If there’s one thing we love, it’s an intimate, down-to-earth wedding with good people in a beautiful setting. Samantha and Erik embraced the charm of simplicity for their big day in Santa Barbara. Choosing to get married at the iconic Santa Barbara County Courthouse, they aimed for a simple day, focusing on being with loved ones and celebrating their partnership.

The Venue: Santa Barbara Courthouse

Built in 1929, the Santa Barbara Courthouse is a beloved city landmark featuring Spanish-Moorish architecture, including detailed tile work, woodwork, wrought iron fixtures, and beamed ceilings, all surrounded by lush gardens. The commanding clock tower is a favorite destination, providing panoramic views of the ocean, cityscape, and mountains. Needless to say, it’s a prime pick for couples planning a South Coast wedding (Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker famously got married here!) 

Ceremony Options at the Santa Barbara Courthouse 

Option 1: Civil Ceremony Performed by a Deputy Marriage Commissioner

At the Santa Barbara Courthouse, choose between two ceremony options. The first, a civil ceremony by a Deputy Marriage Commissioner, takes place during business hours, Monday-Friday, by appointment. You can have up to 8 guests, including your photographer. Appointments are $23 and can be booked up to 90 days in advance.

Couples can opt for a 30-minute ceremony-only appointment or a 60-minute appointment covering both the license purchase and ceremony. The ceremony spot is outside the Hall of Records archway, framed by palm trees, overlooking the Sunken Gardens.

TOTAL COST: $231 (includes reservation fee, marriage license & ceremony fee)

Option 2: Private Ceremony Performed by An Officiant of Your Choice

The second option is a private ceremony by an officiant of your choice. For intimate weddings under 15 guests, there are 8 free designated lawn areas available. These spots are first-come, first-served, so send a scout early to secure the best spot. Opt for weekdays or elope Monday-Thursday to avoid weekend crowds!

For larger weddings, reserve the Mural Room (15-100 guests) or the Exterior Gardens (up to 250 guests) for an additional fee. Provide your officiant and apply for a marriage license within 90 days of your wedding. You do NOT need to be a resident of California to obtain a marriage license and can apply at any at any County Clerk’s office in the state. 


  • Mural Room: $600
  • Exterior Gardens: $1200 (includes all outdoor spaces)
Bride and groom walking outside the Santa Barbara Courthouse.
Santa Barbara Courthouse intimate wedding bride and groom fine art portrait.

Sam & Erik’s Private Garden Ceremony  

I arrived early to scout the best site for Samantha and Erik’s private ceremony, opting for a spot under a large tree with beautiful streaming light. Good lighting is crucial for photos, particularly on grass or near trees, as it affects the appearance of skin tone. So, picking the right location for the ceremony was really important!

Upon arriving at the venue, Samantha was accompanied down the aisle by her brother. Since the couple had opted not to do a first look before the ceremony, their initial glimpse of each other was very special and heartfelt. The ceremony, officiated by Samantha’s aunt, was beautiful and understated. Afterward, we captured photos around the Courthouse before heading down to the beach for more pictures.

Santa Barbara Courthouse private garden wedding ceremony.

Photos on the Beach 

Sam couldn’t wait to have photos taken on the beach, and it turned out to be one of the highlights! The family photo session by the shore was both chaotic and wonderful. Everyone kicked off their shoes, and we had a great time. One standout moment was when Sam tossed the bouquet to the only single person in the group (her cousin!) As if scripted from a movie, three teenage girls on a moped scooter zoomed by and cheered when she caught it.

Bride and groom walking to the beach after their intimate Santa Barbara Courthouse wedding.
Bride and groom wearing sunglasses on the beach in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara bride and groom beach photo with sunglasses.

Dinner at Zaytoon’s in downtown Santa Barbara

For the post-ceremony celebration, the couple secured multiple tables at Zaytoon’s in downtown Santa Barbara. Even though the restaurant had other guests and wasn’t completely reserved, the vibe was really nice and intimate. The cozy setup made the evening feel personal, Sam’s brother Ben even gave a speech. With good food, great company, Zaytoon’s was the perfect spot to keep the celebration going for Samantha and Erik. Cake cutting and downtown sunset photos ended the evening on a high note. 

Santa Barbara street sign.
Wedding guest signing a polaroid guest book.

Planning a Santa Barbara Courthouse wedding? Get in touch!

Bride’s Dress: Antonio Gual || Bride’s Shoes: Christian Louboutin ||
Hair: Santa Barbara Bridal || Makeup: 805 Makeup || Florals: Forriver Floral || Cake: Alessia Bakery || Gifts: Mama Meeks Cookies
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