Beach Wedding Permits 101: Everything You Need to Know

Planning Resources

So, you want to get married on a beach? It’s been your dream ever since you can remember. You grew up in San Diego – a hot beach and destination spot and there’s just no alternative. It’s the beach or nothing. How the heck do you do this? Do you need a permit? How do you get a permit? And how much are they? Or maybe you’re not in San Diego or even California for that matter but I still want a beach wedding; what do you do? Well, I am here for YOU! Everything you’ll need to know about beach wedding permits. So, let dive in!

couple eloping in big sur - do you need two wedding photographers?

Californian Permits

California, a state we all know and love with lot and LOTS of beaches. Seems pretty logically to think a lot of people want to do beach weddings here. In California, the beaches are governed by counties so, that’s where you’ll want to look to get a permit. A beach wedding permit will typically cost between $100-$150 depending on the county. And then, there’s also an additional insurance fee of around $100. The county will typically need advance notice of the nuptials but there are some exceptions like in Santa Monica where it’s first come first serve for weddings. Meaning that you need to grab your spot nice and early.

For more information on permits, officiants, and some other nitty gritty check out this some but helpful guide here.

San Francisco Bay Area Beach Wedding Permits

For general National Park service information you can check out their website here. For the Presidio TrustMt. TamalpaisAngel IslandSan Mateo County ParksSan Francisco Recreation and Parks you will need special use permits which can be obtained by following the links. They require a minimum of 30 days to process the permit and for larger and more complex asks at least 60 days. Application does not guarantee approval so it’s definitely best to apply with as much notice as possible and reach out the rangers if you have any specific questions pertaining to your event.

For wedding permits there is a $60 fee. And they have separate applications/permitting for their outdoor wedding venues. As always if you are in doubt please reach out to the ranger station with your question and for confirmation. It’s all fun and games until you’re fine a pretty penny!

Big Sur Beach Wedding Permits

Check out this site for more specific information pertaining to Pfeiffer Beach. For information on other beaches for weddings and special events, call 831-624-3407 or e-mail the Special Events Coordinator.

(Will update when I have more information 2/7/23)

SoCal Beach Wedding Permits

Socal beach wedding permits is a whole other ball gamer. And My first suggestion would be to look up the county of the beach you want to get married at and see their regulation, rules, permits all that jazz. I’ll list some income below this. But, I’m a norcal girly so my knowledge of socal is VERY limited at best.

LAGUNA BEACH – Essentially all permits have a maximum of 50 people and the permit costs very from $396-$492 + a $10 process fee. You cannot set up tables, chairs, archways, or structures for the wedding. Wedding sites must be accessible to the public at all times; you cannot rope off or reserve your wedding area in any way. And lastly, you are not allowed to block public pathways.

SAN DIEGO – There are tons of great locations in San Diego including venues and beaches alike. For some specific beaches I would recommend calling the county at 619-688-3260. The link should lead you to the site where you can inquire about permits. Note most locations if a ceremony is allowed only allow up to 50 people and again required very minimal ceremony setups.

HUNTINGTON BEACH – Wedding permits are only issued for the City Beach located between Beach Boulevard and Seapoint Street and cost $110. However, additional fees may be added depending on the set-ups and guests.

Hawaiian Permits

Bride and groom running on the beach in Kauai.

Hawaii – a beautiful state – again with lots of beaches! I would even dare to say this is the state with the most beach weddings nation wide. Don’t fact check me please!! Again, you’re going to want to check with the local county to figure out the exact cost of a permit. However, something else that is needed is liability insurance. You’ll need liability insurance to even obtain a permit for your beach wedding. You’ll most likely want to hire a local wedding planner to help with all of these details. They can most certainly help with obtaining a permit. Especially, since there are also lots of other rules that you will need to be informed of. Like for instance, that weddings over 25 or 30 people will mostly likely need additional permits or that no large structures or decorations are allowed.

Some of the most popular islands to get married on are Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. Your planner should have vast knowledge of rules and regulation so be sure to ask lots of questions so you can fully understand. For some additional information about planning you Hawaiian wedding check out this article on the Knot here.

Pacific Northwest Permits

I really wanted to give you the most information about California and Hawaiian weddings because that’s where most people thing about having a beach weddings. (Also because I’m located right here!) But those, of course aren’t the only beaches in the U.S., Oregon and Washington are over here on the west coast too!

Oregon wedding beach permits are pretty relaxed and what I mean by that is you typically don’t need a permit assuming your wedding is less than 50 people. Of course it’s always a good idea to check with the local county because you can never be too sure until you hear it from the horse’s mouth. And you can also check this document out about special event permits here.

For the state of Washington you’ll want to obtain a special activities permit. You’ll want to apply sooner rather than later with at least 60 days for review of your application. The application fee is $45 with additional fees assessed during the processing. And you’ll also be required to show proof of insurance for $1,000,000. Your photographer and videographer will also need special permits so be sure to let them know, though they probably already do. This is the case for most state park in Washington just to give you a heads-up.

The East Coast

I feel like the east coast in general is just a completely different ball game. Like everything can be so vastly different across the country. In Florida, the need for permits varies depending on county some need them while others don’t so be sure to call your county to check.

I think you can pretty much get the theme by down. Call the county and they’ll know if you need beach wedding permits also know as a special events or activities permit. Things that tend to vary are of what capacity. In Myrtle Beach, you don’t need insurance for your special activities event as long as it stay within certain parameters. So, be sure so to do you research and call the county whenever you’re not too sure.

International Beach Wedding Permits

I mean this list could go on on. Listing beautiful beaches in places around the world. But, ain’t nobody got time for time soooo…… here’s what I would do if you’re planning a destination wedding. I would look into have a planner in that destination and that hopefully specializes in beach weddings or elopements and they should 100% know if you need a permit of not.

Of course some countries are going to be more relaxed than others but check, double check, call whoever you need, ask friends, and be sure because that would sure put a damper on your day. The consulate their is always the best resource to help you plan accordingly.

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Hi I'm Torez, a die-hard romantic and San Francisco-based wedding photographer with years of experience capturing love stories against the backdrop of our charming city. From intimate City Hall ceremonies to epic coastal elopements, I've seen and photographed it all. I know the ins and outs of navigating wedding planning in San Francisco like the back of my hand - from selecting the perfect location that aligns with your love story, to creating the dreamiest wedding timeline that lets you enjoy your day to the fullest. And guess what? I'm sharing all of that expertise right here with you.

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