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

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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.


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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 Clk-RecHelpDesk@co.santa-barbara.ca.usor 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.”


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