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Some useful tips for San Diego Courthouse wedding that you couldn't find online

Updated: 5 days ago

San Diego Professional Courthouse Wedding Photographer Mia Kampka

Hi there,

I'm Mia, a professional wedding photographer with a knack for capturing 80+ traditional weddings plus 100+ civil weddings / courthouse weddings annually in San Diego. If you've come across this blog, consider yourself fortunate! You've just found the ultimate photographer in San Diego, specializing in both courthouse weddings and large weddings.

While there's no shortage of articles guiding you through the process of arranging a courthouse wedding in San Diego, very few delve into what you can expect, the subtleties to keep in mind, and the various options at your disposal for your courthouse wedding. This is where I come in, prepared to share valuable insights and tips to ensure you're thoroughly prepared for your courthouse wedding, whether it's an intimate affair or a grand celebration.

Here are some recent examples of civil wedding videos from our actual clients:


San Diego Courthouse Wedding Photos
  1. Location:

Our courthouse, officially known as the San Diego County Administration Building, is situated at 1600 Pacific Hwy, San Diego, CA 92101. It is nestled in the picturesque surroundings of Waterfront Park, offering a stunning scenic backdrop for your special occasion.

Google Maps Link:

2. Parking information:

When it comes to parking, you have a couple of options to consider:

  • Street Parking: You can opt for street parking along Pacific Hwy, where you'll find parking meters charging at a rate of $1.5 per hour.

  • Underground Waterfront Park: An alternative is the underground parking facility at Waterfront Park, which costs $10 for the entire day. It's worth noting that wedding couples can enjoy up to 3 hours of free parking.

For a visual guide on how to navigate the underground parking at the Administration Building, you can watch this informative video: Parking at the County Administration Center

Given that the Administration Building is situated in the bustling heart of downtown San Diego, parking can be quite a challenge. To ensure you make it to your appointment on time and avoid unnecessary stress, it's advisable to plan ahead:

  • Leave Early: Consider leaving well in advance of your appointment time. This will give you a buffer in case you encounter parking difficulties.

  • Ride-Sharing Services: Another convenient option is to arrange for an Uber or Lyft ride. This can save you the hassle of searching for parking and ensure a timely arrival.

I've had wedding couples who were up to 2 hours late for their weddings due to parking issues. Fortunately, the county was understanding and accommodated them. Remember, it's your special day, and a little delay can be forgiven, but it's best not to test the limits. Planning ahead is the key to a stress-free experience.

San Diego Courthouse Wedding Photos

3. Operation Hours:

The San Diego County Administration Building operates during the following hours:

  • Monday - Friday: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM

If, for any reason, you find yourself running late for your wedding ceremony during these hours, it's worth noting that the staff at the Administration Building are often quite understanding. A simple apology and an explanation that you encountered parking challenges can go a long way in ensuring a smoother experience.

4. Scheduling :

San Diego Courthouse Wedding Guidebook, San Diego Courthouse Wedding Photos
  • You can schedule your courthouse ceremony up to 45 days in advance from your desired date.

  • For the best photographic results, I recommend reserving your ceremony time between 8 AM and 9:30 AM or between 3:30 PM and 4:30 PM. This timing is ideal due to the lighting conditions. However, if these slots are not available, don't fret. There are plenty of spots around the courthouse where we can always find shade.

  • Additionally, I highly recommend selecting the outdoor ceremony location for its scenic beauty and ample space, making your wedding even more special.

5. The process:

(1) Check in procedure

Upon passing through the security checkpoint at the entrance, head to the 2nd floor of the Administration Building to obtain your marriage license. Specifically, you'll want to make your way to Room #273, where the process begins. This typically takes about 3 to 5 minutes.

San Diego Courthouse Wedding Guidebook, San Diego Courthouse Wedding Photos

If you've chosen me as your photographer, I'll be there to meet you at the entrance, ready to capture some arrival photos for you. In the event that you've already cleared security, you can find me waiting for you in Room #256 on the 2nd floor, where everyone gathers for the processing of their documents.

Look out for a sign that reads "Start Here." You'll need to check in at this point, and then you'll wait for them to call your number, much like you would at a bank. This process ensures a smooth and organized experience.

