Park & Beach Permits 101

One of the most amazing aspects about living in San Diego is having unlimited access to mile upon gorgeous mile of sandy beaches and hundreds of acres of wide open park space.  The outdoors have undoubtedly integrated their way into our So-Cal lifestyle, so it's no surprise that weddings and events are planned in every nook and cranie of San Diego's public park spaces.  Oh, did I mention that there are a whopping 340 parks in San Diego County alone?  Seems pretty easy, right?  Well, obtaining a park permit can be a bit confusing, that is unless you already know what you are looking for. But like any venue, there is always a reservation process, so I'm sharing a few tips and easy steps in maneuvering your way to wedding day.

C/O True Photography

C/O True Photography

To permit or not to permit

There is nothing more calming than being with your family, friends, and nature. The ever-changing hues, the fresh smell, the unaltered scenery, it cannot be re-created even if you tried. Obviously, I am a sucker for any outdoor affair, but although a natural environment is is certainly gorgeous and a seemingly a no-brainer, there are a lot of details or aspects to consider before committing.

  • COST-EFFECTIVENESS: It may not necessarily be as cost-effective as you think. The park permit itself may be less expensive than renting a venue, but there are no facilities or resources at your disposal. This may cause a spike in vendor costs--think generators and portable restrooms. However, you will save money on wedding decor and ceremony background since the natural outdoors says it all.

  • CATERING & RENTALS: Catering & rentals are allowed on site. They must be included in your permit & signed off by the Parks & Rec. staff, but hello, food & gastro trucks are all the trend right now!

  • TWO WORDS: Contingency plan.

  • MAINTENANCE: The City of San Diego does take pretty good care of the park and beach areas, but their maintenance schedule is completely unpredictable {fact: there isn't a schedule according to a maintenance contractor I spoke with when we were getting work done to my museum}. You also might have to worry about things like the lawn being aerated the day of your wedding {a super fun experience I had} or the City "trimming" the bushes which ends up having them be completely hacking off {another fun experience before a wedding}.

  • PHOTOGRAPHY: The natural ambiance of the outdoors makes is absolutely hands-down stunning in photographs!

  • TERRAIN: Terrain is most likely mildly difficult at best, so advise your guests of the proper shoes to wear, especially if it is a wedding on the beach.

  • STYLE & THEME: In contrast to a some venues which require you to use their catering or have a specific style, you can decorate however you want and hire whoever you want. Oh the beauty of flexibility.

  • HOLIDAYS & HOLIDAY WEEKENDS: Permits are not given during holidays or holiday weekends. But have no fear! And I can't believe that I am about to say this because I definitely don't recommend it, but....just because you do not have a parks permit does not mean that you are not allowed to use the space. You would be using the park just like anyone else, however, you won't be able to shew away the sun-bathers or picnic-ers right next to your ceremony. That's never a good look.

  • BANDS & DJS: Bands & DJs are allowed, but music must be shut off by 7pm according to the Parks & Recreation Department website.

  • OUT OF TOWNERS: What a great way to show off San Diego's beautiful back yard! Tourists really only want one thing--to enjoy the warmth and beauty this place is known for. A park or beach is a completely unique venue and experience that your guests will truly appreciate.

  • PARKING: If your wedding is mid-summer at the beach, forget it. All public park and beach areas do not provide extra event parking or allow you to legally block off parking stalls or lots for your event. Consider hiring a shuttle service instead.

Who to contact

All permitting for park, beach, and public space is managed by the San Diego Parks & Recreation Department. I know the lovely ladies of Park & Rec. personally, and although this process might get frustration, remember that is always better to play nice with government employees.

Parks & Recreation Department

Balboa Park Park Administration Building

2125 Park Blvd., San Diego, CA 92101


Parks & Rec Inquiry Form

How to contract

You can find the site fees, applications, and other permit information here. Once you've found a space, give Parks & Rec. a call to find out if it is available. From there...

  1. Fill out a reservation form and submit with site diagram and payment.

  2. If approved by the Parks & Rec. Dept., fill out an application, submit with liability insurance (liability insurance naming the City of San Diego as an additional insured is required. You can easily obtain day of event insurance policy through WedSure or you personal insurance provider), signed rules & regulations form, and payment. Applications must be submitted at least 30 days prior to your event date.

  See, not so bad, huh?  Are you considering hosting your wedding or event at a San Diego park or beach?

Love, Nicole