How to Get Married in San Diego: A Complete Guide

Planning a wedding in San Diego? This guide covers everything you should know.

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Photo by Zola

Dreaming of tying the knot in San Diego? Affectionately known as “America’s Finest City”, this coastal sweet spot is known for it’s beautiful beach fronts, foodie-approved restaurants and year round sunshine.

Whether you’re envisioning a large black-tie event or an intimate outdoor celebration, nailing down all the logistics will help bring your San Diego wedding vision to life. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you should know about getting married in San Diego, from marriage license requirements and vendor options to the best photography spots for your special day.

Use our jump-to links below to navigate this guide:

Where to Get Married in San Diego

San Diego is a popular wedding destination for many reasons, and the city is home to some stellar locations to host your wedding. From beachfront properties and tranquil gardens to iconic museums and historic locations, there’s no shortage of versatile venue options to suit any type of wedding.

Here are some popular San Diego wedding venues to consider:

  • Museums and galleries: If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind ceremony in a distinctive setting, San Diego won’t disappoint. Home to an array of distinguished museums and galleries, you can say “I do” surrounded by unique architecture or grandiose works of art.
  • Waterfront venues: With more than 68 miles of beaches stretching across the city, San Diego is the perfect place to host a memorable wedding on the coast. Choose from plenty of resorts, beachfront and waterfront venues where you can make the most of the sand and sea.
  • Rooftops and terraces: San Diego is known for its stunning views and sunsets, and you’ll find plenty of rooftop venue options to bring the city’s natural beauty to your wedding. With gorgeous views of the downtown skyline or the whimsical romance of boats docked in the San Diego bay, these views won’t disappoint.
  • Hotels and resorts: From seaside resorts to elegant hotels, you won’t have trouble finding a hotel wedding venue in San Diego that suits your unique tastes. Whether you want something away from the downtown hub or a resort with a seaside view, San Diego boasts plenty of luxurious venues.
  • Garden wedding sites: Captivate your wedding guests with gorgeous landscapes, blooming florals, and meandering paths in one of San Diego’s many garden wedding venues. You’ll find plenty of venues situated among natural springs, lush greenery and picturesque fountains.

San Diego City Hall Wedding

If you and your partner are looking to get married right away, you can hold your ceremony at San Diego’s City Hall. To get started, you’ll need to submit an application in person or by mail and pay a fee of $88. Ceremonies can be performed Monday through Friday during business hours, or on Saturday between 9:00am-2:30pm. Keep in mind that no guests or children are permitted to attend.

Due to COVID-19, face mask coverings are required as of 5/1/2020.

How to Obtain a San Diego Wedding License

In order to get legally married in San Diego, you have to obtain a wedding license before your wedding ceremony. The process is simple:

Once you obtain your marriage license, your ceremony must take place within 90 days of the license issuance. After the ceremony, the license must be signed by your officiant and returned to the office (preferably by mail.) Keep in mind that you will not receive a copy of your marriage certificate unless you request and pay for a certified copy, which can be purchased 10 days after you receive your marriage license.

Do I Need a San Diego Marriage License?

Yes. To get legally married in San Diego or any other city in California, a California marriage license is required.

Where to Get Your Marriage License

Marriage licenses are obtained through the San Diego County Clerk. You can apply for a marriage license online or fill out a physical form to bring to your appointment. To purchase your license, both parties must be present.

Can I Get Married the Same Day in San Diego?

In California, couples can have their wedding ceremony the same day they obtain their marriage license, but only if a ceremony appointment was previously scheduled.

San Diego Wedding Trends

San Diego is rich with energy and vibrance, and the same is true for the weddings that are held there. Planning a San Diego wedding gives you access to countless dreamy backdrops, picture-perfect weather, and plenty of creative artists and vendors who can help bring your dream day to life. With this in mind, bold colors and whimsical outdoor weddings are two of many popular wedding trends to consider.

Whether you’re looking for an industrial-chic city vibe or a lush coastal backdrop for a beachside ceremony, you won’t have a problem making your wedding day vision a reality in America’s Finest City.

Average Cost of a Wedding in San Diego

The average cost of a wedding in San Diego is $30,118, which is well above the national average of $19,000. Busy metropolitan areas are known to have steeper prices, particularly when it comes to venues.

Other factors that impact average wedding costs are guest list size, location, season and style. View the chart below for a helpful breakdown of costs by vendor:

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If you think a San Diego wedding might cost more than you budgeted for, you might consider hosting a smaller, more intimate ceremony to cut down on costs. For more tips, check out our guide on how to plan a wedding on a budget.

Best Times of Year for Weddings in San Diego

Seasons are an important factor in wedding planning, impacting everything from your venue choice to the look and feel of your wedding. Here are some considerations when choosing a wedding month in San Diego.

Fall: September, October, November

For a fall San Diego wedding, expect gorgeous weather and clear skies. In September, temperatures usually hover in the low to mid-70s. By October and November, these highs drop gradually to the mid and low 70s. While weather stays relatively warm in the fall, you don’t have to worry about beating the heat thanks to the city’s coastal location.

