Saying ‘I Do’ in Coronado – A Policy and Fees for Beach Weddings

A couple marrying in Coronado; a city policy that took effect in the fall imposes rules on couples and requires fees to hold the ceremonies.

Concierges are everywhere these days, in hotels, hospitals and even upscale shopping malls. Now you can the city of Coronado to the list.

The city has added concierge service for beach weddings – two city staffers, Natalie Soulard and Jeff Rosenthal, have been enlisted to enforce the new beach wedding policy that went into effect Sept. 1.

Though their duties are unusual for city employees, people who have worked with them are more than pleased with how they’ve performed.

“Natalie and Jeff are wonderful,” said wedding planner Aline Rozok.

On the days of the events, the duo ride their bicycles up from the Coronado Community Center to meet with the bride and groom, the person organizing the wedding, or the public, if necessary.

“If there is a conflict over space, for example, we explain that it has been reserved for a wedding,” Soulard said.

They also make sure that delivery vans have access to loading zones the city has established for wedding vendors and planners. If someone overstays the 30-minute limit, they can call to have the offending vehicle towed.

All this service comes at a price. Fees range from $150 to $1,000 depending on how many people are in the party. There is also a $25 application fee and a $500 damage deposit.

The formal policy and fees have been added to ensure compliance. Officials suspect it will take a full year for the new system to be fully implemented. 

“If people don’t follow the rules, we wanted it to sting,” said Recreation Director Linda Rahn. For instance, if wedding guests release balloons, throw rice or leave trash on the beach, the city can pocket the deposit.

For what the city is offering, Rahn argues the fees are more than reasonable, even cost-effective, because employees are assigned to give  guidance, an add-on which often isn’t provided by other cities.

“Most places charge you for a permit and you’re on your own,” said Rahn, who crafted the new policy.

Not everyone, however, is happy with the developments. Wedding planner Renate Davera said she lost two weddings because of the increase in costs.

“Right now I am discouraging people from holding their ceremonies in Coronado because of the costs,” she said. “Other cities are less expensive.”

Rahn stressed that wedding permits are issued to couples, not planners or vendors.  

“We’re doing this for the bride and groom, not for any commercial interest,” Rahn said.

Having the city concierges on the scene also is an attempt to ensure that the ceremonies won’t infringe on the beach experiences of residents and tourists.

“We want everyone to enjoy our beach,” Rahn said.

In recent years that has not been the case – with the increased popularity of destination weddings, the number of couples holding ceremonies on the sand has exploded.

The wedding parties range from the minimum of three people, a bride, a groom and an officiant, up to 100, though the average size is 25, according to Davera.

While that seems like a small number, on a public beach some 1.5 miles long and 300 feet wide – and during the high wedding season, June through September – the proliferation of ceremonies began to tax the patience of other beachgoers.

Last summer, the scramble for space set “wheels squeaking” all over town, Rahn said. She wouldn’t say how many complaints she received, only that “the wheels were loud and persistent.”

Surfers, sandcastle builders and sunbathers were not the only ones feeling the squeeze.

“It was hard on my brides with weddings popping up all around us,” Rozok said.

Still, she has no complaints with the new policy.

“I think the structure is in line with what other cities do,” she said. “This is going to be good for everybody.”