On a recent sunny Saturday – in fact several recent sunny Saturdays – weddings at the foot of the stairs at Neptune Place mingled with hundreds of beachgoers in Windansea de La Jolla.
Public weddings can provide a memorable experience for couples, even if they don’t provide a lot of amenities. Windansea, mainly a surf beach, offers only 16 parking spaces, plus street parking, and no public facilities such as water fountains, toilets or showers.
They also caused some dissatisfaction among other beach visitors. In a letter to the editor published on July 1 in the La Jolla Light, Jeff Saywitz wrote: “These weddings are not usually reserved for local residents and create a major nuisance for beach goers who are forced to leave the popular and public area. … La Jolla has the Wedding Bowl at Cuvier Park for this purpose, and all weddings should be diverted there. … I’m all for love and weddings, but there is a time and a place, and summer rush hour in an already crowded Windansea is not the place.
Over the next few weeks more emails arrived, one saying that beachgoers were “driven out” from “a fairly prime beach location in the summer”.
the Light On July 10, a couple said “I want it”. About 75 chairs and an arch were set up about 50 feet from the bottom of the stairs at Neptune Place, with hundreds of beach visitors surrounding the ceremony.
This particular event was coordinated by Socal Vows, a San Diego-based wedding planning company specializing in small beach weddings. Its most elaborate package includes up to 75 chairs, an officiant, two hours with a photographer, music, a decorative arch, site fees and more for $ 3,595. Other packages cost less if there are fewer guests.
Ken Hoelscher, president of Socal Vows, said his weddings made up “about 70/30” percent between out-of-town visitors and people from Southern California. The places of La Jolla account for about half of the weddings.
“La Jolla, especially Windansea and the Wedding Bowl, is a popular place because it has a reputation,” Hoelscher said. “Seven out of 10 aren’t local, and when they come to San Diego, what do they know? They know La Jolla and Coronado. Everyone is talking about La Jolla and Coronado.
But the permit to host beach weddings in La Jolla, being in the city of San Diego, is cheaper than many other areas, including Coronado.
According to San Diego Beach regulations, a permit from the Parks and Recreation Department is required for any wedding ceremony at any park or beach in the city. The city issues permits one year in advance for designated wedding venues at Balboa Park and coastal parks and beaches.
Department of Parks and Recreation spokesperson Tim Graham said, “Only one permit is issued per day, per location. We also allow any day of the week. The permit fee is $ 177.16 for up to four hours of use and for up to 50 people ”in Windansea.
The only La Jolla beach sites that allow more than 50 people are Calumet Park and La Jolla Shores.
When Hoelscher was asked about the July 10 wedding in Windansea, which appeared to have over 50 people, he said “we had more guests” and “we had extra chairs so we set them up”.
By comparison, Hoelscher said, the beaches in the city of San Diego are “a pretty good deal,” adding that the permit for a beach wedding in Del Mar costs $ 1,500 and state beaches cost more than $ 1,500. $ 500.
The license limits include only amplified battery-powered sound, which “limits the volume”, no alcohol and no food.
Although the conventional “wedding season” is from late spring to early fall, the weather and the San Diego permit system allow weddings year round, and Hoelscher said Socal Vows offers just that. .
“We facilitate everything, we get the permits,” he said. Organizers are arriving at the scene a few hours earlier to alert beach goers that there will be a wedding there, he said.
“We give it as much time as possible, and once we’ve set up the chairs and the arches, people usually don’t want to get in the way, so they’re really accommodating,” Hoelscher said. “We try to be sensitive to people who are already there, and most people don’t spend hours in one place.”
He added that in his experience, beach goers in La Jolla tend to be more supportive and friendly towards weddings, compared to those in other communities.
As for the crowds, most couples “don’t think about it” when planning their beach wedding, Hoelscher said.
“They are so into the event. … But it can be hundreds of people, and most of the time they laugh at it. They don’t seem to care, ”he said. “It’s always fun because when this bride goes down the [beach access] stairs, everything stops. I see a lot of… women nudge their boyfriends and they want to.
Sometimes, however, there are times of apprehension. “Some couples book a location and then go and check it out and ask if all of these people are going to be there,” Hoelscher said. “We have to remind them that this is a public beach and that they cannot own the whole beach. We have had couples who asked on the wedding day if the surfers were going to be there. We have to say yes to them and that they did not get a permit for the ocean.
Weddings at Windansea will likely be a familiar sight throughout the fall. Hoelscher said “there will be a wedding there every weekend, whether it’s us or someone else.” ◆