How to get married at the San Diego courthouse
If your plans allow you to book one of the first or last ceremonies of the day, I always suggest doing that. The light is better early in the morning or later in the afternoon. We can take pictures before or after your ceremony. Note, that sunset in winter is around 5:00 pm.
You can get the license at the office and get married within 90 days at any other location of your choice (park, beach, etc.) if you hire your own officiant or you can register your friend or a family member as an officiant for a day.
Choose an outdoor ceremony if you can. Ceremonies are held in a ceremony room during colder months. Here is list of dates when your outdoor ceremony may be impacted: https://www.sdarcc.gov/content/arcc/home/divisions/recorder-clerk/marriage-license-civil-ceremony/cac-west-arbor-impact.html
I suggest booking your appointments as soon as possible so you can pick the time and date that suits you the best. You can schedule your appointments up to 7 weeks (49 days) in advance.
San Diego has 4 awesome locations for you to choose from: SD Downtown, Santee, Chula Vista, and San Marcos. Scroll down below to find out about each one of them.
If you two have a busy schedule, you can get your marriage license and get married on the same day.
Step 1: Make two appointments (total $236)
Appointments are available every half hour between 8 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Once a month you can get married on Saturday in Santee.
– Marriage License Appointment:
The public marriage license is $129. Confidential marriage license: $144. You’ll need to have with you a legal photo identification of your country.
– Civil Ceremony Appointment:
Current Fee $107. For a public marriage license, you’re required to have at least one witness with you. If it’s just the two of you, I would be honored to be your witness (for free :)!
The county clerk’s office provides a witness for $58.
No witness is required if presenting a confidential marriage license.
You may schedule and pay for an appointment through the online reservation system or in person.
Here is the link where you can do it online. You have to fill out a short form about you and your spouse and choose the time and date:
Video instruction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvw6_X3k12U
Step 2: Time to get married!
Arrive at your scheduled time. All the paperwork usually takes 15-30 minutes on average (on rare occasions you might finish faster or wait longer). Ceremonies are very short (5 minutes) so I recommend savoring every second of this moment! For both appointments, you’ll have to get in line at the County Clerk’s Office, let them know about your reservation and they will give you a number like in the DMV.
You have to wait in a hallway/waiting room for your number to be called on a screen. All offices have a waiting area for your friends and family. You can come in with all of them and hang out together in the waiting room. Once they call your number, you’ll have to go back to the window where you meet an officiant. He/she will give you further instructions.
Once all the paperwork is done, the officiant will take you and your guests to the ceremony spot.
During the ceremony, you’ll be asked to hold each other’s hands and repeat some vows. You can find the text that they use on Google. In the end, you will exchange rings and kiss. That’s all and now you’re a married couple! Super easy! 🙂 The officiant signs your certificate with a witness and will submit it to the office. The certificate will be available in 10 days.
San Diego Downtown: you and your guests can park for free in the underground parking. Here is a pin to the parking garage entrance: https://maps.app.goo.gl/TJgCNtx4LHv73wUf6
Other locations have plenty of free parking.
Where to take photos? (I have a big list of locations that I can recommend)
- The downtown location has the most locations available nearby. We can take pictures inside of the building by the elevators, outside with all the greenery, palm trees, the city view, and by the water. There are a few cool spots in the downtown if you don’t mind walking. The building is also very close to some iconic San Diego locations such as Balboa Park (5 min), Sunset Cliffs (15 min) or La Jolla (20 min).
- Santee: The outside of the building has a cool industrial desert look with some greenery. There’s a pretty location with giant boulders and heels only 5 min away. Mission Trails Park is 7 min away. You’re free to choose any other spots too such as La Jolla or Torrey Pines (25 min) or Balboa Park (27 min).
- Chula Vista has spots outside of the building that can be used for photos and lots of locations nearby such as Balboa Park or Coronado.
- San Marcos also has some spots by the building, a big staircase, and a few other spots nearby such as a park (10 min) and a beach (27 min).
Photography packages: you can choose between 1 hour, 2 hours, and 3 hours packages. More hours could be added.
1 hour is perfect for ceremony photos, photos of guests and the couple by the building (30 min ceremony and candids, 30 min photo shoot). Short and sweet! If you must wait way too long for your appointment, don’t worry, I’ll stay and make sure I get everything you need.
2 hours is great if you want to go somewhere after your ceremony so 30 min for the ceremony, 30 min for group photos and photos by the building, and 1 hour at another location.
3 hours is great for 2 extra locations or maybe your reception? You can add more hours if you want me to capture your reception.
Sneak peeks are ready in 24 hours. The full gallery is ready in 2-3 weeks.