Wedded in the Time of COVID

Getting Hitched Under the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Tent

Karin and David came from Thousand Oaks to get married at the Sunken Gardens. | Credit: Jean Yamamura

Conn Abel was waiting peacefully at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens under a blue tent awning and behind a plastic screen. The next couple with an appointment for the deputy civil clerk commissioner of marriage approached cautiously over the greensward, Karin in heels and a lovely pearl-colored dress, carrying damask roses, David in a mask and a dark suit. They’d come from Thousand Oaks to be married and asked if a passing reporter would mind taking their picture.

The Santa Barbara Independent is providing all coronavirus stories for free
so that all readers have access to critical information during this time.
Get the top stories in your inbox by signing up for our daily newsletter, Indy Today

A much-loved destination for the to-be-betrothed, the courthouse has been seeing 30 weddings a week on the green lawn to the northwest side of the Spanish-Revival extravaganza, said Abel, who’s been marrying people for the past several years. He shares the duties with two other “justices of the peace” and the members of the Clerk-Recorder’s Office.

COVID-19 forced their doors to close on March 17, said Melinda Greene, who is the chief deputy clerk-recorder. Opening it up again is difficult, she said: “It was built a long time ago. Our counters are made of leather, and we have a lot to do to meet the new health regulations.” To compensate, official recording services have taken place by mail or fax, but a wait list was set up for marriages. It’s grown to about 500 requests, Greene said, as people from all over had applied to be married at the historic courthouse.

To make a reservation, email call (805) 568-2251. The clerk asks the engaged to supply the names of both persons, a phone number, email address, and whether or not there’s an urgent priority — “and please be patient.”

At the Santa Barbara Independent, our staff is working around the clock to cover every aspect of this crisis — sorting truth from rumor.  Our reporters and editors are asking the tough questions of our public health officials and spreading the word about how we can all help one another. The community needs us — now more than ever — and we need you  in order to keep doing the important work we do. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.