bride and groom walk and hold hands at outdoor garden wedding venue in Santa Barbara
Chelsea Elizabeth Photography

If you’re planning a Santa Barbara wedding, you honestly couldn’t ask for a more perfect location for your big day. With both ocean and mountain views, not to mention an average of 300 sunny days per year, Santa Barbara is truly a storybook backdrop for any couple dreaming of a romantic and carefree wedding in Southern California.

Here’s everything you need to know before planning your Santa Barbara wedding.

The Basics

Nicknamed “The American Riviera” because of its uncanny similarities to Italy and the South of France, Santa Barbara is known for its superb weather, laid-back culture, lush wine country, and beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture. Did we mention that there’s also a beach? This irresistible Southern California town pretty much has it all, which might be why celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Degeneres, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Drew Barrymore (to name a few) have all made Santa Barbara their home at one point or another.

Santa Barbara has also been the backdrop for several celebrity weddings, including Jessica Simpson’s nuptials at San Ysidro Ranch. But even if you’re not a member of Hollywood’s elite, Santa Barbara is a magical place to get hitched. Whether you’re a California native or an out-of-towner considering this coastal town for a destination wedding, Santa Barbara offers plenty of perks, including endless venue options, award-winning vendors, and downtime activities to appease you and your guests.

While you’re planning your Santa Barbara wedding, make note of any events or festivals that are scheduled around the same time as your date. This will help you plan ahead for increased traffic, larger crowds, etc. The Rincon Classic is Santa Barbara’s oldest surfing competition — this locals-only event takes place in late winter/early spring each year. In May, the Amgen Tour of California rolls through the heart of Santa Barbara for a Tour de France-style bike race. During Memorial Day Weekend, the plaza of the Old Mission Santa Barbara is transformed into an artist’s paradise for the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival. In December, the annual Parade of Lights draws crowds to the Santa Barbara Harbor and Stearns Wharf.

Getting There and Around

Santa Barbara is easily accessible by plane, car, and even train. The Santa Barbara Airport (SBA) is located in Goleta about 10 miles north of downtown, while LAX is a 90-minute drive away. For a more leisurely (and incredibly scenic) journey, the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner travels along the coast between San Luis Obispo and San Diego, with a stop right in the heart of Santa Barbara.

Once you’re in Santa Barbara, it’s unlikely that you’ll need a car unless you plan to travel outside the city. Most of the attractions throughout downtown Santa Barbara are easily walkable, with boutique shops, cafés, art galleries, and more all accessible by foot. Bikes are another popular mode of transport, along with the public bus system, open-air trolley, pedicabs, water taxis, and Uber/Lyft services.

bride and groom smiling while walking down the aisle at beach wedding ceremony in Santa Barbara
Emily Magers Photography

Weather

Like much of Southern California, Santa Barbara’s climate is comparable to a Mediterranean region with abundant sunshine, mild winters and not-too-hot summers. In July, average temperatures reach an enjoyable 75 degrees, while average temperatures in December and January only drop to around 65 degrees.

Rainfall is most common during the winter and averages around 20 inches per year — significantly less than other parts of the country. The lack of rain and humidity, however, increases the chance for droughts and wildfires in the mountains surrounding Santa Barbara, especially during the fall months when the Santa Ana winds arrive. If you’re getting married in California during the winter, keep in mind that a bad wildfire season can lead to mudslides when combined with rainfall during the colder months.

Wedding Venues

  • Ocean View

No beach? No problem! There are plenty of non-beach venue options in Santa Barbara with a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Santa Barbara wedding venues with an ocean view »

  • Beach

If you’re dreaming of a SoCal beach wedding, these Santa Barbara venues won’t disappoint.

The best Santa Barbara beach wedding venues »

  • Estates

These mansions and private estates offer a quiet and inviting setting for your big day.

Santa Barbara estates that double as wedding venues »

  • Outdoor

From rustic ranches to Tuscan-inspired villas, Santa Barbara has dreamy outdoor wedding venues for every style.

The prettiest Santa Barbara outdoor wedding venues »

  • Vineyard & Winery

Use the natural beauty of Santa Barbara’s wine country to your advantage by getting married at a scenic vineyard.

Stunning Santa Barbara vineyard and winery venues »

  • Affordable

Santa Barbara may be home to big-name celebrities, but it’s totally possible to get married here on a budget.

Affordable wedding venues in Santa Barbara »

bride and groom pose in front of old mission church in Santa Barbara
Michael Stephens Photography

Marriage Requirements

To obtain a marriage license in California, both parties must be at least 18 years old without parental consent; however, you don’t need to be a state resident. The license, which requires at least one witness signature, is issued the same day you apply and expires after 90 days. Both parties must present a valid form of ID, such as a driver’s license, military ID, passport, or green card.

Things to Do in Santa Barbara

  • Outdoor Activities

Santa Barbara’s near-perfect weather means that being outside is essentially a must while you’re in town. Adrenaline lovers will enjoy all the opportunities for high-energy water activities, like surfing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and sailing. Those who prefer a slower pace can choose from golfing, tennis, biking, fishing, and even whale watching.

  • Live Entertainment

From Broadway-caliber shows at the Granada Theater to a rock concert at the iconic Santa Barbara Bowl, there’s no shortage of live entertainment in this coastal town.

  • Museums

Explore Santa Barbara’s past at one of the many museums and historical centers throughout the area. Whether it’s paintings at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, flowers at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, or marine life exhibits at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, this city has something for everyone.

  • Shopping

It wouldn’t be a visit to California without a bit of shopping! While Los Angeles is known for high-end designer stores and Hollywood flair, Santa Barbara is touted for its charming boutiques and independent retailers, ideal for those who love to “shop small”. Head to State Street for a mix of boutique shops and name-brand stores in a picturesque outdoor mall setting (think ivy-covered walls and brick walkways).

  • Beaches

While you’re in town for your Santa Barbara wedding, catch some rays or watch a gorgeous sunset at one of the many beaches. Choose from family-friendly beaches like East Beach, right next to Stearns Wharf, or head to Santa Barbara’s swanky Montecito neighborhood where you’ll find Butterfly Beach.