Some couples are not interested in a long and complicated wedding ceremony. In fact, many would rather have a small, private ceremony with a select number of friends and family in attendance. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a ceremony site, many couples are investing their money in an extensive reception, leaving the ceremony to be small and quiet.
If there aren’t going to be many people attending your wedding ceremony, consider using one of the many parks or open spaces in the Bay Area. This kind of ceremony works especially well if you are willing to be flexible about the exact location; so if on your wedding day a group of kids has set up a ball game, you simple move to a nearby grove.
Generally, you don’t need a permit given that you meet some guidelines. First, you won’t be able to reserve the space. Flexibility is key. In addition, you really can’t serve food or drinks. You can provide a limited number of bottled beverage, but anything more can make the parks department nervous. You also can’t set up chairs. If you want your friends and family to form a standing circle, then you’re good to go; if you want a formal sit-down ceremony, you’ll have to spend some money. You can’t have too many people; fewer than 50 people should be acceptable. Finally, the park will want you to be responsible about trash; as long as you leave the space exactly as you found it, you won’t get a fine for any clean up.
The best way to avoid a problem is to visit the city or county parks department and talk to a representative about your plans. Your wedding ceremony is really more of an informal, private gathering — like a picnic — and won’t come under much scrutiny by the officials. However, it’s still an important day, and you will want to have the name of the representative you spoke to, along with written notes, to avoid any questions on the big day.
Of course, the Bay Area has many beautiful locations available for reservation with a fee. If you’d like one of those spots, you’ll find the fees reasonable, but you might have to wait as many of them are popular for weddings. Consult with your caterer if you plan on paying a fee for a municipal location; caterers are experts and they know the best spots for the best events.