Spring: March, April, May

Spring weather in San Diego is mild, with temperatures averaging in the mid-60s. May is known as “May Gray”, so you won’t see the sun shining all day everyday throughout the month. That said, April marks the beginning of Spring in San Diego, where temperatures start to creep up ever so slightly. This time of year is excellent for enjoying the city’s nature, when you can see the flowers begin to bloom.

Summer: June, July, August

San Diego’s warmest season begins in July and lasts around three months, with temperatures hovering in the mid to high 70s. While summer is one of the most popular months to visit San Diego thanks to the warm weather, you might consider avoiding June if you’re counting on clear skies—June in San Diego is known as “June Gloom”, when you can expect overcast skies for a good part of the month.

Winter: December, January, February

Winter in San Diego promises still-sunny days and crisp, chilly nights. Even in the coldest months of December, January and February, the average winter temperature sits at a mild 65℉. These average high temperatures remain through February, while the average lows rise slightly to around 51℉. Keep in mind that February is the wettest month of the year and usually sees the least amount of sunshine, so it might not be the best month for an outdoor wedding.

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Busiest Weeks in San Diego

  • Restaurant Week: January and September
  • Whale Watching Season: January
  • President’s Day: February
  • San Diego Museum Month: February
  • St. Patrick’s Day Parade: March
  • Mission Federal ArtWalk: April
  • Carlsbad Flower Fields Opening Day: April
  • Memorial Day: May
  • San Diego Pride: July
  • Comic-Con: July
  • Kids Eat Free Month: October
  • San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival: November
  • San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: December

San Diego Weddings and COVID-19

San Diego has made significant progress in the number of vaccinated individuals, but recent upticks in COVID-19 cases have resulted in updated health orders. As of June 11, 2021, all individuals are required to abide by the California-issued Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings, which requires unvaccinated individuals to wear a mask in all indoor public settings.

Masks are required for all individuals in the following indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status:

  • On public transit (planes, trains, subways, etc.)
  • Indoors in K-12 schools and childcare centers
  • Healthcare settings

Masks are required for unvaccinated individuals in the following indoor settings:

  • Retail locations
  • Restaurants
  • Theaters
  • State and local government offices

For more information, visit the official City of San Diego website.

Real San Diego Weddings

Check out some of these photos of real San Diego weddings, where you can filter to find inspiration by season, trending styles and location! Below are a few of our favorites.

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For even more real wedding inspiration, head over to Zola’s Real Weddings gallery.

Best Spots for Wedding Photos in San Diego

Finding the right spot for your wedding photos can be a tough choice—with countless stunning locations in San Diego, there’s truly something for everyone. From sunny coastlines and boat-filled marinas to urban architecture or lush, rustic trails, the variety of gorgeous settings found in San Diego is tough to beat.

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If you know of a wedding guest planning to propose, make sure they take a look at these top places to propose in San Diego while they’re there!

LGBTQIA Marriages in San Diego

LGBTQIA couples who are looking to tie the knot can expect a warm welcome in the pride-filled city of San Diego. As one of the top LGBTQIA destinations in the country, San Diego boasts a vibrant LGBTQIA community and embraces people of all kinds with enthusiasm.

You’ll find inclusive neighborhoods all across town—such as Hillcrest, known as the heart of San Diego’s LGBTQIA community, or the eclectic and trendy North Park—but the LGBTQIA-friendliness reaches far beyond these two spots. With plenty of queer-owned businesses, LGBTQIA-friendly restaurants, and of course the renowned San Diego Pride Festival, this city is as inclusive as they come.

How to Find Local San Diego Vendors

Once you’ve decided on San Diego as your wedding destination, you’ll need to start scoping out your vendors. In a bustling city like San Diego, vendors tend to be high in demand—so it’s best to get a jump-start on planning. Start checking off those wedding planning to-do’s with the help of our list of pre-screened vendors, which you can filter by price, venue style, wedding theme and more.

San Diego Wedding Guest Guide

With so much to do in San Diego, you’ll want to ensure your guests have an itinerary of helpful information on travel trips, best neighborhoods, and notable attractions in the area. To help you get started, below is an overview of travel logistics and other details to ensure your guests have the best experience possible when traveling to attend your wedding.

How to Get to San Diego

By plane: There are a few main airports operating in San Diego, including:

Both airports offer ample parking, maintenance, and 24-hour fuel and rental vehicles.

By train: There are several Amtrak rail trains you can take to San Diego from just about anywhere in the U.S., including Amtrak Union Station from Los Angeles.

By bus: The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System runs public buses daily to and from SAN, and is only 10 to 15 minutes away from Sante Fe Depot in Downtown San Diego to connect with major transit options (3 Trolley lines, 3 Rapid bus lines, the COASTER, and Amtrak). Service on the 992 is every 15 minutes, and one-way fares are $2.50.

