14 Unique Wedding Venues

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Zoo

Take a walk down the aisle at some of Santa Barbara’s most eclectic wedding venues. From locations uniquely Santa Barbara to out-of-the-box backdrops, expect anything but ordinary as you search for the perfect site for the most meaningful party of your life.

Historic & Architectural Landmarks

Say “I do” at one of Santa Barbara’s most iconic locations, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Photo Credit: Instagram @timelessweddingstories

Santa Barbara’s architecture is a defining feature of the destination and many historic buildings are available for weddings that look straight out of an early California period film—chances are you’ve seen some of them on the silver screen, too. Built in 1929, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse is considered one of the most beautiful public buildings in the country and exemplifies the Spanish Colonial Revival style synonymous with Santa Barbara architecture. A one-stop-shop, the courthouse offers several locations for ceremonies (including the popular sunken gardens and mural room) and marriage licenses can be obtained in the Hall of Records. On a budget? Six locations are available free of charge for weddings with fewer than 15 people.

Old Mission Santa Barbara ties the Courthouse for being the most photographed building in Santa Barbara. The 10th of California’s 21 missions, Old Mission Santa Barbara was built in 1786 by the Spanish and is the only mission to have been continuously occupied by Franciscan friars. Catholic weddings are permitted exclusively in the meticulously maintained church adorned with colonial era art and sculptures. The equally attractive chapel at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park is open to all types of ceremonies. Sparsely furnished in 18th-century style, the whitewashed walls are lined with simple candles and sconces while vibrant tapestries are painted around the charming altar. Many couples hold their ceremony at the Presidio and host their reception at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum across the street. The museum offers two interconnecting courtyards with bubbling fountains for lovely alfresco soirees. Down the street, Casa De La Guerra is another Spanish Colonial gem where the commander of the Presidio once lived. The open courtyard, located just steps from State Street and across from City Hall, is always fiesta ready with twinkling lights surrounded by red tile roofs and adobes.

marachi at wedding in front of El Presidio de Santa Barbara state Park
Traditional Mariachi music filling the air at this Santa Barbara wedding at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. Photo Credit: Instagram fan @magnoliaed by @melissa_musgrove

In Goleta, Rancho La patera & Stow House will transport you and your guests to California in the late 1960s. Managed by the Goleta Valley Historical Society and the City of Goleta, this California ranch provides a unique wedding-day backdrop as you get a glimpse into California’s past through its preservation for future generations. Say “I do” under the redwood trees, next to Lake Los Carneros, or on the property’s gorgeous gardens. 

Added Value

Post nuptials, surprise your guests with an additional element of fun. Set among 30 acres of lush gardens with oceanfront views, plan a wedding on the wild side that’s complete with animal encounters at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Given its alfresco setting with plenty of room to roam, the Hilltop reception site can accommodate parties up to 2,500. At MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Science + Innovation, once the “I dos” are exchanged on the rooftop Sky Garden, guests of all ages will get exclusive access to wander freely through three floors of fun and games. 

Who says weddings can’t be all fun and games? Photo Credit: James + Jess Photography, courtesy of MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

An Artistic Flare

For a whimsical affair, look no further than El Zapato. Brought to life by local architect Jeff Shelton, this downtown rental has a personality all its own, which is often described as Dr. Seuss meets Gaudí. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Narrative Loft is a raw urban loft space in downtown Santa Barbara that can be transformed into the atmosphere of your choosing. Consider it your blank canvas for creating the wedding you always dreamed of. 

Eclectic & Unexpected

Santa Barbara does rustic ranches and country western style, too. Circle Bar B Guest Ranch & Stables can throw down for 130 wedding revelers with onsite guest rooms and cabins that can sleep up to 68 people. Eco-chic is the specialty at El Capitan Canyon, with its glamping-style cabins, yurts and tents as well as neighboring campsites. Last but not least, if equestrian decor is what you’re after, the Santa Barbara Carriage Museum is the only location in town with historic horse-drawn vehicles, saddles, and western memorabilia on display. 

western decor at the Santa Barbara Carriage Museum

We’ve really just skimmed the cream of the crop of what’s possible for your wedding in The American Riviera®. Learn more about Santa Barbara wedding venues and service providers here.