(2) Sign documents

San Diego Courthouse Wedding Guidebook, San Diego Courthouse Wedding Photos

Once it's your turn, please take a seat and carefully review the documents. I encourage you both to express your love and intimacy freely during this moment. Always hold hands, steal kisses whenever you feel like it. Please, don't pay attention to the photographer, and try to forget that there's a camera present. I will capture the most authentic and natural moments between you both.

(It takes 10 -15 mins)

(3) Waiting for the officiant

San Diego Courthouse Wedding Guidebook, San Diego Courthouse Wedding Photos

After you've finished the paperwork, you'll proceed to Room 256, where you'll await the officiant. Typically, the officiant will come to get you within 2 to 15 minutes. However, during busy periods with a large number of people in line, the waiting time can extend to about 30 minutes. Patience is key during these moments.

(4) Walk to the venue

San Diego Courthouse Wedding Guidebook, San Diego Courthouse Wedding Photos

If your appointment is scheduled for an indoor wedding, please be aware that there are two rooms within Room 273 designated for indoor wedding ceremonies.

For those with an outdoor wedding appointment, the officiant will lead you to your chosen outdoor wedding venue. As you make your way there, I encourage you to hold hands, maintain your smiles, engage in conversation, and continue to look at each other. Feel free to express your love in your own unique way, as I'll be there to capture these candid and heartfelt moments.

Professional Wedding Photographer Mia Kampka

If you happen to see me moving quickly, don't be alarmed; I'm simply trying to secure the perfect spot for capturing those wonderful candid shots. So, keep calm, stay cool, and continue to cherish each other.

Typically, couples are led to the location in Waterfront Park near Harbor Dr., which features a charming floral bridge and the scenic backdrop of California palm trees. It's a lovely setting for your special moments:

<1> The Original Wedding Bridge in Waterfront Park: This picturesque location features the original wedding bridge, providing a lovely backdrop for your special moments.

<2> The Mini Wedding Bridge in Front of the Administration Building: There's also a charming mini wedding bridge right in front of the Administration Building, offering an intimate and beautiful setting for your ceremony.

<3> Waterfront Park Playground: In certain cases, when both of these locations are busy or undergoing construction, the county may conduct wedding ceremonies in Waterfront Park near the playground. It's another suitable option for your special day.

(5) The ceremony

The ceremony is a brief and sweet one, involving the exchange of standard vows, ring exchange, a kiss to seal the moment, and signing the necessary documents. Once this is done, you're officially married! Congratulations! This whole process typically takes about 5 minutes. During the ring exchange, I recommend doing it slowly and gracefully so that we can capture some beautiful photos of the moment. If you have a private license and require a witness to sign, and you don't have one with you, I'd be more than happy to sign as your witness.

6. Photography background options :

Following the ceremony, if there's still time available, we'll take a leisurely stroll around the area to capture your stunning wedding photographs. We'll explore various backgrounds and settings, ensuring that your photo session is not only beautiful but also filled with fun and memorable moments. We will have a lot of fun!!!

(1) Pink and green——Flowers and leaves :

(2) Blue & Black——"Star of India" and the embarcadero (cross the street):

(3) Green—— California palm trees:

(4) Colorful——The mural:

(5) FUN——Baby playground:

(6) Fun and Romantic - The Water Fountain:

One of the delightful and romantic spots for your photos is the water fountain, where we can capture moments of fun and love in this enchanting setting.

(7) The USS Midway & big Kissing statue:

(8) San Diego Downtown - If Time Allows:

(9) Seaport Village - If Time Allows:

(10)Balboa Park - If Time Allows:

If there's sufficient time, we can also explore the beautiful Balboa Park for your photos, adding a touch of elegance and charm to your wedding album.

7. Next Steps After Your Ceremony

Congratulations, you've completed your ceremony! Now, what's next?

Firstly, a big thank you to the San Diego Recorder Clerk for their invaluable assistance.

If you plan to share your stunning wedding photos on Instagram, we'd greatly appreciate it if you could tag us! Mention both @sdrecorderclerk and @pka_photo in your posts to showcase your beautiful memories and spread the joy.

San Diego Courthouse Wedding Guidebook, San Diego Courthouse Wedding Photos



Luciana & Kavans

Courthouse Wedding on 08/11/2023

"Mia was so personable, so professional and such a pleasure to work with! She made our wedding shoot such an easy and fun experience! Great communication up to the shoot, after the shoot, and prompt with the delivery of our edited pictures. I am so happy with how our pictures came out and highly recommend her services!"