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Classy California Courthouse Wedding

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courthouse wedding venue

Creative elegance perfectly sums up today’s budget-savvy wedding! Amanda and Charles chose a beautiful courthouse setting for their ceremony, then hosted a lovely reception at a restaurant. They did a wonderful job of relying on the beauty their venues and keeping decor to a minimum. And, I positively love some of the gorgeous photos their photographer captured; they are stunning! Enjoy today’s classy California courthouse wedding! xoxo, Jessica

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Amanda + Charles

September 13, 2014

Santa Barbara, CA | Santa Barbara Courthouse

What was your budget? 

We didn’t set an exact budget but essentially we knew we wanted to keep the overall cost as low as possible. We decided on a budget of $20,000 including our honeymoon.

At the end of the day we spent the following on our wedding weekend:

  • $200 for the invitations we developed and ordered from Mint.com including the postage to mail them.
  • $250 for the venue (which included everything we needed except we brought portable speakers for music and a chuppah for the ceremony)
  • $200 for a custom made chuppah (wedding canopy which we got married under)
  • $800 for the Rabbi who officiated the wedding
  • $1,000 for both wedding dresses I wore (we had a few hour break between our wedding and dinner reception so I had the opportunity to change) as well as shoes and accessories
  • $500 for a custom made suit for my husband
  • $1,000 for both rings (we got custom made bands from a small jeweler in Santa Monica)
  • $6,000 for dinner which included a full bar until 11pm (we were charged by the drink) as well as the venue which was a gorgeous private room in The Lark restaurant
  • $500 for our reception BBQ (food and drinks) which we hosted in the backyard of the Airbnb we rented and invited all 40 guests
  • $500 for our Airbnb (we asked permission to have a BBQ the evening before our wedding and they graciously agreed)
  • $50 for custom made Koozies found on Etsy
  • $50 for flowers (the day before I bought a ton of flowers that were in season at the market and put them individually in glass jars we had brought from home and used twine to make my bouquet as well as my flower girl’s bouquet
  • $150 for myself and my two best friends to get our hair done the morning of my wedding at a local salon
  • $0 for makeup- I went to Sephora and found an amazing makeup artist who walked me through how to wear event makeup and I was able to utilize a lot of the makeup I had or continue to wear everyday
  • $1,500 for our photographer- which I would highly recommend. We almost decided to not have a photographer but the photos are the best part and we have so many great memories to look back on
  • $0 for music- the restaurant had a built in sound system and we were able to connect a computer and play a Spotify playlist. We “crowdsourced” the songs from our friends and had two playlists one for dinner and one for dancing. This was free and the best part because we didn’t have any annoying songs like YMCA and almost every song brought up a memory for at least one person there, it definitely created a more inclusive space for people to let loose and bond with old friends and make new ones

Total for the weekend: $12,700

After our savings we were able to book a 10 day trip to Cambodia and spent 4 days at Song Saa Island (we got a great deal during rainy season- although it didn’t rain once) and the rest of the trip in Siem Reap visiting temples and exploring Cambodian culture and cuisine. Our honeymoon cost about $6,500 including flights and everything so we fell within our budget.

How many guests did you have?

We had 40 guests.

What creative or personal aspects did you include in your wedding?

Both our wedding and reception venues were already decorated so we didn’t need to bring in a lot but we wanted to create fun table runners as well as little details to include everyone who was able to join us for our weekend. We found old frames in our house and borrowed some so that we could have photos of all of our family and friends on the sideboards at the restaurant which was a lot of fun for everyone to look at and remember fond memories. We tied the look together with large A&C letters I had found at a second hand shop and still have in our house.

We bought custom made Koozies from Etsy for the reception BBQ we hosted on Friday night and brought the left over ones to the wedding to use at the bar. The BBQ was a great way to include everyone and gave all of our different groups of friends and family the opportunity to meet, which made the wedding feel like a big celebration amongst friends.

We also found a fun idea from Pinterest where we set out a glass jar along with pieces of paper and pens out for guests to write tips or funny anecdotes during the evening and put them in the jar. Every year on our anniversary we plan to read a few and this way we can share the memories for years to come.

What was the biggest thing you did to save money?

Our venue choice saved us the most amount of money. Most locations throughout California quoted us for $5,000-14,000 and many times that didn’t include things like bathrooms or electricity! Many venues wanted us to rent a generator on top of the initial base fee or only use their vendors/caterers. Once I realized that any state owned and operated areas- parks, courthouses, old buildings- are generally more affordable I was able to find some really great options. The Santa Barbara Courthouse is a historic building that has a Mural Room which is gorgeous and available to rent three times a day for occasions such as weddings- it was perfect for a group of 40 but would fit up to 150 people, which would be a perfect option for larger parties who are trying to save some money on venue costs.

What’s the best advice you have for planning your wedding now that you’re on the other side?

Remember that this is your day and don’t feel like you need to include something because it is a wedding or because someone else wants it. We decided to not have a lot of typical wedding things such as a cake (neither of us like cake and the dinner included fantastic deserts), an MC (I really hate the forced fun feeling I have had at weddings with MCs- if you have a large party get a friend who is outgoing to grab the mike and call everyone together), or professional florists (for me, I love flowers but I don’t really like the opulent look of overdone professional arrangements which was great because they are incredibly expensive).

My last piece of advice is invite who you want, not who your family or friends want- unless of course they are helping to pay for your festivities. We kept it small and only invited people who truly wanted to celebrate our love and it created a loving, compassionate weekend filled with amazing people.

What was your biggest splurge?

Definitely the dinner including drinks, we really wanted amazing food and drinks that we would enjoy eating rather than a buffet with bland chicken, beef, and fish. The Lark is an incredible restaurant and has an amazing team who went above and beyond to ensure everything went smoothly. Our menu was family style and everyone mentioned how amazing the food was and how stuffed they were. We were both really happy that we held out and didn’t settle for a typical wedding caterer but found what worked for us.

What was your favorite detail?

The photos were a great touch because it brought up so many fun memories with old friends and family. It also provided an opportunity to show our friends and family how much they mean to us and how thankful we are for them in our lives.

What is the most memorable moment of your day?

The first time my husband saw me in my wedding dress. He broke down in tears which stunned me because I am the crier between the two of us but just watching him throughout the weekend and the feeling of love that I felt from him (and still do) as well as from our family and friends is something I will never forget.


Photography: Casey Brodley • Ceremony Venue: Santa Barbara Courthouse • Reception Venue + Catering: The Lark • Bride’s Dress: dreamersandlovers.com via Etsy • Bride’s Evening Dress: BCBG • Bride’s Shoes: Steve Madden • Bride’s Necklace and Evening Shoes: Aldo • Bride’s Flower Crown:  Noon on the Moon • Hair: The Carlyle • Stationery: Minted • Rabbi: Rabbi Michael Mayersohn • Chuppah: Arbor Exchange • Koozies: Rook Design Co • Invitations: Minted • Honeymoon Resort- Song Saa Private Island


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