Barbara County is home to over 200 wineries spread throughout the Santa Ynez, Lompoc, and Santa Maria Valleys, as well as along the downtown Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail. Many wineries welcome small weddings and those in wine country are located just a short 45-minute drive from Santa Barbara proper. The style of winery venue options ranges from equestrian chic and European elegance to down-home rustic and sleek and modern. Peruse our guide to Winery Weddings in Santa Barbara County for more information on vineyard wedding venues.
And check out our venue guide for additional inspiration on wedding venues of all types.
How to Elope in Santa Barbara
Once you’ve found the venue type that resonates with you, there are a handful of other details to consider and help get prepared for the big day.
- Get Your Marriage License: First, you’ll need a California marriage license. The Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder’s office is your local option to get the license issued prior to your ceremony. Fill out the online application up to seven days ahead of your visit to the County Clerk-Recorder office, which is open during regular business hours Monday through Friday. There, you’ll provide proof of identification and pay for the license, which will be valid for up to 90 days.
- Make it Official: A wedding ceremony is needed to make the marriage official. You can have a civil ceremony conducted by a Santa Barbara County Clerk at the County Courthouse. 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. And any other licensed officiant can be hired to perform the ceremony at the venue of your choice.
- Hire a Photographer: Santa Barbara is home to a very talented pool of wedding photographers, so it won’t be hard to find a pro who can capture every moment and detail.
- Order Flowers: Add some flower power to your special day with bouquets, boutonnieres, and garlands. Many local florists specialize in a la carte elopement arrangements.
- Book a Glam Squad: Look and feel your best on the big day with the help of a team of beauty pros. Hair and make-up services can be booked through local salons or independent contractors will come directly to you.
- Find Your Honeymoon Suite: One of the best parts about eloping in Santa Barbara is getting to spend your wedding night in one of our iconic resorts or inns and waking up on The American Riviera as newlyweds. Check out our guide to Places to Stay to find your suite spot.