By car: If you plan to drive, you’ll want to take Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)—this is the primary route most people choose due to the stunning ocean views. When you arrive, you can use an app like ParkMobile to find parking. Other routes include highway I-5 from San Diego, Highways 101 from northern California, and I-10 from Phoenix.

Best Neighborhoods for Out-of-Town Guests

San Diego neighborhoods are steeped with rich history and vibrant culture. Travelers typically flock to downtown and beach neighborhoods to experience the bustling city and see its incredible views.

  • Gaslamp Quarter: Located in the heart of downtown, Gaslamp Quarter is a lively neighborhood known for its nightlife, global restaurant options, and plenty of clubs, cocktail lounges and dive bars. It’s situated near several main attractions like Balboa Park, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the San Diego Zoo.
  • Old Town: If you’re looking for a location with historic roots, look no further than Old Town. Besides being the oldest neighborhood in San Diego, it’s also the location of the first European settlement in California. Here, you’ll find acres of Mexican heritage, colorful shops and eclectic restaurants.
  • North Park: Affectionately known as a home base for San Diego’s hipster crowd, North Park is where young professionals, students and the like flock for craft beer, vintage boutiques, art galleries and live music. Head here to experience “the best beer neighborhood in the nation,” or check out Ray Street for dozens of galleries and live theater shows.
  • Coronado: If you’re looking for a quiter, more exclusive location, the top-notch hotels and stunning downtown views of Coronado are hard to beat. Known for its beautiful beaches and historic charm, this California resort city sits on a peninsula in San Diego Bay and attracts surfers and sunbathers looking for a seaside escape.
  • Mission Beach: Perfect for travelers who want to be right by the water, Mission Beach has a distinct SoCal beach town feel. There’s no shortage of seaside activities, from sailing and stand-up paddle boarding to everything in between. You’ll also find plenty of family-friendly beaches, making it an ideal choice for families with young children (don’t forget to check out SeaWorld San Diego while you’re there!)

10 Fun Things to Do in San Diego

If you’re visiting from out of town, you’ll definitely want to carve out some free time to explore all this lively city has to offer. If you’re only in town for a few days, check out our top attractions and activities to hit before you leave:

  1. Take a La Jolla Sea Caves Kayak Tour: Take in the views of the La Jolla coastline on a sea caves kayak tour. With the help of a professional guide, you can explore La Jolla’s incredible rock formations and sea caves, and catch a glimpse of the dolphins, sea lions and orcas along the way.
  2. Take a Whale Watching Cruise: While there are many whale watching tours available in San Diego, Next Level Sailing’s tour is the only one that takes you out to sea on an actual sailboat. You’ll board a replica 1851 ship for the cruise and enjoy incredible views, whale sightings and other marine life.
  3. Spend a day at Balboa Park: Located in downtown San Diego, Balboa Park is a staple attraction. Home to over 16 museums, several performing arts venues, lush garden trails and more, there’s something for everyone.
  4. Visit the San Diego Zoo: With over 100 sprawling acres, the San Diego Zoo is not only one of the largest zoos in the nation, but also home to one of the largest collections of rare and endangered animals in the world. Stop by and say hello to the arctic foxes, rhinos, giant pandas and more at this renowned zoo.
  5. Explore the USS Midway Museum: The USS Midway was America’s longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century, and today the interactive museum boasts an incredible flight deck deck with 29 restored aircrafts. This historic relic offers an inside look at the lives of the 225,000 sailors who boarded it over the course of its life.
  6. Tour local San Diego vineyards: For a tasty VIP adventure, take a tour of some of San Diego’s finest local, family run vineyards where you’ll learn about the history of wineries, the winemaking process, and how to taste wine like the pros—topped off with a wine-paired dinner, of course.
  7. Visit the Birch Aquarium at Scripps: As the public outreach center for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, Birch Aquarium boasts over 60 aquarium exhibits from the Pacific Northwest, Mexico and the Caribbean and showcases cutting edge research discoveries by Scripps scientists.
  8. Visit Cabrillo National Monument: This national monument offers superb views of San Diego’s harbor, skyline, and the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, a San Diego icon since the 1800s. Catch a glimpse of migrating gray whales off the coast in the winter, and enjoy beautiful stretches of rocky coastline paths to take in the ocean views.
  9. Check out the Stuart Collection: Located on the UC San Diego campus, the Stuart Collection is a spectacular collection of impressive sculptures and art pieces that are uniquely woven into the campus’ existing structures and landscapes.
  10. Visit the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve: With over 2,000 acres of coastal wild land, this reserve is home to many threatened animals, plants and habitats. While technically located within San Diego city limits, it’s one of the wildest stretches of land on the southern coast. Hit the trails to explore the indigenous wildlife, pine forests and sandstone canyons, along with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean.

Now that you have everything you’ll need to plan the perfect San Diego wedding weekend, you can dive into the rest of your wedding planning with confidence. From customizing your wedding invitations to choosing the perfect wedding day hairstyle, Zola has all the Expert Advice you need to bring your wedding dreams to life.

Sources: SD County Clerk | SD Official Website